Biblical submission is a touchy subject for a lot of women, understandably. We live in a world where abuse and mistreatment are rampant, and the concept of submission is often confused with women being oppressed. Modern feminism speaks out against this hurt, but in turn often creates a vengeful, belittling perspective on men (more on this in a later post).
The best I have ever heard Biblical submission explained was in a weekly women’s class that I attended at Timberline Lodge (a Torchbearer’s Bible School). The woman teaching encouraged us to be strong helpers in the way that we serve and submit to our future husbands. She explained that woman is man’s “suitable helper,” and in Hebrew this means “one that is designed to fit alongside him as a companion.” This is not inferior or below, it is alongside. Submission for a Christian woman means that with a gentle and quiet spirit, she also has the voice to say no and stand up for God’s word. She uses her voice not for revenge, but for nourishment and encouragement. Her position is not inferior, it is a strong help.
Not all women have husbands who are easy or even bearable to submit to. To this, the woman teaching my class mentioned that men struggle with domination and women struggle with control. As hard as it may be, we should love each other through those struggles. Another often misinterpreted idea about submission is that women should ALWAYS submit. Women do not need to submit when their husband is going against what God’s word says. The Holy Spirit also gives us the strength to graciously confront and forgive them when they do.
Another thing she taught was that the “gentle and quiet spirit” often quoted from 1 Peter 3:4 actually refers to a “soft strength” or “strength under control” in Hebrew. This blew my mind. Women are called to control our strength, or perhaps reign in our control that can so easily become overbearing. When submission is hard, we need to put our hope in God and not give way to fear. We must live out our soft strength. No one has the power to destroy who you were created to be. You do not lose your individuality when you submit to your husband. Yes, you are one, but you are unique individuals and should encourage each other in the beautiful variations that God gave you.
Let’s rejoice and embrace our submissive roles as woman, not fight it. Let us be strong helpers, passionate supporters, and encourage the men in our lives to pursue the dreams and passions that God gives them. We have the potential to have enormous impact on the men around us. We won’t gain anything from trying to be in control of men, but we will gain their trust and support if we love them and empower them as God does. Even if you’re single, you have the ability as a Christian woman to intentionally encourage and speak truth into the lives of men around you. We are all in this together. We are all on an imperfect journey pursuing a perfect savior. Let’s refine each other and encourage each other through our different roles as men and women. As their strong helpers, let’s love them humbly not begrudgingly. A biblically strong, submissive wife has a whole lot more impact on her family than one that ignores or fights her husband’s role as the head of the house.
And when submission seems like the last thing you want do embody, remember that Jesus submitted when he was crucified. He spoke few words and was calm. He was always living for the purpose of the father – in submission to the Father. When it’s hard, remember His humble submission and ask him to live that out through you. Reflect on whether or not you are living for the purpose of the father. You were created to glorify God, and a way you can do that is by submitting to him first, then your husband. If Jesus could submit, we can too because of his power inside of us. We have His strong submission in us.
1 Peter 3:1-6
“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”
Some other advice on Biblical Submission (notes from the same class):
Submit to God before men
Discern what you can do and say that most clearly reveals something beautiful about God that needs to be known
Depend on God for discernment
If you are gentle, godly, and feminine, you nourish others rather than tear them down
Don’t make your husband your God
Seek God’s face in everything
Be a vessel for God to use
A feminine woman causes men to worship but a “sex goddess” causes men to lust
Men respect women who are slow to speak and wise
Quiet is not manipulative
The Bible tells us to be pure and reverent to God, our beauty should come from within
Personally, submission is not a walk in the park for me. I’ve been taught so much beautiful truth on the subject by Christian mentors, but I still struggle a lot with control. I can be so stubborn at times and use my calm personality in a manipulative way. It is a continuous pursuit I’m on to work on this, to willingly submit and trust that God has my husband in his hands, no matter what I do. I write this as a reminder to me just as much as anyone else! I hope this clarifies any confusion you’ve had on the subject, and I pray this message and similar ones can penetrate our culture and create a healthier view on biblical submission.