Tag Archives: marriage

What Does It Mean for a Wife to Submit to Her Husband?

Some believe that being submissive means to simply obey and to deny personal feelings, desires, expectations, and dreams. They think a wife is not submissive if she shares her opinions with her husband.

Worse, countless women have been sent back to their homes and told to submit to abusive husbands — in some cases without anyone ever speaking to him about how he treats her. Some even believe that wives who are abused cause the abuse by their lack of submission.

This false concept of submission is often used to manipulate and control women. It advocates quiet obedience and subservience, and denies a woman’s irreplaceable value in her marital relationship. It also ignores the potential for a man to be heavy-handed and unloving in his attempt to be the “ruler” of his home.

Unfortunately, some Christian leaders have contributed to this false concept of submission by overlooking the husband’s obligation to love his wife. This is an extreme misrepresentation of Paul’s intent in Ephesians 5:22-30 .

Others have accused the apostle Paul of being a male chauvinist, one who didn’t respect women or see their value. If we consider what Paul wrote within his culture, however, we see that Paul had a high view of men and women. He understood how they can best work together in marriage to reflect Christ’s love for us.

In a day when men married for money, Paul strongly stated that husbands were obligated to love their wives (see also Colossians 3:19 ). Paul’s words to husbands were revolutionary in Greco-Roman society. Most men married not for love but for financial gain. Marriages were usually arranged, and the father of the bride provided a dowry — a portion of money, clothes, jewelry, and possibly slaves.

Paul’s instructions for marriage were a breath of fresh air. His thoughts were not those of a man who degraded women and wanted to “keep them in their place.” Quite the opposite — he elevated women to a place where they are to be loved as Christ loves the church. That is pretty radical thinking!

It is significant that Paul compared a husband and a wife to Christ and the church. He regarded marriage so highly that it is used as an analogy of Christ and His relationship to the church. If the husband is the head of the wife in the same way that Christ is the head of the church, we can safely draw conclusions from the comparison of Christ’s relationship to His bride, the church.

Christ loves His bride and is her Savior. Christ gave His life for her. Likewise, the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves His church. A husband’s love should be sacrificial, nourishing, cherishing, and protective. A man should love his wife in the same way he loves his own body ( Ephesians 5:25,28 ).

The same level of devotion as required of the husband to love is required of the wife to submit ( Ephesians 5:22 ). Before looking at submission unique to a wife, though, we need to remember that Paul advocates mutual submission between believers ( Ephesians 5:21 ). No one is to demand or force another to yield; submission is voluntary. The Bible doesn’t say that it’s a husband’s responsibility to see to it that his wife submits to him.

A wife’s submission to her husband is in response to her love and devotion to the Lord first. She submits to the Lord out of a humble and grateful heart, not because she is a slave, but a servant. Likewise, biblical submission in marriage is servanthood, not enslavement. A godly wife is motivated to submit to her husband, not out of fear, self-interest, or self-protection, but out of love ( 1 Peter 3:6 ).

Scripture does not define submission as mindless obedience to a husband’s every wish or demand. Nor is it avoiding an argument at all cost. Instead, submission is a deep commitment to a person. It is choosing to work with one’s mate in a way that promotes oneness. A married couple becomes one flesh and must work as a team ( Genesis 1:26 ). Constant fighting and arguing works against a couple trying to become unified.

To illustrate, a team player must submit to the guidance of his coach. A good coach guides the team in strategy and utilizes the strengths of the players for the success of the team. A gifted player may debate a point with his coach, but there comes a point when, if they continue to disagree, the player must submit to his coach. Likewise, the wife, at times, must put aside her disagreements and follow the lead of her husband, whom God has placed in her life as the head. (Sometimes, it is not in the best interest of either the wife or the husband to submit, as in the case of abuse.)

Marriage, according to God’s design, is a relationship that returns love for love, service for service. Husbands and wives love and sacrifice for one another differently. Husbands love their wives by protecting, cherishing, and serving them. Wives submit to their husbands out of respect and love. Both the husband and the wife are given vast opportunities to show Christ’s love to one another. It is not always easy, but marriages can best reflect God’s redemptive work in our lives by following the principles of Christlike love and submission.

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What Are Some Unrealistic Expectations About a Remarriage?

All couples have dreams for the way they want their family to be. But some set themselves up for failure by holding on to unrealistic hopes. Here are a few of them:

We’ll have instant family happiness. It’s unrealistic to think that family happiness will happen overnight and without some struggles.

In a stepfamily, building a happy home takes longer. Losses associated with divorce, loyalty to biological parents, no shared history, and a lack of time together are just a few of the factors that can slow stepfamily bonding.

There’s no set timeframe for family cohesion. And it helps to remember that even intact original families must work to be happy. Like the church, it takes time, effort, and reliance on God for a spirit of unity and peace ( Romans 15:5-7 ). It’s the consistent application of gentleness, humility, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, love and patience that build unity (Philippians 4:5; Colossians 3:12-14 ).

Children will automatically welcome a new parent in the home. While single parents appreciate the added parental support in remarriage, children may not be as eager to tolerate the new authority figure. Feeling jealous or threatened by the new marriage partner, many children become either distant or aggressive in their relationship with the stepparent.

To defuse conflict, couples need to clearly define the stepparent’s role. As disciplinarians, stepparents shouldn’t be too heavy-handed or too permissive ( Ephesians 6:4 ). Talking with the children about the stepparent’s new role in the home, including them in setting house rules, and fair discipline can ease some of the turmoil. Spending time with the stepchildren and getting to know them can ease tension and build positive relationships.

The past won’t affect how we operate as a family. Some wish that they could erase the painful past of a family break-up. They fear that ex-spouses, money matters, and emotional pain will barge through the door of their new home and become regular unwanted boarders. So they pretend that these problems don’t exist.

Visitation schedules, child-support issues, and unresolved emotions should be discussed as they come up. Realistic acknowledgment of these problems is best.

Focusing on loving others can help us overlook some of the inconveniences of stepfamily life ( 1 Peter 4:8 ). We can also allow the difficult moments to teach us about patience, generosity, and focusing on others’ needs ( Philippians 2:4; Psalm 38:17-22 ). Facing the past and accepting certain realities of stepfamily life can encourage personal growth and healthy family relationships.

Our premarital counseling will prepare us for all that we’ll encounter as a stepfamily. Just as medical training in the classroom can’t fully prepare a doctor for work in the emergency room, premarital counseling is limited in what it can do to get couples ready for remarriage. There are intense emotions that arise and unhealthy ways of coping with the stress that can surprise us. It’s only in the challenges of stepfamily life that we become aware of some of the areas that need special attention.

While premarital counseling is important, it is equally good for stepcouples to continue to educate themselves about stepfamily life. Reading literature on remarriage and stepfamilies1 , networking with other blended families, and staying connected in a strong community of believers through church involvement are crucial to the success of stepfamilies (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13; 10:25; Galatians 6:2 ).

The desire of most couples entering remarriage is to create a safe, secure, loving home for their children and themselves. But if we tightly hold on to unrealistic expectations, we can unintentionally put our stepfamily at risk. Instead, stepfamilies can help themselves by taking an honest look at their expectations, adjust them according to biblical standards, and trust God to help them redeem the painful past and meet the needs of their new blended family.

  1. While RBC Ministries does not necessarily endorse all the concepts raised in the following books, they can be helpful for remarried couples and stepfamilies:
    The Smart Stepfamily by Ron L. Deal (Bethany House, 2002.) The Blended Family: Achieving Peace and Harmony in the Christian Home by Edward and Sharon Douglas (Providence House Publishers, 2000.) 7 Steps To Bonding With Your Stepchild by Suzen J. Ziegahn, Ph.D. (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2001.) Merging Families by Bobbie Reed, Ph.D. (Concordia Publishing House, 1992.) Back To Article
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How Can I Be Happy in My Marriage When My Spouse Is Not a Christian?

The fact that you and your spouse do not share the same faith in Christ can create a number of problems in your marriage. At one time, the differences in what you believed might have seemed like a minor problem. But now they have grown into feelings of detachment and resentment, hindering intimacy and causing a significant barrier.

It’s not uncommon in marriage to have feelings of loneliness and isolation. Any of us who are married can begin to lose our passion for our spouse. But a believer who is married to an unbeliever may have even more of a struggle with feelings of loneliness, isolation, and resentment.

The challenge for you as a believer is to do all you can to set the stage and create an environment for your husband or wife to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. Exhibiting Christlike love in your marriage has the greatest potential for compelling your spouse to trust in God.

Loving your spouse means putting your spouse’s needs before your own. It’s not ignoring your needs, but when he has a legitimate need (not anything that would violate you as a person), it is loving to do what you can to help him. Invite him to enjoy a deeper relationship with you and hopefully a future relationship with Jesus Christ. Loving him well is being truthful and honest about your feelings and allowing him the same freedom to have and express his thoughts and feelings. Open communication and mutual respect help define a loving relationship.

As you love your spouse, also stay committed to God and to your values. Continue to pray, to go to church, and to read the Bible. Pray for your spouse ( Colossians 1:9 ; Hebrews 4:16 ). Fellowship with other believers (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Hebrews 10:25 ). In 1 Corinthians 7:14, the apostle Paul explained that the unbelieving mate is “sanctified” through the relationship with a saved partner. This means that the unsaved husband or wife is set apart to a place of special privilege and spiritual potential through living with a saved partner. For example, an unsaved man who has a wife sincerely praying for him and living a Christian life before him in the home is in a position where conditions will be favorable to his salvation. Not only does his wife influence him, but fellow believers who know the man’s spiritual state will also join in prayer on his behalf.

But try not to push your unbelieving husband or wife. They may feel manipulated if you encourage them to go to church or read the Bible with you. Trying to get them to attend church with you or pray with you is futile. Unbelievers have no basis to want this. Why would they pray when they have no faith? Pushing them to do activities such as church-going may lead them away from the truth of the gospel. In fact, the apostle Peter told believing wives to win over their unbelieving husbands “without words” but by the “behavior” of “purity and reverence” and “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” ( 1 Peter 3:1-4 ).

Remember that your faith will be tested. There may be times when you feel that your efforts are worthless, that they are not making a difference in your husband or wife. Your partner may even misunderstand your motives at times and pull away from you. The distance you feel can make you want to give up trying.

During these lonely times with your mate, acknowledge your legitimate feelings of loss and disappointment over not having a happier marriage. Take them to God in prayer, for He will comfort those who grieve ( Matthew 5:4 ). God doesn’t promise marital happiness, but He gives us something far better — restored faith, hope, joy, peace, and love ( Psalm 119:116; 147:11; Romans 15:13 ). God uses difficult times like these to bring about patience and character in us, working for our benefit ( Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4 ).

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Is It a Serious Mistake to Marry Someone of Another Faith?

In 2 Corinthians 6:14 the apostle Paul wrote:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

Imagine being in a relationship with someone you love and care for deeply. You take long walks together, talk till dawn, share many of the same interests. Your companion seems to be the one you have been searching for all your life. There’s only one problem — that person doesn’t share your faith. What should you do?

When Paul says that Christians shouldn’t be “yoked” together with unbelievers, he uses the image of two draft animals pulling a load. An ox and a donkey fastened to the same yoke won’t work well together. They are “unequally yoked,” with serious differences in height, size, and gait. Struggling to compensate for their differences, they squander their strength.

Paul’s example is a good metaphor. In some ways, a “team” of two people is better equipped to handle life’s load of stress and responsibility. But unless a husband and wife are working together as a team, their union becomes a liability rather than an asset.

When Paul warned the Corinthian Christians about avoiding an “unequal yoke,” paganism and Christianity stood in sharp contrast. Corinthian paganism involved sacrifices to idols and flagrant sexual immorality. Today, 2,000 years of Christian influence on Western culture has softened the distinction between “pagans” and “Christians” in some ways. Modern “pagans” have often adopted enough Christian values to be decent, moral people by Christian standards, and there are many nominal Christians who don’t understand the meaning of Christ’s words, “I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” ( John 3:3 ).

Even so, being unequally yoked is never a minor matter. In Ephesians 2:1-5 the apostle Paul vividly described the difference between Christians and non-Christians. No matter how decent, moral, or likeable a modern pagan may be, he is spiritually dead, at odds with his Creator. Without God, his goals are irrational and unsatisfying, and he is drifting on a downward arc toward absurdity, chaos, and — ultimately — hell. Like a sleepwalker, a person who hasn’t been supernaturally awakened by the Spirit of God may seem conscious, but actually he is unaware of the most important things around him ( Ephesians 5:8-15 ).

How can someone who is supernaturally alive through the miracle of God’s grace live in harmony with someone who is dead? How can someone who is awake communicate with someone who is asleep? How will the two of them set priorities, rear their children, select their major relationships?

Christians should take the command in 2 Corinthians 6:14 with the utmost seriousness. Of course, God’s grace still is at work in the lives of people who are unequally yoked, and apart from the grace of God we would all be lost ( Ephesians 2:8-10 ). Unbelieving spouses sometimes do become Christians through the influence of their mates ( 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 ). But a believer should never presume upon God’s grace ( Romans 6:1 ). There are consequences for disobedience, and the risks are much too high.

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How Do I Cope with the Pain of My Divorce?

Divorce is never easy. It is a painful, heart-breaking experience for everyone involved. Families are torn apart, leaving confused, angry, and hurting children. No one “wins” in divorce.

When you first begin to go through a divorce, your main thought is survival. You want to “just get through” the excruciating pain and keep up with life. Your heart feels like it is being ripped out, but life goes on. You must go to work, pay your bills, clean your home, and continue to parent, which some days can seem like an impossible feat.

Divorce is such a shock that many try to survive it through denial. Denial is a way of shielding your heart from harsh feelings of rejection, despair, and betrayal, which can temporarily help you absorb the initial trauma. Consciously or unconsciously, you may be telling yourself, “This really isn’t happening.” You may convince yourself that your spouse is bluffing. You might even avoid telling anyone that your mate has left you or intends to.

As the painful truth begins to sink in, support from family and friends is vital. Be encouraged to tell trusted friends what you are thinking and feeling. You should not attempt to endure the pain of divorce without the emotional and spiritual provision of your friends and family.

Once you have faced the fact that a divorce is inevitable, you will have many overwhelming feelings. Anger, sadness, rejection, and feelings of betrayal invade you without warning. It is important to allow yourself to have those feelings. Don’t try to cover or numb your feelings with something like food, work, or another relationship. We all may be tempted to suppress our feelings on occasion. But allowing yourself to experience your feelings will promote healing, not thwart it. If you are more committed to avoiding your pain, chances are high that you will experience these painful feelings inappropriately later in life and in different relationships.

These times of emotion can be opportunities for you to know God in a more intimate way. Allow God to comfort you and bind and heal your wounds ( Psalm 30:2 .) You can allow Him to show you things that maybe you have overlooked for years. God wants to show you a better way of living your life. He wants to help you see and break patterns of relating to others that may have contributed to this devastating experience of divorce.

This may be a time of repentance for the way you have related to others in your life. Do you have a pattern of avoiding conflict in relationships? Have you allowed someone to disrespect you over time? Maybe you struggle with intimacy and communication. This part of the healing is difficult and can feel scary. You may be tempted to blame your spouse for everything wrong in the marriage. Blaming may feel more comfortable than facing the part you played in the breakdown of the marriage, but it doesn’t help you grow as a person.

But what if you have been the victim of horrible abuses and violations of trust? Don’t you have the right to put more of the responsibility for the divorce on your spouse? Isn’t your anger justified? You will have natural feelings of anger and bitterness at times. Certainly, it is right and appropriate to hold your spouse accountable for the way he or she hurt you. Scripture does not say that to be a loving person we must ignore the faults of others and allow them to continue in sin. Rather, in Romans 6:1-2 Paul said that if we love Christ and recognize the extent of His grace, we should not allow a loved one to continue in sin. Loving well means that you encourage another person’s growth towards Christlikeness by holding him or her accountable with the hope that it will bring the person to his or her senses.

While a certain amount of anger and bitterness is justified, it is not in anyone’s best interest to let your feelings grow into obsession and revenge, as this will inhibit a submissive heart for God ( Proverbs 20:22; 22:4; 1 Peter 5:5 ;James 4:6-7 ).

A submissive and loving heart for God will be nurtured through prayer and thankfulness. When you think about the betrayal in your marriage, it may be easy to fall into revengeful and hateful desires. Bitterness and depression can creep into the heart and destroy love and compassion. The best way to face these negative emotions is to immerse yourself in prayer and thanksgiving. Pray for yourself, your unmet longings, and your pain. Pray for your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Pray for God’s redemptive purpose to take place in your life. Pray for hope, that in the midst of your pain and anger, you may one day have a compassionate heart for your spouse. And be thankful. Remember the good and wonderful ways in which God has been there for you in the past. Be ready to see His blessings today. A thankful heart will bring you peace and guard your heart against hate ( Philippians 4:4-9 ).

You are beginning a long and lonely journey. Fear will surround you. Overwhelming feelings of loss, betrayal, and isolation will plague you. Some moments you will feel strong. The next moment, waves of emotion will suffocate you. The path to healing means that you accept these lonely times as a place where God wants to teach you things about yourself and Him that you haven’t yet learned. Cry out to God in your desolation. He will hear you and help you ( Psalm 34:17-18 ).

Divorce has the potential to produce bitterness, depression, and a lack of trust in people. It also has the potential to deepen your relationship with God, which brings with it great blessings ( Psalm 37:4-6,9,11,18-19 ; Matthew 5:3-10 ; Philippians 2:1-2 ).Trust that God will not leave you alone in your suffering. He will comfort you ( Matthew 5:4 ), and heal you ( Psalm 34:17-18 ). It won’t be an easy road, but you can find solace in knowing that He suffers with you in your loss. This is not what God intended for your life, but He can use suffering to pour love into your heart and produce deeper character in you ( Romans 5:1-5 ).

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