Yesterday, in part I, the Starkes began to describe their experience of a biblically modeled marriage. Here in part II, they delve further into the spiritual lives of spouses who seek to live out God's ideal for marriage.
John: There are misconceptions as to what sort of man a strong, leading husband is: He has a strong self-will. He lets nothing affect him. He lets no wrong go unpaid. As common as that may be, the biblical husband is quite different. First, a strong, leading husband repents of self-will. He says, along with Christ to the Father, not my will, but yours. He does not allow his sinful desires lead, nor does he allow the desires of those he shepherds rule over him. A godly husband, instead, has a will strongly influenced by God's Word. Second, a godly husband has renewed, holy affections – he is not a stoic. Psalm 34:8 reminds husbands to "taste and see that the Lord is good."
The psalmist uses sensory language of taste and see. He wants us to affectionately experience the goodness of the Lord. Paul, in Ephesians 1:18, uses the experiential language of "having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you." Or, in Ephesians 3:18, Paul is asking that we have the strength to comprehend the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge. The godly husband has been affected by the goodness of the Lord in the Gospel. So then, Paul says to the husband affected by the gospel, "Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:2).
Not only does a husband repent of self-will, have renewed and holy affections, but, thirdly, a godly husband does not return evil for evil. We live within a world where both husbands and wives are affected with the human condition – sin. Wives will sin against husbands. The tendency is for husbands, then, to take the upper hand and use this "leverage" when he wills. This sin rears its ugly head in the form of manipulation, harshness, contempt, or even forms of abuse. At this point husbands have abandoned godly leadership. He has now taken on the role of God and Judge. He has forgotten that his sins have been forgiven in Christ. He is no longer demanded to pay for his sins, and yet he demands his wife to pay for hers. A godly husband remembers to "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32).
Jena: Another hindrance to godly submission which was alluded to yesterday is fear. We fear what our husbands will do with their leadership if we allow them to exercise it. We fear what decisions they'll make and what the outcome will be. We fear they won't do anything if we step out of the leadership role they've been called to but that we've been trying to fill. But God calls us away from this in 1 Peter 3:5:
"For this how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening."
So how do we battle being anxious or frightened with what our husbands will do with their God-appointed authority? We turn to the Lord first. We trust the Lord to lead us and take care of us in his goodness and sovereignty through our husbands.
Let's look briefly at some examples from Sarah's life. Her trust and faithfulness in God despite Abraham's poor judgment shines through as she is handed over to two different kings. (Genesis 12, 20) She submits to her husband both times but it is God who protects and defends her. In contrast, between these two instances, Sarah grows tired of waiting on the Lord and encourages her husband to bear a son through Hagar in order to fulfill God's covenant her way. Instead of trusting the Lord to bring about the good he promised, she takes matters into her own hands and the consequences have proved immeasurable.
Submission is a most difficult thing. We will all struggle to do it in a godly, Christ-exalting way. But may I encourage you to put yourselves in the care of the One who created you, has numbered the hairs on your head, and has promised to bless your obedience. Godly submission does not produce weak "door-mat" women, but strong, Christ-glorifying women who are reflecting the gospel through their actions and inner-being.
Pray for your husband; honor, defer to, respect, and adapt yourself to him. Fear the Lord with a gentle and quiet spirit. If you find yourself anxious or wanting to rebel against submission, implore your heavenly Father for help. Jesus prayed in Gethsemane the ultimate prayer of submission, and he prayed it three times! "‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.'" May we all learn to reflect this heart of Christ!
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