Oh how the picture above makes me cringe and breaks my heart!
Sadly, this was me for the first 14+ years of our marriage. 🙁
Note: This post is not for wives whose husbands are violent, or who threaten violence, who are actively addicted to drugs/alcohol, who are living in major unrepentant sin, or who are experiencing uncontrolled mental health issues right now. If this is your situation, please seek God and seek godly, biblical, trustworthy counsel in person to help you walk through these extreme situations. There are times when a wife may not be able to submit to her husband in such situations, but may need to reach out for help. (For a bit of clarification on the difference between an abusive husband and a decent husband who is trying to lead his wife in the right way, please see the bottom of this post and also please read last Saturday’s post – Husbands May Not Force Their Wives into Biblical Submission.)
HUSBANDS HAVE A GOD-GIVEN RESPONSIBLITY TO LEAD (1 Cor. 11:3, Eph. 5:22-33, Col. 3:18-19, Titus 2:5)
If my husband has the courage to say to me, “You are being disrespectful.” Or “You are not honoring God’s Word,” (whether he is a believer or not) – I need to take his rebuke seriously.
- Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Prov. 15:31
- Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding. Prov. 15:32
If my husband’s rebuke/criticism has merit according to Scripture, then I need to repent to God and to my husband and ask God to help me change and stop my sin. God wants me to live a life of obedience to Him in holiness by the power of His Spirit regenerating my heart, mind, and soul. I have no excuse to continue on in sin if I belong to Jesus.
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. 1 John 3:7-10
I cannot cherish sin in my life and be right with God. I cannot embrace rebellion against God and be God’s friend at the same time. I must choose sin or Jesus. I cannot have both!
If my husband tries to lead and I say, “You can’t make me submit to you!” What does this reveal about my character and my walk with Christ? Who is in charge of my life? My flesh or God’s Spirit?
No, my husband cannot violently force me to submit to him – that would violate my free will. I cannot violently force my husband to do anything either or violate his free will. But if Jesus is my Lord – my greatest desire will be to seek to submit fully to Him and to obey Him – out of gratitude for all He has done for me. If I refuse to obey God’s Word, I am destroying my fellowship with God and my marriage. I will answer to God for this and He will be rightly displeased. I tremble at that thought! I long only to please Jesus with all my being! Let’s imagine for a moment that a husband is being unloving, passive, or dominating and harsh – walking in disobedience to God’s Word. How would a wife feel if her husband said one of the following things?
- You can’t make me love you!
- You can’t make me lead in our family. I don’t care what the Bible says.
- You can’t make me stop screaming at you and going into a rage. I’ll be harsh all I want! I’ll treat you like a slave if I want to.
My husband is right to point out my sin. That is the loving, godly thing to do!
My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
How I WISH Greg had confronted me about my sin during those first 14 years of our marriage (disrespect, control, pride, self-righteousness, selfishness, bitterness, resentment, gossip, etc…). Perhaps God would have used his leadership and wise rebuke to wake me up and spare us both the pain of my sin. A godly man or woman does not ignore sin. God does not ignore sin – and God is Love. God is also holy and God speaks truth. His followers are to speak the truth in love and to warn our brothers and sisters if we see them heading down a dangerous path away from the Lord. Wives also have the freedom to respectfully confront their husbands about sin.
A CHRISTIAN HUSBAND’S PERSPECTIVE:
As a husband who was married to an unsubmissive wife for many years, I was taught that submission was voluntary so leave your wife alone and just love her. Unfortunately, I was not taught the full truth that many wives will not voluntarily give their submission or respect to a husband because they have a sinful desire to remain in control. It is not until a godly wife is confronted with her sin that she can begin to see clearly that her submission is indeed to be voluntary to her husband, but such submission is a mandatory act demanded of her Lord and Savior. It is in no way optional, except if a Christian wife wants to live in sin.
Don’t get me wrong. The same is true of a husband who is doing or saying unloving things to his wife. He too must understand that loving his wife, no matter how difficult she may be, is a mandatory demand made by His Lord. But a Christian husband should not be ashamed or bashful to ask a Christian wife to consider what her Lord asks of her – as it unlocks a marriage to far greater joy and happiness. A Christian wife may do the same in asking her husband to love her and treat her gently. Neither must live perfect lives to be able to point out to the other their sins. (Matt. 7:1-5, Matt. 18:15-17)
There are many wives who desire to be far more submissive and respectful but are seemingly incapable of moving fully forward because their flesh controls them. It is here that a Christian husband should show leadership in discussing with his wife the Biblical roles and point out to her the times she is being unsubmissive and disrespectful. Calling her out on her willful disrespect in private is vital to helping her overcome her fleshly sins.
Awareness is the road to change and when husbands are afraid to ask their wives to obey Jesus, they are not displaying the headship role God has given them.
Three times I reminded my wife that the God asks her to be submissive, and she said, “Yes, but you can’t make me!” My response was, “You are correct, but you need to talk to God about this.” The Holy Spirit inside spoke to her and convicted her that, indeed, even if her husband was not perfect himself, she had no choice but to obey the Word of God is she wanted to walk in righteousness.
Sometimes husbands demand more than a wife can possibly do. There can be times when a wife may need to say, “I want to honor your leadership. I want to respect you and follow you as leader in our marriage. You have asked me to work full time, have the house perfectly clean every day, lose a lot of weight (which requires me to have time to shop for healthy food, cook healthy food, and exercise for 30-60 minutes 5 days/week), take better care of the children, and have time and energy for sex. I’d love to be able to do all of the things you want me to do. But I think this is too much. What can we take off of my plate so that I have time to do the things that are most important and do them well? I would like to step down to part time at work so that I can take care of these other important things.”
FROM A BROTHER IN CHRIST:
God does not force us to submit to him.
Also, if is forced it is not submission, it is coercion. Submission means nothing unless it is an act of a person’s free will. It would be like forcing a person to love you – it would not really be love.
FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION – SOME DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND AND A NON-ABUSIVE HUSBAND: Examples of My Definition of “Abuse” Would Be If a Husband:
- demanded 100% unquestioning obedience even if he asked his wife to clearly sin against God, i.e.: “You will do everything I say or else!”
- said, “You have no right to any opinion. You may not speak at all.”
- said, “You may not talk to anyone but me ever.”
- threatened or carried out physical violence.
- forced his wife to cut all ties at church, with her family, with her friends, and with everyone but himself so that he could completely control her all the time.
- demands his wife to worship him in place of God.
I would like to encourage wives who are truly being abused to find appropriate help and to get somewhere safe ASAP!
What is much more common is that wives have decent husbands (Christian and even non-Christian men), but if the husband attempts to lead – the wife accuses him of being “abusive” and/or refuses to honor his leadership. Some Wives Claim Their Husbands Abuse Them If Their Husbands:
- don’t agree with them.
- ask or tell them to do something they don’t want to do.
- confront them about their sin.
- are firm about that their sin is unacceptable.
- tell them they were being disrespectful or unsubmissive because the wives actually were being disrespectful or unsubmissive.
- ask them to keep a record of what they spend.
- ask them to spend less time at church (i.e.: a husband may say, “I think that our family is suffering because you are spending 4 nights/week helping at church. I want you to cut back to one weeknight at church and be home with us the other evenings.”)
- don’t have the exact same personal convictions.
- get upset with them about legitimate concerns.
- ask for their wives to meet their needs sometimes that may be different from a wife’s needs.
These things are not abuse, my dear sisters!