Disclaimer: As with everything I write, I do not claim to be an expert or have all the answers. Many women have much more knowledge and experience than I. I realize the topic of submission can be a touchy one for some people. I am simply sharing what I have learned from experience and God's Word, in the hope that it may be of help and encouragement to someone else.
The topic of submission, like the topic of wives and mothers who stay at home, can be a sensitive one. I believe that's another result of "women's liberation" and the feminist movement. For quite a few decades now, women have insisted on equality with men in every aspect of life. They don't want to have to answer to men in anything. I realize this attitude is not present in all women, but I think I can safely say that it is a theme in Western culture.
As a Christian, I know and have been taught that from the very beginning of time, God created women to be under the authority of men. God made Eve to be a helper for her husband Adam (Genesis 2:18). After God created Eve from one of Adam's ribs, Adam said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man" (Genesis 2:23). Throughout the Bible, women who respect and submit to their husbands are praised. Proverbs 31:12 praises the woman who brings her husband "good, not harm, all the days of her life." The New Testament is full of instructions for wives to be submissive to their husbands.
Today I want to discuss three things: why a wise woman submits to her husband; how she does it; and what results from it.
There are three main reasons that I have found why a wise woman submits to her husband.
1) Out of obedience to God. A Christian woman desires first and foremost to live a life in obedience and service to God. As I have mentioned and will continue to make clear, the Scriptures contain many instructions to women to submit to their husbands. As Christian women, we should require no other reason to do so. James wrote, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you... Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (James 4:7, 10). Paul wrote to the Colossians, "Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord" (Colossians 3:18). And to the Ephesians he wrote, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:21-22).
2) To build up her husband and encourage him in his role as leader. As a wife's role is to be in submission to her husband, his role is to be the leader and caretaker of his family. A woman who refuses to submit to her husband usurps his position, thus rendering him unnecessary, and making him feel less of a man and less needed. This is the exact opposite of what wives should do for their husbands. When they do submit, they encourage their husband to fill his God-given role, and build him up in his manhood at the same time.
3) It takes pressure and responsibility off the wife. A submissive wife is "let off the hook" when it comes to making big--and sometimes even small--decisions in her family. Certainly no husband should disregard his wife's opinion; he should always consider her wisdom and listen to her advice. However, when a wife submits to her husband's judgement she is letting him take the praise for a good decision and the blame for a bad one. As the head of the household it is his responsibility to take on most decision-making.
How does a wise woman submit?
1) By God's grace. Submission is not something that comes naturally. Because of our sinful nature we have the tendency to do the easy thing: disrespect our husbands, disobey God, and refuse to submit. Isn't it always easiest to insist on having our own way? Submission is not something we followers of Christ can do on our own. It is a relief to know that we can, but only with God's help. He promises to help us do so because submitting to our husbands IS submitting to God, and therefore honoring and glorifying to him.
2) An act of will. Submission takes work. I often have to bite my tongue, count to five, or stop myself from speaking in order to avoid talking back to my husband, contradicting him, or questioning his judgement. Being submissive takes practice; it's not a habit one can develop overnight.
3) Not a display of weakness. Submissive wives are often derided as being weak. This is absolutely not true! As stated above, submission is not the easy thing for a wife to do. On the contrary: when a wife submits to and respects her husband, she is displaying a great love for and trust in him, a strength of will and character, and most importantly a strong trust in God.
What results when a wise woman submits?
1) She becomes more Christ-like. We submit to our husbands, and to Christ, as Christ submitted to his father. The goal of every Christian's life should be to become more like Christ every day. Submission teaches us selflessness, obedience, kindness, respect, and myriad other qualities that define who Jesus is. In submitting, we mimic Christ.
2) She gains greater trust in God. This, I believe, is one of the greatest benefits to being submissive. Trust in God doesn't come naturally any more than submission to one's husband does, but when a woman trusts her husband she is literally trusting God, because he has placed her husband in his position of authority. When a woman surrenders to her husband, she is telling both him and God, "I trust you to take care of me."
3) The marriage is strengthened. Everything always works best when it's done God's way, and this is especially true of marriage. When both the husband and wife fill and fulfill their God-given roles, each is being obedient to God and their relationship will be blessed as a result. When a wife submits she is encouraging her husband's manliness and her own womanliness, and her respectfulness of her husband will encourage his loving attitude toward her.
4) The wife is a witness to the world of the Gospel. Titus 2:3-5 says, "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." (Emphasis mine.) When a woman is submissive and subject to her husband, she honors God and God's word, and her obedience is a witness to others.
In his first epistle, Peter discusses this topic at some length. In chapter 3, he writes, "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives" (3:1-2). A submissive wife is such a witness to the Gospel that Peter says she could win her husband over to faith in Christ simply by the way she lives her life! Peter continues a few verses later, "For this is the way the women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear" (1 Peter 3:5-6). Notice what Peter said? It was the women who put their hope in God who were submissive to their husbands. They trusted God first and foremost, and that enabled them to trust their husbands.
I know submission isn't always an easy thing to do. But always remember, dear sisters in the Lord, that we do it to obey God, we do it with his help, and we do it to witness his Gospel.