COMMUNICATION IN MARRIAGE WHILE PRACTICING SUBMISSION
Many times within a marriage, problems arise that require communication between the partners to find a workable solution. Many women seem to have conflicts about being in submission while at the same time trying to find the best solutions for their problems and to talk with their husbands about them.
In a loving, God-honoring home, where both spouses are doing the Lord's will, and Ephesians 5 is being practiced by both, submission of a wife to her husband is not as often an issue. This is not to try and change the meaning of the word, it is just to show that submission is not necessary in many cases within these marriages. In this kind of marriage, decisions often are more like conference calls. Either party calls a conference and together, after listening to all of the information, both parties reach an agreement as to what course of action to take. If they still cannot agree, the husband ultimately has the final say, and the wife, who reverences her husband, will submit to this.
In the dictionary we find the word "submission" defined as: "The act of yielding to power or authority; obedient to the will of another; humble." The word "submit", defined as, "to surrender; to yield oneself in any way to the power, authority, or control of another." The scriptures support these definitions. There is no submission where there is no yielding of one's will to that of the other. To submit to something we would do anyway, or maybe feel is right, is not a yielding of the will at all! It is merely choosing the right path. And there is no submission where husband and wife agree to something. Submission involves the laying down of the will of one person for that of another, and the scriptures tell us that women are to be the ones to do this! Where there is no yielding of the will there is no submission.
*MARRIAGE AS A WELL-RUN COMPANY
I like to think of a great marriage as a functioning, well-run company or organization. The president of the company is the "head" and has the final say on all decisions affecting the company. However, it is a wise president who will call a conference when major decisions are to be made. He knows he does not necessarily have all the facts, and he wisely seeks the counsel of his subordinates. He also knows he is no smarter nor more intelligent than they, but only that he has been appointed as the "head", or president. He values their opinions. His company will go much further than the one where the president becomes a "dictator" type and won't listen to the advice nor seek the counsel of his subordinates.
This wise president will also delegate authority to others. Others, including his secretary, will take over some of his duties and the duties of the company, so that he does not have to make minor decisions nor be bothered with all of the day to day business.
This wise president will also make many decisions based upon the needs of his subordinates. Many times he will choose to change policies in order to make his employees happy, because a company whose employees are happy becomes much more solid.
In marriage, the wise "head" will also base many of his decisions upon the needs of his wife and choose quite often to do things for her well-being or simply to make her happy. This in no way diminishes his authority. This godly husband chooses to love his wife "as himself" and give himself for his wife, as Eph. 5:25-33 teaches.
21 "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
22 "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24 "Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25 "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it..."
Together this couple works toward unity and one-ness; and, not "seeking their own", each seeks the good of the other. I believe this is the Lord's goal for the operation of a godly marriage. Together they work to perform the Lord's will for them as a unit. Ultimately this marriage will give to the world a perfect picture of the relationship between Christ and His church.
*WOMEN MUST FOCUS ON THEIR OWN RESPONSIBILITIES
Even though we can have a glimpse of this perfect marriage in our minds, people are not perfect and marriages are not perfect. There will always remain the question of what a woman is to do if her husband is not the husband of Ephesians 5, if he is not leading her correctly. For this reason it is not always helpful to teach a woman what her husband should be doing. A woman cannot change her husband. To try would cause even more problems in the marriage, because the Lord has created within the man the need to be the head and the authority within his home. He has given the man the desire to be the leader of his domain, and a woman's attempt to undermine this position will possibly cause him to erupt in some fashion to regain and prove his position.
Women often say that such a man does not deserve to be the leader or head of the home, that he should earn this position. This is not what the scriptures teach and is not how God has ordained marriage to be. Women are to humbly take their position of submission to their husbands and allow the Lord to work in their hearts.
My husband says that a woman cannot change her husband, but if she will take the position the Lord has told her to, then he WILL change.
Therefore, it is better for women to focus on their own responsibilities in the marriage relationship. If a woman's husband is not the godly man he should be and is not doing the things he should be doing as mentioned previously, and his wife dwells on it, she may feel disappointed and cheated. This will affect her ability to "reverence" her husband and she will resent being in submission to him. In fact many women use the excuse of their husbands not doing what the Lord has commanded them to do, as a reason not to have to be in submission to them.
Ephesians 5:33, "... and the wife see that she reverence her husband."
Wives are told to reverence their husbands and they cannot do so if they are mentally listing their husbands' faults, pointing them out, or in other ways seeking to change their husbands. Wives must quit trying to become their husbands' "holy spirit"!
When facing a serious problem, what then should a woman do, whose husband is not obeying his own instructions from Ephesians 5? The first and most important answer for her, is to pray and trust the Lord! There is more, however, that the Lord may have her to do.
*CONSIDER THE STORY OF ESTHER
I believe the Lord has given us (in the dispensation of grace) the book of Esther, to allow us to draw some practical spiritual applications from it's story. It will help to teach us how a woman can live with an unsaved husband, or with a saved husband, who is yet "unperfected". ~smile~ There are some valuable lessons in this book and the Lord uses Esther to show us how to communicate with our husbands while also practicing godly submission. Women today should read this story for themselves and allow the Lord to teach them from it's pages. For time's sake we cannot attempt to quote all of Esther here, so it would be very beneficial if women would do so.
We find in her story that Esther's husband, unknowingly, had done an awful thing to the Jewish people. They were all to be killed on a certain day. When Esther found out about the king's order, she did not run in and immediately give her husband "a piece of her mind", she did not criticize him, nor did she immediately demand that he change the law he had written. No, no no! Her head would have been cut off if she had!
Esther, when facing this life or death situation for herself and all of the Jews in the kingdom, went to the Lord first, putting her trust in him, and then waited three days! With wise discretion, she prepared to communicate her needs to her husband, the king, while doing so with a submissive attitude. Esther then approached him and asked him to spare her life as well as the lives of the Jewish people. She even asked him to reverse the order that he had already written, yet all the while not "usurping" his authority. How was she able to do this, while continuing to practice submission?
*OBTAINING A HUSBAND'S FAVOUR FROM THE BEGINNING OF A MARRIAGE
First of all, from the beginning, Esther had shown reverence to her husband, the king, and showed an extraordinarily submissive spirit. Esther 2:17 says that she "obtained grace and favour in his sight" long before her serious problem surfaced. The book of Esther shows that she did not seek the outward trappings with which to adorn herself. She chose instead a spirit of meekness, that in turn, shows a submissive spirit.
The Lord values this kind of spirit very highly, just as men generally do. 1 Pet 3:4 teaches women to adorn themselves in like manner: "...ye wives,...let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."
Esther, chapter 2, says of Esther:
"And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight ..."
The question for women today is, "How have you been conducting yourself in your marriage?" A woman cannot continually position herself over her husband's headship, questioning his authority, and then when there is an extremely difficult problem in her marriage, suddenly turn on the sweet, submissive spirit. Men can see through this inconsistency. Esther showed this meek spirit from the very beginning.
We find a quality of the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31, to be that of trustworthiness.
10 "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
11 "The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil."
I believe because of this submissive attitude that Esther had, that her husband, the king, safely "trusted" in her. Her husband had first learned to trust her submission. When he sought to know her request he had no reason to believe that she sought to do anything other than to take a submissive position. Wives, does your husband totally trust in your submission? Has he learned through experience to trust your motives and your submission? When her gravest problem became known, Esther had already obtained her husband's favour.
*THE HUSBAND IS THE HEAD OF THE WIFE
All too often, especially in young marriages, the husband does not trust his wife to allow him his rightful place as head. "For the husband is the head of the wife..." states Ephesians 5:23.
In many marriages each of the partners is vying for the position of headship. If a couple are always at odds with one another, with the wife "usurping" her husband's authority, the husband may never develop this trust and may always be trying to assert his headship.
Thus, in these marriages, there is always a battle of one sort or another, and the partners are always in competition with one another. I have observed many marriages of couples, married as long or longer than my husband and me, who are still fighting for this position and leadership. This is so sad, because it undermines the trust, and security that God ordained for married couples to have with one another.
Wives, we are told to be in submission in everything, as Ephesians 5:23-24 tells us. We must always keep God's order in mind.
"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing." (Ephesians 5:23-24)
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord." (Colossians 3:18)
"But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." (1 Corinthians 11:3)
*A WOMAN MUST USE DISCRETION
Next, we can observe that Esther sought a way to present her problem to her husband without "usurping" his authority. (The Bible teaches us to do the same, in I Timothy 2:12, "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man..." ) We must always use discretion, in such situations, and apply the wisdom the Lord has given us through His Word. The Lord has much to say to women about using discretion.
"As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion." (Proverbs 11:22)
"When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee". (Proverbs 2:10-11)
"...teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." (Titus 2:4-5)
A. Discretion in timing
Esther was careful to find the right time when she could approach her husband in a submissive way. There is much to be said for timing. First Esther gave her problem over to the Lord and waited for three days. This not only helped to prepare her spiritually, but gave her time to think about her best course of action. It gave her time to choose her words carefully. Next, it appears that Esther chose to talk to her husband after he had eaten rather than before. We now know about blood sugar levels and how this affects one's thinking. Esther probably did not know the facts, but she did know from experience and wise observation, about the best time to approach her husband with a difficult problem. Then lastly, Esther waited for the right moment, even probably postponing her "talk" until the next day. When the time was right, her husband's heart was already prepared.
Some women will not agree with this teaching and will call it manipulation, but I believe this is something we can learn from the Word of God. We are told to learn from the Old Testament stories. "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition... " (1 Cor. 10:11)
Consider also, 2 Tim 3:16-17, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
B. Discretion in choice of words
Esther practiced keeping her tongue in check. She chose to adorn herself with the ornament of a "meek and quiet spirit", and used these qualities to govern her speech. The Lord has much to say about governing our tongues.
"If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain."
5 "Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
6 "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell."
I Peter 3:10
"For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile..."
We see in the passages above what harm just our words can do. The old children's verse that says, "words can never hurt me", is simply not true. The Bible says our words can set something on fire. Words can set on fire our husbands emotions! A woman is told to have a "meek and quiet spirit" and that the Lord esteems this trait very highly. Notice also in the passage in I Peter 3 that this highly esteemed trait is spoken of in the marriage setting.
Too many women in our world today have no idea how to apply the instruction to have a "meek and quiet spirit". Saved women usually will say that they themselves do practice this instruction, especially in their homes. My husband has known of quite a few women to say that they do practice this. Yet he knows them and their husbands and knows that their husbands say the opposite of them. Women, we usually do not see our own faults! The Bible says "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts." (Proverbs 21:2)
When a woman questions her husband with, "Why did you ____?", and "Why did you not _____?", she is not using discretion with her words. This immediately puts her husband on the defensive and his next move will not be to answer her question but to reestablish his authority. Thus the struggle begins again. He may then act out in ways to force his authority on his wife. To question a husband is to question his authority. To demand of a husband does the same thing. Women will often say that they do not demand of their husbands. Yet they will tell their husband what they must do or what they expect of them and add a little "please" in the sentence thinking this will cover the bruntness of their demand. A "Please do not do that anymore!" is not submissive. It is demanding in its own way. It does not reflect a meek and quiet spirit.
Esther was careful with her words. When approaching her husband, she always said, "If I have found favor in thy sight...", and, "If it please the king to grant my petition... " She always prefaced her questions or requests, with "if, if, if". Then after this submissive preface, she stated her request. Never did Esther make a demand of her husband, and never did she accuse him of wrong doing. She found a way to merely state the facts while always practicing this godly, submissive attitude.
*A MAN'S RESPONSE TO A GODLY WIFE
Most men, even unsaved husbands, as Esther's was, will respond to a godly, submissive wife who very discreetly and very submissively presents her problem to him. In fact, most men WANT their wives' input. They know they don't have all the facts on every situation and they know they need this input from their wives. We must never assume that submission is never giving an opinion or helpful information, ideas and thoughts. It all depends on what the particular situation is, and also on how the wife presents her point of view.
We can see that Esther did not barge in on her husband and demand to be heard. Neither did she immediately give him a piece of her mind. She used discretion. Esther approached her husband in such a submissive way that his heart was first softened, causing him to want to listen to her. This caused him to then greatly desire to hear her request. Then and only then did she begin to share the burden on her heart.
After she had proved her submissiveness, Esther's husband was willing to give her whatever her request was, knowing she would not abuse his trust.
The story of Esther shows us that we most certainly can talk with our husbands about problems, and communicate effectively with them without overstepping our bounds. We must always apply the wisdom and instruction the Lord has given us through His Word.
We also must not forget that there is an even greater reason to be the wives the Lord would have us to be, and it has to do with the cause of Christ. This passage speaks for itself:
"...teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed."(Titus 2:4-5)
May God's Word be honored in our lives!
Grace Bible Church