Marriage is a gift from God, and it’s also the most challenging relationship most people experience. Both husband and wife have to make a determined, diligent commitment to love each other, and that means submission and sacrifice.
It’s so important to understand this and to receive God’s unconditional love for us if we want to really love our spouse. Because without His love, we won’t have the ability to give everything needed for marriage to be healthy and long-lasting.
I know about this from personal experience because when I married Dave Meyer, I was a mess!
Because of the severe abuse I had endured growing up, I was insecure, unstable emotionally and had a lot of shame. So I couldn’t trust Dave and submit to him the way God wanted me to.
But as I became more desperate to have peace in my life, I began to seriously pursue a personal relationship with Jesus and learned how to study the Bible. It’s the best decision I ever made because it led to a healing journey that radically change my life—and our marriage.
A Lesson in Submission: The Towel Incident
Here’s one instance when God taught me a powerful truth about submission.
One morning, as I was praying, the Lord spoke to my heart and said, "Joyce, I really can't do anything else in your life until you do what I have told you to do concerning your husband."
The Lord had been dealing with me about being submissive to Dave. I had such a strong will and was still so insecure and easily offended that it was scary to think about submitting to him in our relationship.
After praying, I got up and went to take a shower in the new bathroom Dave had just installed next to our bedroom. Since he had not yet put up a towel rack, I laid my towel on the toilet seat and started to step into the shower.
Dave saw what I was doing and asked me, "Why did you put your towel there?"
Right away I could feel my emotions getting stirred up.
"What's wrong with putting it there?" I asked in a sarcastic tone.
In his logical, practical way, Dave answered, "Well, since we don't have a floor mat yet, if you put your towel in front of the shower door, when you get out you won't drip water on the carpet while reaching for it."
"Well, what difference would it make if I did get a little water on the carpet?" I asked in a huff.
Sensing the mood I was in, Dave just gave up, shrugged his shoulders, and went on his way.
As it turned out, I did what Dave had suggested, but I wasn’t happy about it. I did the right thing, but I did it with the wrong attitude.
As I stepped into the shower after throwing my towel on the floor, I said to myself, "For crying out loud! I can't even take a shower in peace! Why can't I do anything without somebody trying to tell me what to do?" In my frustration, I went on and on.
Although I was a Christian and had been in ministry for some time at this point, I still lacked control over my own mind, will, and emotions. It was three full days before I calmed down enough to get over that bath towel incident.
For those three days, I was the noisy gong and clanging cymbal described in 1 Corinthians 13.
What Real Love Is Really Like
Love is the highest form of maturity. It often requires a selfless sacrifice. And if we aren’t willing to make some sort of sacrifice on our part in a relationship, we probably don't love the other person at all.
The kind of love people can give in and of themselves is so limited. It gives back in response to what someone has done (often out of a sense of obligation) and it is often used to manipulate others to gain control of them.
But God’s love is pure, selfless, and unconditional. He doesn’t give us His mercy or favor only if we deserve it or try to earn it from Him through good works. No, God loves us because He IS love—it’s who He is and what He does (1 John 4:8).
The Beauty of Sacrificial Love
When it comes to marriage, you must have God’s love in your heart in order to truly love your spouse. When you do, you’ll always have his/her best interest in mind and desire to serve and support them. You’ll focus more on what you can do for your spouse than striving to make sure you get your way all the time.
Sacrifice is not always fun or easy, but when it’s motivated by godly love, it always brings greater peace and joy to your soul. It is a powerful investment in your marriage that will reap great rewards because God will work in both of your lives in amazing ways as you trust and obey Him.
I’m so thankful God helped me understand the benefits of godly submission and sacrifice in my marriage. Dave and I have been married for more than 50 years now, and our life together is the best it’s ever been.
I want to encourage you to give your heart and your marriage to God completely. Trust Him to give you the grace to love your spouse as He loves you. The blessings that will come as you diligently submit and sacrifice as God leads you to do so will far outweigh the growing pains you experience in the process!