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A Wife Asks, “Why Is It That It Seems Like the Wife Always Has to Change First?”

ADMIN NOTE – IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO SIGN UP FOR THE PEACEFUL WIFE CONFERENCE IN COLUMBIA, SC THIS WEEKEND!

Here is an interesting discussion that took place in the comment section last week between two of my readers. I love to hear what God is showing other women and how He makes His truth real to them. Sometimes hearing multiple people describe and explain the same concepts just helps make things click. May this be a blessing to you, my precious sisters:

FROM A WIFE:

Update: Hubby and I are in counseling! It’s really cool because the pastor is a John Piper “fan” so he’s totally on board with the whole biblical manhood and womanhood ordeal. So, naturally, headship and submission is brought up and good thing I’ve been wrestling with the topic and following your posts for a while because it’s not so foreign or offensive when we talk about it.

Though the topic is much easier to talk about, the journey is still “trenchy” and hard as ever! In fact 2-3 weeks ago we threatened the relationship and nearly divorced! IT IS ONLY BY THE GRACE AND INCOMPREHENSIBLE PEACE OF GOD THAT WE ARE STILL HERE! I’ve had to repent lately because I was going through the stage of, “Nothing I’m doing is working,” and I found myself just lingering and frustrated. But God always uses April and the posts here to jolt me out of my spiritual pity party and get back to fighting to trust and put my eyes on Him.

My current wrestle is feeling like its actually the wife who has to lay down her life for the man to be a man. Maybe that’s a fleshly perspective but that’s how it feels.

FROM FLOWER:

Yes, we all (men and women alike) called to die to self. But in addition to the things that people in general are supposed to do, there is also something a marriage is supposed to do – to portray the mystery of Christ and the church to the world (Eph. 5:22-33). The husband is supposed to love his wife and the wife is supposed to respect her husband. The husband is also supposed to lead and the wife is supposed to follow.

  • How does the wife’s effectiveness at following depend on her husband? It doesn’t, really. She can follow him (provided he is not asking her to sin or condone sin) even if he doesn’t seem to be leading anywhere “special.”
  • How does the husband’s effectiveness at leading depend on his wife? It does. A lot. You can’t lead effectively if no one will follow you. A husband could be the most godly, Christ-like man ever, with the best leadership talents, but if his wife refuses to follow, he can’t SHOW that he’s an effective leader.

So from that perspective, I would say that the wife’s willingness to follow EMPOWERS her husband’s leadership. (But both are called to die to self for Christ, and both are responsible to God for their own actions.)

WIFE:

Flower,

Thank you for giving me a better perspective about my current wrestle. I guess it just seems topsy-turvy to me. The concept that his leadership depends on my willingness to follow. Christ was already a great leader before He called anyone to follow. He was secure in his purpose, personhood, and knew God before He led.

Ephesians 5 says the husband is to love the wife as he loves himself. Does the husband learning to love himself, know God, grow up as a man, heal up as broken man depend on my willingness to follow? I get me following in certain respects empowers him but it just seems a bit weighty especially with my specific marital situation in mind.

FLOWER:

I would say that his leadership’s EXISTENCE does not depend at all on you. The ability of his leadership to be SEEN (by you and by others) depends on you and how you respond to him.

Love your example about Christ! Yes, so true, He was already a great leader before He called anyone to follow.

The thing is, no one else could SEE that He was a great leader UNTIL people started to follow Him.

Similarly, if you don’t follow your husband, no one else will look at your marriage and SEE the Christ-and-the-church-he-leads-she-follows part. But when you do follow, people will look at your marriage and SEE that. 🙂

Does the husband learning to love himself, know God, grow up as a man, and heal as a broken man depend on your willingness to follow? NO. He is responsible for that on his own. But your respect will make it easier for him. And your disrespect will make it harder. You are not responsible for making him grow in Christ; you are responsible for being the best wife to him that you can be, according to God’s Word and with God’s help. <3

WIFE:

I see. Maybe I’m a bit petty, I just feel like it could go both ways then. I could easily say that my husband knowing God, learning to love himself, growing up as man and healing up as broken would make it so much easier for me to follow because it would!

  • In the same respect, when following Christ we have to learn that He is good and He wins our trust. According to the gospel we know Christ died because He first loved us but it isn’t until we come into a revelation of that love and who He is that we began to trust him as Lord to LEAD our lives. Why is it not so for a husband if parallelism is the goal?

I do not struggle with feeling like I’m not loved by my husband. I know my husband loves me and can be very loving to me. It’s his own personal issues that prevent him from being the best version of himself and this inevitably effects me too and whole of the relationship and love. Just like any unaddressed issue of mine would take effect on him and the relationship. Yet and still I guess this logic gets trumped by a command and the logic of reverting back to curse Christ freed us from that still is somehow relevant as though we are still tied….??…??
Sigh….maybe I’m overthinking.

FLOWER:

Yep, it does go both ways – him trying to be a good leader will make it easier for you to follow as well. But you can only control your actions, so the only part that you really have influence over is how easy you make it for him to lead.

“Why is it not so for a husband if parallelism is the goal?” This is a great question and I had to think really hard about it! I think it’s mainly because of two reasons:

1. If a wife thinks she only has to submit “if her husband is a good leader,” she will probably think things like, “No, I really think he could do better. In situation X the other day, he did Y when Z was a much better choice. Also, he still needs to get more spiritually mature.” This causes her to have a critical spirit. She is not her husband’s judge. God is. (And her husband is not her judge.) So if she thinks that she is only supposed to follow her husband if he is a “good leader,” then she has to come up with the idea of what she thinks a good leader is and make sure he conforms to what she wants in a leader before she follows. This puts her in position of judge rather than follower.

** See notes below from April about this. 🙂

2. Christ loved and led us before we submitted because there was no other option. Christ’s relationship with us is between one who is sinless (Him) and one who is sinful (us). If we were sinless, we would have respected and followed him immediately. And if we were sinless, His sacrifice, atoning death, and resurrection would not even have been necessary for us to have a restored relationship with Him. Christ had to love and lead us before we submitted because that was the only way that He could bring us back to Himself. Ideally, we would have submitted to Him immediately.

Because the relationship between a husband and wife is a relationship between two people who are sinful, God calls each of them to change ASAP. But each of them can only change themself, they can’t change each other.

April’s “Why Do I Have to Change First” post is a great read. But to clarify something, it is not that you have to change first because the wife has to change first and that all wives have to change first. You have to change first because if God opened your eyes to your sin, you have no right to sit there and refuse to change until God opens your husband’s eyes to his sin as well.

Ultimately our change is about our obedience to God, not about whether our husbands deserve it. (Similarly, if a husband’s eyes are opened first, he also would have no right to sit there and refuse to change until God opened his wife’s eyes to her sin. I have seen situations where God opens a husband’s eyes first.)

So the changing first thing is not, “You must change first because you’re a woman,” it’s, “You must change now because your eyes have been opened.”

 

FROM THE WIFE

The last part especially has officially disarmed the petty! It makes sense! You have brought another piece of clarification that blessed me.

 

FROM APRIL (to add a bit to point number 1 made by Flower):

If a wife has the authority to decide when her husband is a “good leader and when she will follow,” then it is really the wife who has the authority, not the husband. There are limits to a believer’s submission to any human delegated authority, but apart from those limits, we are to honor the authority’s leadership, trusting that God will lead us through that person. Not because of the person. But in spite of that person – because God is sovereign and this is His design to lead us through human God-given authority.

When we honor a person in a position of God-given authority, we honor God’s authority. When we rebel against a person in a position of God-given authority, we rebel against God and bring judgment on ourselves. Rom. 13:1-2 And we malign the Gospel of Christ when we rebel against our husband’s leadership. Titus 2:5 It is also important to remember that wives may not have positional authority, but we do have influential authority, which can be even more powerful than positional authority, at times. Although, the ultimate goal is to please and glorify the Lord, not to have “the most power” for ourselves or for our own agenda.

RELATED:

Spiritual Authority – a General Overview

What Is Biblical Submission?

Does Being a Biblically Submissive Wife Mean I Can’t Say How I Feel and What I Need?

Biblical Submission Is Not Passivity

Biblical Submission, Respect, and Sexual Attraction

Do I Condone BDSM or CDD?

Biblical Submission Does Not = the Husband Is Always Right

When Would I Not Submit to My Husband?

Should a Christian Wife Ever Consider Separation?

Oneness in Marriage Not Too Close but Not Too Far Away

Closeness in Marriage Looks Different from What I Expected 

How to Make Your Husband an Idol

Respecting Your Husband VS. Idolizing Him

Dying to Self
Dying to Self Can Be Dangerously Misunderstood
25 Ways to Respect Myself
Is It Possible to Disrespect Myself?
25 Ways to Reverence God

Submission Means We Hold the Things of This World Loosely

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“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet forfeit his very self?” Luke 9:23-25

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they one from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God? Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the Spirit He caused to live in us envies intensely? But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up. James 4:1-10

First, I submit fully to Christ as a believer in Him. I relinquish control over my life and yield control over everything in my life to Jesus.  Then, because I want to obey God and please Him (because I love Him more than anything or anyone), I submit to my husband’s  God-given leadership (Ephesians 5:22-33, Titus 2:3-5,  Colossians 3:18).

When Jesus is LORD of my life, getting my way is no longer my primary goal. Bringing honor and glory to Him is my primary goal now – even in my marriage.

DYING TO SELF, CARRYING OUR CROSS DAILY

This is a concept that is central to being a true disciple of Christ, and it is a painful and unpopular one. “Dying to self “is much overlooked in our Western churches today because we prefer to hear about “health, wealth and happiness” – not the biblical concepts of suffering, sacrifice, obedience no matter what the cost and total submission to Christ as LORD of all in our lives.

As disciples of Jesus, we cling to Jesus alone. We hold everything else loosely. When there is something we want, we ask God for it in faith. We also ask God to help us examine our motives to be sure we are not asking with wrong motives. We learn to lay each issue at the feet of Jesus, being content with whichever outcome is the will of God regardless of our own will. We learn to seek His will far above our own.

This is what Jesus means by carrying our cross daily.

  • We lay down our will.
  • We lay down our desires.
  • We remember that our sinful nature was crucified with Christ on the cross and that we learn to count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God through Jesus.
  • We lay down all that we are, all of our plans, our dreams, our health, our money, our jobs, our husbands, our children, our future, our talents, our wisdom and everything that is ours and we place it on the altar before Christ. Meaning – we trust Him fully with all of the things that are most precious to us.
  • We are willing to give up anything He asks us to at any time.
  • We cling only to Jesus. We count Him as the only thing we MUST have. He is our Greatest Treasure. He is our LIFE. We truly desire Him far above anything else in this world,

This is hard. It is a very painful process. Submission to God’s will was difficult and painful for Jesus Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane. How much more difficult and painful will it be for us as sinners to die to self? Yet, our submission to God and faith in Him is His measure of our love for Him. If we are willing to obey God and trust His heart – even if He asks us to be willing to surrender our greatest and dearest relationships and treasures on this earth – the end result is maturity in our faith and great joy and fruitfulness in Christ!

Each of us have different priorities and different things we hold very dear.

For the rich young ruler – the thing that was most important in his life was his money and his wealth. He was not willing to sell all he had and follow Christ. His money and belongings were more important to him than Jesus. Jesus doesn’t necessarily call each of us to sell all he has and give to the poor and follow Him. But –

He does call each of His followers to be willing to give up anything and everything for His sake at any time and to put nothing above Him in our hearts. Ever.

That is how we show our deepest devotion and love is for Him alone – that we believe He is worthy of any sacrifice He might ask us to make.

Check out the response of God’s faithful servant, Job, when he lost all of his 10 children and all of his wealth in one day:

Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. Job 1:20-22

God tests our faith by trials (James 1, Job and I Peter are about this). Many times He will ask us to be willing to give up whatever is most precious to us. These tests force us to purify our motives, refine our faith and to grow into maturity as we must wrestle with being willing to give up the things of this world that we love most to demonstrate that our love for God is greater than our love for anything or anyone else. The Lord certainly tested Abraham when He asked him to sacrifice Isaac on the altar to Him to prove that He loved God more than the promised child. And then, what an incredible thing – God did not actually require Abraham to go through with the test – but God Himself DID  sacrifice His only Son to prove His outrageous love for us.

WHAT THINGS DO YOU HOLD MOST DEAR?

Each of us have different “hot button issues” and fears. What may be a great test of faith for one of us may not be difficult for another. But we each have certain things that we don’t want to sacrifice and surrender to God. There are all kinds of things that we may feel we “must have” to be happy in this life. When we are tested, God may call upon us to be willing to give up something of this world that we hold dear. Many times, the thing may be a “good thing.” It may even be a gift from God. But God wants to see us be willing to choose Him and to obey Him over having what we want in this world. If we are not willing to surrender something and we are unwilling to give it up in obedience to God, then, we are likely dealing with an idol, something that is more important to us than God.

THIS IS PART OF THE PROCESS OF REFINING OUR FAITH AND PURIFYING OUR HEARTS

He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39

To give up something we hold as precious requires us to spend MUCH time wrestling in prayer, MUCH purposeful surrendering and submitting and yielding to God. It can be agony. Have I had to do this with certain issues? Yes. Will I have to do it again many times in my life? Definitely! But this process forces us to learn to lay down our will and seek only God’s will as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is HARD! It is PAINFUL!!!!!!!

There is no shortcut here as we learn to trust God completely, depend on His sovereignty and goodness and His unspeakable love for us.

We learn that God is truly going to do what is ultimately best for us and what will cause us to be more like Christ as we walk through the fiery trials. We learn that this is the path to maturing in our faith and learning to depend on the sufficiency of Christ. This is how we learn to be content in any circumstances no matter what the outcome of any situation.

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13

This is where we learn to experience the supernatural peace of God, as we give God the freedom to give and take whatever He knows is best in our lives. We learn to lean not on our own understanding but to wholly depend on God and His wisdom. We learn to live in constant submission to His Spirit and His Word. We long to delight Him and to know Him more. The things of this world grow “strangely dim” as we focus on Christ and eternity. We begin to store up treasures for ourselves in heaven because that is where our hearts are. We become willing to suffer for Jesus even if it costs us dearly and we learn to count suffering for Him as an honor and blessing. We learn to be willing to literally lose our own lives for Him if He calls us to do that. We cleave to Jesus and cling tightly to Him. And we are willing to let go of everything else, seeking only His will and all of His will. We ask Him to change our hearts to want what He wants and to hate what He hates. This is the process of being pruned, refined, tested, tried and sanctified as God conforms us to the image of Christ.

My full submission to God means that my life is not about me, it is about God’s greatest glory!

There are times when God will ask us to be willing to do things we REALLY do not want to do. Submission can be very painful – our submission to God and to our husbands. Sometimes a husband may ask his wife to do something that she completely disagrees with. I believe that she can and should share her heart, desires, thoughts, ideas, perspective and feelings respectfully – just like we share our hearts, needs and desires with God in prayer. But then, if he still believes it is the best course of action and he is not clearly asking her to sin (by God’s definition not hers), she can submit to his leadership joyfully, trusting God to work through her husband’s leadership to bring about His will in her life even when she doesn’t understand. She knows that she will understand in time and that God is able to use every circumstance to bring about His will and to do good in her life for His glory (Romans 8:28-29).

* If a husband is asking his wife to clearly sin, please check out Spiritual Authority.

SHARE:

I would love to hear from some of you who have submitted to God and your husband in a time when you did not agree, but you rested in the sovereignty of God and then later saw the wisdom in your husband’s decision and in God’s ability to lead you through your husband.

If there are specific issues that are particularly difficult for you to submit to God and/or your husband about, let’s talk about it together!

PS:

For wives whose husbands tend to be very dominant and strong, you will want to check out the comments on last week’s post. There are some beautiful gems of wisdom there from other wives who are learning to honor God and their husbands in such situations when their husbands are angry.

RELATED:

A Real Life Example of Biblical Submission and Respect

How to Make Your Husband an Idol

The Idol of Control

My Secret Idol – a wife wants her husband to be saved more than anything

How to Stop Idolatry and Truly Live for Christ 

Things that Fuel Discontentment in Me

Contentment Only Comes from Having Christ as Lord

Waiting Becomes Sweet

Fear Fuels Our Need to Control

Submitting to Our Husbands in the “Small” Things

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FROM A HUSBAND (his response to a question for husbands earlier last week):

As to respecting me in “small things”, I have to assume you mean things that aren’t all that important.

My first thought is, that if it isn’t all that important, why not?

I don’t always know why I prefer one thing, over another. In asking me to justify my choice, it does show lack of trust, but more importantly, it makes me feel defensive.

Can’t I just have a preference? Do I really need a reason?

As to choosing where we sit anytime we’re out, my wife always asks, where I would like to sit, and I always take into consideration her needs, that particular day, convenience, in some situations I suppose security, does come into play, but this is something we are both extremely flexible on.

Something that is an extremely big deal to me, that seems to be a small thing to my wife, is our sex life.

This is an issue we still struggle with. It’s not so much a matter of frequency, or quality, but the fact that it IS a small thing to her.

Her desire for intimacy, to me at least, is a barometer of her level of respect for me.

(From Peacefulwife – I don’t know that all husbands feel this way. For those wives whose husbands are less interested in sex than their wives, this may be different. It would be interesting to know how husbands with lower drive feel about this issue.)

When my wife argues with me about small things, it makes it much harder for me to be loving towards her. It’s true that I ought to be considerate of her, and I’m commanded to love her. That does not mean I should cater to her every whim. In fact, it may be more loving, to not allow her to have her way (at times.) When a wife insists on her own way in things that aren’t that big of a deal, she is, in fact, being childish.

Not cooperating in “small things” is the equivalent of the dripping water talked about in Proverbs. It just wears you down over time, and feels like that is why they do it. To wear you down, to the point where, you don’t want to make a decision about anything, big or small. So then, they HAVE to take control.

Hope my answers were helpful.

FROM PEACEFULWIFE:

I think that there are some really important points to talk about here.

1. What may seem like a small thing to a wife may be a big thing to her husband.

This is one reason why I believe God commands us as wives to respect our husbands and submit to them in everything as unto the Lord.

(If they are asking us to clearly sin or they are seriously trying to harm us, then we should not cooperate, we will have to respectfully refuse. If there are very serious issues in your marriage, please seek godly, experienced help ASAP! I am not ever condoning that a wife stay and be hurt physically or stay when there is real danger. I am not writing for those with serious issues like active addictions, infidelity, uncontrolled mental health issues or actual abuse.)

Sometimes it is easy to assume that my husband’s priorities must be the same as mine. But  reality is that his priorities are probably not the same as mine! We are different people. We are also different genders. We will have different ways of thinking and approaching things. That is a good thing! What I may think is something small may actually be huge to my husband, and vice versa. I would appreciate it if he desired me to be happy in things that are important to me. He would also appreciate the same courtesy.

If it is within my power to bless my husband, why would I not choose to bless him, even in “little” things?

2. What if honoring our husbands in small things isn’t oppression for us?

What if it is a way to greatly increase unity, intimacy and oneness with our husbands? What if it is a way to show we are on their team and that they are important to us, more important than anyone else in the world?

We are sending critical messages to our husbands by how cooperative or antagonistic we are. I don’t mean we have to agree or never share our opinions. Our ideas, desires, feelings, opinions and perspectives are invaluable sources of information to our husbands. We can be wise advisors and compassionate friends to our husbands. God never asks us to lay our brains, abilities, talents, personalities, ideas, needs, desires, emotions and wisdom at the door of marriage. That is not biblical submission!

We bring ALL of ourselves to marriage and we put all of our strengths, abilities and resources behind our husband in support.

My husband doesn’t “make me” do anything. I don’t “have” to do what he wants all the time.

I GET to honor him.

I GET to bless him.

I GET to do things he enjoys just because I can.

It is a blessing and a joy to me to serve this man God has given to me. It is my greatest delight to do things that make his job as the leader, provider and protector easier and more enjoyable. What if I am free to share my heart and desires with my husband – and he is also free to share his heart and desires? Then the Spirit of God in me gives me a desire to be selfless, generous, giving, kind, thoughtful, loving and respectful. If I know Greg likes a certain soft drink or a certain snack or has a favorite meal – what an incredibly wonderful opportunity for me to do something to bless my him by keeping those things on hand for him or making him his favorite meal fairly often!

Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. His Spirit is in me if I belong to Him. I am free to serve, not out of duty or drudgery, but out of the power, love, joy, peace and abundant life of God flowing mightily through my soul. I am not talking about pretending to be happy but inwardly seething with resentment or bitterness. I am talking about allowing God to radically change me and give me a new heart with new desires. I can receive that. God has a new heart and new Spirit and new life for all who trust fully in Christ.

I can say what I want, what I would like, what I believe would be best for us to do, what I don’t want, what my concerns are – but I don’t have to get hung up on the outcome of things. I can trust God in His great sovereignty to lead me through my husband, even when I don’t agree with him, even in the little things. I can hold everything loosely in my life except for Jesus.  I can be sure that I don’t let a little issue (which most things really are) to become more important in my mind and heart than my obedience to Christ and the unity and intimacy of my marriage. I can ask myself, “Is this issue worth fracturing the unity in our marriage about?” before I launch into a lecture or argument with my husband.

I can remember the command of God for all believers:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. Philippians 2:12-15

I can remember that arguing or complaining is not befitting of me as a child of God. If I am tempted to argue or complain, I know it is time to check my motives.

  • Why do I want what I want?
  • Am I being selfish?
  • Am I putting something above Christ in my heart?
  • Is this issue truly important in light of eternity?
  • Am I right with God?
  • Am I being materialistic or greedy?
  • Am I being prideful or self-righteous? Is there any sin in my heart?
  • Am I considering my husband’s needs and preferences and being thoughtful toward him?
  • Am I doing this because of my love for Christ and for my husband? Will they be blessed by what I want to do here?
  • Am I walking in the flesh or in the Spirit of God?
  • Am I being motivated by the love of God or by fear?
  • Am I concerned most with pleasing God and having His approval, or having other people’s approval?
  • Am I walking in obedience to God’s Word?

I have died to this world and the things of this world according to Romans 6. That is historical fact. God put me in Christ and I died with Him on the cross in God’s sight. I am now dead to sin and this world and I am alive to God in Christ. This world means nothing to me now. What do I care what color something is or what restaurant we go to? This life is no longer mine to live. My old sinful self is dead in Christ. Dead people don’t care about earthly matters much. Now what matters are only the things that matter to Jesus. I am no longer friends with this world. I no longer care about the carnal things of this world and the material details of life. I am fully submitted to Christ and all I care about is pleasing and honoring Him, abiding in Him, being filled with His Spirit, doing the work of His kingdom… my eyes are on eternal things.

 

 

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