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.
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. 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:
Her husband thinks submission is only a noun, and he uses it as a weapon.
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. Does he willingly sacrifice himself for her —or think 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. The have no problem submitting to their husbands. This is 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.
Can’t Demand Submission
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.
God Frees Us
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. Pray her heart will be first submissive 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.
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.
This 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. They share how you can intercede for your wife in areas where she longs for your prayers. Stormie also gives advice, and shares personal stories from well-known Christian men. In addition, there are words from Scripture that will also help you in praying for your wife.
— ALSO —
To learn more on this subject, please read the following Crossway.com article, written by Dr Norm Wright:
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150 responses to “How A Husband Should Handle His Wife’s Submission”
I don’t know how old this article is but I just found it and it hits the nail right on the head as far as I’m concerned. When I was a young girl, I wanted to get married more than anything. I wanted to be a loving and submitted wife to a loving husband who was submitted to God.
I got older and let some of the world’s ideals shape some of my thinking and made bad choices as a result. I found myself in an abusive relationship with the father of my child. I repented and got out of it but I was scarred after that and afraid of marriage. Not just because of what I had been through, but seeing so many Christian marriages that were less then ideal and failing.
I’m older now and at the point where I have a glimmer of hope about marriage again. I’m praying–scared and praying lol. It’s not a step to be taken lightly. This article was very insightful and addresses real issues and concerns. Thank you.
Can submission be there without obedience and respect? If yes, then how?
Are you talking on the wife’s part, or the husband’s?
This is such an important topic. So true, Grace from Zambia. Submission must be one with obedience and respect!
So what does a wife do when her husband thinks submission is a noun, treats her harshly and contemptuously, is offended that she has needs (financial), or opinions, or a desire for privacy in the marriage, is completely unwilling to even consider doing anything differently and has maintained this position for the entire ten year marriage?
Submitting is possible but the husband becomes more aggressive the more his wife submits. Basically he’s backwards and a bully. Sex, emotional support, practical help, and financial sacrifices makes him meaner. What do you recommend in this situation?
I gave up because it got to the point I had concerns about my husband kidnapping our kids out of the country and my physical safety. It seems there should be a limit or ability to address sin from the wife to the husband before it ends up in fear of losing her children, or in fear of serious injury or death.
Ariana, Did you read this article? This is addressing husbands and how THEY should handle a wife’s submission. So this advice does not apply to you; it applies to your husband. You are not responsible for the way your husband acts. You are only responsible for your own actions. In the Garden both Adam and Eve were punished for going against God’s ways. If either of them wouldn’t have participated in sinning, that one wouldn’t have suffered the same punishment. Yes, there is side collateral damage that we receive when our spouse sins, as you all too well know, but we aren’t personally responsible for their actions.
Now, as far as your actions, that is something you and God need to talk about. What you write about here appears to be abusive actions. I’m not sure, because I can’t see all that goes on. But God does. He knows. When you talk about your husband being “aggressive” and him being “meaner” and you fearing your children will be kidnapped… that is truly troubling. You need to address that issue first and foremost. I recommend that you go into our “Abuse in Marriage” topic because you may find some things there to help you. Even if your husband isn’t physically violent with you and/or your children, there are other forms of abuse, such as abusive control that you are most likely dealing with. You obviously need help with this if you are asking the questions you are.
First, go into the Abuse topic at: https://marriagemissions.com/category/abuse-in-marriage/. Glean through the info you can find there that can help you with the issues you are dealing with. We also link to different web sites and such that you may find helpful. And then go into Leslie Vernick’s web site at: http://www.leslievernick.com. She has a lot of articles to read, and videos to view that you may find enlightening and helpful on many levels. I hope you will. I pray your eyes are opened in the way the Lord would have them and that you feel your voice is not being snuffed out. You should not have to feel like you are being victimized by a bully. There are wise ways of dealing with a bully. You just need to find them. I pray these articles, videos, and web sites can help you.
My husband wants me to be feisty and opinionated, rather than submissive. So I feel like I’m in a catch-22 here. I don’t really want to be submissive either, but I know that I’m supposed to. I’m a woman so I need to act like it, but it’s so hard to make myself more feminine, more passive, more charitable, more self-sacrificing, more excited about the idea of children when my very desires and my husband’s desires are against it.
If God made me a woman, than why couldn’t he make me an actual woman rather than this unnatural, selfish, awkward, androgynous shrew with no natural affiliation for children? Real women know and accept that they’re less significant than their roles as wives and mothers. It’s natural to them, but not me.
Wives OBEY your husbands in everything. Sarah OBEYED Abraham calling him (Master) lord…All said was good but a Christian wife’s disobedience could cost lives of family members in any country. Headship is about having the family’s best interest at heart. But if the husband is quite ignorant of her family’s governing before marriage he doesn’t know who he married. Understanding this brings wisdom to perceive natural reasons for inappropiate expectations. Sit down and talk about how things were done when she was comming up. Shalom in Yeshua! “Just something to consider.”
This is such an important topic for as the family goes so goes the nation.
I believe this is one of the best blogs I have come across regarding the word “Being Submissive”. I feel like I want my husband to follow under God’s leadership then I’ll submit. I submit to an extent but when I see that things aren’t being given back such as love then this draws the line. A man cannot demand a woman to submit when he isn’t doing what ALL of the things needed for the woman to submit. This even goes for the husband making the woman have doubts and secrets that the husband may be holding in.
It’s okay for a man to make mistakes but if a man isn’t trying to fix or better himself then the man shouldn’t be honored.
Positionally there are no prerequisites that a man be perfect or even moderately Godly for the wife to submit. Jesus rebuked Peter harshly when Peter overstepped his position. So biblically Jesus loved the church, died for the church, taught the church, rebuked His bride, and provided for His bride. Do not just take part of Jesus’ ministry, but look at all interactions He had. Holiness is the goal of the relationship. Pride by not submitting, or pride in unjust behaviour is sin. Please do not sugar coat or cover up any sin.