Text Size: Zoom In

Some What-ifs of Marriage

Over the years I’ve concluded that seeing “headship” in marriage as a basis for the authority of a husband to tell his wife what to do says more about the customs of fallen culture than it does about what the God of the Bible wants for us.

My last post is an attempt to explain why I suspect that many of us have misunderstand what the Bible says about marriage in the same way that earlier generations misunderstood what the Bible says about master-slave relationships.

Now, when I read the Bible I think I see God, in his wisdom, teaching us to work within the authority-based institutions of society (i.e. government, military, business, and marriage) while leading us to the higher ground of truth-and-love-based relationships.

The Father in heaven seems to follow the pattern we use in raising our own children. He starts with what we can understand and leads us slowly to maturity.

Let me try to give some specific examples that build on my last post, and illustrate why I now believe that the real issue in mature marriage is not, “Who has what authority?”- but rather “What has God given us that we can use for the good of one another, and for the honor of our God?” Let’s look at some of the what-ifs of marriage and see if they are best solved by pressing the logic of authority or of love.

As a rule, we don’t question a woman’s willingness to take the lead if her husband lacks or loses his ability to protect and provide for his family. Few will criticize a wife for stepping up to the challenge if her husband is:

Physically disabled

Diagnosed with a debilitating mental or emotional condition, or

Morally entangled in a drug, alcohol or gambling addiction that causes him to be a danger to the well being of his family.

Some of us, though, might have missed the extent to which such lost capacity is a significant factor in what the Bible says about men and women.

What if the Lord wants a man to follow his wife’s lead on an issue? Abraham is widely regarded by people of monotheistic faith as “the father of us all” (Romans 4:16). As such he gives us an example of a husband who was respected and revered by his wife (1Peter 3:6). Yet, along the way, he also learned from the Lord that it is not beneath a man to submit to an imperfect woman. In a difficult family dispute, the Lord told Abraham to defer to Sarah’s demands (Genesis 21:9-12).

What if a man, who by his lack of character actually endangers his whole house? That’s the story of Abigail. She is an example of a woman married to a man whose stubborn pride blinded his judgment. Rather than submitting to her husband’s decision, she protected her family by providing care and assistance to David and his hungry soldiers (1 Samuel 25).

What if a woman has more wisdom and courage than the men of her house or community? That’s Judge Deborah. She rose above the prominence of her husband in ancient Israel, acted as a judge in matters of social dispute and, in a moment of national crisis, led the army into a successful battle (Judges 4-5).

In each of these instances we see an example– not of traditional marital roles– but of God’s grace acting in unpredictable ways for the protection of his people.

My point in citing these biblical examples is to show that God himself has not been as rigid in applying marital roles as some of us…

Here’s where I land. I think the real issue is– what has God given us as men and women that we can use to help the other grow to full spiritual, intellectual and emotional maturity?

Anyway, I’ll try that for starters :-)…

Vote on whether you think this post is something you'll be thinking about:
Vote This Post DownVote This Post Up (+74 rating, 77 votes)

21 Responses to “Some What-ifs of Marriage”

  1. desert rose says:

    If a man is a believer and loves his wife as Christ loved the church, you will find a very healthy marriage. We all have our strengths. Mine is handling the checkbook but we go over the finances together. Now, our roles have changed a little due to my illness. I honor and respect my husband and even when he is wrong or he has an attitude, I realize it for what it is and I know that it has nothing to do with me. When we stand before God, I am responsible for myself and he will be responsible for himself. He makes the wrong move as ‘head of our house’ then we make the best of it but I don’t bring it to his attention as a fault. I remember once they had free railroad ties that he wanted to use as a fence and I said “No!” Well, unfortunately he listened to my opinion and we have always regretted not doing so. We saw a house down the road that used them, and it made a fabulous fence and looked great too. I think of that sometimes and I don’t have any problem of my husband being head of our home becaue he doesn’t abuse it. I’m glad not to have that responsibility as I had it for years as a single parent. We do things together but when in doubt, I follow his lead. He loves God and he loves me.

  2. rokdude5 says:

    I know for one thing that due to my (as my wife puts it) “y chromosone defect”, she always talking to God about my mis-steps. I think talking more often to God counts.

  3. daisymarygoldr says:

    The biblical examples cited are very, very rare… that may be applied to exceptional cases of physically, mentally and emotionally disabled men. If all the men population fit into this category then maybe we should get ready for the rapture!

    The general rule for gender roles in a marriage is very clearly outlined in the Bible. It emphasizes the “headship” of the husband that displays clear “servant-leadership” to “rule” his household with the “mind” of Christ by selflessly providing for all their needs and training the children to walk in the ways of the Lord. Christ submitted to God, husband submits to Christ and naturally the wife follows and submits to her husband. In doing this both the husband and wife “submit” to one another (Eph 5:21).

    God has given all “authority” to Christ to be the head of the Church. The body therefore, submits to the ONE “mind” and “rule” of Christ. Failure to follow this God-ordained rule is causing all the chaos that we are seeing today both in the Church and in our marriages as well.

    Having enjoyed the pre-eminence of a firstborn that my parents gave me over my siblings, always being appointed as class monitor by my teachers and not shying to take up leadership roles through out my school life, being a leader comes naturally to me. Even with the Bible, I had the privilege of “knowing” more than my husband… professionally and monetarily we are at the same level. Yet, I always choose to make a conscious effort to step back and let him to the leading… for us to happily do the following so that all in all God will be honored and glorified in our marriage. Whenever, I followed my natural inclination to lead, things went wrong just the way it happened in Eden!

  4. mrdiaz says:

    Hi everyone,

    This is my first time to share my thoughts, since I got so interested in the topic. I have been married for 14 years with 4 kids. I know not much about the bible verses, but lived my life in accordance to God’s love. It has also been my guide in my married life, which I am so proud to say that it has been so productive. I jsut would like to share how this discussion evolved in my married life, an experience I am so proud to share.

    My marriage did not start as good as it should. My husband and I were in our early 20’s and came from very different backgrounds. He has vices, I had pride, we were depending on his parents for most of our needs, there were hurting and abuse, and most of all, we did not have the same religion. The last one made everything harder, since my parents taught me that the man is the head of the family and I should abide by him. My question then was, how can I follow someone whom I believe is not following the path of God? I may be concieted but I believed, he was pulling me away from God. It was quite a struggle.

    I came to the point of blaming God and questioning why He made me suffer. I do get answers from Him, such as “He love’s me and He will never give me anything that I can’t handle”. To such, I prayed and made my choice – I chose to follow God. I left my husband, went far away and made a new beginning with my kids. And as my faith remains, God showed my husband his choices – he search for us, his family, and promised to change. This time I am definite that it is God’s binding power that brought us together. My husband and I did struggle with the changes, but as we are both aware of God’s presence in our relationship – we both did not give up on each other. I extended my patience and understanding, and he extended his effort in doing the right things. After 10 years of marriage, we survived and gloriously triumphed to disregard our own distinct personalities, to give way to a united couple in Christ.

    We are now here in Canada, living a dream life, simple and peaceful.

    I believe that marriage is a commitment of two distinct individual to be binded in the name of God. Man or woman is no issue of being head, but rather -God should be the head of the marriage. Both man and woman should serve one another, not ahead of the other. They should do this not just because of their love for each other, but more for the love of God.

    In our lives, God should always be the center. It doesnt matter what other people say or do, but what matter most is that we do good and what pleases God. Man and woman are created equal in the eyes of God, and each one with distinct purpose, but both are made for the glory of God!

  5. Mart De Haan says:

    mrdiaz, thank you for telling your story. In finding your mutual accountability to God to love and respect one another, you and your husband have found a relationship that is foundational to marriage.

    I also think we need to acknowledge what the New Testament says about husbands being the head of the wife (Eph 5:23). Paul seems to use this word picture to help husbands, who may have a tendency to misuse their strength and social influence, to see their role as a calling and responsibility to love rather than as an entitlement to be served.

  6. mrdiaz says:

    Hi Mart,
    It is my pleasure to share my experiences and how God has made everything possible!

    Now, my husband embodies a very responsible head of the family. Though, human as we are, we still have to deal with each other’s flaws, and problems of daily life. He does most of the decision making, but he always discuss everything with me. At times, we have arguements and differences. But I remind him always to lift everything to God, as I have – that’s why we’ve come this far. God love each and everyone of us, and is never too busy to listen and help.

    Thank you for all the topics. They are all eye openers of how wonderful this life with God is. God bless!

  7. Gena says:

    There is a scripture that says “My grace is sufficient for thee.” My husband and I just celebrated our 27th anniversary. We’re college educated, but many times I feel he knows more than I do and many times I rely on his wisdom. He confers with me too. When I feel inadequate intelligently, he reassures me. Sometimes I don’t rise to the occasion, but he seems to take it well. :) Emotionally he knows my tenderness or my boldness. Spiritually, he knows my faith still stands even if it seems shakey at times. We compliment each other. :)

  8. Charis says:

    Excellent and wise post, sir! I loved your biblical examples and here are a couple more to add to the collection:

    The Proverbs 31 woman takes much initiative and runs her home and businesses with feminine authority/leadership. I think Prov 31:11 is key: “Her husband has full confidence in her” Her husband trusts her, he has confidence in her abilities and does not micromanage and control, nor feel threatened by her fully using her gifts and talents. Her husband’s confidence in her frees her to be the best she can be and releases her to creatively use her gifts and talents.

    Likewise, the husband of the Shunamite woman apparently embraces a great deal of initiative and independence on her part. In 2 Kings 4:8-37 she initiates building a room for the prophet Elisha. I find fascinating that she does not share with her husband their son’s medical crisis: Their son was lying dead on the prophet’s bed and she told her husband “It’s all right.” (2 Kings 4:23) and proceeded to deal with the matter herself. What an amazing woman (and husband)!

    Another inspiring wife is Esther. She lived in a time when women were chattel. She had the “gift” of beauty and was chosen to be Xerxes queen by winning a beauty contest. She disobeyed her husband- King Xerxes by coming before him without being summoned, risking her own life to save her people.

  9. Mart De Haan says:

    Hey, Charis, good examples. Thank you!!

  10. vtyking says:

    Hello everyone,

    I solicit your help as I am struggling with the very issues that have been discussed. I was married to my first husband for almost 10 years before we divorced, it was a horrible marriage with alot of mental abuse. After 16 years of being a single parent I chose to remarry to the man of honor that had been my best friend for most of those years. Please understand that as a single parent for so many years I had the sole responsibility to lead my household. My exhusband was out of the picture due to him living out of state. So during all those years I have carried the financial, moral and physical burden for my family with God’s help. I honestly believe I decided to marry my best friend because he is God fearing, compassionate and appeared to be an excellent companion.

    Now that I’m married my husband passively accepts the role of husband in my family. My income is twice as much as his and I have to pull teeth to get him contribute his income to any household expenses. Additionally, he passively parents or engages with my teenage daughter who has now gone off to college. He makes foolish decisions, that have cost us dearly. I feel as if I’m still carrying the burden of my household myself and I simply have another dependent.

    I have struggled with the desire to get a divorce because the severity of the situation, but each time I resolve to divorce, the Lord gives me messages and scripture to help me reconcile my thinking. Since we are both Christians, I struggle horribly in this marriage because I want a godly marriage where I have a husband who will be head of household and help share the burden my family has. I feel as if my husband is so passive about everything that he wanted a strong woman to be responsible and I am exasperated about having to be head of the household to meet financial, emotional and physical needs for my family.

    Can anyone lead me to scripture that will help me with this situation.

  11. daisymarygoldr says:

    So sorry you are going through all of this… I would feel just the same if I were to be in your shoes. God has created men and women differently and of course, God did not ordain the wife to be the head. The Bible says if a man fails to provide for his family, he is worse than an unbeliever (1Tim 5: 8). Your Christian husband should be aware of this and will have to answer for himself someday. There are 2 things to be thankful for in your case: 1. you married your best friend and 2. You are not in a dangerous situation of abuse. Divorce certainly is not an option because there is no adultery involved. Hence, just carry on what you have been doing not for your husband but for the Lord. This momentary affliction will soon pass away and in the twinkling of an eye, you will be standing in front of the Judge to receive a huge reward. Please, do not let this thorn ruin the pleasures of marriage that you are getting to enjoy after 16 long years. So, be of good cheer and continue to allow Christ to be the head of your marriage! This is not to advice but simply share my opinion in the light of God’s words. Praying for you and for your husband’s change of heart…

    However, I am curious to know what others here have to say about this…especially the ones who have denied the headship of a husband and are instead championing for the wives to lead. Makes me wonder how someone can understand the mystery regarding Christ and the Church if they cannot accept the headship of the man in a marriage. (No offence meant but a desire to be enlightened) Maybe there are exceptional cases supported by Biblical examples where the church is required to step up to lead Christ??!!

  12. deborahserenade says:

    Dear Mart,
    I was encouraged very much by this particular blog.
    I come from a home where I was taught to respect and accept the husband as the head of the family. I recently got married,(you have arranged marriages here) little knowing that I would turn out to be the bread winner. This aspect of being in the position of control was new and disturbing to me and I had plenty of doubts about myself – am I being to bossy in deciding the budget and making monetory decisions for the family.
    I thank God and you for this article “What-Ifs” – its helped me see Deborah from a different light and has brought me comfort – that it is NOT WRONG for the woman to take lead.
    Thankyou so much and God Bless!

  13. CAW says:

    So what if for unknown reasons you have lost your feelings for your husband and almost feel repelled by him, he no longer wants to attend church because of the politics involved, and he refuses to pay for some “quack” to counsel us? Then what…do what the Bible says and stick with your man no matter what, pretending all is normal to those around me….or seek counseling myself and watch what happens when we get the bill? have you ever felt trapped?

  14. WalkingInHisLight says:


    First, Mart, thanks for being willing to address such a relevant, powerful and challenging topic.

    My first few years of marriage helped me to realize how I live by expectation. I came from a strong Christian family, had great examples of leadership from both parents, and thought that if I married a good Christian man, this would all just fall into place. How little I understood my own sin!

    After many angry days, I finally caught a glimpse of the end game. My marriage was meant to be used by God to address both of our sins, and that God had equipped both of us with the gifts HE chose, not the gifts I expected. God knew where we both needed to grow, and gave the other the appropriate gifts to work toward that end.

    I have learned that, just as submission to God requires me to still step up to the plate, submission to my husband requires me to step up to the plate. Just as submission to God means trusting his leadership, I am learning to trust my husband’s leadership and to follow my husband in faith, knowing God will not abandon me. I am also learning to be grateful for the gifts God has given my husband, and to relinquish my resentment that God has made my husband in his image, not the image I anticipated.

    God has worked in ways I would never have anticipated. I’ve learned that my husband has gifts that are far more important to me than the ability to make more money than I do. When my heart is wrenched apart, he knows how to encourage me. When my path looks huge and looming, he helps me to think through my steps and let go of my fears. I fill my life with far too many expectations and obligations. My husbands helps me to simplify and rethink. I tend to see the earthly needs, while he sees the heart of God.

    I loved the passage that was in today’s “My Daily Bread” – Hebrews 11:8-16. The passage discuss Abraham and Sarah’s understanding that they needed to “wait for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

    The closing is so appropiate. “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” God is using my marriage to cause us to repent of our sinful nature and make us more like Him, thereby bringing us closer to that heavenly country.

  15. WalkingInHisLight says:


    First, BIG HUG to you. I can feel your pain, and I’m sure you are receiving prayer from many on this board even as I type.

    Let me encourage you to not feel responsible for whether your husband goes to church or not. God has not abandoned you, and is not judging your marriage based on your husband’s church attendance. Many wives have seen this same situation, and the first, most constructive step seems to be to let God handle this. It could be that God is using this situation to work in his life, or is bringing about change in both of your lives. As long as you carry this burden, you will be miserable.

    I personally would not go to a counsellor, but instead to seek the advice of Christian women that you have known to be wise, discrete and more experienced. Has your husband expressly forbidden you to attend a church? If so, find ways to meet with Christian women, not so much to pray for your husband to change, but to fill the need for fellowship. If he has not, consider finding a good church where you can worship God and refresh your spirit and build fellowship with Christian women. Reach out to God every morning, even if it’s just a quick, sincere “Lord, show me your path and fill me with your joy.”

    Two things I would expressly not do: Do not speak disparagingly of your husband, and don’t compare him to other men at church. Your negative perception will cloud you from seeing God in your husband, and the men at church are often just as messed up as men outside of the church. A different man is not the path to peace.

    Yes, I’ve felt trapped, but I have often realized the trap was of my own making. The solution was to let go of the trappings, and let God handle the big responsibilities that weighed me down. Again, BIG HUG. I will be keeping you in my prayers, and I’m sure many others will as well.

  16. annamarie says:

    This has been an interesting discussion and one that is worthy of our attention. We (women) tend to focus our attention on what effect a paternalistic society, particularly within marriage, has had on us. However as a wife of a wonderful man and mother to a grown adult son I can’t ignore the pressure that history and society has obviously placed upon Christian Men. My husband and I have been married a long time. In the early years he truly believed that if he didn’t “rule” over me and ensure that I submitted to his rule, somehow he had failed as a man of God. Those were difficult and painful years for both of us.

    With maturity, prayer, and an enduring commitment to work hard on our relationship, we have both come to the realization that this marriage belongs to the two of us. As creations of our heavenly Father, we both have responsibilities to submit to each other and to God and to lead each other in areas where our gifts are obvious. Did God not bring us together to complete and strengthen each other? Separate we are individuals with various strengths and weaknesses. Together we complete each other. What a blessing! I can’t say enough how great a blessing this marriage has been. My prayer is that our son, now 27 years old, is equally blessed when he finds the one who will “complete him”.


  17. daisymarygoldr says:

    I’m assuming that you are addressing CAW’s issue…
    Praying for you…

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.