Actually, I am delighted to write about the A of Authority in Wife School Online. Understanding God’s design for women in marriage is one of the most beautiful truths you will ever learn. The A of Authority is not a curse if we respond well to it. Instead, submission is a path to protection and blessing. Women have to renew their minds, though, and think like Christians—and not like the world. That is what we will endeavor to do in this lesson.
Be sure to read chapter 9 in Wife School before you read the following lesson.
May God richly bless you as you uncover the beauty of Authority!
Week Nine, Day One
More Thoughts about the A of Authority
I admit that this A has been the most difficult of the 8 A’s for me in our marriage. I grew up in a matriarch family (in which the father is only a figurehead, whereas the mother runs the family). Many wrong, deeply ingrained modes of thinking had to be replaced in my mind. Therefore, I do understand your angst accepting the concept of your husband leading the marriage. Even though my husband is godly, smart, and caring, I have still wanted to kick the wall on this principle multiple times. But what I have learned over the years is that submission to a husband is not so difficult when we realize that actually it is only an extension of our submission to the Lord.
When you and I can get our hearts around the concept that Authority is God’s order, God’s best, we can bow our hearts to it. Women choose to let their husbands lead them because this is God’s idea. We know that we salute the uniform of husband in response to a God who created everything and therefore has a right to rule over us. Submitting to your husband is really about submitting to the Lord.
Please let me ask you the hard question that the Lord has so often asked me. Why haven’t you completely bowed your heart to the Lord? It is in not bowing our hearts to God that makes us not want to bow our hearts to our husbands. The hardest question in your life is, Who will rule your life? You or God? Because when you and I surrender and allow God to be over us, then it is not so difficult to allow our husbands to be the leader in the relationship.
The battle is not about your imperfect husband. The battle is about your imperfect heart. The battle is that you want to choose how you live your life, instead of letting God choose. God has chosen that your imperfect husband lead the family. You must bow to that truth as you bow to God.
“No,” you say. “I will not submit to this teaching. My husband is not worth following. He is not able to make good decisions.”
Look at Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 12. Abraham was so selfish that he told the Egyptians that Sarah was his sister and let them take her into captivity so he could save himself. Why, one of the most important expectations we have from our husbands is to protect us! This disappointing husband let foreign guys have his wife to protect himself! How do you respect a man like that? What a downer it must have been for Sarah to respond sexually to Abraham again after he acted as he did toward her. I think God gave us this extreme example of failure in a husband so that we could see that our husbands have feet of clay, too. Yes, we want saviors for husbands; instead, they are Abrahams.
Sarah didn’t submit to Abraham because he was a good leader. She obeyed Abraham because God asked her to in her role as a wife (see 1 Pet. 3 and Eph. 4:21–32). We women are called to submit to our imperfect husbands. No woman I have ever met has said this was easy.
Here is an example of one of my many failures in this area of Authority:
Many years ago, David and I were having some trouble with one of our five boys. This son would not get with the program. He kept pulling in another direction. David and I heard about a counselor in the West that was great with teenagers. We secured a telephone consultation. I can still picture the moment David and I were in his car in a parking lot, and we were having a telephone consultation on his speakerphone. We began to explain our problem to the counselor. We had just finished telling him the situation when the counselor says to me, “Julie, do you resist the leadership of your husband?”
What? What? Why was this counselor talking about me? We had just explained the problem was this kid, not me. I felt like a wild animal and that I had walked into a cage, and it had shut. “Well, yes, I do resist his leadership sometimes,” I said. And then the conversation went from bad to worse. The counselor began to pin the independent spirit of our son on my independent spirit.
Intellectually, I knew that children learned to obey God and to submit to God by watching the pattern in the home, but I was still kicking against it. (The mom is the picture of the believer, and she submits to Dad, the picture of Christ. So if Mom doesn’t submit to Dad, then the kids don’t learn to submit well to Christ.)
Friend, I tell you this with as much compassion as I can, that not only will you lose your husband’s affection if you try to lead the family, but you will lose God’s protection of your family. (Thank goodness that God gives us the concept of “beauty for ashes” when we fail.)
Wherever you are in your marriage, stop right now, and get under your husband’s authority. It is the only path to blessing. You can be brilliant, godly, and a dynamo in getting things done, but until you are under your husband’s authority, your independent spirit will wreck your home. Wreck. Your. Home. I have watched marriages for thirty years, and there is no other path to blessing in a Christian marriage except this one. Your husband will make mistakes in leading. (We will discuss how to appeal in the next section.) But in the end, we women must submit to God, and God asks us to submit to the Abraham in our home. Again, this isn’t about his ability to lead; it’s about his God-ordained position to lead. Hand him the scepter. Go on, hand it to him.
David and I were out to dinner with a godly couple in October, and they told us about a disagreement they had had that was serious. It concerned how to handle an adult child. (Parenting seems to stir up much conflict in a marriage, have you noticed?) This couple discussed the issue and rediscussed it. She appealed and explained her thoughts. Neither would budge. They said, “We couldn’t get past it.” So they went to see a Christian counselor about the issue. The wife told us that almost as soon as they were in the session, she was smitten with conviction. The wise counselor had said, “When couples try and try, and seek counsel and do everything under the sun to come to an agreement—and can’t—the wife must submit.” My friend hated that. Hated it. And I understood exactly. Submission does not get easier as the years go on. You will wrestle with this biblical premise until the day you die. But because my friend truly loved the Lord, she responded well. This was about my friend and her spiritual walk with the Lord. It wasn’t about her realizing her husband was right. It was about her seeing her husband’s right to make the final decision, even if she disagreed.
Authority will be lived out in your marriage only when you can take the reins off your life and give them to the Lord. You will not be able to let your husband lead until you let the Lord lead you.
I’d like to remind you that Jesus was with his disciples for three years, and he repeatedly talked to them about humility. Even at the Last Supper, though, they were arguing about who would be greatest. It wasn’t until after the resurrection that the Holy Spirit came and infiltrated these guys. It has to be the Holy Spirit who lives through you to give you submission. You can’t do this in your strength. Stop and pray and pray until you give yourself to the Lord so completely that you are filled with the Holy Spirit. Then you can really start to turn your marriage around. Only a woman who is surrendered to the Lord can submit to a husband.
Often, wives tell me a huge issue they have with submission is the smoldering resentment they carry toward their husbands because the husbands do not love them well. Women, we will never be loved in the fantasy way we want. We will never have the divine leadership we want in a mortal husband. His feet are clay, and our expectations repeatedly make us resent this person over us. But God is perfect, so we can allow God to rule over us. And his decree is that we allow our husbands to have final authority in the home.
Even as God surprisingly asks us to do good to our enemies, he again asks something counterintuitive: let an imperfect man have the main authority in your family. The feminists are up in arms over such a stance. Who would submit to an imperfect man without knowing that God is in heaven and has asked us as women to submit to our husbands? Your imperfect husband needs your forgiveness, probably daily. Don’t demand he be God in order to lead you. God’s plan is that a human, an imperfect human, lead you. Pray. And pray again. Get your heart soft and full of the Holy Spirit so you can forgive, submit, and bless.
This is something only a Christian woman understands. We don’t expect the world to get this. We honor our husbands because God has asked us to this. This is the way God chose to create marriage. Submission is more about your relationship with God than it is about how wonderful a leader your husband is.
Over and over again, I see the godly influence of a grateful, servant-hearted, meek woman on her husband. That is God’s plan, for you to influence your husband through your godliness, your submissive heart, your humility, and your joy. Your energy must come from an underground stream, which you will find in prayer and surrender.
Friend, there is no other path to a godly family except this one. You are the woman, the heart of the home. And if you want godly generations to come from you, you really have no other choice.
Week Nine, Day Two
Learning to Make Proper Appeals
When your husband gives you a way to do things and you feel it is not wise or in the best interest of the family, you may appeal to him. But we have to be careful about appeals; otherwise, they are just another manipulative ploy to be sure we get our way.
A while back over lunch, one of my best friends challenged me on the issue of appeals. She said to me, “You keep appealing until you get what you want.” I have wrestled with what she said. I believe her comment helped me see a blind spot in myself. My goal in this section is to properly explain appeals so that we don’t “keep appealing until we get what we want.”
Several months ago, David and I sharply disagreed about an issue with the advertising in his business. Now on the onset, it would be easy to think that it is his business, so I should just shut up. But you need a little background to understand this example properly. I have an undergraduate degree in advertising. After college, I sold advertising for billboards; later, I sold radio advertising. After David started his business, I read ogles of books on advertising and marketing. And then, I became David’s official marketing/advertising director for his business. I came up with the theme of his ads and his branding and wrote the scripts. Recently, I have been in the studio producing the ads. I give you that background so you can see why I felt my opinion should be weighed heavily. In fact, I thought it should be weighed more heavily than David’s. I felt sure we should do things the way I saw them. We discussed the advertising issues several times and still couldn’t agree to see it in the same way.
Responding to my wise friend’s earlier rebuke, I handled this conflict differently. In an e-mail to my husband, I went over the data and again explained why I thought we should do what I suggested. But I was a little wiser this time. After I wrote what I thought the data suggested and what I therefore recommended, I wrote these sentences:
“I have given you every ounce of my opinion several times. There is nothing else to tell you. Now, I must take my hands off this decision and let you make it. If I disagree with your final decision, then I will cheerfully try to submit to your leadership. Thank you for listening to me and considering my opinion. You are a great husband, and I trust you always to make the decision that you feel is right and best for our family.”
Friends, that was difficult to write because I still felt certain I was right.
I have now learned to say a version of The Paragraph before we enter into a conflict. Here is another example of what I often say to David when we venture into a heated area of discussion:
“I appreciate how you listen to me and that often you let me influence you. I also appreciate that you have a respectful discussion with me, let me give you my input, and that you are patient while we both go back and forth and discuss our views. But I want you to know that after I have exhausted everything I have to tell you, and we can’t agree, I will let you make the final decision. I know you are the God-given leader. I know that after you have heard all my views, it is time to let you make the final decision. This way, you do not have to be afraid of my input. You can know it is only input and that you still hold the reins and get to make the final decision.”
The Paragraph helps David take down his shield and not feel that he is getting coerced to take my opinion. It allows him to listen to my appeal, knowing he still gets to make the final decision.
David often wants my input and ideas. But honestly, the way I have presented them to him in the past has been too strong, and my opinion was often tainted with “You should choose my way.” That is my tendency, for sure, to be heavy handed. But now, before we start to wrestle with an issue in which we disagree, I give him a version of The Paragraph.
David did agree to take my idea on advertising. But there are many times he has not taken my advice, and those are the difficult times. I admit that in the past, if I didn’t get my way, I would occasionally try to press him up against the wall with my educated opinion. But as I grow in the Lord, I am doing a lot better in this area. Not perfect, but better. When David overrules and doesn’t take my advice, I try to pray for my own heart to be submissive and not angry. I will continue to struggle with this until I die.
Respect is gigantic to men. Most husbands are reasonable, and if you treat them with huge respect, they will listen to your input. But women, there still comes a time when you have to lay down your appeal, even your most respectful and brilliant appeal, and let him decide. Again, this is the hardest part of Christian marriage, in my opinion, even though I have a kind and thoughtful husband.
Some of you may need to go to your husband and ask his forgiveness for your forceful personality and the way you have resisted his leadership. I hate asking forgiveness, too, so I understand, but it may be necessary to get your marriage cranking again.
Remember always to be the utmost respectful when you address your husband in a conflict. As recently as last week before we went out to dinner, David and I were discussing an issue in which we disagreed and that we both felt passionately about. I could tell that he was adamant about it, but I can tell you that I felt just as adamant about it as he did. We tabled it and went to dinner, but I truly felt like a cyclone had been twirling around in my brain over the matter. He told the couple we were eating with about the way we felt differently regarding the conflict. Then, David said a surprising thing. “At least we were respectful to each other about it.” That was really shocking, considering what a hurricane my emotions were when we discussed it. In earlier years, I would not have been so respectful. Always, always address your husband with the hugest of respect, even if your emotions feel like a tsunami. Never give in to releasing your emotional turmoil toward him.
Week Nine, Day Three
The Beauty and Power of Empathy in Marriage
There are many things your husband wants from you that he will never ask for. We have discussed the A of Admiration. Men long for their wives to fill their tanks with admiration. We discussed sex last week and how a man wants an engaged partner who understands his great need in this area. Today, we will discuss empathy.
When another woman has a child who is sick, we are quick to run to her side with compassion and empathy. We understand the stress and sorrow of a sick child. When a woman has a breakup, and the man she loves leaves her, we understand this blow and are there to support her.
But we do not understand the pressures men face daily; therefore, many of their struggles are met with indifference or (worse) advice to buck up and move on.
The area that I continually see women fail to give empathy in is in a man’s occupation. Either the man is unhappy in his work, feels as if he is a failure in his work, or another of a thousand different situations. As I mentioned last week, men mainly think about work, money, and sex. A woman may feel strongly about her work, but in most marriages, it is nothing akin to how the man feels about his work. (Again, the eighty/twenty rule is true here, with only 80 percent of marriages being like this.) Men often define themselves as who they are in their work.
When husbands come home at night, we often want them to put work on the shelf and get involved with family life. And there’s a time for that. But many wise wives let the first thirty minutes be a time when the husband gets to debrief and unload the pressures and trials of the day. Yes, you want to talk about little Johnny, your spat with your mother, and all your female issues. But he has his topics, too. Wise women learn to become excellent listeners who are also empathetic listeners. They soothe, they understand, they build up, and they express compassion.
Most wives will tell you that their husbands say the same thing over and over again about their work. It’s as if the husband could come home and sit in the chair, and the wife could say, “Let me tell you about your day. You had issues with your boss. You had issues with your client. You had issues x and y, so let’s move on and talk about me.”
But that is not loving your husband at all. Maybe he struggles with the same thing at work, but your diligent attention to listening and then expressing sincere compassion and empathy for his struggles is a huge deposit into his tank. Don’t try to talk him out of his struggles or (worse) ignore them.
You wouldn’t believe the insensitive things wives say to their husbands. For example, “John, you say the same thing over and over again. When are you going to get past this? All men have to work hard and have trouble with their bosses. Can you get the kids washed up for dinner now?” That kind of insensitive remark will make a husband wish he were divorced. Really. One thing all men subconsciously want from their wives is understanding! We all want that too, right? But you, the wise wife, don’t demand it but give it.
Your husband will relax and be refreshed in the presence of a wife who sits patiently, listens, tells him how hard that seems, is so proud of how he responds and endures, and is appreciative that he puts up with all that for the sake of her and the family. A wife who is understanding and compassionate to a man’s struggles is a woman who finds a way into a man’s soul. Quit being a know-it-all with all the answers. Of course, there are times when an idea that is fingertip dropped is helpful. But a wife must first demonstrate how she understands his trials and how she appreciates how he weathers the storm. You want emotional intimacy, right? You want him to listen closely to you and share his inmost self, right? Then you must learn to be an expert in the art of empathy. No man is going to open up and share himself if he is going to be met with constant advice, disappointment, or indifference.
Empathy. Listening. Expressing deep appreciation for another. We humans have so much to offer one another. And a wise wife builds her house by making her husband feel he is understood and Superman at the same time. He reciprocates by adoring her.
Week Nine, Day Four
When Your Husband Doesn’t Obey Scripture
I know you wanted a perfect husband, but there aren’t any of those on this side of heaven. So, that means that you will have one who sins, either a lot or maybe just sometimes. But he will indeed err.
Peter wrote a prescription so wives would know how to handle when a husband messes up. In fact, in 1 Peter 3, the Greek phrase says that if any husbands are apeiqousin (which the Greek Interlinear New Testament defines as “are-un-persuading” and “are-being-stubborn”), then wives have a certain way to respond in order to win or influence their husbands. Some translations translate apeiqousin to mean that husbands “don’t obey the Word,” and some translate it to mean they “don’t believe the Word.” But in either case, husbands are not acting right, and we need to know what to do. Peter gives us an idea.
Women want their husbands to straighten up, right? Peter says that husbands “may be won” (the Greek word is kerdhqhswntai). The idea is that husbands can be influenced. I like this. I want to know this strategy to win husbands. I’m ready to hear! Let it rip, Peter.
I will save you the Greek on the rest of this (but you nerds can look it up at Scripture4all.org). Peter says—ready?—that your husband may be won when—sure you’re ready?—he sees your purity and reverence.
Uh, that’s not what I was hoping for, Pete. I was hoping he would be won when he heard my brilliant oration or when I outlined my spectacular points! My purity and reverence? Gee. That’s a crummy idea, Peter. What’s up with that?
Nothing, nothing, nothing wins your husband like a heart that exhibits purity and reverence. This is God’s prescription for handling husbands who “don’t obey the word,” who don’t lead right, who don’t respond right, and who don’t live and love right. Those two qualities give a woman the power to influence.
The word purity means “innocent, modest, clean, and pure.” The word translated reverence means (this is my own definition) “respect on speed.”It is respect in all capital letters and then underlined. Women, we are so far from the biblical model of respecting our husbands.
Our clamoring, our condemning spirit, and our demand for high treatment will not help us win and influence our husbands. But a heart bathed in prayer, one growing in purity and reverence, will.
The two complaints I hear most often in marriage from women are these: “I don’t feel loved” and “He doesn’t lead well.” Those are real problems and painful to women. But Peter says that husbands can be won by your purity and reverence. Don’t expect to find that strategy on the cover of Oprah’s magazine.
There is a throne in everyone’s life; either you are running your life, or you are asking God to fill you with His Holy Spirit and asking him to run it. Those are your two choices. Every morning, give over the rule of your life to the One who created it. Pride, the lack of prayer, the lack of forgiveness toward others, and the desire to be puffed up show the carnal spirit. When we surrender and are filled with the Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit fills us, and we are finally able to grow in these areas of purity and reverence. The woman who is filled with the Holy Spirit, who has purity and reverence, is the one who will influence others.
If you truly want to be pure and reverent and win your husband, then surrender to being led by the Spirit.
I must make an exclusion here. One wife I know has a husband who won’t work, who watches porn, and who is verbally abusive. That is not merely annoying; that is evil. This advice is for wives with regular husbands. Please get professional help if your husband is abusive.
Week Nine, Day Five
If You Are HavingTrouble Accepting Your Biblical Role
If most of us are honest, we struggle with the role of being a biblical wife. Reading Isaiah 53 this morning, I was reminded again how “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way.” Doesn’t that describe you and me perfectly as wives? Haven’t we all turned to our own ways, turned to what we want, to what we think is a good way to be a wife, instead of what the Bible says about how wives are to think and act?
In your marriage, turning to your own way means you act how you want and that your husband is to be happy about it. But when I look at Scripture, I see how the wife is to treat her husband with reverence and that she is to get under her husband’s authority. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then I would never go for this role of a biblical wife. I mean, there is no way I would let a man rule over me…unless I felt sure that the biblical account about Jesus is true. Honestly, whether I can live the calling of a biblical wife hinges on whether I believe the resurrection of Jesus. Did he come out of that grave? Because if he didn’t, I’m not buying into the role of being a submissive, biblical wife.
I’ve just read the most amazing book called Reliable Truth by Richard E. Simmons III. It is a book about the validity of the Bible. I’m reminded again that—whoa—Christianity is true. Jesus walked on the earth, had disciples, and was arrested. The scaredy-cat disciples all fled, they saw the resurrected Christ, and then they became unstoppable megaphones about him rising from the dead, even in the face of torture and death. It’s the truth. It is historical truth.
So as a woman, as a Christian wife, now you can live a life that is wildly different from what nonbelieving women live. You can obey the biblical calling of a wife. That means you can be right about an issue—when your husband is wrong—and not rub it in. You can praise your husband and lift him up as the patriarch of the family, making him king in front of the children, when no one is applauding you. You can hand him the scepter to lead, even though you are just as smart as he is. You can be quiet when you’ve given him a great idea and he then forgets to give you credit for it. You can be humble when he makes mistakes, with a 1 Peter 3 gentle and quiet spirit. You can be…well…godly!
Even if I weren’t a believer, I would have to admit that families work better when the wife submits to the leadership of the husband. But still, I couldn’t do it if I weren’t a believer. If I weren’t a believer, I couldn’t and wouldn’t submit to anyone. Why, that would be impossible for my proud ego to do!
But I am a believer. And so are you. And now, before the throne of heaven, we have to live in a way that pleases and honors the One who thought up the idea of marriage. And that means we wives adapt, submit, humble ourselves, and treat our husbands with reverence, regardless of their imperfect natures.
If you are struggling with this concept, I suggest you read Reliable Truth and remind yourself why you believe. Honestly, most struggles in marriage could be solved if spouses realize that their ultimate Mentor “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matt. 20:28).
Many of us have fought letting our husbands lead, and understandably so. But have you noticed all the anger and self-pity that goes with that stance? Who wants to live like that? Once I bow my heart to God and give the Lord the scepter, then letting my husband lead and meeting his needs (without demanding that mine get met) not only is easier but also is the place of peace. Oh, how I love to live in the place of peace, not clamoring all the time to have things the way I think they should be. Being demanding is exhausting and miserable.
Living the role of a biblical wife is impossible if you are not clear on what you believe.
Are you struggling with your faith? We all do at times, but don’t let this go on without addressing it. Two other amazing books to stir up your faith are God’s Not Dead and Man, Myth, Messiah, both by Rice Broocks. Once the wife gets her faith firm, she gets her role right, and it is remarkable how she can influence others—for good—in her realm. If you love your family, the best thing you can do for them is to be sure about why you believe. And then, live out your role as a discerning, meek, God-fearing wife.
Week Nine, Day Five, Continued…
A Story to Encourage You to Persevere
A wife told me that last Christmas was one of the most memorable she has ever had. The family was gathered Christmas morning to open presents. Before they did so, the father wanted to tell the family what he appreciated about each person there. He discussed something about everyone in the room; lastly, he got to his wife. Tears started rolling down the husband’s cheeks as he told his family what his wife meant to him, how he adored her, and just how much he loved her. Friends, do you know what that is? This is the fulfillment of Proverbs 31:28–29, which says, “Her husband…praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’”
Stay the course. Focus on how you give and love, not on how you’re given to or how you’re loved. And someday, your husband will gather your children around the Christmas tree and tell them how blessed he is to have you as his wife.
The best three verses in the Bible on marriage, in my opinion, are 1 Corinthians13:4–7.
Read these life-transforming verses:
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
That, my friend, is what the 8 A’s are all about.
The A of Authority was the hardest of all the A’s. The chapter on accepting my husband’s weaknesses was hard. The Affection chapter last week (on sex) was really difficult. And now, if I am honest, I do not really like this lesson on Authority.
But since you are Lord, I submit to your order.
You know how hard this is for me, God. I have trouble even praying about it. Please soften my heart. Please pour your Holy Spirit into me, and make me want to obey in this area. I want to ignore the A of Authority. And yet, I realize, it is the path of blessing for my children and for me.
Grow my faith, God. As I get more firm on the fact that you rose from the dead, I can more easily get my heart and mind around the A of Authority, of submitting to one who is not smarter or wiser than me.
But Lord, I do believe you are the Son of God. So, I will submit to you and therefore to my husband. Help me with this most difficult of commands.
In Jesus’s name,
- Describe your prior thoughts and behavior regarding the A of Authority. What do you now see or understand that you did not before? __________________________________________________________
- What has been your prior experience with appeals? What is your opinion about The Paragraph? Would that help your marriage? If not, what do you recommend? ___________________________________________________________
- How do you feel about purity and reverence being the God-ordained methods for winning your husband?
- How is your faith? Would reading a good book on apologetics be helpful to you? Where specifically do you struggle?