Have you ever been in a situation where you weren’t sure who was in charge? It’s frustrating. Either nothing gets done because no one knows what to do, or nothing gets done because everyone thinks their way is the best, resulting in a firework display of opinions.
Group projects without a defined leader leave me excessively rubbing my eyebrows. So I don’t find it surprising that God established a hierarchy in marriage, perhaps the longest-running group project ever. Like it or not, this project’s leadership structure places the wife under the husband and the husband under God.
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. (Ephesians 5:22–23)
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (Colossians 3:18)
As clear as the sky on a cloudless day, God commands wives to submit to their husbands. Those verses aren’t my words, they belong to God. If you’re tempted to click out of this infuriating article—because how dare I suggest submission to any man when society is busy blasting through the rock of such ancient thinking—let’s talk about what submission is and isn’t in this context.
The word “submit” in Ephesians 5:22 is the Greek word hypotassō,and it refers to a willingness to relinquish one’s rights. (Don’t miss the word willingness.) It’s not a forced submission, nor is it obedience. God does not command wives to obey their husbands as He commands children to obey their parents in Ephesians 6:1.
Furthermore, this verse is not talking about every woman submitting to every man. It’s a command for one woman to one man—a wife to her husband. It’s also not stating that women’s ideas are second to those of men or that women are second-class citizens. To say so is to take the verse entirely out of context. Besides, a godly husband likely knows his wife is worth listening to because He knows the Lord who fiercely loves His daughters and holds them close.
Submission Is God’s Design
Submission doesn’t mean a good wife is a doormat who never disagrees with her husband. It means she’s willing to come under his leadership. Order is necessary in the “group project” of marriage, and that, my friend, has been the order since the Garden of Eden.
After Eve ate the forbidden fruit and shared it with her husband, two specific changes resulted in the lives of women:
1. Multiplied pain in childbearing.
2. Discord in marriage.
Before sin, Adam and Eve lived in continuous mutual agreement. (Perfection suited marriage well.) After sin entered the picture, mutual agreement was less like a cakewalk and more like trying to navigate a forest fire. A good marriage is not a given; it takes work.
Look what God said to Eve in Genesis 3:16, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” No matter how you interpret the word “desire,” the implication is one of struggle. I see this verse like a red flag at the beach. It doesn’t mean you can’t get in the water to enjoy the waves, but you need to be careful (and watchful) because the undertow of temptation is strong.
One of those temptations is the almost irresistible lure to defy, usurp, destroy, and resist a husband’s God-given leadership role, especially when we feel that our man isn’t loving us or performing the way that he should.
The aggressive feminist movement we see today—the degrading of male leadership, the assault on their character, the dumbing down of men on television shows—is not a positive campaign but a succumbing to the curse that is overtly destroying our society.
Submission Is the Work of Christ
Here’s the problem: it’s not natural for us to submit. Our flesh vigorously fights against it, which means that setting ourselves aside is a quality that takes God’s strength. This is why the instructions for submission in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians come directly after a command to live filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
We need the Lord to help us submit. A submissive woman is not a weak woman; a submissive woman walks in Christ’s strength. She is a woman who desires God’s will above her own. She doesn’t push—she prays. She doesn’t manipulate but waits patiently, trusting in the God who holds her future.
A submissive woman is an exceptional woman.
Yet our society views submission as “giving up” or “giving in,” defining it as a weakness in character. Really, submission is an act of courage and an asset in a marriage, requiring self-control and dignity. It leads to peace, joy, and beautiful relationships. After all, look at what Christ’s submission did for us—it provided for our reconciliation with the Father.
Submission Is a Good Thing
Submission is not a degrading or old-fashioned concept to chuck out the door alongside big bangs and shoulder pads. Submission is God’s design for the most significant group project we will ever participate in. And since it’s a God thing—it’s a good thing.
Marriage works best when a husband is submissive to Christ and a wife is submissive to her husband, because that’s the way God intended it to be. To buck against any God-ordained role always leads to dissatisfaction, but to embrace God’s design is to embrace the blessing of the Designer. Submission does not degrade a woman. Instead, it opens the door for the kind of marriage she desires.
Christ-centered submission leads to blessing.
Just as it’s a comfort to be under the faithful leadership of Christ, so it is a comfort for a wife to be under the steadfast leadership of a godly husband. I realize not all men are godly, so here’s the hope: according to 1 Peter 3:1, even in challenging marriages, submission remains an attractive quality a godly wife can use to encourage an ungodly husband to pursue the Lord.
I know it isn’t easy. Sometimes surrendering my stance in a disagreement with my husband is the last thing I feel like doing. Please know you are not alone in the struggle. Submission is one of the hardest things we will ever do because it pushes against every fiber of our flesh, but Christ is there to assist us. I may not be able to climb Mount Everest, but I can absolutely follow the will of my Father and submit to my husband through Christ who strengthens me.
Don’t let society steer you wrong. Submission doesn’t make you weak; it discloses your strength—a strength found not within ourselves but in the powerful, indwelling presence of Jesus. When it’s hard, look to Christ, who fully submitted Himself to God’s will with complete confidence in God’s good plan. You are not less of a woman when you submit. You’re who God made you to be.