Our culture hates humility and femininity, so you can imagine what the culture thinks of humble and feminine women. I personally have suffered from the consequences of my own sinful desires to be in control of my marriage, and to be constantly thought strong and proud. I gave into the desire to see myself as the head of the family, I bought cultural lies about feminism and shed many tears over the constant tug-a-war my heart and spirit played concerning my longing to sin versus personal conviction about that sin. In eight years of marriage, my husband and I have fought endlessly over this struggle. Looking back, I am thankful God created him with a gentle and calm spirit, that our warring was mostly me in sin, with him graciously and mercifully standing in the way to keep me from further sin and leading me back to truth. In those years, I wore myself down spiritually and emotionally day after day engaging in things that wreaked havoc on me as a Christian and as a woman. It was only in the last year that I realized God was using all of those moments to painfully strip layer after layer of pride, resentment, and doubt surrounding my heart. The good news is God sanctifies His people despite our depravity. He will not allow any of His children to remain in sin, and He will use our faithlessness to point us back to His perfect faithfulness.
In Genesis 16, Sarai deliberately disregards the promise that God made to Abraham in 15, abuses her power of authority over Hagar, disrespects her husband’s authority as head of his household, and shows how little faith she has that God will keep his promise despite all He has already done to bless and prosper them in a foreign land. She is bitter, resentful, and manipulative, and her sin tragically forces Hagar into a situation that ends up pitting Sarai against her own husband.
Likewise, Abraham, as the leader of his house, should have immediately rebuked her selfishness and reminded Sarai of God’s faithfulness. Instead, he allows his wife to take the lead and lead she does, right into a pit of unthinkable complications and consequences. The Lord is the only one who takes any mercy on Hagar and the son born to her, promising that he, Ishmael, would father twelve princes.
Sarai was so concerned with providing an heir, even one illegitimately, so sure she knew a better way than God, that she inadvertently caused the birth of an entire nation that would forever be at war with God’s people. If Sarai would have placed her faith in God and His promise, rather than resenting His divine design for the family and how she fit into that design, her anguish would have soon disappeared. Instead, she covered that anguish with a blanket of sin that never dissolved any of her pain to begin with.
If only Sarai had that faith. If only Abraham had led his family well. God knew the plan He had for them, a purpose so grand in scale they couldn’t fathom. Oh, what promises God had made and what destiny He had for both of them! Ishmael fathered princes, yes, but Isaac fathered kings. Yet they thought they knew better: Sarai despising her barren and broken body, Abraham despising his wife enough to allow her control.
Fortunately, the story doesn’t end with the corruption of sin, nor does it end in shame for Sarai and Abraham’s faults. God wasn’t surprised by the character displayed by either of them. He would give Sarai a son soon, just as he promised, and with it a new name. And one day, many years after Sarah was dead and buried and turned back to dust, he would give another Son to all of us because we are all just like these two broken people: bitter, resentful, manipulative, prideful, ugly, faithless.
Women, hear me when I say: God designed the world, the family, and our own roles with our desires and needs in mind. He has not given us any of our placement to hurt or harm us. Quite the contrary, God designed men to lead and women to submit so that we might mirror His own relationship with the Church. When we as women of faith submit lovingly and humbly to our husbands, we parallel the beautiful Bride of Christ submitting lovingly and humbly to our Savior and Bridegroom. Viewing the humility of our own design in any other way will lead to suffering. In submission to Christ, our eyes turn upward and away from the false promises of the world. Only then can our hearts be truly fulfilled and our lives abundant with joy.
Likewise, husbands, love your wives just as Christ loves the church. This means never allowing her to take on roles not designed for her because she does not know best for herself, rather God does. Nor do you know best for yourself, rather God does.
My fellow women, God knows our hearts are deceitful above all things. He knows what the curse in Genesis 3 has done to shine light on the wickedness of our own desires, and he knows we will surely fail in our love, humility, and submission. Just as Sarai failed in her faith in God, we will seek other promises and fulfillment outside of our Lord. But take heart! Our God is faithful to us even though we are not, and His mercies are new each morning. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Again, in 2 Timothy 2:13 His word tells us, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
Be at peace then, my sisters, knowing that the Lord is good and He is the faithful One in this relationship. Rejoice at this news and be diligent in confessing to Him who is merciful and faithful so that He may refine you in holy fire.
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8