- Your heart sinks when you have to say “no” to something that someone has asked you to do.
- You often feel trapped, in a kind of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” circumstance. Whatever choice you make, you feel guilty.
- You are more aware of what other people want than what you want.
- You will make your day much harder (often at the expense of those closest to you such as your kids and husband) in order to make someone else’s day a little easier. You draw on the help of those closest to you so that you may go far out of your way to help people you barely know. You tell people your service is “really no problem”, when really you went way out of your way, disrupted your whole day, and even had to call in reinforcement to help cover for you.
- When you do an act of service for someone and they seem less than grateful, you either flat-line emotionally or blow up aggressively.
- You do a lot of negative or even hateful self talk when you feel you have failed to live up to someone else’s expectation of you.
- You lie awake at night obsessing over things you said that may have hurt someone’s feelings, came across wrong, or sounded stupid.
- You would not dare say “no” to your boss, even if you dread the extra workload he or she has asked of you.
- You are not really sure what you enjoy doing.
- You care a lot more about what others think about you than what God thinks about you.
This is not going to be the obligatory Christian blog post about your singleness and how they are the best years of your life and you should cherish them blah blah blah.
I know. You have a biological clock that’s a tickn and you are going to throat punch the next person who tells you to live it up now because you won’t be able to when you have a husband and kids blah blah blah.
I’m going to give you some advice that may, ironically, expedite the process. Or it may not. Only God knows. But this advice, if taken, will make you more attractive and more prepared for marriage. And, if you choose to remain single, you will still find joy and satisfaction if you do this.
Here it is:
Convince yourself that marriage is not going to make you happy. I am dead serious about this. You must know this. When you know it, you will be more ready for marriage than ever before. Do you know how many women dream of marriage, but never think a day beyond? It’s like they think life is a Disney fairy-tale that ends after the wedding day. We are products of our culture, I tell you. The day after your wedding will come, and it will not be happily ever after. No matter who you marry, there will be hard days. There will be lonely days. There will be difficult times. There will also be good times. But if you go into marriage expecting that it will be the source of your happiness, you will destroy it. Marriage was not meant to make you happy. It was designed by God to sanctify you. Joy may very well be a byproduct of sanctification, but there will be little to no joy if you expect your spouse to be the source of your happiness. It will drain him. No one can do that for you but Jesus. Jesus can do that for you now. You don’t have to wait to be married to be happy.
When you are deriving your joy from Jesus, you will become one of the most attractive people around. People will long to be around you. Why? Because you are filled with the Holy Spirit. You are filled with confidence that you are loved and cared for by the Creator of the Universe. You know that you don’t need to snag a husband to be happy. You know that being single does not mean you are undesirable or unloved. You are happy and confident now, and that makes you irresistible.
And when someone falls in love with this beautiful, confident, joyful woman, he will have the luxury of being your husband without the pressure of being your source of joy. When our emotions are dependent on what our husbands say or don’t say, we drain them of life and leave them feeling like failures. Because let’s face it, the greatest man on earth will never be able to meet our need for attention and validation. Only Jesus can do that. So if you let Jesus do that for you now instead of thinking you need a man to do that for you, you will not only become a more attractive person, but you will have a mindset that is ready for marriage. You will be ready for a marriage where you are filling up on the Holy Spirit and pouring out into your spouse rather than trying to fill up on your spouse, who will never be able to do that job like Jesus can.
So whether you meet your future spouse tomorrow, ten years from now, or whether you remain single, you can be full of joy if you start really believing that marriage will never be the source of your happiness and that a man will never be able to give you the kind of validation that you will find in Jesus.
Imagine you injured yourself, and it led to a gaping wound. Now imagine you did not go to a doctor or even attempt to clean that wound, but tried to cover it up. You use bandage after bandage, but the wound gets infected and festers. Eventually, it begins to stink. The infection begins to spread to other parts of your body, and before you know it, your life is in grave danger, all because you hid your wound instead of taking care of it properly.
Emotional wounds are like that, too. When we are wounded, we often hide it from ourselves and those around us because we do not want to be vulnerable, or because we simply do not have the skills and knowledge to grieve healthy. So, we cover it up. We use coping mechanism. We ignore our feelings. We find pleasurable outlets in a vain attempt to forget our wounds. Over time, perhaps you will forget the wound on a conscious level. But subconsciously, it is still there wreaking havoc on your life as it spreads to every aspect of who you are. Eventually, you become a stench to those around you. That emotional wound which you thought you could cover up begins to stink. You begin to reach out to people for validation, but they will never be enough to validate you. You will begin to drain your friends and family with your constant need for attention and validation. Eventually, they will not know how to help you anymore. So you will believe that everyone has deserted you, that no one cares, that you are utterly alone in the world. You will turn to more pleasurable outlets, some of which may be destructive to your life. You will look for your sense of worth and value in other people and other things. But always, you will be left empty and alone.
You will be left empty and alone because the wound is still there, gaping, oozing, festering, and stinking.
In order to feel whole again, you have to acknowledge the wound. Once you have acknowledged it, you have to uncover it. You have to stop pursuing your distractions, and look at the wound. Once you have acknowledged its presence and stripped away the coping mechanisms and distractions you have been covering it up with, you will need to clean it.
Jesus will help you clean it. All along, you have been hiding the wound from yourself. Jesus knew about the wound, but you wouldn’t let Him see it. You wouldn’t even look at it yourself. Now that you are willing to acknowledge the wound and stop covering it up, it’s time to ask Jesus to take a look at it. He is the Great Physician, the Healer. He is the remedy for the wound.
If your wound tells you, You are not enough, Jesus tells you, I loved you enough to die for you.
If your wound tells you, You are so stupid, Jesus tells you, I don’t create stupid things.
If your wound tells you, No one could ever love you, Jesus tells you, I have loved you with an everlasting love.
As you begin to allow Jesus to speak the truth which is cleansing ointment for your festering wound, it will slowly begin to heal. It will hurt at first. Sometimes it will be more pain than we thought we could endure, but Jesus will be there with you as you go through the pain of uncovering the wound, letting Him see it and apply His truth to it.
Soon, the wound will begin to show signs of healing. The infection is gone. It is still tender, perhaps, but it no longer stinks. It is getting better and better by the day as you look at it, tend to it, and apply the healing ointment of truth to it.
Others will notice you are no longer a stench. You do not cry out desperately for attention and validation to cover a festering wound because the wound is healing day by day. We will not be fully healed until that day when we are with Him in heaven. Healing is a journey, but once we start walking that path of healing, we begin to look more and more like Him. We become closer and closer to Him. One by one, our wounds begin to heal, and we become a pleasing aroma to those around us.
Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Jeremiah 30:17 “For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord, because they have called you an outcast: ‘It is Zion, for whom no one cares!’”
Isaiah 1:6 “From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil”
Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
When my husband and I found ourselves in an unexpected storm, a Pastor introduced us to a form of therapy called Transformational Prayer Ministry or TPM. I had heard of others finding freedom, peace, and success through TPM before, but I had myself been unwilling to try it. The reason I was unwilling is because I did not like the idea of going into my emotions and memories. The past is the past, right? Why worry about it? Why dig all of that up? I was so wrong. I did not realize just how much my past was affecting every single part of my life. It was affecting my relationships. It was affecting the way I was parenting my children. It was affecting my marriage. Finally, when I all but lost everything, I realized that the past cannot be ignored. It was a lesson I probably should have learned the first time I watched the Lion King, but I digress.
After having experienced something that was nothing short of a total life transformation, I began to eagerly tell people how God had healed my heart through a Christian therapist and Transformational Prayer Ministry. The type of healing that took place in my heart was deep enough to go back to my earliest childhood memories. I was healed not only in the present situation, but from words that hurt me as a child. I began to look at the world in a whole new way. I saw people as hurting, rather than antagonistic. I saw myself as valuable independent of anyone’s opinions of me. My relationships began to flourish. My children changed. My marriage changed. My heart felt light. I felt closer to Jesus than ever before.
So you can imagine my surprise when I was met with some resistance from fellow Christians. Some of them believed that a person should be able to find that complete sort of healing from reading the Bible alone. I have been a lover of the Word of God for many years. So why did I not experience healing change until I was willing to go into my memories?
I believe it is because as much as I read the Word of God, God was not going to force me to open up the areas of my heart that I was not willing to open up. He was not going to force me to go places I did not want to go. I had to make the choice to go there. And when I did, I saw that God was there waiting for me all along.
To practice TPM or go to a therapist does not in any way undermine the authority of the Word of God. It does not take anything away from sound theology. It is simply a method, and one that works, to open our hearts to the voice of the Holy Spirit in a way that coincides with God’s design of the human mind.
TPM does not command the Holy Spirit to do our will….to drive out demons or to heal a sickness. TPM simply assumes that the Spirit wants to speak to us…. and asks Him to do so.
As medicine and knowledge of the physical body peaked, many Christians and church leaders resisted it, believing that it somehow undermined the authority of God and believing in Him as the Great Healer. However, as time went on, we are now able to see that God has designed our bodies a certain way, and given us this knowledge through discovery of His creation. We know that if we break a bone, it must be set and put into a cast to heal. We don’t resist this, opting to read the Word of God and memorize scripture instead. Could God heal that broken bone without a cast? Of course. But it is nonsensical not to use our knowledge of God’s design of the human body in order to seek healing.
The same is true of the human mind. It has a design. It works in a certain way. Our memories are tied to emotions because God created us that way. The human mind, heart, emotions, and body are designed by God in His image. Whatever we discover of the way that it works causes us to marvel at His greatness and His intelligent design. Therefore, to discover the way the human mind works and to invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts and minds through prayer is not to undermine the Word of God but to obey it.
This is not to say that the TPM method is the only method and that all who do not practice it are in disobedience to God. No, I don’t mean that at all. But I do mean that it is a good way. It is a way that works. It is a way that is backed by science and all that we have discovered about the emotions of humankind.
I have visited a Christian Psychologist and therapist quite a few times in my journey of emotional healing. Having never heard of TPM before, this therapist has asked me the very same questions you see on the TPM prayer map. Why? Because she has devoted her life to the study of how God designed the human mind and hopes to use that knowledge to help people heal from emotional pain. She knows that certain questions will guide people to the deeper memories and emotions they will need to access in order to heal. TPM does the same thing.
My grandfather is the founder of Recovery in Christ ministries, a program much like AA designed for addicts in recovery who are seeking to live a life surrendered to Jesus. I showed him the TPM map. He nodded and said, “Oh yes, this is all very familiar. I’ve never seen it in a map format, but I ask these questions probably a hundred times a week”. He is a substance abuse counselor and follower of Jesus. He took a picture of the map to take with him.
My point is this: TPM is not the one and only method of hearing from God. That being said, it is an effective method of digging up emotions and seeking healing in a way that works because it is based on what experts know about God’s design of the human mind and emotions.
To be opposed to the practice of TPM can be equated to being opposed to modern medicine. God designed the body. God designed the mind. There are methods to discover His design and work in cooperation with it.
Consider the following passage of Scripture:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
If you are in Christ, the Spirit of truth is within you. Does it not make sense to quiet yourself to listen to that Spirit? Jesus himself said that he would manifest himself to you through the Spirit of truth He has given you! He also said that the Spirit of truth would be your teacher, the Spirit that would bring to remembrance all that Jesus has spoken. You can see that He is talking about the voice of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the Word of God. Study His Word. Obey His Commandments. Listen to His Spirit.
To believe that the Holy Spirit can and will speak truth to you and bring to remembrance the Word of God at just the right moment is every bit as Biblical as reading and memorizing scripture. Both concepts are embedded here within the same passage, because they are meant to work together. We do not simply read and memorize and expect that to change us without opening our hearts to the Spirit of God and believing that He can and will teach us.
TPM is simply a method of inviting the Holy Spirit to do just that in a way that coincides with God’s intelligent design of our minds. We are made in His image. TPM is a way in which to cooperate with God. Please note, I did not say it is the ONLY way to do this. But to be opposed to the practice of TPM is to be opposed to a practical and effective method of understanding our minds and emotions and inviting His Spirit in to heal.
Do you have another effective method of tapping into your pain and emotions and inviting Jesus in? Wonderful if you do! If you do not….if you have never made this a practice of your life… then TPM is a simple way to begin obedience in hearing from the Holy Spirit, that Helper He sent to be with you forever. That Teacher he promised would bring to remembrance all that Jesus taught when He walked the earth. We have the Spirit of truth in us. Take the time to get before God, open the rawest of your emotions to Him, and invite Him in to heal.
If you are interested in learning more about Transformation Prayer Ministry, visit https://www.transformationprayer.org/
It is to the disadvantage of many Christians that they believe therapists and counselors have no place in the Christian’s life. They believe reading or praying or going to speak to their pastors will give them everything they need.
I was once one of those people. It wasn’t until I faced the very real possibility of my marriage crumbling that, in desperation, I sought the help of a therapist.
Her name is Loie. After my first meeting with Loie, I felt something I had not felt in a very long time: hope. Hope that I could change. That I could feel okay again.
You see, I learned a very important thing from Loie. I learned that I was in fact deeply entrenched in a co-dependent marriage- one that was riddled with controlling and enabling behaviors. It was not until my husband and I both admitted this that we were able to get on the path of healing rather than destroying each other emotionally.
We are very close with our pastors. They are loving and wise people. It is not in opposition to them that I say this. Pastors do not always have the training it takes to help people who are deeply emotionally wounded.
My therapist, who is herself a believer, understands the way the brain works on a scientific level. She understands emotions and how experiences and memories are tied to emotions, where they are stored in the brain and why we react in certain ways. She understands relationships and communication.
She has devoted her life to understanding God’s design of the human mind. Just like medical doctors have devoted their lives to God’s design of the human body (they may not acknowledge that it is God’s design but that is neither here nor there), therapists have studied the mind, the brain, and emotions.
If you would go to a medical doctor when you break your leg, so should you seek an emotional doctor when your heart has been broken.
I am in no way saying that God does not have a place in healing. He absolutely does. He is the Great Healer. The Great Physician. However, I am saying that in refusing to see a Christian therapist when you are emotionally wounded, it is much like refusing to see a doctor when you are physically wounded.
There is no shame in seeking emotionally healing. There is no shame in admitting the need to ramp up our brain health. There is no shame in admitting that we have been emotionally wounded and need emotional healing. Unfortunately, Christians have been among some who discourage people from seeing therapists and counselors, pressing them to see pastors and read their Bibles instead. Pastoral counsel and reading the Word of God are of utmost importance, and certainly have the power to bring healing. But God has also gifted people who have devoted their lives to the study of His design for our emotions. And there should be no shame in seeking out help and healing from those experts.
If you find yourself in a difficult marriage or struggling with your emotions, anxiety, depression, thoughts of self-harm, know that you are not less Christian for seeking emotional help. In fact, God may use your story of healing to inspire and encourage others. I know He has used what my husband and I have gone through to speak truth into the lives of others. I do not regret what we have been through. I am thankful that it brought us to a place of humility in which we were able to seek the help of a Christian therapist and get on the path of healing in Jesus.
If any of you out there are reading this and wanting to start your healing journey, please pick up the book, Becoming a Family that Heals by Drs. Tom and Beverly Rodgers. It will give you hope.
Moms….fellow believers. I have to say that I am so tired of the blogs, videos, and memes that essentially make moms feel like they are helpless to take control in their homes. I get it. I hate the “mom-shaming” too. And no, I would not condemn the woman in Target whose toddler is having the tantrum of his life. We’ve all been there. I get it, trust me. But this anti-mom-shaming movement gives me the sense that moms are simply supposed to succumb to this idea that we are totally helpless in controlling our homes. We are just supposed to take the good with the bad and say, “Well, that’s how motherhood goes. It’s a trade off.” I’m calling B.S on that. Really, mothers, you are not helpless! You have the power to create a peaceful environment in your homes. You have the power to love and to discipline in a way that will make your children bring joy to you. The Bible promises that! Proverbs 31:28.
Instead of taking control of our home environments, implementing consistent and loving discipline, I am seeing even Christian mothers succumb to this idea that angry toddlers are going to run their lives and it is simply a part of motherhood, and no one better dare suggest they make an effort to get their children and homes under control because…you know….mom shaming. Guys, I hate mom shaming, too. I really do. And I am not saying this to shame you, but to give you hope and to empower you. You really can create a totally different atmosphere in your home. I am not saying that you will never again have the occasional meltdown in the grocery store. We will all have those moments. But I am saying that 90% of your time with your kids should not and does not have to consist of meltdowns and bad behaviors.
You and your children will be so much happier when you realize that you are powerful enough to change your home life! You have what it takes to direct, instruct, love, and discipline. You have been given everything you need to be set apart from the moms of the world. You have all of the tools you need to raise kids who will be different from the children of the world. You can make a change, and you do not have to succumb to this idea that you just need to roll with the punches and take the good with the bad. No, you can take control and run your house the way you want it run, and instruct your children to be the kind of human beings you want them to be. Yes, it takes work, but when you implement these habits, your life with your kids will be so much more peaceful and full of love and grace. You will not be run by your children. Rather, you will run your home according to godly principals.
A great place to start is with Paul David Tripp. His book on Parenting can be found on Audible.
Press on, sisters! Motherhood is the most difficult job you will ever do, but through Jesus, you have the power to take control of your home. So let’s stop buying into the world’s lie that you are helpless to create a peaceful environment. You are not helpless. You are full of the love and power of Jesus Christ.
What is Godly Submission?
One of the greatest disservices Christianity today has done society is to display an inaccurate understanding of godly, biblical submission. The type of submission I am talking about is empowering, not belittling to women. If that seems paradoxical, it is only because we have greatly mistook the meaning of the word. When you hear the word “submission” what you are probably thinking about is not the biblical definition of submission at all. Instead, the thoughts that run through your mind are most likely those of enabling behavior, which is not godly submission at all. When women enable disrespectful, belligerent, or even abusive men, it is not godly submission, and it is certainly not what God has called us to. In fact, the Christian woman should be the strongest among women because we know that we are not defined by what men think of us. We are not defined by our beauty, intelligence, or marital status. We are defined by God and Him alone. We know that creation was good, but not perfect until God graced the earth with a woman. Only then, did He say that the World was perfect. Only then did He rest. Women of God know that we are not only lovable, but that we are unendingly adored, that we are the crown of creation, and that nothing on this earth can take that value away from us. Therefore, women of God ought to be the strongest women on earth.
So how does that coincide with the Bible’s definition of submission? There should be no trouble understanding that at all, if only we will take the time to understand what godly submission truly is, rather than assuming that it is to be a doormat for men, to enable selfish and condescending attitudes toward women, or to go through life miserably accepting a status that is lower than that of our male counterparts.
Godly submission is empowering to women. In fact, it gives us great sway and influence not only in the lives of the males around us, but in our families, our communities, and our societies.
This is why God commands wives to godly submission- that we may honor and bless him, support and influence our husbands, raise our sons to be kinder and our daughters stronger than the generation before them.
The reason the Christian women can and should be that much stronger than the average woman is because we don’t have to deny our inner need for love and affirmation. We don’t have to pretend that we can do it on our own. We don’t have to pretend that we don’t need someone to be enthralled with us. We know that we do. But we also know that because of our Heavenly Father, we don’t need anything from any other human being to live a joyful and fulfilled life.
Author and Theologian Gary Thomas explains it remarkably well in his book, The Sacred Influence. “Men can be very cruel with their cutting comments; if you aren’t receiving affirmation and affection from your heavenly Father, you’re going to feel emotionally empty and perhaps even worthless-and will feed that into your husband’s response and tempt you to become even more of a doormat” (Thomas 137).
Godly submission never calls a woman to be a doormat. God never calls one of his daughters to be trampled over by her husband, or any man in her life. Instead, God gives us submission as a powerful weapon. It is a weapon not to be used against men, but to be used to influence them for good. Rather than explain how it works, I will attempt to demonstrate using common situations in which the husband is clearly not loving his wife as Christ loves the church, but in which the wife is still called to godly submission. For each situation, I will provide three types of responses.
The first will be enabling behavior. Well meaning Christian women often practice enabling behavior under the guise of submission. Do not be fooled. Enablement and submission are far from the same thing. Enabling behavior makes a doormat out of the woman and often a monster out of her husband, whereas submission makes a woman strong and a man malleable in her hands (and I am referring to positive influence, not manipulation).
The second reaction will be one of pride. While the prideful woman refuses to be trampled on, she also forfeits her power of influence.
The third reaction will be one of godly submission. It empowers the woman, encourages the man, and creates a stronger and more peaceful relationship.
Joe is critical and often mean to Lisa. He speaks harshly to her, and is always finding something to complain about. He comes home after a long day of work and asks, “Why does the house look like this?”
Enabling behavior: Lisa responds with, “I am so sorry. I will try to get it cleaned up.” She may then even proceed to berate herself in her mind. She defines herself based on her husband’s evaluation of her. She will continue to spiral downward, and her husband’s critical attitude will continue to get worse.
Prideful response: “Don’t you dare speak to me like that! I have worked just as hard if not harder than you did today. If you want it done, do it yourself!” If Lisa responds this way, she does not allow herself to be a doormat, and for that I commend her. But, she has also given up her God-given ability to influence Joe for good. She has responded harshly, which will only make Joe dig his heels in and continue in his stubbornness. It will also put strain on the relationship.
Godly Submission: “Joe, I realize you had a long day at work, and I want you to know that I really do value how hard you work for this family. But I need you to understand that I work very hard, too, and it is just not acceptable to talk to me like that. If you would like the house to be cleaner, I would gladly help you with it after work if you could work on asking me for help in a respectful way”. Now, Lisa has challenged Joe to step up to the plate in helping around the house, but she has not belittled him. Instead, she has shown appreciation for his hard work, and offered to help him in maintaining a cleaner house. In this way, Lisa has not allowed him to trample her. She sees her value as a person, but she also has not given up her power of influence in Joe’s life. And both will be better for it. Even if Joe does not respond well to Lisa the first time, consistency in standing up for herself with a gentle and even grateful response will allow her continued power of influence in his life.
Mark has a terrible spending habit. He and his wife, Emily both work full time jobs but barely make ends meet because Mark likes to have every +new thing he wants. He buys a boat, the newest car, and all the latest technology. He seems obsessed with upgrading to the next best thing. He is thereby driving his family into financial ruin.
Enabling behavior: Emily works overtime to support Mark’s spending. She continuously gives up more and more time with the children so that Mark can spend the family money however he sees fit. She never says a word when he goes into more debt or purchases something he cannot afford.
Prideful response: Emily tells Mark that he is a worthless husband, that he is driving the family into poverty, and that she would be better off without him. She refuses to take another shift of overtime and threatens to open her own bank account where he will not have access to the money.
Godly submission: Emily calmly explains to Mark that he may need to seek some help controlling his spending habits. She expresses thankfulness for all of Mark’s strong points such as spending time with the kids and being a kind and gentle husband. But she gently tells him that she can no longer support his spending habits, that she cannot take any more shifts which take her away from the kids, and that if he cannot find help in managing his spending, she will have no choice but to open an account to which he does not have access. She affirms him, tells him that he is a good man, a better man than this, and assures him that she will be there for him every step of the way as he seeks help in his spending habits.
Matthew spends most of his free time in the bars. He is uncomfortable in situations where it is not socially appropriate to have a drink in his hand. He begins to miss work more and more, claiming illnesses. He is no longer showing up to church or family gatherings. People begin to notice something is wrong. His wife, Martha, is working many hours to keep the family’s head above water, while Matthew continues to drink.
Enabling Behavior: Martha makes up excuses for Mark every time he doesn’t show up to a family reunion or birthday party. She often says he is sick or has migraines. She does not want the family to know that he was out drinking the night before. She has even called into work for him and made up an excuse as to why he could not make it into work yet again that week. She often believes these excuses herself.
Prideful Response: Martha tells Matthew he is a worthless scumbag, and tells him that he will not have a penny more from her.
Godly Submission: Martha approaches Matthew in love to tell him that she is concerned that his love of drinking has turned into alcoholism. She tells him that she will not be allowing him access to any more of the money she makes, not because she doesn’t love him but because she does love him and she knows that he needs help.
In any of these situations, the woman does not necessarily have control over how her husband will respond. In fact, he may blow up. He may not respond in a godly way. Separation may be needed. But separation does not always lead to divorce. Sometimes, it can even be a step toward healing in the marriage. Even so, I am convinced that the godly submission in each situation is the action that will most likely result in healing. To continue in enabling behavior will never benefit the marriage. It will destroy both partners. To respond in pride will often hasten the deterioration of the relationship. But godly submission is the response that will promote healing and peace.
After reading through these situations, I hope that the difference between godly submission and enabling behavior has become quite clear. It is unfortunate that many Christian women have practiced enabling behavior and labeled it submission. This has caused much confusion about the word.
The Bible clearly states that we are to submit to one another out of reverence for God (Ephesians 5:21). But immediately after, in verse 22, wives are specifically called to submit to their husbands, not because men know better, but because godly submission is a great force for good. I do not believe for a moment that this command is to make women less than men or even to give men control over women. On the contrary, I believe the command is actually to give women influence in a man’s heart. A woman practicing godly submission values herself as a child of God, and seeks to help her husband through admiring him, affirming him, building him up, and challenging him in his areas of weakness.
When a woman responds to a man’s weakness in pride, she may well hold her head up high and refuse to be trampled on, but she also forfeits her opportunity to influence him for good in his life, in her family, and in this world.
I would like to note that in any of the previous situations listed, the woman may practice godly submission but may be met with harshness and in extreme cases, even violence. In marriages in which the wife has practiced enabling behavior, and the husband believes that behavior to be submission, there may be conflict when first applying these biblical principles of submission. In such cases, it may very well be necessary to seek help from the godly authority figures in your life. Namely, your pastors. Godly submission never asks a woman to endure emotional, mental, or physical abuse. In such cases as these, it will likely be necessary to involve an authority. Women who have lived under this kind of behavior may find it difficult to tell if they are being emotionally or mentally abused. Richard Massman, founder of Recovery in Christ ministries and substance abuse counselor of over 40 years suggests that if you are unsure if you are experiencing abuse, ask yourself this question. “Is my husband using anger, fear, shame, manipulation, or physical force to get me to comply with his demands?” If the answer is “yes” for any of those, then it is likely you are living in an abusive situation. In this case, it is highly probable you will need to involve your spiritual authorities and possibly even outside authorities. While you are considering this question, you will do well to examine your own heart. Are you using fear, anger, or manipulation to move your husband, to change his mind, or to get something you want from him? If so, you are likely practicing emotional or mental abuse as well. God can heal you from this, and He wants to teach you to use godly submission as a tool for positive influence instead.
Godly counseling from your pastors and from professional Christian therapists and counselors can help to turn these habits around by pointing you and your husband toward godly, biblical principles to break the habits of controlling and enabling behavior and start walking the path of healing and godly submission and biblical leadership.
Godly Submission is Empowering
There is a reason that God said Adam needed a companion. God created women to have the things that men so often do not have. He created women in His own image to reflect the beautiful feminine attributes of God. He created women to have incredible influence in the lives of men. Men can be so much better because of the influence of a woman. That is why God commanded women to godly submission to their husbands. Not to undermine or belittle them, but to empower them and to give them the opportunity to influence the men in their lives for good. Think about the kind of place the world would be if all men were under the gentle, kind, yet strong influence of a godly woman.
That is what God calls us to as women. He calls us to strength, dignity, and godly submission. And yes, these go hand in hand.
Godly submission is empowering. It is a mighty force for good. It empowers women. It moves men.
A woman practicing godly submission does not seek affirmation from a man. For she knows she is deeply loved and cared for. She is the crown of creation. She is made in the image of God. She submits out of reverence for God, knowing that God has given her the power to have positive influence for change in this world.