In recent weeks, I have been pondering the topic of submission—specifically, a Christian wife’s calling to submit to her husband. Though I have heard the topic mentioned in passing throughout my years in the church, I cannot say I have ever heard this topic truly expounded upon. And there is reason for that—it is not a particularly popular or “culturally relevant” notion in 2021. Nothing would kill the vibe more at your local women’s conference than a topic such as this; therefore, it is never raised to begin with. It’s all just a little too uncomfortable for our liking.
There are many reasons this topic could lead to discomfort, but one of the main ones is this: in the modern feminine psyche, submission equals inferiority. It implies that I, as a woman, am incapable of leading or do not have the right to lead. That I must answer a tyrannical man’s every beck and call. That a submissive wife simply sits with her head down and her mouth shut. Dear sister, nothing could be further from the truth. These are lies propagated by the devil and a world that wishes to destroy godly marriages.
I know these things to be untrue for two reasons. 1) I have been blessed to observe what a godly marriage looks like (particularly through my own parents), and I can assure you, it looks nothing like what is listed above. 2) God commanded wives to submit to their husbands, and if He commands it, it is for our good and His glory. 1 John 5:3 graciously tells us, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”* Likewise, Psalm 19:7b assures that, “The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” (NLT) I just love that. His decrees are trustworthy. Oh, how I need to be reminded of this verse daily! To trust in our own wisdom is folly; following His Word is what leads to our ultimate joy.
With that said, let us see what the Bible has to say about submission. Perhaps the most familiar passage on this topic comes from Ephesians 5:22-24. “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.” Similarly, 1 Peter 3:1-2 says, “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.” Finally, Colossians 3:18 says, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
Clearly, the idea of wifely submission is not some obscure gray area, biblically speaking. It is mentioned explicitly in the New Testament at least thrice and is alluded to in many other places throughout Scripture. Not to mention what submission represents in the big picture—the headship of Christ and His Church’s call to submit to His will. My point is, this is not something to simply be shrugged off or taken lightly. It is important that we understand the true meaning of submission and what it looks like in a practical, everyday sense.
In this brief article, I would like to offer some practical ways for wives to practice submission. Now, let me offer a couple of caveats. First, there are many things that submission is not. I do not have time to cover all of that here, but I will link to a John Piper article below on this very topic that I found very useful if you are interested in further reading.**
Second, you may be thinking (and rightly so), “Isn’t she a little young to be giving marriage advice?” As a 24-year-old who is just shy of being married for two years, I probably am. However, I have received advice from godly women, such as my mentor and my mom, that I would love to pass on to you, reader. Plus, I tried to do my research by reading from several Christian authors and speakers on this important topic. In the end, I would love to encourage wives of any age, but especially younger ones such as myself, to not be afraid of being counter-cultural by obeying God’s plan for marriage.
Keeping those things in mind, here are a few practical ways I believe wives can practice submission.
1) As much as possible, allow your husband to lead your family. Perhaps some of you are like me—you like to plan, get things done, and have strong opinions. You like to seize control of situations whenever possible. For those of you like me, this is tough! Nevertheless, it is necessary. For every couple, it may look a little different, but here are some places to start. Obviously, talk about big decisions with your husband. Hear him out and follow his lead. Before going on a shopping spree, ask if he is okay with it. Before planning out your weekend, ask what he would like to do. If you are unsure of where you can allow more room for your man to lead, ask the Lord to reveal it to you.
2) Serve your husband. Cook meals that he enjoys. Do his laundry. Wash dishes. Pick his clothes up off the floor without complaining. Yes, every family may divide up chores differently, but I firmly believe that wives are called to serve in this way at least in some capacity. It is explicitly mentioned in Titus 2 that young women are to “love their husbands and children” and to be “workers at home.” (Titus 2:4-5) Let your service in the home be an expression of your love for your husband and serving can even become a joy.
3) Pray for your husband. Pray for his spiritual growth and wellbeing. Pray that the Lord would equip him to lead you and your children well. Pray for his work life. Pray for his health. Pray for his safety.
4) Respect your husband. Resist the temptation to nag. Do not demean or talk down to your husband. And certainly, do not talk about your husband negatively in front of others. Each of us knows our husbands’ faults and has found these behaviors tempting at one point. But trust me, you are better off keeping your mouth shut! Remember Proverbs 29:11. “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
There is more to say, but I hope you have found this to be a helpful starting point. Keep in mind, God is not somehow punishing or singling out women by calling us to submit. Our husbands are called to submit too; just like us, they must submit themselves to Christ. Furthermore, this is no arbitrary command; it is a representative picture of the marriage of Christ and His bride, the church. Submission has meaning.
If you have questions, feel free to reach out to the ministry through social media or our website. And again, I highly recommend the Piper article if you would like to learn more.
*All Scripture references are ESV unless otherwise noted.