How do I Lovingly Submit to my Husband…When We Disagree? (Head-covering) was the first post in a series of “what to do” articles that may be helpful if you find yourself in a situation where you and your husband don’t see eye-to-eye on important issues. Of course, the tips are my opinions; though I believe them to be supported biblically, you are responsible for studying this issue from the Bible on your own.
I want to leave family planning in God’s hands; I want to have children/more children, but my husband doesn’t.
You may or may not like my answer to this one!
It primarily depends upon what class of birth control your husband intends to use. There are several methods, with varying degrees of harm.
Natural Family Planning. This method involves charting the woman’s basal/resting body temperature, cervical mucus, etc. to keep track of signs of impending fertility. The couple avoids sexual relations during her fertile phase, in order to prevent conception.
Even though I believe NFP to be harmful to the individual, to the marriage, and to society, it is safer than other family planning methods since it doesn’t involve the use of foreign objects or chemicals. I think that if a woman’s husband insists on using NFP, it is appropriate for her to comply to his desire. In this case, I think that God will hold him responsible, and not her. That doesn’t mean they can’t talk about it, though. If God brings up the opportunity, she might talk to her husband about it again (after about six months have passed). She shouldn’t nag him, but tell him how she feels honestly, respectfully, and calmly. Prayer, of course, is always very important! She should trust in God’s timing and wisdom as He deals with her husband’s heart.
It would help if he were also involved in the charting and the decision-making about whether to have relations, or not; in that way, he would help carry the burden of their family planning. If a baby were conceived, he couldn’t point his finger at her alone, but would recognize that he is partly “to blame,” as well (though nobody is really “to blame,” except God!).
In our own journey, it was I who first came to the conclusion that we should leave family planning in God’s hands. My husband came to that conclusion later. Because I felt so strongly about it, I told him that he would have to be the one to decide if we were going to be intimate or not on any particular night. I would chart my signs faithfully and honestly, and he could read them and interpret them. If he wanted information about my signs, I would tell him; but if he wanted my opinion on if we should be intimate or not, I would not tell him that: it was up to him. I wasn’t going to try and be sneaky and fake my signs so that I could have a baby–no. Neither was I going to insist on “coming together” if I knew that wasn’t what he wanted. I was just going to leave it up to his choice. It seemed to me that in that way, I would be able to both obey my conscience and obey my husband at the same time. It turned out, that my husband soon became convinced as well to leave family planning in God’s hands, so we didn’t last long in that phase. Now he’s the one to tell people he knows how off course they are to use birth control!
If you’ve gotten to the point to where you recognize the danger of using chemicals and devices, but still don’t feel sure about what the biblical perspective is regarding natural forms of birth control (you need more time to study in depth before making a definite decision), charting your signs might be an option until you are both confident about God’s will. After all, even though you are charting, you have the liberty, as a couple, to decide how you will respond to those signs, on a day-by-day basis. Just don’t use your need for more study time as an excuse to delay obedience! If you know what the right thing to do is, what’s stopping you? Just start doing it right away!
Barrier contraceptives. These use a barrier, such as a condom or diaphragm, often coupled with a spermicide, to keep sperm from meeting the egg. I have to say, that I have never used any of these with my husband. When we were still using birth control and were discussing the options available, I told him that they would make me feel like a prostitute, and like he was just using me for sex. They seemed dirty, gross, and vulgar to me. I probably would have slapped him across the face (sorry, I know that’s horrible) before letting him put one of those in my body!
There are potentially some harmful effects you could experience from using this method. It involves putting foreign objects into your body; those foreign objects could upset your body because of the materials they are made of. Beyond that, and the fact that they are associated with prostitution, I don’t know that there is enough harm in their use to justify refusing to have relations with your husband if this is the method he wants to use. However, the issue needs close scrutiny. Is this something that God would consider “wicked?” I kind of think that it is! If you are convicted that it is, perhaps based upon Genesis 38 (where you will read about a different method, but with the same objective) perhaps you do have reason to not submit. But, I’m not sure enough about it to advise you to disobey your husband regarding it.
This doesn’t mean that you need to give in to his desires by using a diaphragm yourself; if you feel convicted that birth control is wrong, you can make the choice to not use it in the forms that are within your control. But if your husband insists on using a condom, you only have two choices: let him do it, or refuse to be intimate. And that’s the reason why I feel uncertain about what I would advise in this situation. On the one hand, you would be letting your husband put something into your body which doesn’t belong there, and you would be going against your conviction to not use birth control. But on the other hand, if you refused to have relations, you would be “depriving him” (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). Which is the greater wrong?
Withrawal. The sperm is ejaculated outside of the woman’s body. Obviously, the woman has no control over this. However, my interpretation of what the Bible say regarding this matter, is that it is displeasing to the Lord, and merits death by His hand (see Genesis 38). However, since the woman herself has no control over it, the only option biblically available to her is to continue having relations with her husband, praying for him, and hoping that he will change. It wouldn’t be right for her to withhold intimacy from him, since her body is not her own, but his (and, may I add, his body isn’t his, either, but hers, something that we can hope God will reveal to him–see 1 Corinthians 7:1-5).
I see this method as being similar to the barrier method: in both cases, the man’s seed is kept from entering the woman’s body, either partially, or completely. That’s why I think that an argument can be made for the “wickedness” of condom use based upon the same scripture that prohibits withdrawal. Yet, even though a woman could refuse to let her husband put a condom in her body, it’s harder for her to keep him from using withdrawal. After all, she can’t know for sure what he will do, until they actually get to that point, and by then, it’s too late.
Hormonal contraceptives. If you use this method, you will have to put chemicals, and sometimes foreign devices, into your body, to suppress ovulation (some of the time, but not all of the time), and to thin the lining of the uterus, making it very difficult for a newly-conceived baby to implant, thereby killing it (wait, is that called “murder”?) There are various options: the pill, the IUD, the patch, the shot, the ring, and perhaps more that I am not aware of. All of these work similarly. Even though doctors will tell you that they’re “safe,” there are many risks, both to the woman, and to any babies who are conceived (whom she doesn’t know about) after a woman starts to use them. Please, please read the FREE, downloadable book, Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?, by Randy Alcorn. If you want to have the paperback version, it only costs $3.00.
If my husband asked me to take our two-year-old out back and beat her with a crowbar (which he would NEVER do!–but this is just for argument’s sake), I of course would REFUSE! Not only should one refuse to harm another human being in that fashion (possibly killing her) according to the law of the Bible, but one should refuse to do so, according to the law of the land!
Similarly, if my husband asked me to give our two-year-old a certain food that we knew she was severely allergic to, possibly leading to her death, I of course would REFUSE! Even if I wasn’t 100% sure that she would die, I still wouldn’t take the risk!
**Again, this is all hypothetical, and for the sake of making a point. Neither my husband nor I would ever do any such things to our precious children.**
Hormonal contraceptives have the potential to murder days’ old babies. Now, they might not die, but just the possibility alone gives one enough justification to not use this method. This is a situation where I DO NOT advocate that a woman submit to her husband. More than her own health is at stake; a possibly newly-conceived baby’s life is also at stake. Listen: if you believe that a person’s life begins at conception, as the Bible teaches, and Science supports, you should give this matter VERY SERIOUS CONSIDERATION! Don’t go with what your feelings tell you; don’t go with what your friends tell you; don’t even go with what your doctor tells you. Do the research, and humble your heart before God. Read articles like this one, from American Life League.
This is not a situation where I believe that God will excuse your actions by holding your husband responsible instead of you. Why? Because more than you own life is at risk! This isn’t just your body we’re talking about; we’re talking about another human being’s body, too. You can’t kill another person, or knowingly do something that might kill another person, and put the blame on your husband! In this case, it doesn’t work that way. Similar to how I can’t obey my husband if he asks me to do something that would put our two-year-old’s life at risk, I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) obey him if he asks me to do something that would put our two-day-old’s life at risk.
Sterilization/tubal ligation. In this case, the body is surgically “mutilated” so that either the male or the female cannot reproduce. This involves destroying what was previously healthy and good, what God Himself made; it is different than doing a surgery to repair some damaged or sick part of the body. Sometimes there are harmful effects that are not seen until afterwards. I would not do this to myself, and after realizing how sterilization could harm my husband’s health, I knew I couldn’t ask him to do this to himself, either. But, if my husband wanted to do it to himself, how could I stop him? (Just hypothetical, again). I have heard from several people who say they regretted doing this. At the time, they felt so overwhelmed they thought it was the best option; but later on, they wished they wouldn’t have. Sometimes reversals are successful, but sometimes they’re not. If you’ve had “the surgery,” please consider a reversal; there are some organizations that help with expenses.
You should not allow any one to pressure you into “tying your tubes.” Yes, your body belongs to your husband, and his belongs to you. However, he can not, and should not, try to force you to do something to your body that could harm it. Only you can make that choice. If my husband asked me to cut off my right arm, I wouldn’t do it. In fact, I might call the police.
Understandably, a couple may choose birth control because they think that if the woman was to become pregnant again, her health or her life could be at risk. If we were in that situation, what would my husband and I do? Since we’ve never been in that place, I can’t tell you definitively; I can only tell you what I think we’d do (hopefully the right thing). I’m not going to tell you what to do; but I am going to remind you that the Christian life is not meant to be soft and cushy. Our home is in heaven and we are just sojourners here. There may be trials involved when we obey God; that is the risk we take when we follow Christ–we take up our cross. Just like a missionary may obey God at the risk of his life, so a couple may obey God (by leaving family planning in God’s hands) at the risk of the wife’s life. I know this seems cruel. However, I am trying to be consistent and biblical. I’m trying to let go of my preconceptions, and just accept by faith what God says in His word.
I may later change my mind about these things, but I do feel very strongly about them right now. The only thing that could make me change my mind is the Word of God itself.
I believe that the wife should be respectful and obedient toward her husband in most things. There are a few things, however, in which she cannot submit, such as in the case of using hormonal contraceptives. However, this should not be done with a defiant attitude, but with quiet and humble firmness–and while trusting in God for the outcome.
Also, it is important to do much patient study, hopefully together with your husband. Opinions don’t usually change over night. Your husband may need time to change his mind.
It may be hard to submit to your husband if his desire is to not have children! (or to not have more children). If you read the first few chapters of 1 Samuel, you see how much a woman can suffer when she isn’t able to have children! I think that sometimes men don’t understand this deep longing for children. But God does! He created you, and He knows your deepest desires! He listens to your prayers!
Give ear to my words, O LORD,
Consider my meditation.
Give heed to the voice of my cry,
My King and my God,
For to You I will pray.
My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.
This may be a way that you “take up your cross” in order to follow Christ: you obey your husband even though it’s the exact opposite of what you long for! (unless he wants you to do something wicked, or that could kill a baby, or hurt you). All the time knowing that God sees all, knows all, and is capable of bringing to pass what you most long for! However, try to focus on the other blessings that God has given you already. Don’t let the absence of one thing (as huge as it is) diminish your ability to live joyfully in your present circumstances. A prayer is something that we shape with our hearts, and then let go of. After we have released it, it is now out of our hands, and in His.
I hope this has been helpful. This topic is certainly very intense, and very controversial! I have given my own opinion, which I believe is biblical, but I am not responsible for you; YOU are responsible for you and your actions. Please take the time to study.
I’d like to leave off with this important Bible verse:
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20