Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Submissive Wife

(adapted from a speech I did last February for a marriage conference)

Rick can tell you what it looks like to be the spiritual leader of his home, but I want to take on what it really means to be a submissive wife and why being submissive doesn’t have to mean that you lose your say or your identity. As Christians, we are all under authority. Children are to obey their parents. Wives are to submit to their husbands. Husbands are to obey Christ and follow His example, and Christ, Himself, even submitted, not only to God, The Father, but also to the authorities of His day.

So, how did being a submissive wife become a bad thing? Isn’t it a command of God? But when people turn away from God, nothing He says or commands makes sense to them. The women’s libers who tried to make women into men, and even worse, into God controlling their own destinies and futures and not leaving that to God or His standard but only what “feels” right and good to them at the time just didn’t get. They couldn’t understand God’s ways, His commands, or anything else His Word had to say, because they weren’t looking through the unveiled eyes of a person filled with the Holy Spirit.

And what is so sad is that their worldly ideas have become the norm in our society. Even among Christian women, the prevailing thought is still that being a submissive wife means being inferior to your husband in some way, but that’s not what God’s word says at all.

Genesis 1:26-28 says this:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

I see nothing in this passage that tells me I’m inferior to Rick in any way. Sounds to me like we’re exactly the same in God’s eyes. We’re both man, according to this. We’re just male and female. We were both created, according to this passage, in the likeness of God.

Then in Genesis 2:18-25 we read in more detail how it is that we came to be male and female.

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

That’s beautiful. How I wish they would have stayed in that state. Death would have never entered into our world. Sin would have never entered. I wish they would’ve obeyed. But they didn’t, so that leaves us here in this fallen creation learning what it takes to get back to the garden of God.

But, the passage says, “It is not good that the man should be alone,” so God created “a helper fit for him.”

Women, do you realize how important you are to husbands? He’s walking around with a piece of him missing. You’re his missing rib. He’s not complete. He’s not whole without you. He needs you. You’re his helper.

God gave Rick a dream, and in it, Rick was battling a demon. It was this woman dressed like a gypsy, and Rick fought with her and screamed at her passages of scripture until he grew tired. Then, in his dream, I stood up and started battling her, the demon.

God revealed to Rick in that dream that I’m here for him. I can help him battle all these demons that want to tear him down, that want to render him useless to God. And you know what, ladies? I’m not gonna let that happen to my husband. No, when he’s tired, I will help him.

It’s not just cooking dinner for him, or having sex with him. It’s giving him good ideas and advice on his work, on his relationship with God. I’m here for Rick. Anything God reveals to me, he may have just as well revealed it to Rick, because Rick’s gonna hear it. I tell Rick everything. If I learn something new from scripture, I’m telling him, because I’m excited about it and can’t wait to tell him.

So, where do the problems begin for Adam and Eve? We all know they ate from the tree God told them not to eat from. They were given a test to see if they would obey God, and they failed. They didn’t listen to the voice of God, they listened to Satan, and so they sinned.

That meant that they had to be punished. They were sent away from the garden and not allowed to eat from the tree of life. Now I do want to say here that in the last book of our bible we find out who will get to eat from that tree, which is in the paradise of God. Jesus said, “To the one who conquers.” (Revelation 2:7) Conquers what? Sin, by the free gift of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, we’ll see in Genesis 3:16-21 the punishment God handed down to Adam and Eve.

“To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’ And to Adam he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

Well, here we see that Adam was gonna need a helper, ‘cause life was gonna be hard, and to Eve he said, I’m going to multiply your pain in childbearing. Life wasn’t going be as sweet for them as it could have been, but God did provide a way out. He told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the women and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

That’s Jesus Christ we’re talking about here. He’s the one that’s going to crush the head of the serpent forever, and, in fact, has already delivered the crushing blow by providing salvation for man. Here in this passage we also see God taking responsibility for his creation, man, and providing skins to clothe them with. This was the first sacrifice. God had to kill an animal in order to provide those skins for Adam and Eve, so their sin in the garden had been atoned for, but they still had earthly repercussions for their sin.

Here in verse 16 we see a mystery unfolding. “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing. In pain you shall bring forth children.”

In 1 Timothy 2:15, Paul says that women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Now, that doesn’t really make a lot of sense until you think it though. Women are not saved through childbearing but through the redeeming work of the cross just like men are. Christ saves us if we believe, so what’s Paul talking about?

I believe there’s some symbolism going on here. The man and his wife represent the relationship between God, The Father, and Christ, the Son. They are the same. They are equal, yet one is the head of the other. God the Father and God the Son are equal, but one takes a submissive role to the other willingly. Hmmm…

So, if Adam is the head, and Eve was to take a submissive role, then she was going to have to suffer to get her most prized possession, her babies, just like Christ was going to have suffer to get his most prized possession, the church.

But, in delving out all that punishment, God also told the woman, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Now, here’s where the women’s libers come back in. It’s in our nature to try to rule over our husband. We want to be in control. That’s part of our punishment, but God says, no, take the submissive role to your husband. That’s hard for us women, so hard, in fact, that it’s impossible to do without the Holy Spirit. See, the Holy Spirit brings with Him, power. What kind of power? The kind of power that can prevail over sin.

See, God told us to be submissive to our husbands, but it’s in our nature to try to rule over him.

Now, there’s a battle.

It’s the battle between sinful flesh and the Spirit of God.

We are to live by the Spirit everyday. Now, that’s impossible for someone who doesn’t have the Spirit of God. You must be saved in order to have access to the Holy Spirit’s power, comfort, guidance, and help.

But with Christians, it’s still a battle everyday. Are we going to listen to the Spirit of God within us or are we going to give in to the sinful desires of the flesh?

Yes, it is our desire to rule over our husbands, but it’s God’s desire that we not, that we willingly put ourselves into a submissive role.

Don’t you want to be obedient to God? I do. I want to serve Him completely, and that means I am my husband’s helper. He’s the one in the forefront, and I’m the one in the background offering him any kind of assistance that will bring forth more fruit for God.

Because you know what? It’s not about Rick either. It’s about God. We, together, are to bring glory to the Father in heaven.

Maybe some of you are saying, “Well, it’s easy for her to be submissive to Rick, because he is living for God. He is a model of a Godly, Christian man.” I know people think that, because they’ve said it to me before. So, what then? What if your husband isn’t being the spiritual leader that he should be? Well, God’s got an answer for that, too.

He says, in 1 Peter, Chapter 3:1-6:

“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. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”

Win your husbands to the Lord by your conduct this says. Set an example for him. If he’s not doing it right, you do it right, and just maybe, he’ll follow. There’s no telling how many stories of men coming to the Lord because of their wives there are. That must a countless number that only God knows, but I bet you, it’s a big one.

But, at the beginning of that chapter we see the little word, “likewise.”

Peter tells us “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands…” Like what? Well, what had he been talking about before? Servants and the ultimate servant, Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:18-24:

“Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. 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.”

Wow, that just makes me want to fall on my knees in gratitude for what Christ did for me. I was so blind before I knew God. I was straying like a lost sheep, but the shepherd came and got me. He rescued me from darkness and has brought me into the light, and I’m so thankful to Him.

That thankfulness is more than gratitude. I owe Him my very life. Any hope I have is because of what Jesus has done. I am nothing without Him, and I understand that all His ways are right and just. He is infinitely wise and has given us of His wisdom through His Word and His Spirit, so I can believe and trust that His commands and plans for my life are better than anything I could come up with on my own.

I can trust Him, so when He tells me to submit to my husband, I will. Because, I know in doing so I am crushing the head of the serpent along with Him. I become more and more of a conqueror over sin and death and Satan with every obedience to Christ. So, I seek out His truth. I seek and find what is right and good in His sight, and with everything that I am I intend to follow Christ not out of obligation but for the joy of it, because I love my Lord. I love Him with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my strength. And as I love my Lord Jesus more and more, I love my lord, Rick, more and more. And one day, Rick and I will sit together at the marriage supper of the Lamb with Christ celebrating His bride, the church, Rick and I included. I hope you will be there with us on this grand occasion.

And to sum it all up, we look to Ephesians 5:22-33:

“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. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Well, profound, it is. But, I can see that throughout our marriage Rick and I have been one. His thoughts are my thoughts. We agree on almost everything. We have the same values, opinions, ideals. We have the same spirit. We are one. He is me, and I am him in a very profound way. If you sin against Rick, you’ve sinned against me. Because I love him as I love my own body. If you say anything against me, you’ve said it against him, because the two of us have become one flesh.

And see how this intertwining of ideals, hopes, desires is a picture of Christ and His church. Let me tell you, if anyone says something against Christ or Christianity, it makes my blood boil. It makes me mad, because I love Christ. I’m protective of His name. If anyone’s out profaning Christ, I don’t like it. And you know, He doesn’t like it when someone comes against and attacks me either.

I have no doubt that Satan’s punishment for the death of my son will be severe. Don’t get me wrong, I know God is the only One who can give or take away life. And more and more I see that God orchestrated the whole event for the power it would have in bringing about truth not only in my life and Rick’s life but in countless others. God’s sovereignty isn’t in question here, but the vehicle through which death, all death, came will be punished, and that was Satan.

But all of this, our marriages, our trials, this life is for our sanctification to make us holy, set apart for the Lord, because nothing unclean can enter into heaven. Nothing.

So let’s commit our lives, our marriages, and even our trials to God, submitting to his authority in our lives, and saying “Not my will, but Thine, Oh, Lord, be done.”

It may not make you happy, at first, to be a submissive wife, and you may hear me say this again and again, but one of the greatest lessons God has taught me through my trials is that life isn’t about being happy, it’s about being holy. And when you reach that, holiness, there will be joy. And joy is greater than happiness, because it is lasting. Our joy is forever if we belong to God.

So choose submissiveness, choose holiness, and choose to love.

God bless,



  1. Thank you for your words and for framing everything you say with God's word, our foundation. May God continue to open all of our eyes to Satan's deceptions and to draw us closer to our real treasure -- Jesus Christ. Thanks for letting God use you to speak truth into the lives of so many.

  2. As a Catholic hit the nail on the head!! Beautiful!! May I suggest the beautiful writings of Alice Von Hildebrand. She writes so well on the subject of Christian Feminism!!

  3. Sherri, this is a subject I have taught in our Ladies Bible Class. I am still amazed how Christian wifes fight this. There are too many real battles out there and this battle just doesn't make sense. Are we for him or agiant him?(husbands)
    I am so thankful for my husband of 34 years.
    Thank you for your wise words and sharing the word of our Father.

  4. Sherri, Your words are beautiful! I love how you included scripture from 1 Peter in this post. I have seen it work first hand. God is faithful!
    Amanda Helms

  5. Sherri, Thank you for sharing your sacrifices and encouragements. We are to share each others burdens and encourage each other. Your words do not always make me smile, but I needed to hear them, just the same. Thank you for sharing the truth.

  6. Beautifully written. I have been married to my high school sweetheart for almost 39 years and being a submissive wife has been so easy for me...a blessing for sure.

  7. This is good stuff. I sent a copy to all the women at my church. Today's younger women - even if they are not "libbers" have such a problem with this. We older women are not saying what you said often enough or as well as you said it. Thank you for this post. Good Stuff!
    P.S. My husband and I pray for you and your family and I just want to say that you have honored Christ in your very hard trial - I pray the Lord will continue to hold you in His hands.

  8. Sherri,

    Thanks my wife is so following the lord and keeping my backsliding self in check. Pray for us all.

    Love in christ
    john david

  9. This is so hard for me and I struggle with it. I am one whose husband his not the spriritual leader of the family. So what if there is a decsion in the family that you do not agree with or feel is the right thing to do , but he says otherwise and end of subject. So the right thing to do is go along with his descison even if in your heart you do not feel it is right? Please help me with this matter.

  10. Dear sweet anonymous... Please understand that submitting to your husband does not mean you do not have a voice. You are your husband's helper. You are certainly to help him make decisions for your family. Make your concerns and/or desires known to your husband in a calm and noncondescending manner, but the final decision is his to make. If he makes the wrong decision, he'll learn it quickly enough, and when he does, don't gloat over it. We as wives are to love and respect our husbands, love them enough to help them learn. Sometimes the best way to learn is through our mistakes. Hope that helps.


  11. Thank you so much Sherri for your inspiring words.

    God bless you!

  12. my wife is submissive but strong and both of us are happy,we think this christian way is theway to go.its not easy sometimes

  13. Thank you for this! I'm struggling in my marriage right now. How am I suppose to be submissive when my husband is not even the spiritual leader? It's so hard!!! I've prayed and continued to try to set a good example. We don't have children, so it's just me going to church and studying my bible alone...I really want to have a Christian marriage and a Christian friend! Do you have any suggestions?