Mailbag, Marriage

The Mailbag: What is submission?

How is biblical submission defined, with specifics?

It’s a great question that a lot of women wonder about. “Just give me a list of all of the things I need to do to be ‘doing submission,’ and I’ll do them!” Unfortunately, that’s not how this, and so many other biblical concepts, works.

“Just give me a list of all of the things I need to do to be ‘doing submission,’ and I’ll do them!” Unfortunately, that’s not how this, and so many other biblical concepts, works.

Asking “How is biblical submission defined, ‘with specifics’?” is kind of like asking someone to define “modesty” or “parenting” with specifics. A lot of those “specifics” are situation dependent and vary from family to family or person to person.

For example, you can’t make a law for Christians that a woman’s skirt must be a certain length, because the length of women’s legs vary, and the same length requirement will be modest on one woman and immodest on another. It’s the same idea with submission. It’s going to vary from marriage to marriage.

In a godly marriage1, a husband and wife come together and discuss how they’re going to handle various issues, chores, responsibilities, etc. If there’s agreement, great! But that’s not really submission because both spouses are getting what they want.

If there’s agreement, great! But that’s not really submission because both spouses are getting what they want.

When there’s an area of disagreement, both spouses offer their input. If, after discussing it, the husband comes to the conclusion that he was wrong or that it would work just as well to do things the wife’s way, then he leads the family to do things the way she has suggested.

But if, after hearing his wife out, he concludes that his way is the wisest way to do things, that’s where submission comes in. The husband is responsible before God for how he’s leading in this situation. The wife is responsible before God for maintaining a posture of heart that says, “I may think he’s wrong, but I’m going to trust God in this situation, and obey Him by putting my will aside and graciously doing things my husband’s way.” That is biblical submission whatever the specific circumstances may be.

I may think he’s wrong, but I’m going to trust *God* in this situation, and obey *Him* by putting my will aside and graciously doing things my husband’s way.

Obviously, that’s an ideal situation between a godly husband and a godly wife, but the same applies to a godly wife with an unsaved or not so godly husband. First Peter 3:1-6 and 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 are crystal clear that a wife’s godly submission can be instrumental in his salvation or sanctification.

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.

For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

2 Peter 3:1-2, 1 Corinthians 7:16

“But what if his way turns out to be the wrong way?” Sometimes you’re going to submit to your husband and he’s going to end up being wrong. He’s going to have to answer to God for that. You’re going to have to answer to God for whether or not you obeyed Him and submitted to your husband.

We don’t obey God only when we think that doing so will yield the results we want. We obey God’s commands every time, we leave the results up to Him, and we trust Him to carry us through and provide for us regardless of what happens. That’s called faith.

We don’t obey God *only* when we think that doing so will yield the results we want.

1If your knee jerk reaction to the word “submission” is to immediately reject this biblical command outright because there are men who abuse their wives (whether or not your husband is one of them), your attitude is not in line with Scripture. Abuse is a separate situation with a separate, biblical way of handling it that has nothing to do with biblical submission. Please note that this article is to be understood in the context of a godly (by definition, not abusive) marriage.

Additional Resources:

Why is submission so scary? at A Word Fitly Spoken

Toxic (Evangelical) Femininity

Imperishable Beauty Bible Study, Lesson 11- A Beautiful Wife

Godly Womanhood – Submission part 1  part 2

CBMW (type “submission” into the search bar)


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Marriage

30 Things I’ve Learned in 30 Years of Marriage

Today is my 30th wedding anniversary. My husband and I married on a lovely Tuesday evening between Christmas and New Years in a church bedecked with pink poinsettias. And six kids, a growing bevy of kids-in-law, several houses, and a few dogs later, here we still are, plugging away at this “‘til death do us part” thing. There have been a lot of “for better” times, and some “for worse” times. Days when we celebrated “for richer” and years when we survived “for poorer.” A few “in sickness” moments, but, praise God, we’ve mostly lived “in health.”

There’s a lot I didn’t know about living with a completely different person when I first said “I do,” but here are some things I’ve learned both in my own marriage, and from the marriages of others, over the last thirty years.

1. This, too, shall pass.

It’s easy to look at one fight, one difficult time, and think, in the moment, “That’s it. This marriage is over,” but after a while, you realize this is just one tree in the forest of your marriage. At some point, things will calm down and you’ll be on the other side of it. Marriage is a cross country marathon, not a sprint on smooth pavement. Keep going.

2. “Not tonight, Dear…”

Every couple has to come to their own unique mutual agreement and understanding of each spouse’s wants and needs when it comes to sex. Coercion and manipulation are neither appropriate nor biblical, but neither is depriving each other. There are going to be times when you’re not in the mood for sex but your husband is. If lack of “the mood” is the only thing causing you to say no, say yes anyway, and do it joyfully and enthusiastically. Think of it this way- your husband probably isn’t always “in the mood” to go to work or take out the trash or help with the kids, but you want him to do those things anyway, with a happy heart, because he loves you. Marriage is about serving each other in all aspects of life, whether you’re in the mood at the moment or not.

3. Submit

Biblical submission is not, as secular feminists might have you believe, for weak women, but for strong, godly women. It takes much more strength to exercise self control and obey God’s Word than to just do and say whatever you feel like doing and saying. Take it from a headstrong, opinionated gal who thinks she’s always right- it’s not easy, but biblical submission will make your marriage better, healthier, and more Christ-centered, and will grow you to be more like Jesus.

4. Some things are better left unsaid.

You don’t have to verbalize every thought that comes into your mind, especially when those thoughts are critical, whiny, argumentative, “I told you so,” constantly corrective, complaining, cutting, or in any way unchristlike. Sometimes your most shining moment will be keeping your mouth shut.

5. Forgive quickly

You won’t find a passage of Scripture that says it’s OK to hold a grudge or dangle your forgiveness over your husband’s head until he has groveled sufficiently. The Bible says we are to be kind and tenderhearted and to forgive the way Christ forgave us. Do you forgive your husband the way Christ forgives you?

6. Put your husband first.

After your relationship with Christ, your first love, loyalty, service, confidentiality, and time belong to your husband. Not your children, and not your mother, sister, or best friend. Your husband comes first.

7. Don’t undermine your husband with the kids.

God gives your husband the ultimate responsibility for and authority over your family. While you and he can and should privately discuss how to handle disciplinary issues with the children and other family situations which arise, he makes the final decision. Do not collude with the children, argue with your husband in front of them about his decisions, keep secrets from your husband, or otherwise attempt to circumvent his directives. Support him, submit to him, and present a united front.

8. Affirm your husband privately and publicly.

Women can practically turn complaining about their husbands into a competitive sport. Don’t go there. Would you like for your husband to sit around with his friends and complain about you? Don’t do it in a braggadocious way, but, as opportunities arise, let others hear you affirming your husband and thanking God for him. And be sure you do so when it’s just the two of you, too.

9. Don’t publicly shame your husband.

As Christians, we should always – privately and publicly – behave in a way that honors God. As married women that godly behavior will also honor our husbands. Don’t ever berate or belittle your husband in front of others (or in private, either), including on social media. Don’t behave in public in ways that would embarrass him. When others think about your relationship with your husband, you want them to think, “Wow, he’s really blessed!” not “Poor guy.”

10. Divorce is not an option.

This is the mindset with which couples should both enter marriage and handle normal1 fights and difficulties. Do not bring the “D-word” out during an argument. God says marriage is for life. It is not disposable.

11. Pray for your husband and for yourself as his wife.

This is probably the most powerful thing you can do for your husband and your marriage. Pray for your husband’s walk with the Lord, situations he’s facing at work, weaknesses he’s struggling with. Pray that God will help you to be a godly wife, and that He will show you how best to support and encourage your husband. Want your husband to change in some way? Don’t nag, pray for him, and pray that God will help you to respond to your husband in a Christlike way.

12. You were always on my mind…

Don’t those little acts of thoughtfulness from your husband – unexpected flowers, doing the dishes, a love note – brighten your day and deepen your love for him? Your husband feels the same way. Cook his favorite meal, send him an occasional text letting him know you’re thinking about him, wear the lingerie he likes. Make him feel special and loved.

13. Extend grace.

Your husband is going to mess up. Often. So are you. Don’t turn his every mistake and sin into World War III. The Bible tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. Extend the same love and grace to him in his offenses that you want him to extend to you in yours.

14. He’s your husband, not your child.

Don’t speak condescendingly to your husband, order him around, or otherwise treat him like he’s one of your children. He’s not. Show him the respect, support, and love a godly wife is to give her husband.

15. Be on the same page, theologically, before marriage.

The Bible is clear that we are not to partner with unbelievers, and the most painful consequences for disobeying this command are often seen in marriages in which a Christian marries an non-Christian. But even if you both profess faith in Christ, it’s important to be in agreement on things like which denomination or church you’ll join and why, what the Bible says about salvation, men’s and women’s roles in marriage and the church, parenting, giving offerings, regular attendance, and other theological issues.

16. Admit when you’re wrong and ask forgiveness.

If you’ve sinned against your husband, crucify that pride, admit it, and ask him to forgive you. And don’t forget to repent and seek God’s forgiveness as well.

17. You’re not your husband’s Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict your husband of his sin, not yours. Certainly the two of you should talk things out, and it’s OK to kindly and lovingly discuss how his sin affects you, but no amount of preaching at him or castigating him with Scripture will change your husband’s heart, so don’t try. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.

18. God made you the helper, not your husband.

Every family operates differently when it comes to careers, childrearing, and household chores. Couples must reach a mutual agreement about who will carry out which tasks, and should help each other whenever the need arises. That being said, biblically speaking, God has placed wives in the role of helping their husbands, not the other way around. Your husband should not have to work all day and then come home, make supper, clean the house, and raise the children while you pursue hobbies or leisure activities. You both have responsibilities to take care of. Make sure you’re helping him take care of his by taking care of yours.

19. Thank God for your husband.

Don’t forget to thank God for blessing you with your husband. Especially when what you really want to do is hit him with the car. Pour your heart out to God about your anger, sure, but then start thanking God for all of your husband’s good qualities. You might be surprised at the way it changes your heart, your frame of mind, and your ability to forgive.

20. Take joy in the simple things.

Marriage is not a Hallmark movie, a jewelry store commercial, or a Carnival Cruise brochure. It’s just not, so don’t expect it to be. Enjoy just spending time talking, working on a project together, or doing chores side by side. Sometimes it’s not “He went to Jared,” but “We went grocery shopping,” that can bring the most joy.

21. Your husband can’t read your mind.

Your husband wants to do things for you and give you gifts that please you. If he asks which restaurant you want to go to, don’t say “I don’t care” if you do. Tell him. Don’t tell him whatever he gets you for your birthday will be fine and then pout because he didn’t get the gift your heart was set on. If he does something that bothers you, discuss it with him. Don’t make reading your mind a test of your husband’s love for you.

22. Don’t go behind your husband’s back.

Unless what you want is a husband who feels betrayed and doesn’t trust you. If he makes a decision, abide by it. If he asks you not to do something, don’t. If you think he’s wrong, discuss it with him privately, kindly, and lovingly. But, unless it conflicts with Scripture in some way, respect, support, and submit to your husband’s leadership and decisions.

23. Another man is not the answer.

You might go through some rocky times in your marriage. Confiding in or seeking comfort from another man will only make things worse or irreparable. Don’t be the foolish woman Proverbs 14:1 speaks of who “tears her house down with her own hands.” Another man is the source of more problems, not the fix for your current problems.

24. Help him the way he needs to be helped

Your role in marriage is to be your husband’s helper. But sometimes your idea of how to help will be different from his idea of what’s helpful. Maybe you think his socks should be sorted by color while he prefers them organized categorically (dress socks, atheletic socks, etc.) Whenever possible, help your husband in the way he prefers to be helped, not the way you prefer to help him.

25. Your husband is a valuable resource

God has given you a unique human being with his own background, perspective, education, experiences, and thought processes as a live-in resource. Take advantage of that gift! Trying to figure out how to handle a situation at work or at church? Wondering if you should move the couch across the living room or underneath the window? Attempting to master the art of grilling? Ask your husband for his advice or input. The old saying, “Two heads are better than one,” is true, and he might just wow you with a skill, talent, or knowledge you didn’t know he had!

26. Perfection is an unrealistic expectation

Social media, rom-coms, romance novels, other couples at church – sometimes it seems like everyone has the perfect life, the perfect marriage, the perfect husband. Don’t buy into that lie. Movies and books can afford to idealize – they’re fiction. And the real life husbands and couples you see in your newsfeed and on Sunday morning? Sure they might be doing well in an area you’re struggling with, but they’ve got problems in other areas. There’s no such thing as a perfect husband or marriage, so don’t compare yours to someone else’s. Be thankful for the strengths your husband has and the healthy aspects of your marriage, and pray about or work on those aspects that need godly growth.

27. You don’t complete me

Sure, it was a great romantic line in Jerry Maguire, but if you’re putting the burden of “You complete me,” on your husband, you’re putting it in the wrong place. The only place we can find our completeness, our identity, our contentment, is in Christ. Your husband will let you down many times during your marriage (just like you will let him down) because he is an imperfect, sinful human being. Christ will never let you down. Don’t saddle your husband with the impossible to carry burden of your contentment.

28. Set a godly example

Is your husband unsaved? Be the embodiment of the gospel to him through your godly submission, behavior, and demeanor. Is he saved but a bit weak in some areas of life or sanctification? Don’t parade your righteousness in that area around or toot your own horn in an effort to shame or guilt him into doing what’s right. Rather, with a quiet and gentle spirit, and most often, “without a word,” humbly set a good example. He never reads his Bible? Make sure you’re getting up every day and reading yours. You wish he’d ask you how your day was? Treat him the way you want to be treated, and ask how his day was. Your example may not change your husband’s behavior, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to honor and glorify God and to be a godly influence on your husband (which God can use any way He wants to) instead of a stumbling block.

29. Laugh

Some of the most intimate moments you will have with your husband won’t be in the bedroom. They’ll be the moments when you look at each other across a crowded room…and, internally, laugh hysterically together because you’re sharing the same thought. Private jokes, funny faces, code words. Hilarious memories. All of those things that only the two of you share and find funny. Laughter grows love.

30. Be thankful for the pearl

Only Christians who have been married for at least 30 years can truly appreciate why pearls are the traditional emblem of the 30th wedding anniversary. A pearl is formed when a grain of sand or other foreign substance distresses the oyster. The oyster doesn’t let that foreign body destroy it. The oyster protects itself by dealing with the problem in a way that turns out to be beautiful and a blessing to others. Over the years, Satan will attack your marriage, and sometimes he’ll use other people and outside circumstances to do it. But if the two of you respond in a godly way, God will use that situation for your good and His glory, and protect your marriage in a beautiful way that can even be a blessing to others. Don’t resent the sand. Be thankful for the pearl.

God has been so gracious to my husband and me over the last three decades. I have often failed at many of the things on this list, while God has protected us from the others. I could probably list at least thirty more things, but it all boils down to this: deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ, and love your husband the way you want him to love you. That’s the number one thing I’ve learned in all these years, and I’m so grateful to God for sanctifying me through my marriage and blessing me with my dear husband.


1We can all think of exceptions and extraordinary circumstances to all of these points. This article pertains to generally healthy Christian marriages, not instances of abuse. If you are being abused get help and get somewhere safe.

Mailbag, Marriage

The Mailbag: My fiance and I don’t agree on theology

Originally published November 27, 2017

After struggling to find a solid local church, I finally found one that’s gospel-centered. I have been fellowshipping there for close to 6 months now and am planning to pursue membership soon. My fiancé is a godly man, but he lives in another town, so he fellowships and serves in a church which he knows has some unbiblical doctrinal issues I won’t compromise on. After our wedding, we plan to live in the town he currently resides in. There are no Bible believing churches around (all are prosperity gospel churches). I am confused because I am not ready to listen to unsound teaching and later bring up my children in a community I don’t agree with theologically.

That’s such a difficult dilemma to be caught in, and I certainly do sympathize. An engagement period should be a joyful time of planning your wedding and your subsequent life together, not agonizing over major disagreements.

That said, it is good that you recognized this problem before the wedding rather than after, and I would strongly encourage you not to move ahead with the marriage unless and until the two of you have come to a biblical agreement on the matter.

Marriage can be challenging even when you agree on all the important stuff. But when you staunchly disagree on what should be the most important issue in your marriage – Christ, His Word, and His church – it can be devastating. Even if you think you are spiritually mature enough to work through the issue and remain committed to your vows, your husband might not be, and could decide he’d rather give up on the marriage than continue to struggle.

There are a couple of Scripture passages I’d encourage you to take a look at as you continue to work through this dilemma:

2 Corinthians 6:14-18: Though verse 14 of this passage clearly says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers,” (You said your fiancé was a godly man, so I’m assuming he’s a Believer.) and though the context of this passage is more broadly about the church yoking with unbelievers than it is about marriage, there are still some important applications to your situation.

Get a good picture in your mind of two oxen being yoked together to pull a plow or wagon, because that’s the image the Holy Spirit is giving us in this passage. Even if you’re both oxen (i.e. both Believers) what’s going to happen if you’re pulling one direction and your husband is pulling the other direction? Or if you’re pulling one direction and he digs his hooves in and refuses to budge? To plow rightly, you’ve got to be pulling in the same direction together. What would happen if you yoked a full grown ox with a small calf? Even if you’re pulling the same direction, that yoke is going to rub one or both of you raw, cause blisters, etc. Prayerfully think about the words “yoked,” “partnership,” “fellowship,” “accord,” “share,” and “agreement” in this passage in light of the spiritual differences between you and your fiancé.

Ephesians 5:22-33: Examine what this passage calls you to in your role as a wife: Submit to your husband. Respect your husband. Already you have an issue because when it comes to your husband requiring you to do something ungodly (such as attend and raise your children in a heretical “church”) you, as a Believer, must obey God rather than men.”

Now examine the role this passage calls your husband to. Is he giving himself up for you as Christ did for the church in order to make sure you grow and flourish in sound doctrine in your relationship with the Lord? (v. 25-27) Is he nourishing and cherishing your sanctification? Is he loving you as his own flesh?

In addition to praying and studying the Scriptures, it would be very helpful to make an appointment with your pastor (not his) for pre-marital counseling. He can lead the two of you to talk through the issue and determine whether or not you can resolve it in a biblical way. Your fiancé’s responses should give you a clearer picture of what to do, and if he refuses pastoral counseling, that should also be an indicator about which direction your relationship should go.

Husbands and wives do not have to agree verbatim – although it’s wonderful if they do – on every teensy tinsy molecule of doctrine or the marriage is doomed. (My husband and I have a few minor theological disagreements, but we’re in agreement about 98% of the time, and certainly on all the most important tenets of doctrine.) But heresy versus sound doctrine is not a teensy tinsy molecule of doctrine. It is a major issue that will harmfully impact your marriage and your children – in more ways than you can now imagine – for the rest of your lives. I would strongly encourage you to put the wedding on hold until this issue is resolved in a biblical way. Your love for and loyalty to Christ must take precedence over your love for and loyalty to any man:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:26

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” 
Matthew 10:34-37


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Holidays (Other), Marriage

Love and Marriage

Love is in the air….

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and you’re probably getting bombarded from every angle with the world’s idea of love, romance, and marriage. But what does the Bible have to say about that? And how about some “been there, done that” godly counsel from your older sisters in Christ?

Between us, my A Word Fitly Spoken podcast co-host, Amy Spreeman and I have over 60 years experience as wives. We recently sat down and recorded Love and Marriage, an episode about biblical love and godly marriage. Have you listened yet?

You might also enjoy some of my articles on marriage:

A No-Bull Marriage: Four Lessons from Mr. & Mrs. Samson

The Mailbag: I “feel led” in a different direction from my husband

9 Ways NOT to Fight with Your Husband

My Husband Brought Me Flowers Today

Marriage: It’s My Pity Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To ~ 7 Ways to Take Your Focus Off Yourself and Put it Back on Christ

Thinking about going to a romantic movie with your sweetie? Check out my review: Redeeming Love: Rants, Raves, and Reviews.

And, if you’re looking for some sentimental classic CCM love songs1 for V-Day (my husband and I had the first four in our wedding :0) …

(My husband and I recorded this duet together before our wedding
and had it played during our unity candle.)

1I’m not recommending or endorsing any of these musicians. Some of them are fine. Some aren’t. Vet anybody you’re considering following.

Holidays (Other), Marriage

Throwback Thursday ~ My Husband Brought Me Flowers Today

Originally published June 27, 2014

“I’m so tired of flowers,” sighed the elderly woman in the TV commercial as my jaw hit the floor. She had just described how her husband of fifty years, seated next to her, brought her flowers on their first date, and every year since had given her the same bouquet on that day.

And she was tired of flowers.

It wasn’t enough that she had a husband who stayed with her for fifty years. Or that he actually remembered the day of their first date every year. Or that he was caring enough to send her flowers on that date. Or that he was sentimental and romantic enough to send her the same flowers every year.

No. She was tired of flowers. She wanted the product the commercial was trying to sell.

I wanted a shoe to throw at the TV.

My husband brought me flowers today. I know, in the picture they look rather more like birthday candles than flowers. That’s because, technically, my flowers were birthday candles.

I was getting ready for our youngest son’s birthday party. I had already made a trip to the store and thought I had everything I needed. Until I discovered I was nearly out of baking powder. My husband was out running errands, so I sent him a text asking if he could pick some up for me. He did. No problem. Until I remembered I didn’t have any candles for the birthday cake. And he had already left the store. And it was raining.

“And it was raining.” I say that like it’s just so pedestrian, like it’s some normal, everyday thing, which, in south Louisiana in June, I assure you, it is not. Every day, yes. Normal, no. Remember that scene in one of those ’90’s “asteroid crashes into the earth” movies where the asteroid has just hit and the man and his daughter are standing on the beach watching the huge resulting tidal wave roll in to engulf them? Well if, instead of the beach, you can imagine yourself trying to navigate a WalMart parking lot with a buggy full of groceries and four kids in tow in the middle of that tidal wave, you’ll have some idea of what monsoon season is like down here.

And you know what my husband did when I asked him to go get birthday candles in that mess? He did it gladly. No complaints. No asking, “Why didn’t you think about this sooner?” He just walked in the house, soaked and smiling, and handed me the candles.

No bouquet could have been better.

Ladies, my husband has a lot of faults. I’ll bet yours does too. Because just like us, they’re sinful human beings. Often, like the lady in the commercial, we trample over a dozen roses to plant our feet in a briar patch. We overlook the ways our husbands are a blessing to us and focus only on our complaints.

Maybe he didn’t get you exactly what you wanted for your birthday, but does he work hard every day to support your family? So, he didn’t notice your new haircut right away. Does he give the kids their bath every night? Yes, his dirty socks are constantly on the floor in front of the hamper, but didn’t he change the oil in the car yesterday?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

The next time you’re tempted to complain about your husband’s shortcomings, why not praise God instead for a way that he has blessed you or done something admriable? And let’s make sure to thank our husbands for those little “flowers” they bring us every day.


This article was originally published at Satisfaction Through Christ.