Submission to Your Husband = Being a Doormat (Not!)

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In the New Testament, particularly in the letters of Paul, the concept of the “renewal of our minds.” is mentioned several times (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:10; etc.). This refers to a process through which the Lord is taking us all. We are learning to think—as Isaiah 55:8, 9 tells us—“God’s way” (by faith, through the cross) and not “man’s way” (according to our inherent, life-long addiction to trying to be “good” and not “evil”). 

At various times, in particular situations, we all fail to live “God’s way” and fall back into living based on what we do. The prayer that is the solution is always the same: “Oh Lord, there I go again! I am living again by trying to please You by “being good,” an impossible task because I can never “be good.” I repent. Please, please forgive me. Thank You, Daddy, because You already have!” 

This renewed mind, now holding fast to the gospel of the grace of God, is but essential preparation, the means to the end, not the end game in itself. No, we were not created for the purpose of simply “enjoying the Lord and His forgiveness,” as I heard on the radio the other day. That is but a necessary, exhilarating, life-changing first step in fulfilling God’s Eternal Purpose. His Ultimate Intention that He has for mankind is to rule over the earth (Genesis 1:26)!

We saw last week that the law of God has told us men, clearly, that a part of that job for us is the task of bringing the kingdom of God into our families, beginning by leading and loving our wives. It is our strong, firm decision-making, along with our sacrificial, life-losing love, that will win our wives’ hearts, and they will submit their lives to us, forming the basis of kingdom families.

Today, as we look at what God’s law tells us about a wife’s contribution to kingdom family life, one thing strikes me as the MOST DIFFICULT and LEAST PRACTICED biblical attitude practiced by wives in families today—a wife’s submission to her husband “as to the Lord…in everything” (Ephesians 5:22, 26). This is due, in large part, to the fact that there is nothing our anti-Christian culture hates as much as this once-common, biblical characteristic of family life.

However, what if husbands who don’t lead and love their wives aren’t even interested in learning how to do that (as WILL be true with the vast majority of us men in today’s anti-masculine society)? 

Listen to this mind-blowing verse: “You wives must submit yourselves to your husbands so that, even if some of them refuse to obey the word, they may be won over without a word through your conduct as wives, when they see your pure and reverent lives” (1 Peter 3:1, 2 ISV)

In other words, the wife does not complain, badger, threaten or try to “straighten out” her husband into loving and leading her as per the Bible. Instead, she continues to submit to him. She focuses on her job, not his, that he “may be won over without a word“ by the power of simply watching her supernatural life!

In today’s society, a woman who follows this biblically-prescribed response to a husband who deliberately disobeys or ignores his job as a husband, is ridiculed, and quickly accused of being a “doormat.”

But are they? True “doormats” are often those women who do not “speak the truth in love” to their husbands (Ephesians 4:15)—who are often tyrants, far beyond mere disobedience or ignorance. These husbands, due to their own crippling backgrounds, are selfish, harsh, abusive and may even be violent. Incredibly needy, their rule is completely for themselves. This behavioral abuse can be either physical or verbal, or both. What can wives do to avoid being “doormats,” but still follow the biblical injunction to “submit yourselves to your husbands…without a word”? 

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 7:10, 11, 15: “To married people I give this command (not really I, but the Lord): A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. Likewise, a husband must not abandon his wife. …But if the unbelieving partner leaves, let him go. In such cases the brother or sister is not under obligation. God has called you to live in peace.” 

These verses tell us that marriage is for life. There is no such thing as biblical, “no fault” divorce, and the only legitimate “faults”  that can biblically dissolve a marriage are adultery on the part of one spouse (“sexual immorality” – Matthew 19:9), and desertion (this passage – verse 15).

As children, most adult “doormats” suffered from a lack of love and acceptance. They were often abused, neglected, ridiculed, and bullied, and they couldn’t do anything about it. They were helpless victims.  So, now as adults, they are simply continuing to follow the same, very familiar, play book. They’ve always been victims, and  there’s a certain comfort in just singing the victim song they already know.

I believe the solution for the “doormats” described above lies in the little phrase “But if she does leave him…” in 1 Corinthians 7:11. In other words, even though the “doormat” may not have biblical grounds for divorce, she does not have to live in an untenable, even dangerous, situation. She can cease being a “doormat” by leaving her husband—while continuing to “submit yourself to your husband…without a word”! Here’s how.

She can get together with him and say something like this: “I have told you that, from my perspective, your leadership and love for me as my head have been severely lacking. There has been no change, or even a recognition that you agree with me in any way that any changes are in order. I love you and want to be your wife and follow you, but it is impossible in the current situation, so I am leaving you until you get some help. If you want me with you, as I want to be, come get me and win my heart! I will be eagerly waiting!” If she has the courage, she will be able to follow this biblical injunction. She will be submitting to her husband, but not allowing his abusive lifestyle..

All the mechanics (who leaves the house, how do we handle the kids, etc.) can be worked out, by the courts if necessary, but there is no divorce. 

This is doable, with courage only God gives. This woman is now experiencing what has always been true throughout her life of being a “doormat.”  “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us“   (Romans 8:37). She is now no longer a “doormat” but has become, in her experience, “more than a conqueror.”

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  1. Linda Handeland says:

    In addition, they think they have worked on themselves and push to get back together. There may be no remorse or understanding of the harm that the abuse has caused. Safety is often a problem as well. Leaving is necessary to stay safe but the husband does not want to change or he goes through the motions. It is a heart change that needs to happen. How does an abused wife recognize the change in heart? Trust has been broken. It will take time and evidence for the wife to be able to return. Often the abuse has been happening for years and now the wife has “woke” up to the destruction. It could take awhile to do his work and any healing to be done.

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