Guest post by Mary at Healthychristianhome.com
“You know she has a stubborn streak, right?”
My soon-to-be husband stared at his soon-to-be father-in-law in bewilderment. “Wait, are you talking about my sweet, quiet Mary? Stubborn??”
Not long after our wedding day, my husband discovered the truth in my dad’s warning. Yes, I do have a stubborn streak. And it makes submitting to my husband a daily challenge.
Can you relate?
If submission doesn’t come naturally to you, you can still learn how to submit to your husband — regardless of your personality.
Let’s learn what true submission means, what the Bible says about it, and what real submission looks like in daily life.
We Have the Wrong Idea of Submission
The modern woman’s inner dialogue goes something like this: “Strong women don’t submit to anyone. They forge their own path, fill their own desires, and never apologize.”
Submission is often viewed as a synonym for weakness. Over the years, we’ve bought into the lie that a submissive person is: less than, unimportant, apologetic, a doormat to others.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Real submission takes a massive amount of strength.
That’s why a true understanding of the Biblical word “submit” is crucial to your marriage.
What Does it Mean to Submit to Your Husband?
Let’s look at a prime example in Scripture where this word is used in relation to our husbands: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:18)
Here’s the original meaning of the word according to Strong’s Greek Concordance:
ὑποτάσσω hypotássō: to subordinate; to obey:—be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.
Yes, it means respecting, listening to, and obeying your husband. It means putting his desires before your own.
Why is this concept so difficult?
I think it’s because somewhere along the line, we started believing the lie that submission means becoming a second-class citizen.
It’s time to think differently.
I’m guessing you have no problem listening to and obeying your boss at work, police personnel, and other authoritative figures. It is understood that certain roles exist that we must be subject to, even when we don’t like it.
If someone has an authoritative role over you, it doesn’t mean you are less important than them. It is simply that they are fulfilling a specific duty.
Does a government official have more value than an ordinary citizen, simply because of the office they hold? Of course not. And the person with greater authority often has greater pressure and responsibility that comes with that.
It boils down to this: Submitting to your husband means recognizing that God has placed him in a role of authority in your home. That’s what the Bible says, no matter how unpopular this concept might be in our 21st-century culture.
What if My Husband is Making Bad Decisions?
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking:
“Okay, I know God wants me to submit to my husband, but he doesn’t lead my family well and makes really poor decisions. What am I supposed to do now?”
Submission doesn’t mean you never speak up when you disagree with your husband. It’s all about attitude. Ask yourself:
- Am I showing unconditional love to my husband?
- Do I seek to serve him throughout the day?
- Am I respectful in the way that I speak to him?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then speaking up when you disagree and trying to work through problems is part of a healthy marriage.
For more on what to do in these situations, read When Your Husband Makes Decisions You Don’t Agree With.
What Submission Doesn’t Mean
Sadly, the beautiful picture of a loving husband that’s easy to submit to doesn’t always play out in real life. It’s challenging for us as wives to submit when our husbands are unloving.
Because of this reality, it’s worth mentioning that there are a couple of caveats to submission. Here’s what submission doesn’t mean:
- Going along with sin. As a Christian wife, your responsibility is to Christ first and your husband second. So if he is asking you to do something wrong, you can’t submit to that. There are also times you may need to lovingly confront your man about sin in his life.
- Downplaying who you are. Submission is a character quality, not a personality trait. Demonstrating submission doesn’t mean you need to ‘tone down’ your unique, God-given personality. The most outspoken, domineering woman is still required to submit to her husband (no matter how passive his personality might be) by showing him respect.
- Neglecting your unique strengths. Being submissive wife doesn’t mean your husband has to lead in every single area of your home. Sit down with him and discuss where you each have areas of strength, and who should be responsible for different aspects of family life. For example, you might be great at budgeting and paying the bills while he’s a better cook. Communicate openly and embrace your gifts!
- Ignoring real issues in your marriage. When you disagree strongly with your husband, submission doesn’t mean you should bury your head in the sand and go along with whatever he thinks. There are times when we need to be honest about problems, and as long as you approach them with a loving attitude, you’re still being submissive.
Jesus as Our Model for Submission
Jesus didn’t balk at the idea of submitting to the Father. Hebrews 5:8 states, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” He isn’t asking you to do anything He didn’t do himself.
Let that sink in: Jesus, the Son of God, practiced submission. So you can, too.
He begged and pleaded for God to find another way than the cross. But ultimately, it was the only way for sin to be erased, and He submitted in the most difficult way possible.
Think about the personality of Jesus, too. Submission didn’t involve one bit of timidity or weakness.
Let’s look at the full picture of God’s plan for the family based on Christ, as outlined in Ephesians 5.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:22-28)
As wives, it’s our responsibility to submit to our husbands in everything — because of Jesus. If Jesus can submit to death for my sin, I can submit to my husband out of reverence for Christ.
The husband’s authoritative role is also modeled after Jesus. He has a clear responsibility (and a tougher one at that) – to love us the way Christ loves the church. That’s a tall order!
God’s ideal plan is for husbands to demonstrate the love of Christ (which makes submission easier) and for wives to respect and submit (which makes love easier). It’s a beautiful circle of relationship and a literal picture of Christ and the church.
And if your husband isn’t a believer, cling to 1 Peter 2:24-3:2, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”
Your submissive and loving behavior might just mean the saving of your husband’s soul!
How to Be a Submissive Wife
Now that we’ve established that God has placed our husbands in a position of leadership and that submitting to him means we are submitting to Christ, we need a game plan. How can we practice our role of Biblical submission in everyday life?
1. Pray for Your Own Heart/Attitude
Ask God to help you develop a heart of submission toward your husband. If your attitude toward him has been “my way or the highway,” ask your husband and God for forgiveness. If there is bitterness in your relationship, it’s going to mess with your ability to have a submissive spirit, so be open with him and God about your struggles.
2. Pray for Your Husband Daily
When you pray for others, it softens your heart toward them. Start praying for your husband every day, even if it’s just a quick one-line prayer of blessing. If you want to get more specific and in-depth, you’ll love 10 Prayers Christian Wives Should Pray for Their Husbands.
3. Anticipate His Needs
Can you think of things your husband would like help with? Remember, our God-given role is to be a helper! Genesis 2:18, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
As a preacher, my husband always needs help ironing his clothes. I’m not great at it, so I usually leave it to him to do. But every time I iron something for him, he is beaming and I can tell it means a lot to him.
Remember Matthew 20:28, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” How can you serve your husband without expecting anything in return?
4. If You Disagree, Respond Respectfully
There are going to be times you disagree wholeheartedly with your husband – that’s life. It’s still possible to submit and disagree. Maybe begin by kindly saying, “I don’t agree with ___________, but I really want to help you. Is there a way we can talk this through or compromise?”
That being said, there are plenty of “little things” couples disagree about that really don’t matter. Is it possible for you to let some of these go for the sake of peace and unity? I love Proverbs 17:14 for this, “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.”
5. Do Little Things to Show You Are Thinking of Him
When you do small things to show your husband you care, it goes a long way to solidify your relationship. Whether it’s making him coffee, packing his lunch, sending a special text, or giving him a back rub after a long day — your husband will notice.
When you show love to him, he shows additional love to you, your relationship improves, and submission becomes a whole lot easier!
Related: 24 Ways to Build Your Husband Up
Do you struggle to submit to your husband? If so, why do you think you find it so challenging?
Mary Harp is mom to the two sweetest boys you’ve ever met and wife to her best friend, Richard, a minister near Birmingham, AL. She runs a blog about wellness and faith called Healthy Christian Home. When she’s not chasing her boys or blogging, you can find her with a stack of books and a cup of hot tea. Grab her free daily self care rituals checklist here or follow on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.