When it’s okay to go against your husband’s wishes
There may be times in your life that the best way for you to honor the LORD is to go against your husband’s wishes. Total submission to your husband without appeal or alternatives is not taught in the Bible.
- Have you ever gone against your husband’s wishes?
- Did you know you could disagree with him?
- Did you disagree prayerfully, with humility, while respecting him?
When it comes to marriage, many people in the church believe there are only two choices: either a woman obeys her husband’s every wish or she dishonors him and is guilty of sin. This is an example of what is called a false dichotomy: presenting two and only two options, when in fact, others exist.
Do you remember the story of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25? David and his men were in exile, on the run from King Saul, and they happened to be near the property of a wealthy man named Nabal. David sent Nabal a blessing as well as a gracious request for food for himself and his men, which Nabal rudely rejected. David became angry and ordered his men to ride out with him to kill Nabal and all his men.
One of Nabal’s servants was understandably distressed about what was about to happen. He knew his master was “such a worthless man that no one can speak to him” (v. 17), so he chose instead to appeal to Nabal’s wife, Abigail. We are told that Abigail, in contrast to her “harsh and badly behaved” husband, was “discerning and beautiful” (v. 3).
Our heroine wasted no time in gathering a bunch of food and wine, unbeknownst to her husband, and sending it before her to David. When she reached the still-angry future king, she “fell on her face before David” and pleaded for her husband, offering to take his guilt upon herself (v. 24). In doing so, she didn’t excuse or minimize her husband’s sin; in fact, she told David that Nabal was a worthless man (1 Samuel 25:25, Romans 3:12).
The next part cracks me up. In verse 26, Abigail said, “Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, since the LORD has restrained you from shedding blood, and from avenging yourself by your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek evil against my lord, be as Nabal.”
We aren’t told before this that David actually had changed his mind about killing Nabal, but Abigail speaks of David relenting as if it were a foregone conclusion. She makes me think of my friend Darlene, who, when she asks her kids to do something and sees they are reluctant, smiles sweetly and says, “Thank you for obeying!” Keep in mind that Abigail was addressing the LORD’s anointed man! (See Proverbs 28:1)
And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!
For as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male.”
Then David received from her hand what she had brought him. And he said to her, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have obeyed your voice, and I have granted your petition.” — 1 Samuel 25:32–35 (ESV)
Soon after this, the LORD took Nabal’s life. David proposed to Abigail and she accepted. If Abigail lived in our time, I would have expected at this point that she would have started strutting around singing R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Part of me wants her to!
But she didn’t. In her exquisite humility, Abigail unknowingly bore the image of the Christ she would never see this side of glory. (See John 13:3–5)
And she rose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, “Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” — 1 Samuel 25:41 (ESV)
Call to action
- Have you ever gone against your husband’s wishes?
- Have you done so in humility, the way Abigail did?
It’s never okay to sin in response to being sinned against. As daughters of the sovereign LORD of the universe, we are obligated to bear His image as we serve our fellow image bearers (James 3:9–10).
- When someone sins against you, do you treat them the way God treated you (Romans 5:8)? If not, why not?
- Is it possible you think more highly of yourself than you ought (Romans 12:3, Matthew 7:1–5)?
I wonder how long Abigail had to live the way she did with Nabal. And I also wonder how many women have been encouraged for thousands of years to trust the LORD because of her example. Whatever she endured, if you ask her about it when you get to heaven, I’m certain she will tell you it was worth it.
That said, there may be times when the best way to honor the LORD is to go against your husband’s wishes (1 Corinthians 10:31). How might this work itself out in your life?
For example, if your husband is in the habit of sinfully ordering you around when he wants something, you might consider appealing to him to speak in kinder tones. Perhaps in the moment, you can’t say this to him but in less tense times you may be able to draw him out about his harshness.
Each situation is different. There may be marriages where the anger has escalated to the point where it may be wise to refuse the husband’s angry requests.
Even worse, where your safety is in danger, you may need to leave your home for a brief period, with a heart toward your husband’s repentance and restoration (Galatians 6:1–2). You must protect yourself and your children if your husband is unwilling to do so. You should talk to your pastor, elders, or even the police (in the case of physical violence) if you are being abused (Matthew 18:15–17).
If you are in a difficult marriage where submission is being distorted and abused, I appeal to you to prayerfully reflect on this article. Also take the time to learn how to lead your husband from behind. If we can answer your questions, please go here.
As I write this, I’m praying for you. May the LORD grant to you and your dear husband the grace to be transformed into His image, and to spread His fame in the world around you (2 Corinthians 3:18).