Submission and the Single Life

By November 16, 20086 Comments

Nervous brideFor many women, the idea of trusting a man TOTALLY in marriage is a scary thing. It’s not that their husbands aren’t trustworthy or that they don’t trust their husbands in some things. But the idea of submitting when you think you’re in the right, or when something really life-changing is on the line? That can be hard.

And that’s why so many women find themselves wrestling with a tendency to take control. Stasi Eldredge describes this battle in her book, Captivating. She gets to the heart of this ever-raging struggle as she writes:

Aren’t your deepest worries and heartaches relational–aren’t they connected to someone? Even when things are good, is your vast capacity for intimacy ever filled in a lasting way? There is an emptiness in us that we continually try to feed. And can’t you see how much you need to have things under control–whether it’s a project or a ministry or a marriage? Are you comfortable trusting your well-being to someone else? And haven’t you felt…your vulnerability as a woman to be a liability? Most women hate their vulnerability….Most of our energy is spent trying to hide our true selves, and control our worlds to have some sense of security.

Control is a major issue that women struggle to surrender in marriage, but as Eldredge points out, this is not a problem that begins in marriage. It begins long before.

Submission is a discipline that you must work on cultivating now, as a single woman. Think about it this way…

It really is no wonder that the transition from the single life to married life can be so rocky–they generally encompass two completely different mindsets! As a single woman, you learn to be independent and look out for yourself. But then you get married and you’re supposed to let someone else take care of you.

You go from being independent to dependent. What was once a virtue becomes a vice. A practice that once guarded your lifestyle can now sabotage your lifestyle. What are we to make of this discrepancy?

The problem here is that the predominant mindset of single women today is in direct conflict with the Christian life. The idea that single women are somehow independent and must fend for themselves is a mindset that conflicts with the sovereignty of God. If we profess Christ, then there is no independent. There is no “fend for yourself.” And there is no “I am in control.”

On the contrary, it is God who is in control. God takes care of you. To be Christian is to be dependent on Him.

An unhealthy independence is easy to hide when you’re on your own, but it quickly becomes apparent when your life is intertwined with another. It is a mindset that short-circuits your ability to trust others because it is founded upon a trust in yourself alone. That said, if you have thoroughly ingrained in your heart and mind a spirit of independence, then you set yourself up for failure in all relationships, not the least of which is your relationship with God.

With all of this in mind, an inability to trust a husband in marriage is not necessarily a marital problem. It is a spiritual one. It comes from years and years of not trusting God to provide and take care of you. When you live in the knowledge that God is in control, it takes a lot of pressure off of trusting others. A trust in God makes all other forms of trust possible.

So if you are single now, begin the hard work of learning submission–submission to God. Regardless of whether or not you get married one day, this is a discipline that will factor into your job, your church, and your family relationships. It is the difference between relating to others in fear, or relating to others in freedom.

That is a struggle that every woman must face and fight, no matter her marital status.


  • beau says:

    well written and dead on.

  • Jenn Pappa says:

    Hey Sharon 🙂 I think you are right on that every woman must learn to submit no matter their marital status, but I also think that’s true for men too. We all struggle with submission, no matter where we are on the hierarchy (unless you are at the top … aka God).

  • Sharon says:

    very true! the discipline of submission is not a uniquely female pursuit. it should define every Christian’s relationship to God. thanks for adding that!

  • Leia says:

    But the idea of submitting when you think you’re in the right, or when something really life-changing is on the line? That can be hard.

    It’s not about submission…it’s about compromise. The bible says submit to each other.

    And to say that a woman becomes dependent on a man makes no sense either…because if anything men and women become dependent on each other. Both are heads…and both submit; it’s equal.

  • Sharon says:

    In response to Leia, you are right in acknowledging that the passage of Scripture that instructs Christians to submit to one another (Eph. 5:21).

    However, that is not the only Scripture on the topic,, and we have to be careful about picking and choosing what we believe. While Scripture Ephesians 5:21 appears to be referencing the entire church body, the chapter moves on in verse 22 to the more particular realm of marriage. In this verse, it instructs women to submit to their wives.

    Furthermore, you mention that “both are heads,” but verse 23 tells us that the husband alone is the head of the wife. 1 Corinthians 11:3 reiterates this point as well.

    Now the thing to keep in mind in both of these context is the larger context, which is the relationship between Christ and the Church. The Church submits to Christ freely and joyfully because of how perfectly Christ loves her. It is to be the same in marriage. This means that the husband does what is best for the wife, listens to her, takes counsel from her, and puts her before himself. At times he may “submit” his own selfish desires to her best interest.

    By seeking to have a holistic representation of Scripture, we find not oppression, but the greatest freedom for the wife.

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