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Women Who Win

Submit ! But how ?


Submission of wives to their husbands has been an age-old topic but the how of it is difficult to explain. The husband feels it is as simple as nodding the head. But for the wife it is most difficult. Eve ate the apple and our teeth still ache! A clear understanding of this subject will help wives to submit without strain and husbands to handle their wives with care.

Submission is often equated to obedience. But submission is the attitude and obedience the act. Paul speaks of submission of wives in several places. The wife is commanded not only to submit but also reverence her husband (Eph 5:22,23 KJV). That is much more than mere obedience or submission; it is holding the husband in high esteem. Whether he is godly or not the wife should cultivate the habit of respecting her husband in thought, word and deed. It starts with the mind. She needs a brain-wash from all the bitter and negative thoughts about him. She should constantly remind herself that he is her God-given authority. Then she should train herself to talk to him respectfully both in public and private. She may have to discontinue the use of certain words, phrases or expressions which belittle or hurt him. She may have to change her tone or reduce the volume! Then she should attempt to show her respect in the way she behaves to him. This is a life-long process and in this she builds up a love relationship with him.

A woman in all sincerity promises to submit and obey her husband on the day of her wedding. But in practice she is riddled with a multitude of problems that stand in the way of immediate, unquestioning and joyful submission. She is sometimes forced to sacrifice even her personal convictions. Sometimes she is silenced by her conscience when she thinks, arguing with her husband is sin, or if she does argue, is pestered by guilt. Life becomes like sitting on a cactus. What then can be rightly called as submission?

Submission means keeping under. It is the opposite of usurping authority over the husband (1 Tim 2:12). No doubt playing the second fiddle is difficult. That’s why God has made women as wives!

Intelligent Submission

The wife needs to know why she should obey her husband in a particular matter. She should understand why she does what she does. A wise husband does not fail to explain. Husbands are commanded to love their wives and love does not seek its own. So a loving husband does not aim to get his purpose fulfilled and use his wife as a means to it. He never commands, rather requests her and patiently explains. A servant is expected to obey implicitly without a word, because he is a servant. But a wife should enjoy the privilege of knowing why. So a wife who wants to know why, need not feel guilty of rebellion nor the husband get angry because his command is “questioned.” Over the years, when the husband wins over her confidence she may not even bother to ask why. “A woman needs a man to whom she can look up to but who will not look down upon her,” said someone.

Willing Submission

It is not uncommon in day-to-day life that husband and wife fail to see an issue eye to eye. The husband may explain but the wife will not be able to agree. In such situations the wife must trust the Lord and trust her husband and give full liberty to the husband to go ahead and offer full cooperation. It must be a joyful submission with no murmuring. The headship belongs to the husband. However, when the wife submits according to the Bible and proves herself to be a virtuous woman she becomes the crown of the head! (Prov 12:4).

Mutual Submission

“Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit ...” (Eph 5:21,22). The basis of submission is the fear of God. As the wife submits to her husband in everything, there are areas where the husband must submit to the wife. However the woman is not to take the place of authority and demand obedience rather explain the situation politely. The husband is to understand and cooperate with his wife.

Elkanah expected his wife Hannah to accompany him to Shiloh to worship the Lord as they did annually. But then Hannah was nursing the baby. So she had to explain to him:   “After the boy is weaned I will take him.” And Elkanah said, “Do what seems best to you” (1 Sam 1:22,23).

Another example: “And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living. So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him: ‘Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Padan Aram’” (Gen 27:46; 28:1).

Here are considerate husbands who looked to the comfort of their wives. They did not allow their male ego to dominate just for the sake of it. This is mutual submission. A woman knows better about the kitchen, the teenage daughter or the maid at home. In such areas the husband must listen to his wife. Also in these days when the wife also may be educated, the husband has to accept the wife’s decision in her field. When I load penicillin, my engineer husband would at times peep in through the window and say, “Don’t give penicillin. It’s dangerous.” It took me some years to overcome my guilt if I disobeyed him! I had to understand his helpful spirit and “disobey” with gratitude.

Wrongful Submission

A wife should never submit to her husband, being fully aware that his demand is sinful. Sapphira agreed with Ananias to tempt the Spirit of the Lord and we know what befell them. The very reason why believing wives are admonished to be submissive to their unbelieving husbands is that “they may be converted by their wives’ chaste behaviour.” Today many godly wives cooperate with their husbands’ ungodly plans in the name of submission. The word submission is used as a cloak to cover thier own wrong motives in full agreement with their husband’s. “What can I do?” they say. “What can they not do?” I ask. A wife should by all means exhibit a holy anger towards unholy practices and protect her own man from sin, herself from a heartache and her family from a disaster. It was Billy Graham’s wife who said, “There is a time a stop submitting and start outwitting.”

Blind Submission

A godly wife who feels she should not talk back may decide to obey blindly any command or demand of the husband. She may feel discussion is sin. One day my husband wanted to make an omelette himself. He wanted more onions and more and more and more. He poured milk in it. When he was about to pour it on the pan I suggested that he reduce the fire. He wouldn’t. I need not say he  couldn’t turn it over and it got burnt. I watched the fun with wicked delight. It is noteworthy that several times I had objected to this procedure but this time decided on absolute obedience. This is a small illustration of what can happen to a life if the wife submits blindly. However, implicit obedience of the wife helps the husband think and command right and respect his wife’s suggestion. In other words, husbands, think before you command - your wife may obey!

Voluntary Submission

There are times when a woman has to take a decision independent of her husband, in his absence. How can a wife be submissive in such situations? She will find her will colliding with her husband’s. Even though she has the freedom to take an independent decision, a submissive wife will decide according to her husband’s heart. She will be happy to share the matter with her husband on his arrival and be sure he will endorse her decision. A submissive woman knows her husband’s spirit and lives acording to it.

Avoided Submission

A wife may take a decision independent of her husband, all by herself and go ahead knowing, pretty well that she should consult her husband before proceeding in that matter and having the time and convenience to do so. She knows pretty well that her husband would decide otherwise but to have a clear conscience and at the same time have her own way, she decides. Suber duper! This is nothing but an unsubmissive spirit.

Reactionary Submission

Instead of trying to explain it I would give an example. My husband silences me when I interfere while he is busy. So I would go into hibernation. Then when he demands an explanation for my tight lips, I would answer, “You only asked me to keep quiet.” I quieten my conscience saying after all I submitted perfectly. But God chided me. How deceitful our heart is. Understand what is expected of you and do not react.

Discussion is not Rebellion

A wife should know and a husband should understand that discussion is not wrong. It is a very good sign of a healthy husband-wife relationship. If the wife wins over the argument, the husband need not feel ashamed. But a wise wife would not gloat over her victory and wound her husband or deflate his confidence. She would rather loose the argument and win her husband. My husband has the habit of sharing everything with me. When I understand the issue and feel it is the right thing to do I say ‘yes’. When I say no, my husband wants to know the reason why and I explain to him. If he is convinced he accepts my ‘no’. If not, we discuss the matter. Often the discussion develops into argument and from there to heated emotional exchange of ideas. None of us feels guilty about it as we used to do in the early days. Now we know it leads to a healthy conclusion. When I have expressed my views I give him full freedom to pursue his way. I commit the matter to God in prayer. Many times though in utter sincerity I believed his proposal was wrong, in the end I have found after all he was right. Sometimes when he was wrong God blocked him from proceeding in that matter. At times God allowed him to make a mistake and we both have learned valuable lessons. Sometimes I have been stubborn to have my own way and when it turned out be a gross error I have realised the value of submission. A man who would not discuss with his wife may lose the better half of the discussion. We have discussed with couples and noticed that wives had so much to contribute over their male counterparts. Manoah’s story in Judges 13 is a good example. The imbecilities of extreme teachings on submission may crush initiative and serve a death blow to a woman’s common sense.

The Role of Wisdom

My husband is very fond of dried fish gravy. Whenever we had it, he used to over eat and suffer in the night. After some years I discovered the sequence and started to remove the gravy from the table after the first helping. He would beg and plead and I would be defiant. He is now free of the problem for so many years. There was a wise woman called Abigail whose husband was a boorish fellow. He refused to help David in his need. Without his knowledge, Abigail sent all the help David required, fell at his feet and saved her household. What do you call that? - Wisdom! Esther outrightly disobeyed her husband in all wisdom and delighted him. A wife must daily pray for wisdom and trust God for guidance in difficult situations.

What if a wife submits and  finds that her husband’s decision turned out to be a failure but hers the right one? Does this mean that a wife need not always submit? Never. Such thinking will lead the home to confusion. It will be like a team without a leader. Her husband’s self-esteem nosedives. A husband should have the freedom to make mistakes. When such things happen a wife should never belittle her husband. She should not even hint or remind him about her suggestion. She should share the burden of the failure, encourge and hold him up. It helps the husband in course of time to develop a confidence in his wife. Though the “course of time” is a very painful path for the wife the end is rewarding. It helps the husband and wife to discover their specialities and be a more fruitful.

And what of a husband who refuses to take up leadership at home? If a captain is not steering the ship the others cannot fold their hands and watch the ship sink. Where a wife cannot coax her husband to take up the leadership she has to fulfull the role with a humble spirit.

A wife may be constrained to obey her husband against her wishes. Then she finds herself proclaiming publicly that she is doing it for her husband’s sake. This is also an unsubmissive attitude. They are one flesh and the wife must learn to acknowledge the decision as her own and not stand apart.

Husbands, Help us submit!

1. Do not command or demand us, please request us.

2. Do not control us in all trivial matters. It maddens us. We would like a certain amount of freedom in our own fields where we enjoy certain rights to choose or decide for ourselves. We may make mistakes, but why not give us the freedom to make mistakes when you enjoy the same privilege?

3. Do not force us to violate our convictions.

4. If you repeatedly fail in one area, we are at your service. Please try us. Do not take it as a defeat or humiliation if we succeed. May be God has given that particular gift or talent to your better half.

5. Give us opportunity to discuss with you and then decide.

 6. If you feel what we say is a sensible suggestion do not throw it away for ego sake. And we will try not to boast.

7. Be clear in your instructions. Don’t be vague and get irritated when we do something else.

8. Please give us sufficient time to grow into submissiveness. We are still in the making. When we fail, don’t ask for a pound or flesh, but forgive us.

9. We are ready to submit provided you don’t steamroll us.

10. Help us use our talents and do not be jealous of YOUR R

   Address for Correspondence & Contributions:

Lilian Stanley
13 Church Colony
Vellore 632006, India
Tel: +91 9843511943
Email: lilianstanley@gmail.com

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