My only authority for the task of writing a blog on the discipline of marriage, is the inspired word of God—the Bible. You see I am a single woman, and I have been single from the moment God gave me breath, I haven’t dated, not even once.
This will not be written from the voice of experience, but from a perspective from Scripture and of observing others. By God’s grace, this sufficient truth is meaningful even if I lack an experiential confirmation. I have had the privilege of encountering Scriptures and watching some godly couples be living examples of Christ honoring marriages. Here is a summary of things I have learned from these sources.
The Calling of Marriage
Marriage is a precious gift and a calling. Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” And later in verse 24 the Scriptures say, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
This picture of unity: one flesh, being joined together in body and soul, for a lifelong union is a beautiful thing, and as we see in Ephesians 5 it is designed to be a picture to the world of Christ and the church. Paul says so much in Ephesians 5:31-33, ‘“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.’”
For the married believer, you have the opportunity and calling to display the beauty of Jesus in and through your marriage. This is a high calling and a hard road full of service and sacrifice, but a road well worth walking because it displays a picture of the gospel every step of the way.
Ladies, one important facet of displaying Christ in your marriage is submission to your husband. I know this is counter-cultural, requires a great deal of humility, and can be difficult, but the reason we are called to do this is laid out in Ephesians 5:22-24, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”
Barbara Hughes says in her book The Disciplines of a Godly Woman, “When we submit to our spouses we are once again agreeing with God that his beautiful ordered plan is worth obeying and the mystery is worth preserving. By so doing we once again acknowledge that Jesus is Lord.”
Do you believe God’s ordered plan is worth obeying? Submission is both a picture of the church and an acknowledgement that Jesus is Lord, and it is an act of trust in God. This is a difficult thing, but breath-taking, and a beautiful reflection of Jesus.
Jesus also subjected himself to submission. He submitted himself to the Fathers perfect plan: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11).
Wife, the Lord has also beautifully designed your role as a helpmate to your husband as we saw earlier in Genesis 2:18. Hughes points out that this is a powerful role and that it reflects the ultimate Helper who Jesus gave to us, the Holy Spirit. This is a beautiful, precious thing.
The helping role God calls you to is so much more than assisting with practical things such as laundry and dishes. What about encouraging your husband when he is down or complementing him on a job well done? Do you remind him of ways he reflects the character of Christ? Do you help to supplement his weaknesses? Maybe he struggles with time management, are there ways you can help him manage his schedule? Consider ways you can help your husband better glorify God with his life.
Married women, you are also called to respect your husbands (Ephesians 5:33). Love tends to be more natural for a woman to express than respect, but respect is a deep need for every man.
You may want to object and say it would be easier to respect him if only he would _______. But the respect God calls you to is not contingent on your husband’s actions. You are responsible for your own obedience to the Lord outside of anyone else’s.
Nancy Leigh Wolgemuth says that, “Marriage is not about finding someone to make us happy; it is about learning to make someone else happy. It is not about getting; it is about giving. It is not about finding fulfillment; it is about self-denial and sacrifice.”
The only way to fulfill your calling as a wife is to die to yourself. This is a hard thing but it is the call of every believer and it is the road that leads to true joy (Luke 9:23-24). It is when we die to ourselves that Christ can live through us.
Relationship with God
The most successful marriages I have seen possess one common quality. They intentionally cultivate their deepest and most intimate relationship first and foremost to the Lord, and second to their husband.
For the married woman, 1 Corinthians 7:34 says that your interest are divided and you are worried about how to please your husband. This is just a fact of life that shows that you will have an uphill battle to not set your husband before the Lord. But anything we set before the Lord becomes an idol, and your husband cannot stand long under the pressure of being your idol. You will be hopelessly disappointed and he will be crushed with the weight of your expectations.
This makes your relationship with the Lord even more important. Love Jesus first and with everything, then love your husband second. You will be exceedingly more satisfied and, my friend, so will he.
This article series is adapted from lectures given by the authors in our Women's Ministry the fall of 2017. The content and lectures were based off the book, "Disciplines of a Godly Woman," by Barbara Hughes.