This article is about mutual submission in marriage and serving one another in love. While God wants us to submit to each other in love, this does not mean he wants us to submit to physical, emotional, or spiritual abuse. This podcast discusses mutual submission in marriage. If you are unsure if your relationship is abusive or you need help navigating emotional abuse, the website Flying Free is an excellent resource.
Do you struggle with serving your spouse?
After 23 years of marriage, I wish I could say I have this down pat, but honestly, I’m still a work in progress. I know that God is chiseling away at my character to give me more of a servant’s heart.
Galatians 5:13 says that we should “serve one another humbly in love.”
But all too often, I let my pride prevent me from walking humbly in my household.
My thoughts are consumed with how I feel—how tired I am.
I keep a record of wrongs—a mental tally of things I wish my husband would do differently.
And sometimes, I’m so focused on myself that I don’t appreciate and notice how hard my husband is working.
These are often the things that prevent me from better serving my spouse.
God’s Word says that we should love others the way He loved us.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-5
If anyone deserved to be served, it was the Son of God. But His mission while on earth was to serve, not to be served.
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28
How can we love our spouse with the same mindset as Jesus?
Like Christ, we should have a servant’s attitude and serve out of love for God and others and not out of guilt or obligation.
I believe this starts within our own heart and then pours forth into action.
Here are some ways to grow in serving your spouse.
- Confess your sins and ask God to show you areas in your marriage you need to work on. If your spouse has been acting distant or cold towards you, ask God to soften his/her heart. Ask God to help you love your spouse when you don’t feel like it.
- Get Rid of Bitterness. As you pray for God to show you areas of sin in your heart, he may reveal a root of bitterness there.
Bitterness is anger, resentment, and disappointment for being treated unfairly.
*If you are in an abusive marriage you should and probably do feel angry. God does not want you to be abused. In this situation he wants you to be healed and restored. He wants you to learn how to set boundaries for yourself. You can be angry and get help and learn how to take care of yourself. Please see the Flying Free website to gain further information that will help you gain the confidence and courage to break free from abuse. God’s word, promises, and truths are never meant to keep you bound in abusive relationships. God’s word and the truth of God brings freedom.
We all deal with hurt feelings in a marriage that can lead to bitterness. There will be times in marriage when the workload may feel unfair to you. Or you may feel hurt and angry over other issues.
Bitterness will affect our love and service toward one another. It will cause us to focus inward—to keep a record of wrongs.
Bitterness leads to resentment. And when we resent our spouses we will have a hard time loving them.
Instead of allowing bitterness to build up, give yourself time to process your feelings, and deal with them. Why are you angry? Why are you hurt? Strive for healthy and open communication with your spouse.
If communication is unhealthy and destructive, seek help. I recommend finding a Christian psychologist who can help you learn how to communicate in nonviolent and empathetic ways.
See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:15
- Forgive. When I remember the immense grace poured out to me through Christ’s death, then I’m reminded that I need to extend that grace back towards my husband.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Set your spouse free from the burden of meeting your every expectation. Let God satisfy your heart and soul.
- Empathize. My husband is a fireman. It’s not unusual for me to have the kids for three days at a time. It’s easy for me to ignore what his shift has been like at work. He gets home and I want a break. I have no idea what kind of calls he had the night before or if he got any sleep.
When my husband is home he helps out a lot with our four kids. He usually picks the kids up from school and takes them to their evening practices. When I put myself in his shoes, I realize how hard he works. I sympathize with him for having to get up at 4 am and commute several hours to work.
Sometimes he’s tired and needs to take a nap in the afternoon. I’ve been picking up the kids on the days he needs the extra rest.
Think about what the day has been like for your spouse. Maybe he/she is just as tired or possibly even more tired than you are?
- Keep track of the good. Most husbands and wives could easily come up with a list of things they wish their spouse would do or not do. Instead, try listing all the positive things your husband does to help. Fostering a heart of gratitude is huge in keeping any marriage strong. If you haven’t been deliberate about making a list of what he’s doing right, give it a try. You may be surprised at how much you’ve taken for granted!
- Ask him/her how you can pray for them. Send a text and let him know you’re thinking of him.
- Ask if there’s anything you can do to help him/her. Maybe there’s an errand or a chore you can help out with.
- Do something you know he/she would appreciate. No one knows your spouse better than you. Every relationship is different. My husband’s love language is acts of service. Mine is words of encouragement. You know what makes your spouse feel loved and appreciated. Maybe it’s making his favorite dinner. Maybe it’s initiating sexual intimacy. Maybe he loves simple affection. Whatever it is, make an effort to meet his/her needs.
- Leave him/her a love note.
- Thank him/her for working so hard! This is the action step to keeping track of the good. Words are important. Use yours to encourage your spouse.
Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord (Romans 12:9-13).
Keep in mind, if you are in an abusive relationship the best way to honor your spouse is to see the reality of your situation for yourself and get help in order for healing to take place for both of you. Check out the website Flying Free.