Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. Philippians 4:11 (NASB)
This past week I had the privilege of speaking to a group of women on the topic of contentment. I had some additional thoughts on that subject that I didn't go into during the speaking venue. In light of some of the well-meaning but dangerously wrong counsel I have heard given to women over the years, I thought I would bring out something important pertaining to this verse.
I am often asked questions like what to do when my husband hits me, or wants me to watch pornographic movies, or swap partners? What do I do when I am ill and he won't allow me to go to the doctor? How should I respond when he demands I provide a record of all my activities of the day? Is a woman to be content in such circumstances?
Another question posed to me is from women who are presently working full or part time and want to quit their jobs and stay at home but her husband says she has to work. Sometimes the question is about spending money or what she does in her free time or who her friends are.
There are covenantal obligations and non-covenantal obligations, there are preferences and there are commands. Even in a covenantal obligation such as marriage their can be exceptions to be content in every circumstance. The woman who is beaten or abused by her husband has no obligation to be content. In fact, to counsel her to live this way is completely contrary to the Scriptures! A beaten or abused woman is not only a wife, she is a sister in Christ to her husband and a part of the Bride of Christ and the church has an obligation to assist her.
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid;for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. Romans 13:1-5 (NASB)
Romans 13 is not a suggestion, and Christians are to submit to the authorities placed over us, for they are there to protect us. If it is determined a woman is being abused by her husband, the church is commanded to hold the him accountable for his sin against his wife. In the case of spousal abuse this means we literally help the woman to remove herself from the situation, call the police, and encourage her to press charges against the husband. Laws are in place to help women in such cases. The goal is to restore the sinning brother to fellowship, so Matthew 18 must also be a part of the plan and aggressive counseling measures must be implemented with strict accountability!
Any time a husband asks his wife to sin she is not obligated to obey him. She cannot participate in sexual sin because she must first submit to God and cannot disobey God in order to obey her husband.
Other issues like working or staying home are not as clear cut as we might like to think. While it is true that Titus 2 tells women to be keepers at home that is not always possible due to economic situations in the marriage. If the couple has not lived by sound financial principles, or if they've made poor decisions by getting into debt will require 2 incomes. Making good decisions with money, paying down debt, and living below your means will help to return a working woman to the home in the future. In such cases discontentment is not a bad thing since it is spurring you on to make necessary changes in your life.