More times than I dare to count, I have heard wives (and reports from their despairing husbands) express a
desire for their husband to lead more, better, or at all. These requests, which come at different times in response to different trials, are usually rooted in a broken order within the marriage. For one reason or another, a husband has abandoned or abused his responsibility as “head” of the home and left a huge void. The understandably insecure, or too self-assured, wife feels compelled to fill it. And for a while she does a fine job until the job becomes too irritating or burdensome. It is not that women cannot lead. I know many women (I am married to one) who are wise, capable, and strong leaders. But, in a marriage relationship, it’s that the wife is not supposed to lead, they are not designed fill this role like a husband is. Any rejection of God’s design eventually leads to perversion…and perversion leads to destruction. A wife’s desire to be led, protected, and cared for, even if sparked by the failure of a man, is really a heart-rooted desire to live in the fullness of God’s design.
And for those women who believe they are strong enough to maintain a role God did not give you, I would humbly ask you to consider how your reluctance to submit to your husband’s leadership (esp. before he has earned it or proved that he can) may in fact be hindering the very thing want him to do. And even if you don’t feel you want him to do it…God does. In truth, your refusal to submit to God’s command, to follow your husband’s leadership, is allowing sin to reign in your home.
Consider below a few ways you can help your husband lead by actively “putting on” Christ and living in the fullness of His design:
FOLLOW your husband’s leadership (in all things):
Follow your husband, let him lead. That means you will have to release control, embrace his authority, and accept your husband is ultimately responsible for your family before God. That being said, we must not forget that Christlike-submission is not mindless obedience. You must NOT follow him when he leads you or others into sin. More often than not, women refuse to follow NOT because they are being led into sin, but because they are being led in a direction they simply don’t dislike. The hope is that the truth of being “one flesh” is lived out in the marriage. In other words, there is supposed to be great deal of interdependence, of mutual consultation, of seeking wisdom, and overall of a desire to have harmony and enjoy the peace of Christ. It is, however, easier for him to lead when he knows he has a follower–someone who believes in him (even if they disagree with him). He needs to know that, if no one else follows him up the hill, you are there, you believe he is strong and capable. Dare I say, he will never learn to lead unless you first begin to submit in reverence for Christ.
PRAY for your husband’s leadership
The best way to pray for his leadership is to pray for his relationship with God. He will lead like Christ when he is led by Christ. Your prayer is not that he will make certain decisions or not make other decisions. Your prayer is not that he will lead in a particular direction that you desire. Your prayer is that he will receive strength and courage to do all that God’s Word says. Your prayer is that he will depend upon the Spirit to understand what God’s Word says. Your prayer is that he will seek wisdom from his bride, counsel from his friends, and make decisions for the glory of Jesus. And your prayer is that YOU will trust God as he leads even if you don’t trust he is leading perfectly. If he is not leading now, pray. If he begins to lead, pray. If he stops leading, pray.
ENCOURAGE your husband’s leadership (Word and Deed)
Encourage your husband’s leadership. Quite simply, tell him he is doing a good job, that you believe in him, that you are following him where he leads. Encourage your husband as an ally, not an adversary, reminding him that God equips those that He has called–and HE has been called to lead this marriage. Culture, as seen through your average sitcom, has already made him into an animal or a juvenile. He already believes the world is against him, that everyone thinks he is a fraud, incompetent, incapable, and not measuring up. You can help him to think differently. Do this by encouraging him. Tell him what you appreciate about his husbandry, about his fatherhood, about his manhood.—even if you don’t fully believe it yet. Find ways to always build him up among others even if you don’t feel like he deserves it at the time.
RESPECT your husband’s leadership (Public and Private)
Speak highly of Him, especially when he makes a wrong or bad decision. Seek ways to honor him as the leader of your home in front of your children, your family, your friends, and your church. Remember that approximately 90% of our communication is non-verbal. Be careful. Women are especially gifted at communicating disrespect with little more than a look. Sin naturally brings conflict into the marriage. Just as men have to be intentional about demonstrating love, women must be intentional about showing respect–it won’t just happen. Please do not have to wait until he does something glaringly respectable in order to take a disposition of respect toward him. Jesus did not wait for us to be clean to die. Your husband needs to actually feel respected (as you need to feel loved), and every husband may receive that a little differently. If you are unsure what this looks like, ask him? Ask him if he feels disrespected or how he would feel more respected? The answer might surprise you.
HELP your husband’s leadership (help sanctify him) Finally, help him in his leadership. You are his helpmate. We hear that word and wrongly think secretary or sidekick. The truth is God paid a compliment to women with this word. The same word is used of God in Psalms 115.9 where it says, “O Israel, trust in the Lord, for He is their Helper. The term is always used to describe someone who brings significant help and often as someone who delivers another from some great dilemma. The Ancient Jew would have viewed the woman as a God-like gift from God to help man be what he could not become or do alone. God has brought your personalities together to complement one another, not compete. A wife’s submission does not mean silence, but it also does not mean nagging. Because all sanctification is relational, and the most powerful and intimate relationship you have is your marriage, you have permission, you have a responsibility, you have the opportunity to help your husband grow in Christ. Sometimes this will be speaking, with all respect, to his weaknesses. Sometimes this will be teaching, sometimes admonishment, sometimes encourage, all the times respectful. Help your husband by asking him what he needs, help him to see his strengths AND his weaknesses, help him fight against his sin, and do this all to the glory of Christ.
Without doubt, following a husband is made easier when they lead and love well. And sadly, it is true, many husbands do little to deserve the devotion of a godly wife. But true Christ-centered wifery is not just a response to whatever some sinful man can offer through good/bad leadership or a worthy/unworthy example. Christ-centered wifery is rooted in a personal commitment to Jesus as Lord, and a desire to live in the fullness of his design.
1Peter 3.1-2 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives— 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
A true gospel-centered woman does not abandon her biblical wifery when he abandons his biblical husbandry. .She fights to put on Christ, to obey today, out of desire to glorify God through living a He designed them to be. Submission looks, feels, and sounds difficult to someone devoted to their own glory. Wives, your submission to your husband’s leadership is not based on his merits, but the true husband’s, Jesus Christ.