Submissive Isn’t A Bad Thing: God’s Perfect Plan for Marriage

husband and wife sitting together and image zoomed in on wife's hand resting on top of husband's hand on top of an open bible

Today is a controversial topic. We are talking about the role as the wife, the helper. The submissive title, and all the things that go with it. We will unpack what the bible actually says about the helper role as a wife and God’s view of it. As you see God’s perspective on what this actually means, you are going to see dramatic changes in your marriage!

There is such a negative connotation when people hear that word – submissive – and they automatically go on the defense. I was that person until I learned the truth and God’s view.

Listen to the full episode here:

Hey Mama!

When you hear people say the wife is supposed to be submissive to the husband, do you cringe? Does it give you that yucky feeling and make you want to push back? Yup, me too. There is such a negative connotation around that word in our society. It is so unfortunate though because that is not what God intended. When you break down the guideline God gave us for marriage in His word, you can see that His plan. His purpose is spectacular!

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Genesis 2:18

The Hebrew word translated as “helper” in this context is “ezer.” The term “ezer” doesn’t imply subordination or inferiority like what we think. It is meant to relay a sense of strength, support, and aid. It’s a term used throughout the Old Testament to describe times where God is portrayed as a helper or a source of strength. How cool is that! That is the same word that is used when saying that Eve was created as the “ezer” for Adam.

God Has a Purpose

If we replace helper with the definition of the Hebrew word it would read: “The Lord God said it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a support, sense of strength, and someone to aid that is suitable for him.” The term “helper” is used to describe the creation of Eve as a suitable partner for Adam. The idea is that Eve is designed to complement and support Adam. This forms a partnership that reflects God’s intention for marriage. We talked about companionship and partnership in a previous post when discussing God’s purpose for marriage.

The term “helper” emphasizes a sense of shared responsibility and collaboration. It’s a mutual support where both contribute to each other’s well being. It doesn’t diminish the value or significance of the wife. It actually boasts in her essential role in aiding, supporting, and partnering with her husband in the shared partnership.

It doesn’t diminish the value or significance of the woman but it boasts in her essential role in aiding, supporting, and partnering with her husband in the shared partnership.

-Jen McGraw

God Made a Helper Suitable for Adam

God made the woman to be a helper “suitable for” the man. The woman is the missing part of the man. Imagine a jigsaw puzzle. It’s incomplete if half the pieces are missing, or even one piece (you know, that infamous edge piece that seems to always go missing or that one in the center so it never is complete. That is what bothers me so much!) It’s the same idea with a marriage. A man is incomplete without his wife. God designed it so that the man needs the woman and the woman needs the man. Both have distinct roles to fulfill. They both have a part to play in the marriage.

Submission, being submissive, that is something that is often frowned upon. People think that when the word submit is used in the context of marriage, it is negative. Like the wife has to do what ever the husband says because she has to be submissive to him and is inferior. That is not what God means in this context.

Being Submissive is a Mutual Concept

It’s a concept of mutual submission. That’s the key, it’s mutual. The concept of mutual submission implies a shared responsibility within the marriage. Both husband and wife are called to consider the needs, feelings, and well-being of the other, creating a partnership built on mutual respect and cooperation. We are going to spend a moment breaking some verses down in Ephesians, stay with me….

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Ephesians 5:21

This verse sets the stage for the verses following that are discussing relationships, including the specific instructions for husbands and wives. The key idea is that being submissive is mutual and is a foundational principle for all believers in their interactions with one another, neighbors, friends, coworkers, and it definitely applies within the context of marriage as well.

Alright, Here’s a breakdown of what mutual submission between a husband and wife looks like in a biblical context:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”

Ephesians 5:22-24

These verses instruct wives to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord.” This submission is not through inferiority but is rooted in a voluntary, respectful, and supportive attitude. Us wives are the support, the encouragement, the ones who show our husbands respect.

Husbands are Called to Love Their Wife

Ephesians 5:25-33 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy… In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Husbands are called to love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” This sets a high standard for husbands, emphasizing sacrificial love and a willingness to prioritize their wives’ well-being. This means that he respects and honors her enough to not try to be the “boss” which is what is often implied when talking about the wife being submissive to the husband. The relationship between husbands and wives is likened to the relationship between Christ and the Church. God isn’t the boss of the church, He loves the church so much that He gave us free will and the ability to make our own choices.

This metaphor emphasizes sacrificial love, mutual respect, and a deep commitment to the flourishing of the other partner. To put it in practical terms, mutual submission means that major decisions within the marriage are made collaboratively. Both spouses contribute their perspectives, and the decisions are reached through conversation, respect, love, and agreement.

Each Partner Has a Role in a Marriage

While both are called to submit to one another, this doesn’t negate the unique roles and gifts each spouse brings to the marriage. It highlights the idea that each partner’s strengths and contributions are valued and important and we shouldn’t diminish what the other is saying. Being submissive in biblical terms seeks to establish a framework for healthy, loving, and respectful relationships within the marriage. It provides a foundation for unity, shared responsibility, and a mutual commitment to honoring and uplifting one another.

See, once you break it down and look at what each verse is talking about, does the husband have dominion over the wife? No. If he is acting in the way God has asked him to, he is loving her with a God love, showing her how special and important she is, and isn’t trying to boss her around and own her. He is loving her in the way Christ loves His church, putting her needs above his own. But in conjunction with that, the wife is doing the same. She is respecting him, showing him how she honors his input, and what matters to him. Listening to him and letting him lead the family in a godly way.

The misconception that being a helper implies subservience is so unfortunate. Being a helper if you remember the greek word, means strength!

The misconception that being a helper implies subservience is so unfortunate. Being a helper if you remember the greek word, means strength!

-Jen McGraw

Being Submissive in Real Life…

Alright, I know that was a lot of Bible. Lets get to the life application of it. Following this outline God placed in His word for us to follow has drastically helped our marriage and it will help yours too!

I was determined to not be ordered around and told myself I wasn’t going to be a door mat. I would always say what I wanted to say and I was going to be heard. It was a very poor attitude, coming from a lot that I saw around me growing up from others in the church. For the first 10 years of my life I saw the church that we were a part of take these verses to a completely different level. I think that is why I am so passionate about it now. I saw what a human’s skewed view can do to others, especially the women.

Our family was part of a denomination that often times, the pastors would preach from the pulpit about how the man is the head, what he says goes. They were very demeaning to the women and was very much, speak when you’re spoken to. Do what you are told. They taught that being a submissive wife means that the man has full control. Looking back, it is so sad. From what I saw, and how I felt when I got older, I was determined that wasn’t going to be me.

I Was Determined Not to be Submissive…

This determination went to a level that I didn’t realize was actually major disrespect to my husband. I had a good reason, but I didn’t go about it well. There is a balance. When he said or did something, whether intentional or not, that hurt or I didn’t agree with, I came at him in a way that was not kind and respectful. It was almost demanding that he see things my way. You know, that phrase “my way or the highway”…yup, that was me, It didn’t work. It turned into me disrespecting him constantly, and him in turn not showing me love the way I needed. More to come on the love and respect in the next post, but me not understanding what the Bible actually was saying on what being a submissive wife meant turned into our marriage failing if things didn’t change.

Things in our marriage were going downhill fast, like rushing to the dumpster fast.

I knew I needed to change, we both did, but it needed to start with my heart. That’s when I started praying and talking with leaders and couples in our life that could point me in the right direction.

I Learned What God Really Meant

I learned that supporting and strengthening my Husband was the key to what being submissive is. As I shifted my heart, shifted the way I spoke, and learned how to be a support and helper to him, things in our marriage started to shift. He was no longer instantly defensive in the way he responded to me when I had something to say. He started to show love and affection to me again. Our conversations were effective and didn’t result in arguments every time, even if we were just talking about dinner. He began to listen and be supportive of things that I had to say instead of shutting me down instantly.

All the things I wanted in our marriage I saw begin to happen. Now, it wasn’t instant and we both had things we needed to work on, a lot of things, but this is where it all started. This and learning to love and respect each other. But once I shifted my heart and perspective to go along side God’s design and His guidelines He gave us, I started to see real change.

I learned that supporting and strengthening my Husband was the key to what being submissive is.

-Jen McGraw

Being Submissive Doesn’t Mean Getting Walked Over

Being submissive doesn’t mean you have to be walked over. It doesn’t mean your husband gets the final say every time. If that is how he feels, if he is one that has taken the “man is the head” to a whole different level like what I saw in the church growing up, you can’t change him. It has to be God working on his heart. But you can change you. Ask God to show you how you can be supportive and encouraging to him. It’s good Him to soften your heart towards your husband and see him the way God sees him.

Ask God to give you wisdom in the way you respond to your husband. As God reveals to you how you can change yourself, things in your marriage will change, and in turn, your husband will start to see the change and God will begin to work in him. It all starts with you.

There’s this funny saying that I heard, the man is the head, but the woman is the neck that turns the head. It’s funny, but there is some truth to it. As you shift your perspective, as you change your heart, your attitude, the way you speak and support your husband, you become the neck that turns the head. It starts with you wife. Its a lot of pressure, its a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it. It will probably take time before you see anything change. Don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged. Let God work in you and in turn, everything else will change around you.

It Starts With You

The Proverbs 31 woman is a model of strength and support. She truly is an example of what a woman should be. She shows strength, wisdom, support, and takes pride in her role as a wife and mom, she doesn’t diminish the roles God put her in.

Wives, or those that are praying to be a wife someday, let’s take these God given abilities we have to be the strenth, support, and wisdom to make a change in our marriage! You can do it! I know you can, if someone like me was able to get past my negative view on what the bible says about a wife’s role to see the beauty and strength that is in it, and change my heart and attitude to make a positive change in my marriage, I know you can.

Need some help to walk through this?

The Restored Mama Method get’s you 6 months of group coaching with me where we can dive into all things marriage, motherhood, and your relationship with God. As you dive into the Restored Mama Method, you will see a dramatic change in your perspective, in your ability to hear God speak, and your fulfillment in your role as a mom and wife. You won’t feel so bogged down and overwhelmed with daily life, you will actually enjoy your days and have time to spend on things you’re passionate about too!

What a great way to start the new year off with a whole new joy and passion for the life you were given! You need to do something for yourself so you can be the person you need to be for those you love. Use this time to take a God centered approach to your marriage and motherhood so you can see the changes you have only dreamed of!

husband and wife sitting together and image zoomed in on wife's hand resting on top of husband's hand on top of an open bible with title submissive isn't a bad things God's perfect plan for marriage

Love you Mama!

Jen McGraw

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