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Bitterness of Soul – I Want to Be His FIRST Priority!

I have always loved the story of Hannah in the bible because I identified with her, but not in the conventional way that you might imagine.  I have actually wept as I read this story because my heart hurt so much for Hannah- the woman with a deep desire who was provoked by her husband’s other wife, Peninnah. 
When I thought about writing this yesterday, I thought I was going to go in a different direction with the lessons I see in this story for me in my life but there is a lesson that has been specifically important to me.
Thankfully, I have two beautiful children the Lord has given to me so I have never experienced infertility.  I do not identify what Hannah experienced in that. 
But I do STRONGLY identify with Hannah’s feelings of wanting something so badly. 
You see, I have an idol that I keep struggling with.  I am crying as I share this with you because it is such a raw and tender place in my heart.  I think that I have crucified this idol… and it springs back.  I think I have thrown it away… and it reappears. 
My idol is that, in my marriage, I have always wanted to be my husband’s number one priority.  And in many, many, MANY, too many to count ways, I am.  But that has never satisfied me.  I have craved being his priority above all else. 
This has almost destroyed me at times.  This has given our marriage more dings and dents than any other issue we have faced.
And to be clear, a wife should be her husband’s first earthly priority.  Why else would God have commanded that a man ‘cleave’ to his wife?  But the enforcement of that is not a wife’s responsibility or her jurisdiction.  It is God’s.
Priority has been something I have craved.  Maybe you can identify?  I wanted him to not only have me as his first priority but to be very verbal and strong about letting others know that. 
I wanted to be his priority when it came to his free time and activities and when it came to all his other human relationships.  Thankfully, I have always been okay with him having his own time, hobbies and relationships with other people BUT if I felt threatened or if push came to shove, my idol would rear it’s head.  It would scream to be sated.  Until I felt there was some gesture on my husband’s part to prove his devotion lay first with me, I felt bitter and hurt.  Sometimes he made that gesture on his own and my idol would sneer in victory.  Sometimes me made that gesture after a not so gentle shove from his wife and my idol would taunt me for the insincerity of it all.  Sometimes there was no gesture at all.  At those times, I would not know how I would ever deal with my heartache.  The bible says that Hannah  “was in bitterness of soul” and I get that. (1 Samuel 1:10) I feel you, Hannah.  Bitterness of soul is a perfect description  for how I felt when I did not get what I wanted.
Now, before you think I am comparing myself to this saintly woman of God, I am asking you to just stay with me.  It is going to come together.  I have/had an idol.  Hannah had a desire.  But hang on….
Because of this sin in my life- of idolatry- this lesson has come to me time and time again… because I kept failing it, I had to keep retaking the class. 
Hannah wanted a child so badly.  On top of that, Peninnah was very, very unkind to her.  It wasn’t enough that she “was in bitterness of soul” but she had to deal with her husband’s other wife, Peninnah.
Have you ever been there?  You have a wound so raw and so painful and there is someone who knows exactly how to pour salt into it?  How to increase your pain and hurt? And seems to take pleasure in doing it? 
I have felt that way.  I have felt like the relationships my husband seemed to put before me were with people who took pleasure in hurting me and flaunting that.  The bible says this of Peninnah, “And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret.”   (1 Samuel 1:6) Sometimes people know just where to hit you.  They have something that you want so badly and they let you know they have what you want. 
Here is where Hannah and I have taken different paths.  Hannah made a godly choice.  She chose to give this situation over to God.  Right after the bible tells us she was in bitterness of soul, it tells us that she “prayed unto the Lord and wept sore”.  In the very same verse- she was in bitterness of soul and then she prayed unto the Lord and wept sore.  She GAVE this over to God.  She poured out her heart to Him.  And she did it without hesitation.  And she left it with him, to answer or not to answer in the way she hoped. 
I did not make the godly choice.  Thankfully, I am learning to do so, now.  But for many years, I stayed in bitterness of soul.  I did not move on to give this to God to do with as He saw fit as Hannah did.  I stayed in that bitterness for 10 long years. There was MUCH hesitation on my part.  I enjoyed my bitterness of soul.  I got very comfortable there.  That bitterness was my constant companion and I was very, very attached to it.
But that bitterness was not healthy for me.  Although it fed my pride and my arrogance and my sinful nature and that felt enjoyable to wallow in, it also was misery to live with. It robbed me of many precious moments I could have and should have enjoyed with my husband.  It gave me a skewed sense of reality.  It made me see everything through my’ bitterness lens.’ A lot of times things I felt like I was put as second and I really wasn’t.  Sometimes I truly was.  This bitterness lens kept me so focused on the idol of always being my husband’s first priority that I missed a lot of blessings along the way.
Working through giving up this idol has been a process.  I think I am through with it and it pops back up again.  I had to fight it down again this week.  I have to be alert for it at all times and deal with it the minute it appears.  I have to make the decision to turn away from this idol and toward the one of true peace- allowing God to be my all. 
How I wish I had made the choice to turn to God earlier and hand Him my heart like Hannah did.  I wish I had not allowed myself to dwell on the salt others were pouring into my wounds and let that salt become poison.
Thankfully, I am learning.  I cannot say this idol will never spring up again because I believe it most likely will.  I also believe that God will help me to crucify it each and every time if I turn to Him, if I keep handing Him my heart, if I keep my eyes focused on Him.
Don’t be fooled; I still have to deal with this idol at times.  It is not as strong as it once was.  I don’t feel it lingering as often.  Some days, I have let go of it completely. 
Letting go of this idol allows me to breathe.  To relax.  Standing guard as the priority police was hard work.  The flip side or retiring from that position is that you can really get addicted to living in peace.  I am.  🙂
And the beautiful thing about this is that many times when I let go, I see the love that my husband does have for me.  My eyes are opened to all the ways he does express that each and every day.  It was like for years he was handing me flowers and I was screaming and rejecting them because they weren’t the right color.  I am lucky he kept trying at all.
I am learning to be thankful for any gesture of love that says I am a priority to my husband.  Sometimes this even inspires him to want to give me more.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  I can be okay either way without that pesky idol in the way
Letting go of your husband is only one part of this equation.  Letting God have your husband to deal with is completely a different one.  Putting things in God’s hands makes a beautiful ending.
A Huge Key to Contentment – By StillJennifer

27 thoughts on “Bitterness of Soul – I Want to Be His FIRST Priority!

  1. I am glad it blessed you today. It is good to know that your struggles can help others. Please pray I can continue leaving this idol squarely where it belongs- in God’s huge, capable hands.

  2. Gosh, I needed to read this post sooo badly! God is so good! Thank you to the wife who wrote and shared this with us!

    April, you have no idea how much your website/blog has helped me. I cannot WAIT to buy your book. I thank God for blessing me with you. 🙂

    1. Heather,

      I’m so glad this was helpful! 🙂

      It is a painful journey at times. As God chisels away to sculpt us into something beautiful in His eyes – that chisel hurts! But what God is doing is so very beautiful and will bring Him glory in the end. 🙂

  3. Still on this journey, had to stop myself much this evening asI dictate to my husband and sons. I caught myself each time I started doing it. They built me a wonderful rabbit pen for my bunnies to run around outside. I love it but almost ruined the feeling of love I felt from them bytrying to control everything they did. Stopping myself is great. I never was aware of it before. My behavior use to (tick) them off. Today was really nice. Im baking their favorite cookies tonight as a thankyou for my bunny pen and they are relaxed and happy cause I left them alone 🙂 yaaa me.It was hard to control myself but thank uou God for helping me stop. Its an awful struggle and I hope one day itgoes away.

      1. I found this blog site thru a google search on “how to encourage your husband to be more godly”. Lol. And in reading your blogs and the various responses I have found some great encouragement and tools to help me with my concerns.

        And the “first priority” topic hit head on. I can definitely admit I struggle with the same idol. I want to be first in my husband’s life and in every motivation because he is that for me.

        My husband is a very sociable person. This is the thing I love and hate at the same time. His love for social media has gotten him into trouble before in our marriage and to this day I despise social websites simple because of the bad memories and soreness it brings to mind. To be honest i don’t know if I completely trust him on these sites. I saw his Instagram page recently and if I didnt know him I would think he was a bachelor. Seeing that made me wonder about his priorities in life. Are your friends, bars, beer, and yourself (b/c of all the self-portraits) more important to you in life? That was the question as i saw the page. It hurt. Out of all the photos of him and his friends (male and female) only a few are of me and him. I feel like he does it for show.

        This really got my head going. We’ve talked about it before. He sees nothing wrong with the page and when i try to explain how it makes me feel its likes I’m speaking a different language. What do i do???

        All i know to do is pray and seek God for the answer. I see this more deeply than he does. I see this as a way for the devil to seep into our marriage. More of a spiritual warfare. And not to mention my husband has a ways to go in spiritual maturity. So how do I reach out to him? How do i tell him what im feeling without making him feel bad? How do u help someone understand something spiritual when they just aren’t there yet to fully understand?

  4. Jaref

    I am so thankful you are working on you and more importantly, your relationship with God. That is wonderful and so important!

  5. Jaref,

    Thank you for sharing your story! No – I understand the husband being an idol thing – and how easily that can lead to disappointment and a desire to look elsewhere for that “feeling loved” thing.

    I am SO excited about what God is doing in your heart!!!!! I can’t wait to see His plans for you. 🙂

    Much love to you!

  6. I can relate to this. When my husband and I were first married 26 years ago, we understood and agreed that God would come first for us in terms of priority and we’d come second to each other followed by our children. We were really okay with that yet somewhere along the way, *I* wanted to come first. I don’t know if that attitude was due to my reading one romance novel too many (I don’t recommend that) or buying into what Hollywood sells as romance, but I’m here to tell you that feeling sorry for myself just didn’t work for either of us. It caused strife and made us both unhappy. In the last three years or so, we’ve been striving to work on our marriage together and to be on the same page. We’ve focused on a biblical marriage and we’ve never been happier. Like you, I’ve learned that wanting to be first in my husband’s life was an idol and most importantly, I’ve learned that the more he puts God first, the more he loves me the way Christ loves the church. I am very well loved, indeed.

  7. it was like reading my own story…just couldnt put it into words! thank you!what a struggle it is to just let go,seems the easiest yet is one of the hardest things for me to do!your words did open my eyes to the depth my bitterness laid and the time wasted just makes me sad to think about!but the great news is that our Lord is with me every step of the way loving me beyond imagine!thanks again for the beautiful words!you are a blessing in my life!:)

  8. Thank you very much April. I have tried to learn a different way to talk to my husband after he would tell me he feels like he’s doing something wrong when I’d tell him something I was feeling or needed. I’ll look at your video though. I’ve basically just quit telling him anything real or important bc it is too much work to figure out how to say something in a way he won’t take wrong and that’s just causing me to be a fake person and sadly I think it’s changed the way I look at everything-I think I may have lost the ability to see and expect good in the world, am becoming negative and critical of everything except him as I’m hyper sensitive to being respectful now, and am admitting I think I have lost my trust in God. I had the thought tonight that I should unsubscribe to the Christian marriage blogs bc they make me feel like all the burden is on me as a wife to figure out his way of communication, being respected etc. which is adding to my pain and I should see if I can try to feel happy thinking of him as a friend and roommate instead of having expectation of feeling loved, heard, or fulfilled in my marriage. I know my outlook isn’t good but realistically I know he is not motivated as a man to search out ways to make things better, ways to communicate w me, find people who could help us etc and I’m just feeling tired and resigned.

  9. NOTE – This is a generic comment, not intended specifically towards the wife who wrote about her experience:

    Regarding the statement: “a wife should be her husband’s first earthly priority”, the only way this will be the case is if he is being led by the Holy Spirit to do so, as this isn’t a natural stance to take. If he doesn’t have a close walk with the Lord (or any at all), then he will be inclined to address life via “the flesh”, which is generally self-centered.

    There are two things to consider here:
    1) You may have expectations regarding how you think he should be treating you, as he actually may have it in his heart that you’re his first priority but it just doesn’t appear to be the case because of what you think/feel that looks like.
    2) He may not be in tune with the Lord, so may not understand that you are supposed to be his first priority.

    One thing’s for sure…you can’t change him. That’s God’s job. But you can change you. Examine your heart and see if you are walking in the center of God’s will for your life. As you deny yourself and seek to bless your husband, you will find contentment in knowing that you’re doing what you are designed to do….even if your husband never changes.
    I would definitely encourage you to ask the Lord to draw your husband into a close relationship with Him.
    Lastly, remember that you’re not his Holy Spirit, so don’t allow yourself to behave like you are by telling him how he should be behaving towards you. I assure you….that can’t end well (been there, done that – just sayin’).

  10. I too have longed to be my husband’s first priority, although I believe I have not made that an idol. I used to have huge anger issues over how my husband acted, treated me, talked to me, etc and after years of denial of that anger or justifying it, God healed me and I have felt such peace despite the fact my husband really hasn’t changed. God has helped me love him and accept him as he is – and where he is and it was so freeing to let go of the expectations. Yes, I still wish he made me more of a priority, but I accept who he is and am grateful for the times he does show me love and kindness.

    However, more often than not, he is obsessed with himself – his desires, wants, needs, his unhappiness….and what he wants from me. Almost all our arguments have been about how he couldn’t deal with my anger (and he was completely justified in that) or it’s how I’m not following through on the things I said I’d try to give him – – more respect, listening to him, asking him questions, asking for advice, etc. He recently told me that his deepest desire is to have a deep and intimate relationship with a woman and he feels his only choices are to go without it (by staying with me) or break up our marriage in order to find it elsewhere. I’m simply tired of not being who he wants me to be. I try and if I’m still not doing it right after 14 years I suspect I never will.

    Also in a recent argument, over how I don’t trust his views on things (we are complete opposites politically) he said “What am I here for?” – which I took to mean that he thinks he has no purpose as a husband if I’m not looking to him for advice and leadership. I do understand that the husband needs to be the head, but I feel the answer to “What am I here for” should be to love and cherish me, to take care of me….I guess that makes me just as selfish as I think he is. But I’m just weary and ready to give up, and let him go so he can find what he really wants in a woman.

    1. Anon…Goodness thats a lot of stress.He sounds terribly insecure.Maybe your relationship with God is unsettling him. He has made you his idol?

  11. Wow! Beautiful post. I commented on one of yours I read earlier and then read this one. It kind of answered my previous comment. Thank you. Spoke to me immensely. 🙂 I am so guilty of this and need to get better at just surrendering all to my Lord and Savior. ♥

  12. Aryanella,

    I am excited to hear that you are seeing some healing. That is awesome!

    Is your husband a believer in Christ?

    What is your relationship with Christ, please?

    How long have you been married?
    How long has this been going on that he hasn’t brought you with him to social events?
    When did things change?

    What were things like before you got married?

    Much love to you!

    1. We are both believers but we do not actively practising the life. I am trying to start, though. We are married for 6 years. Before we were married and before kids, we always go to social events together. But after we have kids, it seems that he always abandons me at home with the kids and go to social events by himself. When I suggested that we bring the kids together, he always rejects on the reason of inconvenience. Both of our kids are still toddlers and can be quite a handful. Sometimes I just feel like he is trying to lead a double life…single when out with friends and married when at home. I don’t want to keep having negative thoughts of him because it is exhausting. On a bad day…I sometimes think he doesn’t like married life and want to live like a carefree bachelor…which is a set back on my respectful wife journey. Is there any way to solve this? Please help.

      1. Aryanella,

        If you are not living for Christ, then, I think it is time to evaluate if you are actually a believer in Christ. Someone who is a disciple of Christ puts their faith in Him AND lives in obedience out of gratitude for all that He has done for them. We cannot separate living for Christ from believing in Him. Jesus says, “Whoever loves me will obey me”… and… “Anyone who does not obey me does not love me.” John 14:22,24. And He calls all of us to lose our lives for Him, to take up our cross daily and follow Him, to die to ourselves and our desires and to live in total submission to Him.

        Your first order of business, in my view, is to get right with Christ yourself. Please read the book of John and let me know what God speaks to you, my precious girl.

        Much love to you! I am glad to walk beside you on this road!

  13. “If we expect our husbands to meet all of our spiritual and emotional needs, that really only Jesus can meet, we will constantly be disappointed and upset and frustrated with our husbands, and we will be no fun to live with, that’s for sure!” Thank you so much for that reminder today. I have been married for 12 years and have never felt like I was a priority or in the top 3. It has been a constant struggle.

    Dear Lord please continue to draw my husband closer to you so that you will be his number one priority. Lord I am giving you this struggle I feel with not being a priority. I know you can work in him for me. It is not my responsibility. I pray it happens soon for my 3 daughters to witness since they deserve to see a man modeling how to put his wife as number 2 priority. My wish is for them to see what a Christ loving husband/father is. Lord make changes in me to make our lives more peaceful. Please work in me to become a better role model for my children of a Christ loving wife/mother. In Jesus name I pray. Amen!

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