Sunday, October 15, 2017

How do I obey God when my husband isn't on board?

“How do I obey God when my husband isn’t on board?”

Even through the computer I could hear the despair in her voice.  I’ve been in “women’s ministry” a very long time, basically the whole of my adult life and it’s a question I’ve heard before.  I’ve heard it whispered as a woman of God told a hard truth about her husband.  I’ve heard it wailed as an angry woman complained about a godly man that she couldn’t get to do what she wanted.  I’ve heard a baby Christian wonder out loud how she is supposed to implement what she is learning in her non-Christian home. 

Some Bible questions are easy to answer (Does God love you? Yes.  No matter your situation the answer is always yes.) but some like this one are thorny.  I can’t begin to help a woman come to an answer without knowing her, her situation, and her husband.  And dear reader, as much as I think about you and pray for you, I don’t KNOW you.  But we can talk about some principles straight from God’s word so you can apply them to your own relationship with God and your husband.

Let’s start by examining the principles God lays out for us. In the next post, we'll try to bring them to bear on several different scenarios. 

The Principles:

     1. All Christians are called to be submissive to each other and to those in authority over them.  Christian wives specifically are called to be submissive to their own husbands (1 Peter 3:1-6, Ephesians 5:21-33. Colossians 3:18-21). And not just to great husbands or godly husbands but to husbands who disobey the word.  “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” 1 Peter 3:1-2). I recognize how difficult this topic can be.  It is entirely counter-cultural and frequently emphasized to the exclusion of the critical role of love for Christian husbands.  Yet the only path to answering this question passes through this thorny ground. 

     Take away question: Am I being willful or selfish?  Is my motivation and heart  above reproach?  Am I respecting and loving my husband in this tough situation?

     2. Christians are called to obey God before and above every human authority.  Acts 3-4 tell the story of Peter and John deliberately disobeying the high priest and ruling counsel in order to continue obeying God. Both Stephen and the martyrs who cry out under the altar in Revelation 6:9-11tell the same story.  Faithfulness to our Father takes precedent over any other commitment. But what about women you might ask?  The story of Abigail lays out a path for the women of God to serve Him in the face of even their husband’s foolhardy disobedience. 

     Take away question: Does my marriage and my desire to avoid conflict keep me from obeying God's clear commands?  Do I need to recommit myself to following God regardless of the consequences?

     3. We are to be obedient in the situation where we are a called: The Corinthians were struggling with a number of difficult questions regarding marriage. Many of them still relate to Christians today.  Should we marry?  What if our spouse is a non-Christian? How is serving God different for a married versus single person?  Paul insists that no matter our situation when we were called, we have to be faithful to our commitments. In 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 Paul acknowledged that the married simply do not have the unfettered ability to serve God the way single people can.

     Take away question: Have I allowed my desire to follow God in one aspect to build up into bitterness and anger against my husband?  Have I given my all to follow God by being an amazing wife?

     4. We are called to creativity and flexibility in our work and ministry.  1 Corinthians 9:19-23 is situated in a long discussion on Christian liberty.  Paul insists that he will give up any liberty necessary, make any necessary adjustment in lifestyle and culture to win others to Christ.  In a similar point all Christians are commanded to live at peace with all men in as much as it depends on us (Romans 12:18).  We must find ways to obey God not excuses not to!

     Take away question: If the way I originally envisioned of serving God is not going to work, what other ways can I think of?  Can I fulfill the same command in a way that my husband won’t forbid? Or even in a way he'll gladly participate in? 

I hope as you worked through these principles you found yourself and your situation reflected in the word of God, but if not don't despair.  In the next post we'll be walking through three situations and seeing how these principles apply to a whispering, wailing, or wondering Christian woman! Or you can leave a comment (even anonymously) and we'll talk about your situation specifically! 


PS.  This is the first of a series of posts called "Barriers to Obedience" and in them we will be addressing some of the questions raised by my book "Women of Action: Transformed by Obedience."  Find more of these questions at FAQ or buy my book here.


  1. Great post, Helene! Thanks for having the courage to tackle this sometimes controversial topic, and to do so with Scripture. This is such a challenging situation for Christian women to be in. I pray that women who are in this position will find this post and be encouraged and guided in what they should do. Thank you for your ministry!

    1. Thanks Jerusha! I was really anxious about this post. It really is a complex and difficult problem and so very situationally dependent!

  2. Wonderful wisdom!