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About this series
Marriage that Works
God's Way of Becoming Spiritual Soul Mates, Best Friends, and Passionate Lovers
It's no secret that marriage is in trouble in America. This foundational building block of society is crumbling before our eyes. And Christians are not exempt from this trend. There is hope. Despite the mounting pressure on couples, you really can have a great marriage, raise Godly kids, and experience a healthy, life-giving home-life with the stability to weather life's storms. Join Chip Ingram as he challenges the status quo and gives clear, compelling help for couples that long for unity and fulfillment in their marriage.More from this series
I was on a plane, and I sat next to a very young, bright woman. She was probably twenty-eight. She spoke five different languages. And she was going into, I think Atlanta, and a pretty high-powered job.
Five languages, it was going to be international, she’d be traveling all around the world. And I was talking to her and we had this great conversation and I said, “Well, what’s your husband think about this?” Because she said she’d been married about eighteen months.
And she goes, “Oh, well, he’s excited about it.” I said, “I’ve done quite a bit of overseas travel. Um, how do you think this is going to work for your marriage when you’re gone two, three weeks, sometimes a month at a time?”
She goes, “Oh, it’s not bad, we only see each other for a half a day now.” I said, “What do you mean?” “Well, he has this job, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut. And it makes this much money. And I’ve got this job, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut and I’ve been moving up the ladder. And so he works this shift and I work the early shift so we only have about a half a day on Saturday when we really get to see each other. And then we see each briefly but I’m really tired or he’s really tired and…” And I just wanted to say, “And you’re doing this on purpose?”
Do you understand? You understand, unconsciously, what she’s bought into? High levels of education, making a lot of money, big job, this. Tell you what, she’s going to wake up in about ten or fifteen years and, at some point, she’s going to have a kid and then she’s going to be in crisis.
And she’s going to have all these motherly pangs that say, “I should nurture, and help, and take care of but I’ve invested all this time over here, and when, and how, and what?” And he’s going to say, “Hey, look, we’ve started on two incomes, baby, we need two incomes because look at our lifestyle. We’ve got to pay for this, and this, and this, and this. And it causes really difficult…
So, you’ve got to get clear on who is it that God wants you to be, as a woman, and what really matters, and be able to make some hard decisions. And choose when, and how, and why you’re going to work and when, and how, and why you’re going to be a couple.
And where can you live and economically, how are you going to play this out? Because I will tell you, fast forward, wherever you’re living right now, five to seven to fifteen years, what will be better than anything you could ever achieve is a deep, rich marriage with someone that cherishes you and you love them. And if God wants and you so have children, kids that actually grow up that are stable, that love you, want to be around you.
That, and I’m, getting there, so it gets kind of crazy. And then you actually grow up, and your kids grow up, and they still want to have a relationship with you and they look back and thank you for the huge sacrifice and investments you’ve made in their life.
I’ve never buried anyone where we talked about how many languages they spoke, how much money they made, how many letters they had behind their name, what their portfolio was. But every person I’ve ever buried, people sit around and eat, usually, funny food and they talk about relationships. And they talk about love. And they talk about giving, and caring, and connection.
And I just want to say, ladies, God has a plan for that. And He has a plan for men. What we’ve – how is the present plan working for most of us? Let me, think about it. If you think this is radical, ask yourself this.
Most women I know would like their men to be more romantic. Maybe? Okay. More responsible. Like, actually pick up their own stuff. Lead spiritually, financially provide, and communicate more.
So, God says, “If that’s what you would really like to see happen in the life of your husband, submission is your greatest ally.” How? Most of you have learned nagging does not work. Right? Withholding sex does not work. Yelling, screaming, and having fights does not work.
I want to tell you, when a man feels honored, respected, affirmed, and encouraged. Now, it’s the office too. There are times where his behavior, you don’t respect his behavior. You think, “And he’s out to lunch! But God put him in this place. I’m going to respect the office. And I’m going to treat him the way he ought to be treated even though he doesn’t deserve it. Because there are days going to come that I don’t deserve it.”
So, let me talk about some very specific things that this does not mean so you can understand what we’re really talking about in practice. And then I’m going to ask my wife to come up and give you some real practical ways, ladies, that I hope will be helpful.
Number one, it does not mean that you’re to be passive or inferior. You’re to be, you’re to step in but not over.
Some of you who think, Theresa, you meet her and she seems so sweet. And she is. Sort of. She’s strong. When we have a disagreement, when there’s an issue, I’ll tell you what, she’s not passively going, “Oh, whatever you think, dear.”
She’s, “Now, wait a second. What about this, this, this, this.” She’s strong and she brings it.
And a lot of decisions that I thought we really ought to do this is after we get done talking, I’m thinking, “I got another idea. Why did you confuse me with the facts and reality?” That’s how it works.
The second thing is it doesn’t mean that you submit only when you think he’s right. That’s just called agreement.
In my life, by the way, this has been a pretty big challenge in our relationship, which you will hear in just a minute. But if you only submit and say, “Yeah, I’m on board,” with a good attitude, joyfully, when you’re right, well, you’re just agreeing with him.
The test of submission is when you’re thinking to yourself, “I think this may be among the top three dumbest things he’s ever done. I’ve talked about it, I’ve made my case, I’ve laid out the evidence, I passionately argued my case and he’s absolutely convinced this is what God wants us to do.”
Then you just, you just give him and God and say, “Okay, Lord, please don’t let us get hurt too badly and show him what he needs to know.”
But you say, I remember I made a decision about a timing issue. I don’t think it was the wrong decision but how I did it, and when I did it, and I’ll never forget, my wife looked at me and said, “I will go with you because the Bible commands me and I will choose to have a good attitude. I do not want to, I don’t think it’s wise, and I think it’s a really dumb idea. Nevertheless.”
And looking back, it wasn’t wise, it was a really dumb idea, and we paid a pretty big price for it. She, gracefully, did not elbow me and say, “See, I told you so.”
Third, it doesn’t mean that you violate Scripture, reason, or morality to support your husband. Submission, there is no male chauvinism. There is no – you never lie, or cheat, or break ethics, or wife-swap, or bizarre things in the name, we’ve heard of people.
You know what? Your first commitment is to submit to God and submit to his Word. And if your husband ever asks you to do anything that violates Scripture, you say, “Uh, sorry. Can’t, can’t, can’t go there.”
Fourth, it doesn’t mean that you’re a doormat. You come with strength, beauty, concern, persuasion, you exchange ideas in a strong way. But it doesn’t mean you roll over and his ideas are the best ideas.
And, five, it doesn’t mean that you use submission as a tool to get your way. And what I mean by that is that there is a way where you can, what I call fake submission. “Oh, yeah, dear.”
I had a son that we went through a difficult season with him. And he has many of his mother’s genes in terms of being smart. And so, being very, very smart he would be a rebellious kid until he knew: I really want to do this.
And he could turn on this submissive, “Whatever you say, Dad, I’m on board. I’m on the team.” Just long enough to get what he wanted and then the real him would show up.
Now, ladies, I’m sure there are not many of you that have ever done anything like that. But submission really is not very much about your relationship with your husband. Submission is everything about your relationship with your heavenly Father.
I think it’s time for the men in the room who are talking the most, that would be me, to zip it. And what I thought as I prayed this through was, ladies, this is another one of those statements that we can’t use.
You may not realize this, or yes, you do. Is that not being a woman, I really don’t know what I’m talking about in practice. Okay? I know what the truth is. I know how it works.
And so, I asked my wife if she would take a couple minutes and ask what I thought would be, ask and answer, maybe the top two or three most difficult questions about this issue of submission. So, honey, could you come up here just for a minute before we wrap things up?
And I just want to go on record to say that, although we have issues, you’re not manipulative.
[Theresa] I know.
[Chip] Publicly. I thought we better get this out of the way right away. Question number one. What has helped you the most in fulfilling God’s role, especially in this area of submission? What are the positive factors that have helped you do that?
[Theresa] Well, I got to think about this today. Chip told me he was, tells me, at the last minute, that he’s going to ask me these questions. So, I asked him if, well, can we just spend a little bit of time together and tell me, what are you going to ask me so I could have time to think about it?
And I came up with three things that have been real helpful for me in being able to submit, as a wife. And I was thinking one of the things Chip did, one of them I did, and one of them we did together.
And what I have to say about my husband is that he has been a wonderful leader in our home. He’s a strong man. He’s, I have a real man in my house. And I’m very grateful about that.
But he has been a man of God. He doesn’t just make decisions hastily, or without a careful thought and prayer, and I respect him.
And so, I feel secure, I feel like his leading is good and that I can entrust my life because I know that he’s hearing from the Lord. So, that’s number one. That’s probably been one of the greatest things for me. And I know all women don’t have that in their homes.
The second thing, for me, is that just because I love the Lord and I love His Word, I want to obey God. And His Word tells me that I should be submissive to my husband and I should respect him, and so I just strive with all my heart to be able to do that and I pray, I ask God to help me, I claim His promises from His Word when I don’t understand what’s happening, and I don’t feel like submitting.
And I know that God will always take up my cause. He cares for women. He cares for wives. And he could make the worst mistake and he’s made a few, I have to say. But God is watching over me. And He does that for us as wives. He will take up our cause for us, the Lord will. He’s the one who cares for us.
And the third thing that’s been real powerful for me in submission is that we talk about everything. Communication is really a key, I believe, in a good marriage. We’ve truly worked at communicating. We spend time, nearly every day, talking about what’s going on, what we’re thinking about, what we’re struggling with, what our dreams are.
And so, we know each other’s heart. And when big issues come up it’s a lot easier then to talk about things, when we disagree, because we’ve communicated so well when we’re not disagreeing. So, I think those are just three of the major things.
[Chip] Good. What has been your greatest…why did I write these questions? What has been your greatest challenge in your role in this area of submission and how do you or how did you deal with it?
[Theresa] My greatest challenge is submitting when I don’t want to submit. It’s just, I don’t want to do that. I don’t believe that’s the right thing to do. So, that is a challenge.
And like Chip said, when our children were growing up probably the biggest issue that we just knocked heads over was disciplining our children. And also another issue was taking care of our home, and repairs, and just doing things to make our home better and we’ve had many, many conflicts over that because we see it differently and it’s been hard for me to submit sometimes when I want to have things done and you just don’t see it at all.
In fact, we were talking about this yesterday and we were having a little discussion about something about the house that needed repaired. And he said, “You just care too much.” He said it in a kind way. And I said to him, “Well, you just care too…”
[Theresa] Yes. And so, but we understand each other and I pray, I just pray a lot and God changes his mind and we get it done anyway. And another time, I’m probably talking way too, too much.
[Chip] Hey, it’s Saturday night, let’s have fun.
[Theresa] It’s just moving. That’s probably been, of all, everything, is the most difficult times I’ve had, when Chip has really believed that God is leading us to a different place.
But it’s, I like to be settled. I don’t like to leave my friends, and my home, and my kids and I really, in one particular move, just gave him a real hard time over that. And I, what helps me when we have those issues, and when it’s very difficult for me, is just crying out to the Lord.
I really do want to do God’s will and so I just claim His promises. And a promise that I claimed many, many times is from Romans 8:32 and it says, “He who spared not His Son but gave Him up for all of us, how will He not, our God, with Him freely give us all things.”
And I have realized that we may disagree but if he strongly believes God is leading us in a certain direction, and I submit and follow him, God’s going to provide everything that I need. Because God’s just like that. I hope you know that. He’s just like that. He loves us.
And I think the last thing that I thought about here was, it was just, well, you already said it in the message. I state my concerns. I’m not shy about that. And we just…
[Chip] I will echo that. She is not shy about that. But that’s very important, though, because if you bury them, what happens, it comes out in other areas. You’ll be resentful. So I think it’s way better to say – we did one thing and I think I made the right decision. I think I really did it at the wrong time, in the wrong way.
And she just looked at me and goes, “I will submit to this, I want you to know, I don’t think it’s a good idea. I don’t want to do it. I will go. But…” And it couldn’t have been stated any stronger. “And I will, I’ll have a good attitude. But…”
[Theresa] I didn’t have a good attitude a lot, though. I struggled with my attitude. But I got, I finally got there. Sometimes it’s a struggle. It takes time. It takes us time to work through those things. It just doesn’t happen instantly…
[Chip] But let me ask you one last question and that is what counsel or what would you say to a woman who is, from her perspective, feels like her husband’s not leading well and she fears, she’s thinking, “Okay, now, if I do what I believe God is teaching here, things are going to fall apart. If I let go of the reigns in this area, maybe it’s our finances, or spiritual leadership of the home, or something.
“If I let go, I am really afraid things are going to fall apart.” What would you say to that lady?
[Theresa] I think, first of all, the woman, she needs to ask herself, “Am I really willing to submit to my husband? Am I really willing to allow him to lead in our family?
Because, there are so many of us, we want control. And we want to run our homes and our families and so we have to be willing, first of all, to allow that to happen.
And, secondly, to just remember that when you do that, God cares for you. And that He will take up your cause in whatever situation that you’re dealing with. He will take up your cause for you. And work in your husband’s life as you submit to the Lord. Submit that situation to the Lord.
And another thing, I’m big on prayer. But pray for your husband. God can change him. And He can move in his heart, and change circumstances, and I would say give him room to change. Give your husband room to change.
Sometimes we see people act a certain way for so many years and we want them to change but we never give them space to change. We never, we don’t give them the time, and the belief in them to change. And so, give them room to change.
And just the last thing that I thought about was a motto-scripture for my life with Chip and our marriage is out of Proverbs 31. And it’s talking about a wife here in relationship to her husband and it says that, “She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.”
And I just think that’s the best thing. If we could keep that in mind, in any situation, does this do him good? And I doing him good? Or am I doing him evil?
And sometimes doing him good means that we submit to something that we really don’t believe is God’s will for our life but he really does. And sometimes doing him good is doing, not doing things for him in the home and caring for things that he really needs to take responsibility for.
And so, it can look different. But if we were to strive to do our husbands good and not evil all the days of our lives, with the Lord’s help, I think God will do amazing things.
[Chip] Well, thanks very mu ch. We had a little triangle that we talked about as you, the man and a woman, as you move closer to the top to God, you can hear that we both come from really dysfunctional families. We both come from alcoholic families.
This is a real journey and a process that, but what you see is, as you move closer in your relationship to God, He really will work in you and through you.
And with lots of bumps. We’ve certainly had lots of bumps and as I guess you heard, we still have a few. But that’s normal. I don’t think that’s going to end.
But our heart’s desire is to see you embrace God’s design for your relationship, or God’s design for your future relationship. And I can tell you now, every area of a relationship that you can imagine is richer, and deeper, and better than I thought it could be. And way better than it was the first ten years, or the second ten years.