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Unexpected freedom

January 19, 2011

Submission. The word chafes. The first occurrence we have of this word in Scripture is surprising. Challenging.

Genesis 16:9Then the angel of the LORD told her [Hagar], “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.

Hagar, young and afraid, alone in the desert. Her abdomen swollen with Abraham’s baby, a baby she never chose to have. Her mistress, Sarai, chose to use her as a baby factory and then sent her into the desert to fend for herself. An angel of the Lord appears to her and says… go back and submit.

Ephesians 5:22 – Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.

Oh, that one really hurts. No comment is even necessary.

Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.

1 Peter 2:13-14 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

Obey your leaders. Submit to the king, to the governors, to authorities instituted by men. The original audience who unsealed these words in a handwritten letter were facing vicious persecution. Unwarranted, undeserved, unjust. The divine message to them? Submit.

Why is submission so difficult for us to swallow? To submit to authorities, to submit to leaders, to submit to the government, to submit to our husbands?

In my own personal opinion, one of the root reasons we struggle with this is fear. Fear of having no voice. Fear of decisions being made for us that may not be in what we see as our best interest. We struggle and fight and chafe because our culture’s cry of “this is my right!” beats like a drum in our ears. If we don’t fight for our rights, we will lose them! We need to be independent, defiant, nobody-steps-on-me pillars of strength that no one will mess with. And we are terrified that if we give up this fight we will be in bondage to others forever.

The discipline of submission can be practiced only as we grapple on a deep and very personal level with the sovereignty and authority of our very good and very trustworthy God. I sometimes, often even, do not agree with the government which rules over me. But I am called to submit. I sometimes have not agreed with the authorities over me in my daily life – authorities at church, authorities at work, authorities at school. But I am called to submit. I sometimes do not agree with my husband. But I am called to submit. I sometimes chafe against those around me – but I am called to submit my will out of reverence for Christ.

Submission can be mistaken for bondage. But in this serve-to-become-great, last-is-first economy of God’s kingdom, submission brings us freedom. Freedom from the shouting to have our voice, freedom from kicking against every authority in our lives, freedom from fear.

If I really believe that my God is sovereign, if I really believe that my God is loving, if I really believe that my God is the one who sets up authorities and takes them down, if I really trust Him to be who He says He is, love me like He says He does, plan for my good as He promises to do, I am free. I am free to submit my will to those around me because my value and worth does not come from being heard and being recognized as the one who is right. I am free to voice my opinion respectfully and then obey my authorities because I know that my loving Father is the one who sets kings up and takes them down and holds each day of my life in His hands. I am free to submit to my husband without nagging, without frantically attempting to manipulate him into making the “right” decision; I know that as I rest my hand into the hand of my husband, the hand of our loving Father holds us both.

The discipline of submission – the discipline of choosing to yield my will and stop fighting, stop clamoring to be heard – is a discipline of trust. To the world it looks like bondage, but in the kingdom of God it is freedom.

Trust Him. Yield your will. Stop fighting. And be free.

This post is not intended to deal with abusive situations. TRI-R ministries has a booklet entitled “Submission: Are There Limits?” which you can order here.

They point out that Scriptural submission is voluntary, is ultimately done unto God, has limits, and allows for petition.  Scriptural submission pictures the righteous relationship between Christ and the church.

Victimization is involuntary, is done in the fear of man, has no limits, and pictures Satan’s relationship with his subjects.

Codependency is a response learned as a means to feel needed and self-sacrificing.  It allows women who fear petition and confrontation to avoid it.  Based on fear and insecurity, it is pictured in the relationship of God and the wicked servant with one talent (Matt. 25:24-29)

If you feel that you are being victimized, or that you are in an unhealthy codependent relationship, please seek professional Christian counseling.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2011 9:06 am

    Kristi, submission is a tough topic for so many of us. Thank you for dealing with it in a biblical and positive way! There truly is freedom in submitting to the authorities God has established.

  2. January 19, 2011 9:19 am

    So true, Kristi, that at the root of submission is what we believe to be true about God and how we trust Him in response to it.

  3. Kristin permalink
    January 19, 2011 12:33 pm

    Thanks for this post. I appreciate how you included codependency in inappropriate situations of submission. Many people are or have been willing participants in codependent relationships (ME). I wonder how I got there–well, it’s because of ME; my sinful pattern of behavior and dependence on someone other than the Lord for my acceptance and rescue–all in the name of submission. I am grateful that the Lord saved me from marrying a man with whom I severely had this type of relationship. Instead, I am blessed to be married to a man who seeks the Lord, knows my tendency of codependency (and thus his own tendency as well), and is willing to journey with me as we die to those desires and experience the fullness of the gospel. There is freedom and beauty in submission!

    Great example we recently discussed: as we were counseling a young man who is soon to be married, the topic of finances arose. When DH and I were first married, I handled all of our finances as, frankly speaking, I was better at it. Over time (quickly), it became clear that it was too stressful for me to handle, basically ending in tears and frustration every time I tried to balance the checkbook that wouldn’t balance (this is the part of codependency where the “victim” attempts to control something in the chaos, knowing that certain other things are out of their control because of “submission”). DH resolved that he must take over this task to give me freedom from that which I clung to so tightly. It was out of submission that I agreed, knowing that my DH had much to learn about managing money. Ultimately, I had to ask myself if I trusted that the Lord would provide abundantly for our family, even if I was not in control of the money . We were able to say to our friend that if I was still in control of our finances to this point, we would have less debt, more money saved, and a WORSE MARRIAGE! The Lord has abundantly blessed our relationship, giving us so many opportunities to be humbled and discuss and learn about one another because DH submitted to the Lord’s authority, accepted his authority in our marriage, I submitted to his authority as well as to the Lord. I love this as an example that the Lord has our best interest in mind (and perhaps so do those others in authority over us), even if it does not line up with our own idea. Of course, debt and savings should be addressed, but more than that the Lord has been able to address our hearts throughout this time. If I had not submitted myself to my DH, there would still be much bondage of my heart to controlling our finances and to controlling him. I have received much freedom and have experienced much joy from the Lord through this really difficult act of submission in this area. And DH has been free to learn what the Lord has for him about leading our family in the area of our finances, an opportunity that he would miss if I was still in charge.

    Hopefully this can be an encouragement to those struggling with submission. The Lord loves you and has your best interest in mind. He wants you to be free from bondage (as I was in slavery to controlling our finances). I cannot agree more with Kristi’s statement that submission brings us FREEDOM! Praise the Lord!

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      January 19, 2011 12:59 pm

      Kristin, thank you so much for taking the time to share your own story. It’s interesting how codependency is also rooted in fear, isn’t it? There is so much freedom in trusting God and allowing Him to direct us – even when He directs through our husbands! Thanks again for your willingness to share your testimony with other readers!

  4. stephanieshott permalink
    January 19, 2011 6:28 pm

    Kristi ~ Thanks so much for reminding us that submission isn’t a sign of weakness, but a demonstration of trust in God.

  5. January 20, 2011 12:12 am

    Kristi – You have really hit it right on with the reasons behind rejecting submission. Fear, definitely. And the other reason you hit on in one of your last paragraphs – doubt. Lack of trust affects willingness to submit. You are so right when you said submission is a “discipline of trust.” Submission then opens the way to more sincere and freely-given service.

    In this light, submission is seen as requiring strength and a love-filled act! Thank you for this post.

  6. January 29, 2011 2:26 pm

    Submission is exactly what I have been struggling with this week… and it’s also the one thing I would have told you I don’t have a problem with! At least I didn’t think I did, until now. You are right, the difficulty comes from the fear of not being heard. When I focuas on trusting God by following those over me, and less on what I want or think is right, He will allow me a voice when the time is right. Thanks for reminding me of this oh so important truth! You put it so well!

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