A while ago I told my husband that whenever I went to a particular online parenting forum, I came away feeling anxious about our children. He simply (and wisely) told me not to read it.
But sometimes the simplest advice is the hardest to take.
A few weeks ago, another update from this group appeared in my inbox and the headline caught my attention. I’m OK now, I can handle it, I thought. And besides, It’s important for me to be informed on this issue. So I clicked.
The post, by a woman I have never met, was about a crisis in her family. And my mind began racing, a mile a minute, wondering if we were on the verge of a similar disaster. Am I missing the warning signs? What if this happens to us?
My husband shook his head and smiled, as if to say “You could have avoided all this anxiety, if only you had taken my advice!” to which I offered no argument. He then explained why he did not think we were on the verge of a family crisis, and patiently led me back to the relevant truths from God’s Word.
The Internet age has conditioned us to think that because we can read everything, we should read everything. In fact, we think we have a kind of obligation to be “informed.” We must have “all the facts.”
But we must reexamine this “obligation to be informed” or this “right to know” from a biblical perspective. When the Corinthians tried to insist “All things are lawful for me” Paul rejoined “but not all things are helpful…I will not be dominated by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12).
So let’s hold this straight edge up against our online browsing habits:
It is “lawful” to read an online news source, but is it helpful for you?
It is “lawful” to visit online forums or chat rooms but does it build you up in the gospel? Does it build others up in the gospel?
It is “lawful” to follow certain Twitter or Facebook feeds, but is it always helpful?
In God’s kingdom, the prize doesn’t go to the “well-informed”, the one who knows everything about everything and everyone, but rather to the one who knows the God who knows everything: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom…but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me…declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV)
With that in mind, less time on the Internet and more time in God’s Word seems, in what must be a massive understatement, helpful.
You can watch the Marriage & Ministry conference at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary LIVE today and tomorrow. Speakers include Dennis Rainey, Russel Moore, Albert Mohler, CJ Mahaney, Randy Stinson and more. I’m going to try to catch a sesson or two during my children’s rest time!
Take a few minutes to watch this powerful video from Desiring God:
Some wise words to add to our conversation on submission...
Submission When It’s Easy by Nancy Wilson
A Godly Unsubmissiveness by Nancy Wilson
I’m A Better Leader by Karen Waddles
Being a Wife is All About Jesus by Jennifer Smidt
10 Things Submission is Not by Jennifer Smidt
“I once had lively discussion with a brother who insisted that in his relationship everything was equal, and that this was the hallmark of their marriage. To him equal meant same and therefore interchangeable. He proudly rejected the idea of male initiation and female response. And what is more, he thought he was serving the cause of women in this.
I responded by saying that in my marriage, my wife and I never think about equality, though if forced to think about it we would affirm our mutual worth before God. Instead, I see my wife as better and more precious than I—of greater worth. And I told him my wife took no offense in this matter. Indeed she gets upset with me precisely at the point when I start treating her as my equal. To her it feels like a step down.”
~John Ensor, Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart, p. 95
Yet another way we can misapply submission is by assuming it squashes a woman’s gifts. But that is not God’s intent for submission. Remember, “each has received a gift” (1 Pet 4:10). This means every Christian: no exceptions and no reversals. We have each been given talents and spiritual gifts by God and we are called to use them, as it says in this verse “to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
Submission does not limit a woman’s gifts, but provides a safety zone in which they can flourish. A humble husband will not assume he is the best at everything or exercise his leadership in an arrogant or domineering way. A wise husband will encourage, nourish, and cultivate his wife’s gifts for the good of the family and the church. And a godly wife will welcome that kind of godly leadership.
In some cases, submission means that at we heed our husband’s encouragement to step out and use our gifts, even if we are hesitant or afraid. And at other times, submission means we follow our husband when he thinks we should pull back from serving because we are overextended to the detriment of our spiritual health or family life.
So a submissive wife isn’t on the sidelines—she’s a good steward of God’s varied grace. And a wise and loving husband takes seriously his responsibility to encourage his wife to use her gifts for the glory of God.
A wife’s initiative should always support and strengthen her husband’s leadership; and to that end, she should take lots of initiative!
Our job is to help our husband, care for our children, and manage our home. We must not think it is “unsubmissive” to use our skills, wisdom, and insight for the good of our family. In fact, it would be wrong to neglect them. Scripture and the godly women of church history bear this out.
For example, in 1 Timothy 5:14 Paul urges the young widows to “marry, bear children, [and] manage their households” (emphasis mine). This is a strong phrase, meaning to be the ruler, despot, or master of the house. Clearly Paul expects women to bear significant responsibility for home life.
Katie Luther was a woman who took some serious initiative in her marriage. Her husband Martin famously quipped: “In domestic affairs I defer to Katie. Otherwise I am led by the Holy Ghost.”
The Proverbs 31 woman presided over the entire range of responsibilities in her home. She advised her husband, cared for her children, supervised servants, oversaw land, invested money, bought, sold, and traded goods (just to name a few duties!). No one could accuse her of lacking initiative.
And Sarah Edwards took initiative to create a world where her husband could fulfill his God-given duties without being concerned about domestic tasks. As the story goes, Dr. Edwards emerged from his studies one day and asked his wife: “Isn’t it about time for the hay to be cut?” To which Sarah replied, “It’s been in the barn for two weeks.”
Inspired by these godly ladies, what initiative can you take for the good of your family today?
(adapted from Feminine Appeal)
Q. Do you have any thoughts on how submission works on a day-to-day basis? For example, most of the women I know are more administrative than their husbands, and are more aware of the needs and deficiencies of their families and usually can make more informed decisions on a day to day basis. Even if a woman is bringing things up to her husband in a way that lets the husband make the ultimate decision, if she is the one initiating, then is she the one actually leading (but just in a way that “sounds” submissive)?
A. This is an important question because another way we can misapply submission is by assuming that it means we must wait for our husband to take all the initiative. But in order to understand what submission is (and is not), we must also understand what leadership is.
In an effort to flesh out a biblical definition of leadership, John Piper explains that “Mature masculinity does not have to initiate every action, but feels the responsibility to provide a general pattern of initiative.” He elaborates:
In a family the husband does not do all the thinking and planning. His leadership is to take responsibility in general to initiate and carry through the spiritual and moral planning for family life. I say “in general” because “in specifics” there will be many times and many areas of daily life where the wife will do all kinds of planning and initiating. But there is a general tone and pattern of initiative that should develop which is sustained by the husband.
For example, the leadership pattern would be less than Biblical if the wife in general was having to take the initiative in prayer at mealtime, and get the family out of bed for worship on Sunday morning, and gather the family for devotions, and discuss what moral standards will be required of the children, and confer about financial priorities, and talk over some neighborhood ministry possibilities, etc. A wife may initiate the discussion and planning of any one of these, but if she becomes the one who senses the general responsibility for this pattern of initiative while her husband is passive, something contrary to Biblical masculinity and femininity is in the offing.
Before we consider the “many times and many areas” where the wife will do the initiating we must first ask: Does my manner of relating to my husband encourage him to “provide the general pattern of initiative” or does my initiative taking undermine or usurp his leadership?
If you’re not sure, ask your husband. And if you’re really brave, take this question to a godly friend who will give you an honest answer.
One way we can misapply submission is by waiting on our husband to lead before pursuing spiritual growth.
Hopefully our husband does encourage us to pursue a deeper knowledge of God, but we are not dependent on our husband to grow spiritually. We are accountable before God to seek His face and obey His Word. Remember, when it comes to the grace of life, we are heirs with—and not under—our husband (1 Pet. 3:7).
In order to be a gospel wife, we must be rooted in God’s Word.
This means we must be avid students of Scripture, regardless of our husband’s spiritual pursuit. We should daily dig into the Bible, regularly read good books, and eagerly absorb and apply our pastor’s teaching. We shouldn’t assume that deep theological study is only for the men. Neither should we try to hide our own lack of spiritual growth behind our husband’s lack of leadership.
And here’s a self check: If we are truly growing spiritually, our lives will be characterized by humility toward our husband—not self-righteousness or superiority. True knowledge leads to love, not bitterness over our husband’s lack of growth or impatience with his slow growth. Proud “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up (1 Cor. 8:1).
Consider how you can encourage your husband to grow in his knowledge of the Word—whether he is lagging behind or way out in front. Inspire him by your example, graciously sharpen him with your questions, and above all, encourage Him for the many evidences of God’s grace you see in his life.
If we want to have an ideal marriage by God’s standard, then we will strive in God’s strength to be a gospel wife. As our husband’s bride we will be submissive; but no less important, we must also remember that we are our husband’s equal. We must not allow godly submission to slide into subservience.
Let’s look at Genesis 1:27, reading it carefully: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
What do we learn from this verse? Here we find that both male and female are created in the image of God. In this first chapter of the first book of the Bible, God establishes that man and woman are equal in value and dignity in His sight. A conviction of our equal worth is essential to understanding submission in the context of the marriage relationship.
Scripture makes no allowance for male dominance or male superiority. For this reason, theologian Wayne Grudem appeals, ‘To all societies and cultures where these abuses occur, we must proclaim that the very first page of God’s Word bears a fundamental and irrefutable witness against the evil of thinking of men as better than women.”
Neither is submission a position of inferiority or demeaning in its application. For although God has designed men and women to fulfill differing roles, He unequivocally affirms they are equal in worth and importance. As it says in 1 Peter 3:7, husbands and wives are heirs together in the grace of life.
Our equality before God should underpin our thoughts and actions as a gospel wife. If we don’t start here, we’ll quickly get off course. What problems can this cause exactly? More on that question when our series continues.
—adapted from Feminine Appeal