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The Idol of Happiness

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We tend to think that “idolatry” means someone bowing down to a statue and praying to it in a shrine. It’s really easy to dismiss that practice as not even remotely a temptation to us today in our culture and to discount everything the Bible says about idolatry as being irrelevant to us. Big mistake! Idolatry was one of the most offensive sins that God’s people committed against Him in the Old Testament times and it is one of our most offensive sin against God today, too.

“The human heart is an idol factory.” – John Calvin

I don’t know if y’all realize this – but happiness is one of the biggest idols in our culture today.

An idol is anything we put above Christ in our hearts. It is something we worship, are desperate to have, will give anything to try to obtain, will sin in order to get, will give up lots of money and time to pursue, will sacrifice all other relationships for and believe we can’t live without. It is something we believe will bring us true fulfillment and satisfaction that is not God. If we are desperate for something/someone, are terrified to go without that thing/person and are willing to sacrifice anything to have it – and that thing is not Jesus – it is time to do a very deep spiritual evaluation of our motives.

How many times have you heard someone say (or have you said to yourself – consciously or unconsciously):

  • Well, I am just not happy in this marriage, I feel unloved right now, my needs are not being met – so I need to get out.
  • I’m not happy, so I am totally justified in treating my husband this way (sinning against him – disrespect, name calling, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, control, contempt, hatred, unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, malice, gossip, slander, violence, sabotage, flirting with other men, adultery, etc…).
  • I’m not happy in our marriage, so it’s ok if I destroy my family, no matter what the price may be to my husband and our children and extended family (and ultimately, to myself and to my relationship with God).
  • I deserve to be happy. If I’m not happy, then my husband must do anything and everything I believe he should do so that I am happy. My happiness is entirely HIS responsibility.
  • I have the right to demand things from  and control my husband as much as I feel is necessary until he submits to me and makes me happy. I have self on the throne of my life and I demand my husband must bow to me, as well. I will have my way.

Let’s remember, there are only a few biblical reasons for divorce that may possibly be justifiable (and still, divorce is never a command for believers).  Unhappiness is not one of them!

Some trials may be quite painful and difficult, absolutely. I don’t intend to minimize that some struggles in marriage, and in this life in general, are HARD. They are. And, in very severe situations, there are times when a wife may need to separate from her husband, at least for a time, praying for God to work and for reconciliation.

We have a COVENANT before God and our husbands in our marriages. God can and will use our greatest trials to help us grow and mature in our faith and become more like Christ. Nothing can touch us that has not passed through His sovereign, loving hands. When we love Him wholeheartedly, He promises to use ALL things for our ultimate good (by His definition) and His glory (Romans 8:28-29, and, see the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-39).

No fault divorce may be legal in our culture today – but it is not of God, my precious sisters! And it is sin. No fault divorce hurts and destroys everyone it touches. God hates divorce.

If you have never read about what a covenant truly means, please check out this guest post – Brides and Butchers. Or, please read John Piper’s two part series on the marriage covenant “What God Has Joined Together, Let Man Not Separate.” There are several interpretations about what believers should do if they are already remarried – Piper explains his position in Part 2. There are other possible interpretations to prayerfully consider, as well. But most of all, I pray we will each seek to listen to God, His Word and His Spirit. (If there are very serious issues in your marriage – adultery, drug/alcohol addictions, severe pornography addictions, actual abuse, uncontrolled mental illness – please, please seek godly, biblical, experienced, wise counsel and compare everything your counselor says to the Bible. If you are not safe, please seek help right away! I do not condone abuse in marriage of either spouse. Please click here for the National Domestic Violence Hotline)


As we idolize happiness, it has been my observation that we also tend to idolize self, feelings, romance and control (having our way).  This leads us to pride, self-righteousness, disrespect, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, ungratefulness, discontentment, arguing, complaining and all kinds of other sin. When we are involved in idolatry of any kind, we tend to trust our own wisdom instead of God. We tend to focus on “ME” instead of obedience to God and dying to self. We easily rationalize and justify our own sin in order to get what we really want – HAPPINESS! All the time! We want what we want when we want it. God becomes more and more distant. We won’t let anyone get in our way of us getting what we want. If we hurt someone else in the process, oh well … we need to be happy.

As long as we are happy right now this moment, that’s all that matters in the universe, right?

Do we ever stop to realize – this is the mentality of a two year old? I had this mentality for a long time, myself. When God finally showed me just how sinful my attitude and my motives were, I was MORTIFIED! I spent weeks on my face before God repenting of all the sin He revealed to me. This is NOT the mentality of a spiritually mature, godly woman! We have unknowingly absorbed some of the most ungodly messages ever from our hedonistic, humanistic, secular culture!

The scariest thing to me is that I didn’t even see my own sin. Not at all – for many, many years. How could I have been so blind and deceived?


Sadly, as we idolize our own temporary happiness, we also tend to make other people responsible for our emotions and happiness instead of taking responsibility for our own emotions and spiritual well-being. Here are a few questions for us to ponder:

  • What if my husband is NOT responsible for my happiness?
  • What if each person is responsible for himself/herself emotionally and spiritually?
  • What if my circumstances are actually a tool in God’s hand – a chisel –  to help me mature and grow?
  • What if my circumstances are a spiritual test for me to learn to respond to with a godly attitude through the power of God living through me?
  • What if only Christ Jesus can give me real contentment, peace and joy and things/people of this world can never bring me true satisfaction?
  • What if I am expecting my husband or marriage to meet needs that only Jesus can actually fulfill and satisfy?
  • What if I can have contentment right now in Christ no matter what my situation may be?

What if my temporary happiness is not God’s biggest goal in my life?


As believers in Christ, we can see clearly in the Bible that:

  • Happiness is not the greatest and most ultimate goal in life, our knowing God is the greatest goal and our becoming holy and more like Jesus, being totally submitted to Him, obeying Him, loving Him and bringing great honor and glory to Him are to be the ultimate goals in our lives (John 17, Matthew 22:38-39, John 14:22-24).

The amazing thing is, as we focus on obeying and loving God and others with all our hearts, and as we fully yield ourselves in total submission to Him, He fills our souls with His Spirit – and the results ALWAYS are His supernatural: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 5:19).

Paradoxically, when we seek God first, He blesses us with real joy and supernatural peace that are so much more fulfilling than any temporary happiness that this world or anything in it could ever offer.

We CAN choose to be content as we focus on being thankful, focus on the good and the blessings God has given us and as we allow Christ to empower us.

  • Rejoice always, pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
  • I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11b-13


I bought the lie and worshiped it for so long, never bothering to notice how the more I pursued happiness, the harder it was to attain. I find it is much easier to simply be content with what God has given you and where He has placed you… find and celebrate His goodness and blessings every single day.

As I practice contentment, I experience happiness.

Isn’t that interesting? I spent so many years chasing happiness, instead of being content, I failed to enjoy the blessings God had given me and missed out on so much. I know for a fact, it was this attitude that led to the breakup of my first marriage. Make no mistake…

Seeking your own happiness will eventually hurt everyone around you.

My heart breaks for the hurt I caused my daughter and first husband, but I know that God is changing me and I trust Him with that process and the healing He is bringing to all I have hurt in the past.

I was just talking with one of my friends yesterday about the idol of self. It’s so easy to slip into that mode of worshiping self and doing whatever self tells us will make us happy. My theory is that it’s a natural human, survival mechanism…..maybe something that we’ve been stuck with since we we tossed out of the garden of Eden and had to fend for ourselves in a rough world?  (From Peacefulwife – this is our sinful nature!) Even then, in God’s infinite  grace and love, He is there for us…..He fights the battles for us when we can’t do it. All He wants is for us to give it to Him and let Him do it. I think sometimes, He allows difficult situations in our lives so we will give up and give it to Him. That’s how he strengthens our faith.



Have you had happiness as an idol? How did God reveal this idol to you?

How did you repent?

How did you learn to look at life differently in a way that honors God?

What have you learned about the sufficiency of Christ and finding all of your contentment in Him if you have been on this journey for awhile?

We’d love to hear your insights and the gems and pearls that God has shown you through your trials.


I hope to be able to respond to comments this evening. 🙂 Y’all are welcome to discuss as much as you would like. I will join in when I can.


The Real Secret to Contentment Is Having Jesus Christ as LORD of My Life

A Huge Key to Contentment! By Still Jennifer

How to Make Your Husband an Idol

The Idol of Control

How to Stop Idolatry and Truly Live for Christ

72 thoughts on “The Idol of Happiness

  1. I would have never thought about idolatry this way, but it makes perfect sense after reading this post. I have shared your blog with so many women and the only thing I can say for certain to them is, look, I’ve not been on this journey long, and I have not noticed any monumental changes in my husband. I’ve only noticed small ones in myself because I am still in the learning phase. But one major thing I have noticed is that I am happier, which I never would have believed could have happened from letting go of all of the things I used to think were so important/the key to happiness.

  2. Great post and certainly spot on identification of “happiness” as one of the greatest idols of today’s culture. “Freedom” is another one; as the world defines it, freedom means no rules, no restraints, always getting what one wants, etc. It is thought that such a mentality and life bring happiness. But how many times have you seen, especially in the entertainment industry, people who have everything the world has to offer, yet they don’t have the happiness they thought those things would bring?

    P.S. – I think you meant to reference the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis (chapters 37; 39-50), not Exodus.

    1. Lady Virtue,
      I love this!

      In one class at my church, the minister who was teaching said, “The world’s definition of freedom is ‘the ability to do whatever I want when I want it.’ But God’s definition of freedom is, ‘The power to be able to do God’s will.'”


      You are so right – those who “have it all” from a worldly perspective are often quite miserable – because nothing this world can offer can truly satisfy our great need for God. And thank you! YES! I did mean in Genesis. 🙂

  3. This is awesome, April, and another of your posts I’ll definitely be saving.

    It is so easy to convince ourselves that idolatry isn’t wrong (or that even something good or positive is idolatry in the first place because it’s a NECESSITY). After all, we all “deserve to be happy, ” don’t we? That’s what society tells us so many attempt to find happiness no matter what they must do or who they must destroy in the process. From childhood, we’re taught to expect it all when we want it, delayed gratification is bad, we shouldn’t have times of struggle in our marriages, relationships or careers and that EVERYTHING is disposable. I’ve been guilty of some of this thinking as well.

    A couple years ago, I read an advice column on a popular website. Seems this married woman was very unhappy but couldn’t put her finger on exactly WHY she was unhappy. Her husband was loving, a hard worker and a great husband and father. Her children were healthy. They were doing well financially. Still, the woman assumed the fault must lie with her husband. The only problem was that her man hadn’t actually done anything wrong yet so she hoped fervently that he’d have an affair so she could be justified in leaving him! She was convinced that once she left her husband, she’d find happiness once more. I couldn’t believe what I was reading and thankfully, the advice columnist couldn’t either and strongly cautioned the woman against detonating her marriage. Now, if that doesn’t say it all about our selfish and sick society, I don’t know what does! How many other people out there are like this woman (both women and men) who are feeling a happiness void (or rather, a spiritual void) and must fill it in any way possible?

    Lately, I’ve been taking it all in and watching everyone rush around desperately seeking something, only no one really seems to be content for very long. Then they’re off to get the next fix. I know from experience that when I put God first, really first, that I’m more content with what I have and actually “need” less. I learned this after many years of struggle and I wish I could spare others the pain I felt and inflicted on loved ones on my selfish journey to find happiness.

    1. Elena,
      This is so good. THANK YOU for sharing what you have observed. I believe we have ALL probably wrestled with this idol – it is so pervasive in our culture, and so intrinsic to our sinful nature. When we don’t recognize our idolatry, it is difficult to repent of it. We do have to see that something is sin before we can repent.

      I love your insights and the story about the woman who wasn’t happy. I believe your words will bless many!

  4. I often see that you are going to pray for this and that but Jesus Christ did not direct us to pray any other way than what is in Matthew 6. This is not opinion, ONLY FACT. Your blog is great encourage for women but they need more scriptural facts.

    1. Israelitewoman,

      Thanks for sharing your concern! Jesus did give us a model prayer in Matthew 6, absolutely. I am so thankful for that example. He Himself also prayed for many other things throughout all of the gospels. My favorite prayer is the prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. The entire book of Psalms contains different kinds of prayers. And there are commands and exhortations in the rest of the Old and New Testaments for believers to pray for all kinds of things.

      In fact, Paul exhorts believers to:

      And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:18-20

      I am thankful that we are not limited to only The Lord’s Prayer. Please check out and search “pray”. There are 367 verses containing the word pray – 165 of which are in the New Testament. And if you search “prayer” you will find 154 verses – 61 of which are in the New Testament. Many of these references apply to all believers.

      Respectfully, I completely disagree that the only way God teaches us to pray is found in the Lord’s Prayer and would like for us to consider what the whole Bible has to say about prayer.

      With love,

  5. Idolatry has many disguises, doesn’t it? Take the word invalidation. It’s a psychology term that refers to one person devaluing another in some way. It’s not a pleasant experience to have someone invalidate you; its mean, sinful behaviour on their part. But on our part, the demand to be validated is often nothing more than a demand that others bow to us and acknowledge our value in the way we want and when they don’t give us this, we can become quite embittered and resentful. It’s the opposite of humility. It is right to give credit where credit is due; the proverbs 31 woman was to be given the praise due her for her works, after all. But that’s different than being someone who stands guard over their public image and wants to control how others respond to it.

    I’ve caught myself in some interesting ways, having idols. One great sin and idol detector is to notice the charges and criticisms I level at others. Sin in motion turns its back on God, covers its eyes with its hands and says ” It’s not me, its her/him/them with the problem”.

    Our harsh life experiences become idols if they are the largest factor determining who we are. For those of us who have grown up with mistreatment, abuse or violence, we can continue to be bitter and angry for years afterwards which means that those people and events are our gods much more than the real God is, since they are the most influential factor in our lives. The abuse or abusers are the ones determining who we are. Unforgiveness, bitterness and anger are the chains that keep us bound to them and force us to bow to them in their own house.

    Fatherlessness can be another big issue. How many of us ladies have brought into our adult lives the search for a father’s love, strength, and approving blessing on our lives? How many of us have longed for that manly hug and the protection of daddy’s strength but instead felt harm from him or were cast aside, rejected or even spit on by our daddies? We can have dual idols that excuse and justify our sin and soul prostitution in the form of a hurt little girl who keeps grabbing the steering wheel, resulting in an adult life run by a child, and also the idol of an angry, or rejecting daddy who had no love to give us and was selfish, ungenerous and unkind, who punished when he should have shown mercy and who withheld when he should blessed or who refused to help when we were in trouble. We can bring this impoverished spirit and mentality into our lives; it is the content of our hearts and it is a bitter, desolate howling desert of pain and anger. No matter how much we have in the present, these voracious moths from the past will consume and render bitter everything until brought to death on the cross. We often transfer our blame and resentment onto God and cast Him in that image of the stinting, harsh father who can’t be trusted; that’s a form of blaming God when you get down to it. Some of this has been made legitimate by worldly teaching about having an “inner child who must be cared for”. Yet all this does is cause us to serve another idol. In fact its not a child at all but memories and response patterns to hurts and a refusal to grow beyond the place of injury. What psychology calls a personality disorder is really just a heart organized and formed around a painful idol. It’s a lot of work to begin the process of ploughing up this fallow ground but if we don’t do it, we will wind up making poor choices based on such idolatry and then wrecking our lives, marriages and homes repeatedly until we finally and hopefully figure out what the problem really is. As someone once said, “Someone can be married to Anyone if they are Nobody”. Jesus demonstrated this when he took on the form of a servant and emptied Himself of His divine status to serve others.

    One scripture verse that I’ve always found interesting as it relates to the self esteem idol, is the one in Genesis, where God is trying to work with Cain but Cain’s face is sullen and downcast. ” 6Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7″If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

    In effect, God was telling Cain that he was unhappy because he had refused to do what was right God’s way and had tried to have things on his own terms. He then tells Cain that if he did what was right, he WOULD have what he was seeking but if he chose to refuse he would be yielding to sin. God indicates to Cain that obedience and ruling well over one’s self out of reverence for God are the keys to peace, joy and a feeling of success and happiness, not self determination as seems to be evidenced by Cain’s ” I did it my way” attitude. There is so much wisdom and counsel in this one verse.

  6. I love this. The idol of happiness I believe is some thing most of us have the day of our wedding, and we carry it with us throughout our marriage, eventually we hurt those around us, God and ourselves. Just as the above wife said! “Seeking your own happiness will eventually hurt everyone around you.” This was my life, my entire life, since a child, I can see now that my goal was MY OWN happiness.

    Oh how I hate our sinful selfish nature. But – God showed me the truth. I eventually got to the point where I realized, when I was happy, it was eventually going to end, and when I wasn’t happy I was just waiting searching for the next moment I would be happy again, and God help those who get in the way of me finding MY happiness. I was a never ending pit of selfish ambition! And I was never satisfied!

    When you seek your own happiness, you will never find it! Why would you? God wants to be the center and the reason for your happiness, why would he let you find it anywhere else? Your husband, your marriage, your job, your children, your friends, family, money, God says NO I want you! I want you to want me, so when you search for Him with all your heart And start asking Him to change you, He will do it! And you may not be “happy” about it!

    Rough times may come, because God is molding you for himself! If you truly let Him change you, and fully surrender to him,then this will happen, Then you start to fall so in love with Jesus that no matter what, you are “happier” WITH him weather you have all those other things or not. I am thankful for this bc now I know true happiness, it’s called contentment and it only comes through JESUS CHRIST. “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” psalm 84:10

    1. Oh AND it’s also called FREE!😄😁 You feel so free when you are not selfish, when you stop expecting others to make you happy and instead, let GOD be the only source of your happiness, and in the mean time ask yourself how can I SERVE those around me? What can I do for OTHERS? For my husband, my family, my co workers, my enemies even!!, You will actually feel happier, than expecting it from a bunch of humans who will always disappoint. So I am happy to be FREE in CHRIST JESUS😁

    2. Learning Wife – I agree with your point about the idol of happiness being present at our weddings. I think it goes even further back than that….back to the garden!

      I was just talking with one of my prayer partners about why so many people are held captive by this idol and one thing that came up was how our culture just reinforces and feeds this idea (lie) that we are all entitled to be happy, no matter what anyone else thinks/says/feels. I can’t remember a time when this was not the prevailing message in our media. Much has been said about the selfishness of the “Me Generation” (Baby Boomers). Many of our parents were in this generation. I think we have been exposed to the “chase happiness for yourself” lie from the cradle. Not to blame Baby Boomers…..they were deceived by the enemy, just as people have always been deceived by the enemy. I just think that when you grow up with a certain set of expectations for life, it is very hard to see those things as bad or harmful to us. I praise God for exposing this idol for what it is and the damage it causes. Now that I have seen it and identified it…..I see it everywhere, even in some of my precious Christian friends. It is EXTREMELY pervasive in our culture.

      1. NW Girl,

        Yes, it is everywhere. It is in every movie, every advertisement, many of the things we are taught in church, school and at home, in books, in romantic songs…

        I think we have twisted the right to the “pursuit of happiness” in the constitution to try to make happiness a right. But it is not! And when we put our desire for our own selfish happiness above others and above God – we have a recipe for tragedy and disaster.

    3. Learningwife,

      How I love what you have written here! AMEN! AMEN!

      Praise God you hate our sinful nature now. That is such a blessing! To love what God loves and hate what God hates. To see sin for the vile awful filth that it really is in God’s sight.

      Thank you for sharing your heart, your insights and your story. God is greatly glorified in you! 🙂

    1. scase,

      Right! Emotions are not the most important thing. Feelings tend to follow our obedience to God. Feelings cannot be the main thing. God must be the main thing. Thank you!

  7. Can you consider reading this? She writes a blog that focuses on a wife’s submission, but today this struck me. Esp her list of reasons not to divorce, ones that are not scriptural. I think it is relevant to read, even if just fir a future relationship, if you want to look at it that way. There are several second divorces in my class. One lady in the ither class had five divorces. He said they call that Gid’s remedial school for divorce. If you don’t process it you will repeat it, they implied. Even so, the video said that complete healing takes several years on average. Bleak picture.

    1. Valerie,

      It is great to meet you! I am not sure if you are speaking to me or not?

      I cut out the list later this morning, to try to shorten the post. But, here it is for those who are interested – a few unscriptural reasons for divorce:

    2. irreconcilable differences
    3. my husband doesn’t have a job
    4. my husband is a workaholic
    5. my husband spends too much time on hobbies
    6. my husband is not involved enough as a dad
    7. my husband gained weight
    8. my husband is sick
    9. my husband is very depressed
    10. my husband doesn’t want to have sex with me enough
    11. my husband wants to have sex with me too much
    12. my husband doesn’t spend enough time with me
    13. my husband smothers me
    14. there is someone to whom I feel “more emotionally connected” than I do with my husband right now
    15. I don’t feel loved enough
    16. God didn’t give me a good husband
    17. my husband doesn’t lead like he should spiritually
    18. he’s not my “soul mate
      1. This blog makes me sad to read just because I know these truths and it just reminds me how much I fail to believe them and live them out.

        I have been married for a year now and I LOVE my husband to “the moon and back” (as we like to tell each other), but I’ve really been struggling fitting in with his family and him knowing what to kind of do about that. I get very frustrated but I do work on extending him the grace and mercy he needs as he learns more of how to navigate through my feelings over this and him knowing what to do more.

        It sounds silly and I don’t want to write a novel on here, but I do feel like I have made his family an idol (or at least some people, like his sister) because I take certain things she says very differently from how they are meant and if I try to talk to her she’s just very overpowering or just doesn’t have time to get back to my emails. One thing that has been on my mind a lot is the fact that she always tells me “we’re just a really close family because we were raised that way and K (my husband) helped raised my kids and that’s just how we are”. I’ve heard this from her numerous times over the course of us dating and being engaged and now married and I’m at a point where I feel like she’s just trying to make me feel left out.

        I am super close to my family but I don’t feel the need to tell my husband or his family every time I have a conversation with them that. I just feel like she tries to tell me my family isn’t important enough and I don’t matter now that I am married to her brother because their family is the most important.

        She’s not mean and I’ve tried to share my feelings with her but she just doesn’t have the time to talk to me. This I feel is an idol to me because I let her voice and the way she makes me feel take over God’s truth about me, my family and my marriage. And it makes me sad because my husband feels like he has to choose either them or me, but I just want him to have my back (which he’s still learning how to do) when his family makes me feel a certain way. I have gotten so sad that I have contemplated just separating for a while to just gather my thoughts because I feel so alone in this at times and I feel like leaving would make things better.

        I also have anxiety when I know we’re going to go see them because they’re a very sarcastic family and I did not grow up in a sarcastic family and if we ever were sarcastic it was to be mean so needless to say, there’s been a lot of sarcastic comments his family have made towards me that have made me feel like complete crap (for lack of a better word). If somebody reads this, I guess I’m just asking for some prayer to help me let go of this idol and not let this ruin my happiness in my marriage so much! THANK YOU! And April thank you for this post. 🙂

        1. Christina,

          Oh how we have all made mistakes, but we draw comfort and wisdom from each other here, and we’re so happy to have your company!

          Your comments reminded me of the early days of my marriage to my now deceased husband. He had two grown daughters who didn’t overtly criticize me, but did things in many small ways to show they didn’t really believe that I was part of their family. When we took them out for dinner, which we frequently did, they would always thank only my husband for the meal, and one daughter always talked only to him throughout the meal, excluding me entirely. When she came to visit, she allowed her small son to run through the house unchecked. One day he swiped a beautiful plate off the wall with his hand and it shattered on the floor. She saw it but just laughed and ignored him again. Our in-laws can do so much that is frustrating and maddening, but this I have learned: RISE ABOVE. Be confident in who and what you are–your husband’s chosen wife and a beloved daughter or God–and live your life in love for all those around you, no matter how hard it might be sometimes. It sounds like you might be trying very hard to convince your husband’s family that you have a right to be there and that their behavior/comments are wrong. How much better it will be if you simply shine as who you are without a word. You can say more by how you act than with words! In this way your husband won’t feel pressure to choose and will feel even more drawn to the classy, loving person he sees. Yes, he should “have your back,” but why put him in a situation where he is forced to choose? Let him know quietly and very briefly if something bothers you a lot, then let the matter go. Best wishes, and love to you!

          1. Hi Elizabeth,
            Thank you for your post. This blog has been a God send for me because my husband and I don’t have a home church nor any friends in the area we live and it’s been super hard to not have the encouragement, accountability and fellowship we need as a
            married couple. This blog keeps me accountable, encouraged and helps me see in what I lack and need to change. Thank you for sharing your experience. I would be so tremendously hurt going through that but you seem to have handled it with much grace and maturity. You are so right in the fact that I need to rise above! And a big part of my problem is lacking security in me and my husband’s marriage. I feel like i let a lot of things that happen rock my security in my marriage to him. I always think about my best friends and how nothing really has made me feel insecure in our friendships even if an outsider has done or said anything. But with my husband I can feel really secure and then his sister will say something and I’m like thinking about running away. And you’re so right about me just focusing on being confident in who I am in God as well. This life makes that so hard sometimes. I don’t feel like I try to convince them because I feel like they could care less, in my heart and mind I do struggle a lot because I don’t feel like I fit in with them. I get along with people so well, i am very social and get along with everybody I meet so I’m just sad that it’s not that way with my husband’s family. I don’t mean to make my husband feel like he needs to choose when I talk to him about something that bothers me about his family, but I will take your advice and stay focused on me and God number one. I really wish I had friends around me like the women on these blogs. It’s so helpful to talk about my heart and be encouraged and set in the right direction.

            1. Cristis86,

              Elizabeth’s counsel is so wise!!! I know you will process it and mull over it for a long time to come. What a blessing to have other women who are seeking God and who are farther along on their journeys to ask these questions to! I didn’t have that as a newlywed, and my responses when things didn’t go well made things infinitely worse in our marriage.

              I will add a little bit to the discussion… 🙂

              My suggestion about the security of your marriage is to rest in the fact that your husband loves you and that he married you. That is HUGE for a guy. There is no bigger compliment or sign that you are secure with him than the fact that he married you willingly and happily. You don’t have to fight for his heart. You have it.

              I used to believe that our marriage was not secure in some ways. The more I tried to fight to make it be secure, the more I repelled Greg. 🙁

              I’m glad that you aren’t trying to convince the in-laws that you deserve to be there. You are part of their family whether they acknowledge and honor you or not. It seems to me that his sister may be jealous of you. I have seen that happen in many other marriages, too. A sister-in-law can be pretty conniving (so can step daughters, apparently, from Elizabeth’s story). She may believe that she has “rights” to her brother that you don’t have.

              But the truth is – she doesn’t have a covenant marriage relationship with your husband and she never will. God’s design is that marriage is the only human covenant relationship. As you continue to rest and trust in your husband’s love and in your marriage and as you have confidence in who and what you are through Christ and in your place in the marriage, that will absolutely draw your husband’s heart to you even more.

              The quickest way to push your husband away, in my view, would be to complain about his family a lot, point out their sins and faults and try to convince your husband that his sister is wrong and trying to hurt your marriage. The more you speak negatively about his family, the more he will naturally feel compelled to try to defend them. That is not what you want – him defending his family against you.

              He will be able to see through his sister’s manipulation and control in time. And if he sees it himself and deals with it himself, he is much more likely to end up wanting to protect you from his sister than if you are saying negative things about his family.

              Eventually, if things continue on like this, he may decide to set some boundaries with his family.

              But as you focus completely on your walk with Christ and on becoming the woman and wife God desires you to be – He will give you the power to handle the extended family situation graciously and in a godly way that brings honor to Christ and to yourself and your husband. As you respond without sin and without desperation, the sin of the extended family will become increasingly obvious.

              Most husbands think of their love as a constant thing. I didn’t understand this earlier in our marriage. Greg told me last year that he ALWAYS feels connected and close to me unless I tell him I feel disconnected. I always felt disconnected unless we were actively talking and emotionally bonding. It was very freeing to me to learn that Greg feels connected to me even when there are no words. I have learned to rest first in the love of Christ and in His sovereignty, and then to rest in my husband’s love. This is how we can be unshakable.

              As you continue to be unrattled, your SIL may increase the pressure to try to get you to crumble. But that is your choice. You don’t have to crumble. You can stand firm in Christ and in your marriage. You don’t have to let her words have any power over you at all. Your purpose in this life is to please Christ alone. Her judgement of you and lack of acceptance doesn’t have to impact your soul, your peace or your position with God or your husband at all.

              As your husband sees how classy, godly, respectful, loving, humble, joyful and peaceful you are – he will probably long to protect you more. And as your SIL sees Christ in you – she may eventually ask you to tell her how she can have what you have.

              Much love!

      2. Dear April and all the ladies who have commented and shared their lives here, Thank you! I have been reading this blog for about two months and gained so much from all your collective wisdom. It seems that Titus 2:4 is happening right here, in this virtual forum! Regardless of our physical ages, I am grateful for mature “older” women who are willing to impart to those, like myself, still learning, struggling, and growing.

        1. Glory,
          I’m so glad this is a blessing to you!

          That is my prayer – that Titus 2:3-5 might happen here every single day and bless wives around the world. Thank you for sharing!

      3. Hi All, I stumbled upon this website when I was dealing with some negative thoughts and felt as though I was the only one feeling/thinking this. I am so grateful to have found the PeaceWife. This being said I consider myself more of spiritual believer. I do pray everyday before my meals, and before gong to bed. But i do feel that I am missing something in my life- it could be finding a good welcoming church but I do feel fear of this. I’m not sure why- judgement? not agreeing with what is being said? being alone?
        Any insight?

        1. Sophy,

          What is your relationship with Christ, my friend? He is ultimately the only One who can fill up those empty places in our souls – and He is the only source of true joy, peace, hope, contentment, fulfillment, and satisfaction. 🙂

          Much love to you!

  8. Thanks April for being spot on again! I’m in a program at church called Real Healing, and we are going through a book called Redemption, which is a biblical perspective on suffering. Chapter 2 deals with, how when you face your issues (idols) head on, and try to address them with God’s help, his redemptive plan may not look the way you want, in fact it may at first seem you are suffering more. As a side note, I highly recommend all read it.

    This is my second time going through the program, so my second time reading it. My first time, six months ago, I had just confronted some of the same lies you address in this blog entry (the ones where you begin “I’m not happy so….(insert whatever sin you justify)”. I was working my way through what a more Christian response was to those lies, and knew one thing was to be a more loving wife. But I was at the same time dealing with an unexpected response from my husband, who at that very same time had decided for reasons I didn’t agree with that he needed to take a two and a half week long break from his job as a substitute teacher.

    Fast forward six months. For reasons beyond our control, Don then took a three-month summer break from substitute teaching, and we both continued working on the marriage. It’s much better than it was six months. But now I’m reading Chapter 2 in my book again, and where is my husband? At home, taking the second of what I hope is only a two-day break from substitute teaching. Today was probably beyond his control, yesterday not so much. And yesterday had been a busy day with plans I made before I knew he was going to be such a major part of my day. While he accepted that I didn’t want to change my plans because of his plans, having to work his agenda in with mine made it a bit more stressful for me. And now, as I start to look at some things I journaled six months ago, the feelings of frustration rise to the surface. So here’s your blog, reminding me again, it’s not about me. It’s about God. Thank you again.

    1. Ellen,
      Thank you so much for sharing about what you are learning. That class sounds very interesting. 🙂 I am thrilled about what God is doing in your life! WOOHOO!

  9. Hi April, thankyou for your timely post. Searching for happiness does seem to be something I battle with. Looking at what others do on social media (I don’t have facebook for this reason) and hearing about all the adventures of my work colleagues abroad and at home often leaves me feeding my self pity with thoughts like “hey I deserve to have a good time too.” I have to snap myself out of that destructive thinking. It’s such a lie from the devil that is repeated endlessly in our society. I’ve had a bit of a battle this week with it being my 40th birthday today and we were meant to be away, but as my husband is sick we are at home. I’ve had to go to God several times a day whenever I’ve felt tempted to feel sorry for myself. I had to ask for forgiveness and for strength to stay content. His answer to my prayers have been palpable in our home. It’s been a lesson to our children who were understandably upset to not go on holiday. We are content and calm and we have His peace and joy. There has been much kindness and growing together on a different level as we care for Daddy. I’m reminded of a sermon I heard on Ecclesiastes 7:2. It is better to be in a house of mourning than to be in a house of feasting. It’s good for the soul and good for grounding us in God’s eternal perspective.

    1. Charli,

      We all love happiness. It feels good! And there is nothing wrong with enjoying happy things and times and being thankful when we are happy. But, obviously, it is possible to make happiness way too important.

      And, when we become jealous or discontent and ungrateful, then we get into dangerous territory.

      Happy birthday, my precious sister!!!! 🙂 I love what you are describing is happening in your family, even though it is not your ideal birthday celebration. That is so beautiful!!

      We had an anniversary like that one year. Greg was so sick. He insisted we could go out to eat. But his fever was 102F. So we spent the evening at the doctor’s and got take out and went home. And, I was fine with that. It wasn’t what we had planned. But I would rather take good care of Greg than him be miserable at a fancy restaurant!

      Here is how I try to look at situations like this when they happen to our family…

      It is an incredible opportunity to be an example of handling disappointment graciously for our children. So, I try to say things like:

      – This is disappointing, isn’t it? We had hoped to get to go on a trip. It’s ok to feel sad about that our plans didn’t work out.
      – This is a great chance to think about the sovereignty of God. Maybe He is sparing us from danger? Maybe He has a meeting for us here to encourage or minister to someone? Maybe this is a fantastic chance for us to learn to love Daddy like God does and to take good care of him.
      – Could it be that God has treasure for us, a surprise around the corner that we don’t know about right here?
      – I am so thankful we all get to be together. Let’s think of something special we can do together.
      – Let’s list all the things we can be grateful for, all the blessings God has given us.

      Thank you for sharing these beautiful pearls of wisdom! I am so excited about what God is doing in your family!!

        1. I love the list of examples that April gives in how to communicate disappointment, both to ourselves and our family. I am a firm believer that wherever you are at the moment is exactly where God wants you to be. We never can see the big picture in our lifetime, or be 100% certain why God puts us in different scenarios or situations, but one thing that is sure is that wherever we are, it is always an opportunity to grow in holiness, dignity and grace. I find this to be true especially when times are upsetting…if we have gone through a difficult financial period, if I have been up all night with a sick child, or having to say no to something that I or the family had been looking forward to. It is a great lesson for the children to be able to say, “I guess it just wasn’t in God’s plan that we do this today”.

          1. Mrs. G.,
            I love this! So true!

            One day, when we are in heaven, I believe we will get to see all that God was doing behind the scenes and the reasons why things happened as they did. I know I will be kicking myself for the times I didn’t trust God. I know now that He knows what is best much more than I ever could in my finite understanding.

            I think it is such an amazing chance to teach our children to trust the sovereignty of God when things are difficult. That, alone, is reason enough to rejoice in my book! 🙂

            I had an opportunity to do this last year when we were supposed to go to a big party, but Greg and his dad were stuck trying to put in a new front door and the locks weren’t in place yet. I had a long talk with the kids about it, and about how we would go to the party if it was God’s will, but if it is not His will, we will be ok, too. Disappointed, maybe. But we will be ok and make the best of it.

            I was so excited later when our young daughter was talking to her Grandma and her Grandma was upset that the children couldn’t go to the party but our daughter said, “It’s ok, Grandma. It must not be God’s will for us to go. I think I will color tonight.” And then she happily colored with markers. Her Grandma was amazed.


            May God give us His wisdom and strength to see these tests and trials as He sees them and to use them for His greatest glory! 🙂

            1. That is a wonderful story about your daughter, April! This is a lesson she will always remember, and probably pass on to her own kids someday 🙂

      1. April,

        How wonderful your suggestions are! Raising children with godly wisdom and teaching them to think unselfishly will help them become unselfish, wise, loving adults. I see so much “rotten fruitage” in the lives of my students who, through no fault of their own, had little or no real parenting. My heart grieves for them, and I do my best to be a blessings in their lives for the short time they are mine, but it can never make up for great, godly parenting. Keep up the good work, and whenever possible, please do include suggestions for parents. We all need God and his guidance so very much!

        1. Elizabeth,

          I’m glad that was helpful!

          I don’t write a lot about parenting – because I haven’t even gotten to a lot of the stages yet! But, I will prayerfully consider writing more about it.

          Thank you!!!!!

  10. Charli – Happy (belated) Birthday! My birthday is today. 🙂

    You know, God is working on me in this same area….and I think what He wants me to let go of is expectations that are in my head, based on what society has taught us is correct….what we see on facebook, etc.
    That may not be a problem for you, but He is showing me that MY programmed expectations are huge and unhealthy and they have to go.

    This morning, I asked my husband (who had already wished me a happy birthday, given me a gift, and met me for dinner last night) to meet up with me AGAIN today to celebrate….because today is my actual birthday. He agreed, but let me tell you……God convicted me SO HEAVILY. I was grieved at my selfishness and lack of contentment and gratitude for what had already been a 100% improvement over last year’s birthday. Seriously, I am still so ashamed of my self for asking. God showed me that it’s JUST a day on the calendar. Perhaps I was making an idol of the day? I don’t know…..but I do know that God was not pleased with me. I quickly went downstairs and told my husband that there was no need to meet up after work tonight and I could sense his relief. I am SO thankful that God allowed me to see my sin and learn from it. I am looking forward to a quiet evening at home with my husband and I will be thankful that we have another (peaceful) evening together.

    Once again, this is MY struggle…..probably not yours. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone in this journey. God is refining each and every one of us!

  11. daughter,
    That is so true! You could never sin with your words but still have sinful thoughts in your heart. That is what James 3 and 4 are about!

    James 3:1-12
    Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

    When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

    All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

    JAMES 1:26-27
    Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

  12. Thanks for the birthday wishes NW girl and happy birthday to you too. As I’m from australia my birthday is actually on the same date as yours and yes you are not alone in your struggle. May God continue to help us overcome. 💐

  13. Wow, that’s a long time to be without him, waiting for him to come home with your son! Congratulations on the adoption, that’s so exciting! Praying for their quick, safe return and for God to work in your heart to remove expectations, as we both seek to remove our personal ideals as our priorities and work towards respecting our husband’s individual personalities more and more!

  14. The idol of marriage. Wow, it was a biggie! I asked God to search me for hidden idols and begged him to rip them out. I have been married to my husband for 18 years and the day I opened up and asked God to do this, was a crushing one. I had already dealt with the idol of pride, happiness, high expectations, control and money.

    But when God spoke to me on a Monday morning on my way to work after asking him to search any dark spots in my soul, the idol of marriage was sooo prevalent that I was shocked. I realized that I had to rip out the idol of marriage. So what did this look like in the real world? My husband and I were at the end of the rope in our marriage. God directed me to April’s blog and it changed my life. That focus on my sin became the brakes to the runaway car/marriage.

    But I became so focused on trying to save the marriage, that I was ignoring the needs of my husband. I was trying to change my personality and clean the house better and do things I thought were good, but I never considered if my husband wanted any of that. He begged me to be myself and find happiness, I thought I was.

    Then I became jealous of all the time he spent at work and started to suspect there was an affair. He assured me there was not, but I was convinced that there was someone or something else he was giving his heart to, physical or not. God convicted me of my sin by making me see that if I truly loved God and I loved my husband as much as I said I did, then I need to be willing to “let him go” for the sake of his happiness. If I was not what made him happy, I could not ask him to stay in a marriage he did not have the heart for any more. This was crushing.

    I wanted so much to save our marriage and was working so hard at trying to do this, I had missed the point of what that Agape love really looked like. I do love my husband, but I was hysterical about this call to action and conviction. If I told my husband I was willing to let him go because I loved him, there was a chance he would leave. I cried rivers in my car in a parking lot for hours.

    Then my mom called me and knew I was in great pain. She met me and listened. She helped me calm down. She reminded me that God does not want divorce. But that I cannot control how my husband feels. He will need to be accountable for his sins and make that decision. I worked all day on how to talk to my husband on this. I prayed to God to help me with the right words and to do it in a loving and respectful, godly way.

    My husband came home at 11:00 at night. I was tired and stressed out. I knew I couldn’t go another day like this. I addressed it. I let him know how much I loved him, I spoke to him with God directing the words, I knew I would not be able to succeed without His help. My husband was angry and hurt at what I was saying. My biggest question to him was that I asked him if there was any part of his heart that he still wanted me to have. If there was even a shred, I would pour my heart and soul into the marriage, but if he is not happy, I am willing to let you leave for you to find that happiness, I don’t want him to, I will not divorce you, but I want your happiness over my marriage. OK. It was done. I told him a raw truth. I then laid next to him and held him in my arms the rest of the night.

    In the morning, he said he wants it to work and he is in it for the long haul. He had a wonderful analogy of a rock rolling down the hill being held up by a tiny stick, strong but tiny, and time will allow the rock to be buried into the ground and find that stability.

    I felt the power of that answered prayer. I knew we had much work to do together, but my impatience and fear were gone. God took care of that. The rest of this was going to be so much easier and doable now that God was first in my heart. The idol of marriage was a very painful one to rip out, the hardest one yet, My faith in God to handle this insurmountable fear and idol was the only thing that I could do.

    I am so grateful for God’s love and I feel him so strongly walking with me and carrying me sometimes during my highest levels of doubt. He helps me keep Satan and evil thoughts out of my head every time I ask. This is probably a very tricky idol for people to recognize. Thank you April for allowing God to do such great and saving work through you and your family.

    1. Jessica,

      How I praise God for what He is doing in you!!!!! 🙂 Thank you so very much for sharing!

      I do want to mention – your husband’s happiness is not the ultimate goal here, either. So, it is not necessary to set your husband free if he is not happy. BUT – holding him loosely and clinging tightly to Christ IS a really important way to be able to live. Not idolizing him and not expecting him and the marriage to meet your deepest needs for security, identity, love, acceptance, etc… but trusting Christ for those things – empower you to come into the marriage as a whole, healed, complete person who is able to bless him rather than to be a black hole of neediness and insecurity. I hope that makes sense!

      I praise God for your mom’s wisdom. So beautiful!

      I’m thankful that you and your husband both want to work on this marriage and I do love that you were willing to let him go. I trust God to give you and your husband His wisdom for each step of this long journey. I thank and praise Him already for all that He has done, is doing, and will do in you both.

      Much love to you!!! 🙂

  15. I have found myself questioning the western culture idea that happiness is the criterion to judge right and wrong for some time. I wonder if it is even harder having grown up in America where “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is our national slogan. I certainly could quote that line since I was very young.

    1. Anna,

      I’m so glad that you see that happiness is not the measure of what is moral, right, and just! It has become our “moral compass,” unfortunately, for many people. You can see the results when a wife decides to divorce her husband because “she is not happy,” and “she has the right to be happy,” but in her pursuit of her own happiness, she destroys her husband, children, and family. Temporary happiness can never be the measure of morality – right and wrong. Only God has the authority to decide what is right and wrong.

      Thanks so much for sharing!

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