Submit is a verb. Submitting is a voluntary action. That means it is something we ourselves do. It’s not something we make someone else do. Just as we can’t force another person to love us, we can’t force someone to submit to us either. Of course we can make that person do what we want. But then that’s not true submission.
Submission is a choice we make. It’s something each one of us must decide to do. And this decision happens first in the heart. If we don’t decide in our hearts that we are going to willingly submit to whomever it is we need to be submitted to, then we are not truly submitting.
This may be shocking news to you, but an overwhelming majority of wives in my survey said they want to submit to their husbands. They want their husbands to be the head of the home, and they have no desire to usurp that God-given position of leadership. They know what the Bible says on the subject, and discerning wives want to do what God wants because they understand that God’s ways work best.
However, problems often arise in this area because a wife is afraid to submit to her husband for two reasons:
Reason #1: Her husband thinks submission is only a noun, and he uses it as a weapon.
Reason #2: Her husband has himself not made the choice in his heart to be fully submitted to God.
Okay, okay! I know that God did not say a wife needs to submit to her husband only if he proves to be worthy. Submission is a matter of trusting in God more than trusting in man. But a wife will more easily make the choice to submit to her husband if she knows that he has made the choice to submit to the Lord. It will be a sign to her that it is safe to submit to him. And the goal here is to help her, not force her, into proper alignment.
Many a wife has a hard time trusting that her husband is hearing from God if he doesn’t appear to be submitted to God in the way he treats her. Wives know that after the verse “Wives, submit to your own husbands” (Ephesians 5:22), the Bible says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (verse 25). Christ doesn’t neglect, ignore, demean or abuse the church. He doesn’t treat her rudely or disrespectfully. He never acts arrogantly or insensitively toward her. Nor does He criticize her and make her feel she is not valuable. Rather He loves her, protects her, provides for her, and cares for her. So while God gives the husband a position of leadership in relationship to his wife, He also requires the price of self-sacrifice from him.
When Wives Hold Back
The big question in many women’s minds is, “If I submit myself to my husband, will I become a doormat for him to walk on?” The answer to that question depends entirely upon whether her husband believes he should love his wife like Christ loves the church and willingly sacrifices himself for her —or thinks that submission is a noun and that it is something owed him. In other words, does he only consider his desires and opinions, to the exclusion of hers?
A wife has a hard time giving her husband the reins to her life if she doesn’t believe she can trust him to have her best interests at heart as he steers the course of their lives together. She has trouble going along with his decisions when he refuses to consider her thoughts, feelings, and insights on the subject. And if she has submitted to a male in the past and her trust was violated in some way, it is even more difficult for her to trust now.
On the other hand, a woman will do anything for a man who loves her like Christ loves the church. Submission is easy under these conditions. I know a number of women who are married to unbelieving husbands and who have no problem submitting to their husbands, because in each case the husband loves his wife like Christ loves the church, even though he doesn’t know Christ.
Too often people confuse “submit” with “obey.” But they are not the same thing. The Bible gives commands about obeying other people only in regard to children and slaves, and in the context of the local church. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh” (Ephesians 6:5). “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account” (Hebrews 13:17). Since a wife is neither her husband’s child nor his servant, and the local church isn’t part of a marriage, the word “obey” has no application to the relationship between a husband and a wife.
Submission means “to submit yourself.” In light of that, when a husband demands submission from his wife, it is no longer true submission. And his demands can become intimidating and oppressive, which breeds resentment. When a husband is more interested in his wife’s submission to him than he is in his own submission to God, then submission becomes a tool to hurt and destroy.
I have seen too many marriages between strong Christian people —high-profile Christian leaders, in fact —end in divorce because the husband demanded submission and resorted to verbal or physical abuse in order to get it. My husband has even counseled men like that, men who refused to hear that losing their family was a horrible price to pay for being “right.” How much better it would have been for the husband to submit himself to God’s hand and then pray for his wife to be able to come into proper order. This kind of situation occurs far too often.
When we submit to God, He doesn’t suppress who we are. He frees us to become who we’re made to be, within the boundaries of His protection. When a wife submits to her husband, she comes under his covering and protection, and this frees her to become all God created her to be. Trust me, you want that for your wife. Her greatest gifts will prove to be your greatest blessing.
If you feel that your wife is not submissive, pray for her to have a submissive heart, first toward God and then toward you. Then ask God to help you love her the way He does. I guarantee that you will see her submission level rise in direct proportion to the unselfish love you exhibit for her. And let her see that you are seeking God for guidance. If she knows that you are asking God to show you the way, she will follow you anywhere.
Please pray for your wife that:
- She will understand what submission really is.
- She will be able to submit in the way God wants her to.
- You will be completely submitted to God.
- She will trust God as He works in you.
- You will take your position as spiritual leader.
- She will trust you to be the head of the family.
- Submission will not be a point of contention in your marriage.
PRAYER POWER: Lord, I submit myself to You this day. Lead me as I lead my family. Help me to make all decisions based on Your revelation and guidance. As I submit my leadership to You, enable (wife’s name) to fully trust that You are leading me. Help her to understand the kind of submission You want from her. Help me to understand the kind of submission You want from me. Enable me to be the leader You want me to be.
Where there are issues over which we disagree, help us to settle them in proper order. I pray that I will allow You, Lord, to be so in control of my life that my wife will be able to freely trust Your Holy Spirit working in me. Help me to love her the way You love me, so that I will gain her complete respect and love. Give her a submissive heart and the faith she needs to trust me to be the spiritual leader in our home. At the same time, help us to submit “to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). I know that only You, Lord, can make that perfect balance happen in our lives.
The above article comes from the book, The Power of a Praying® Husband, written by Stormie Omartian, published by Harvest House. This book has 20 short, easy-to-read chapters which share how you can intercede for your wife in areas where she longs for your prayers. There is also advice, personal stories from well-known Christian men, and words from Scripture that will also help you in praying for your wife.
— ALSO —
To learn more on this subject, please click onto the Crossway.com web site link below to read a related article written by Dr Norm Wright: