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How Can I Tell if God Is Working in My Life or If I Am Trying to Do This in My Own Power?

Mongolian Gold being refined to 99.99% purity.   http://www.mgs.mn/refining.html
Mongolian Gold being refined to 99.99% purity. http://www.mgs.mn/refining.html

It is easy to try to do this whole being a godly wife thing in our own strength and to try to turn it into a list of rules to follow so that you can improve your marriage on your own without God being involved at all. Of course, that completely defeats the point of becoming a godly wife – if we don’t have God in the picture! And it is impossible to do this in our own human power. It is like trying to get a car to go without having gas in the tank. The Holy Spirit IS our power source, my precious sisters! We all begin with many selfish, sinful motives. This is a refining process. It is a process of maturing and growing in Christ. It doesn’t happen all at once.

Some signs that we are doing things in our own power:

  • Our motives will be about things other than pleasing and loving Christ and blessing our husbands.
  • We may feel like we don’t really have sin in our lives because we are blind to our sin and we are not able to hear God’s Spirit.
  • We may be very discouraged because our husband isn’t changing and isn’t loving us the way we want to be loved. If I am doing this in my own power, my goal is probably to get my husband to change, not to allow God to radically change me. My goal may be to manipulate my husband rather than to fully submit myself to Christ.
  • We will see a lot of pride, selfishness, self-righteousness, contention, unforgiveness, bitterness, and other sinful thoughts and behaviors in our life from Galatians 5:18-21.
  • We will not have the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23
  • We may feel like we cannot hear God.
  • We may feel constantly defeated.
  • We may be quite discontent.
  • We may feel very lonely.
  • We feel like we have to be “fake” to do this.
  • Our motives will continue to be about our idols, the things that are more important to us than Christ.
  • We will probably be full of anxiety and fear.
  • Our desire to sin will remain constant.
  • Our desires won’t change to match the desires of God.
  • We continue to cherish some sin in our lives (our bitterness, our unforgiveness, disrespect, hatred, contempt, the idol of self, the idol of being in control, idolizing our husbands, idolizing feeling loved, idolizing the healing our marriage, etc…) We may think of God as “a means to an end” who can give us what we really want – these other things.
  • We may feel very impatient.
  • We may feel very bitter toward God and/or our husbands for not giving us what we really want.
  • We don’t have much of an appetite for God, His Word, or the things of God.
  • We look at I Corinthians 13:4-8 and think, “There is no WAY I could love my husband like that!”
  • We think that it is all about US and what we do – saying the right things, doing a long list of things, praying the right prayers, reading the Bible “enough” but we don’t actually trust God or know Him.
  • There are areas that we hold back from God and try to control ourselves.
  • We may think “this isn’t working“or “this is a waste of my time” if our husbands don’t change quickly enough.
  • We may think, “If I obey God, then He owes me a godly husband.”

Some signs that it is God who is changing us:

  • When we fall, we want to get right back up because we want to please God more than anything.
  • We begin to hate our sin.
  • God reveals deeper and deeper layers of sin to us.
  • We long to know God more. We WANT to pray. We WANT to be in His Word. We realize that is our source of nourishment. We have a big spiritual appetite.
  • His Word is ALIVE and speaks to us deeply.
  • We begin to want God more than anything.
  • We begin to understand the power of praising God.
  • We begin to focus on being truly thankful.
  • We are willing to wait as long as it takes. (Waiting Becomes Sweet)
  • Our prayers change from “God, give me what I want” to “God, let me know Your heart and mind more. Teach me Your ways and Your wisdom. Fill my soul with Your Spirit and Your power. I give myself as fully to You as I know how. Transform me to be more like Jesus. I only want to be closer and closer to You!”
  • We begin to see that the things of this world are very temporary and not satisfying and that only God is truly God and we begin to not care as much about worldly things but focus more on heavenly things.
  • We may feel lonely in the world to a degree, but we are so aware of God’s presence and power in our lives, that we are satisfied and overflowing with spiritual abundance.
  • We realize that obedience to God is a reward in itself – here and in heaven – no matter if our husbands or circumstances ever change in this world or not.
  • We begin to release our fears and trust God with them, knowing that He knows best and that even if we must face the things we fear most, if God is with us, we will be ok in the end. God’s perfect love melts away our fear. We pray in faith, not fear.
  • We humble ourselves greatly before God.
  • We want to consecrate ourselves to God – to give ourselves to Him as living sacrifices.
  • We learn to be content as long as we have Christ and His Word whatever our circumstances.
  • We begin to be thankful for life-giving rebukes and constructive criticism, realizing what a blessing it is to be corrected in a godly way.
  • We want to live holy lives that honor and bring glory to God.
  • We begin to seek to hold nothing back from God, but to allow Him total access to every dark corner of our souls, even though it is painful at first to allow Him to tear out all the sinful motives and thoughts in our hearts and minds.
  • We begin to replace the lies and ungodly ideas we have thought for years with the truth of God’s Word. We learn to take our thoughts captive for Christ.
  • We learn what our triggers for sinful thoughts are and we seek to avoid them and to fill our minds with God’s Word.
  • We begin to see that this is all about us and God and not really about our husbands.
  • We begin to understand how much our sin hurts God and our husbands and our marriages and we are grieved deeply over our sin.
  • We begin to see just how much debt we owe to God and how much Jesus paid for us and how deeply we owe Him.
  • We begin to want to submit to Christ as LORD of all in our lives.
  • Our desires begin to change. We are willing to give up anything that God calls sin, even if it was the most important thing in our lives, and turn away from it even though it is scary and painful. We are willing to embrace God’s way, His wisdom, and His will no matter what the ultimate outcome will be and no matter what the personal cost to us.
  • We begin to walk in obedience to God and to desire to be obedient to Him, not to get something for ourselves, but just because we love Him.
  • We begin to realize that the way we treat our husbands and other people reveals whether we truly love God or not.
  • We begin to thank God for the painful trials that draw us nearer to Him.
  • We begin to rest in God’s sovereignty and love instead of trying to make things work out ourselves.
  • We begin to be ok if we must endure suffering because we know that God is sovereign and will use it to accomplish His good purposes in our lives and His glory.
  • We begin to submit fully to God as Christ did and say, “Not my will, but Yours be done” in every area of our lives.
  • We begin to have genuine love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control on a daily basis in all of our relationships on an increasing scale. (Galatians 5:22-23) And when we taste the power of His Spirit working in our lives – we are hooked. We realize we don’t want or need anything else but  Him.
  • We want God to change US more than we want Him to change our husbands.
  • We begin to understand that we are not the Holy Spirit in our husbands’ lives and that we can trust God to work in our husbands in His timing, and we focus on our own sin, our own walk with Christ, and our own obedience to God.
  • We begin to truly “get” how much God has forgiven us and we begin to be able to freely extend grace, mercy, and forgiveness to our husbands and others.
  • We begin to be able to truly love other people, including our husbands, with agape  love, the love God describes in I Corinthians 13:4-8.
  • We begin to see other people with the eyes of Christ and we desire to bless them and to see them know God.
  • We begin to have an eternal perspective on all that is happening in this world.
  • We hold our desires loosely and desire God’s will above our own will more and more.
  • Our motives begin to change to be that we only long to please and love God and to obey Him and to bless others.
  • We want to be sure God gets ALL the credit for anything good He is doing in our lives.
  • We begin to see that God is truly the greatest treasure there is and that as long as we have Him, we have everything!
  • We can’t help but share God and all that He has done in our lives with others, we can’t keep this treasure to ourselves!

If you haven’t, please check out the post about being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Stages of This Journey

Frequently Asked Questions

The Importance of Spiritual Pruning

Exploring the Depths of Bitterness

“Misconceptions and Fears I Had at the Beginning of This Journey”

“When I Shut Up, My Husband Heard God”

SHARE:

If you have been on this journey for awhile, please share how your thoughts changed. How did you think and feel in the beginning that you know now was you trying to do this in the power of your own strength. And how do you recognize the power of God’s strength working in you now?

26 thoughts on “How Can I Tell if God Is Working in My Life or If I Am Trying to Do This in My Own Power?

  1. It’s really Important to keep reiterating the message that this is not about Improving our marriages. That idol is held up by both churches and the secular world. Marriage = Happiness. Deep roots to keep digging out. More and more Christ is what we need, not happier marriages. Thanks, April.

    1. Marked Wife,

      EXACTLY! We need Jesus. He is THE TREASURE. He is THE GOAL. The fruit of having Him as LORD of our lives does bless us in many ways, even in our relationships. But where many women go tragically wrong, and I did this many times myself in the past – was to try to use God to get happiness in my marriage. If I obey Him, then He will give me the thing I really want – my husband’s love. Ugh. Not good. God will not allow us to use Him like this – thankfully!

      As we go on this journey, He will use our husbands long period of not changing many times to refine our motives so that we learn to obey Him just because we love God and want to be close to God. It is a gift and a blessing that He does not allow us to find contentment in our idols.

  2. This is just an important post! This was the hardest thing on this journey for me.

    I was spending so much time and energy “working” on my marriage. I was reading every marriage book I could find. Trying this technique or that technique. Faking being respectful. Faking being loving. My blood pressure was up. My mind was a constant whirlwind of thoughts and plans and how I do this and that. It was exhausting!!! And nothing was getting better and I was an emotional mess!!

    It wasn’t until I woke up one day and said I am going to do what pleases God no matter what my husband does! I am going to be peaceful and joyful no matter what. I actually had to come to point that I didn’t care what my husband did or said or thought. It was going to be like water off of a duck’s back. I was going to do it God’s way. I would be respectful and only speak my mind if it was something important. I would not be offended no matter what he did or said. I would work on me and how God wanted me to to respond and act. I would seek peace inside of me.

    AND THEN….. a wonderful thing happened. I saw my husband in a totally different light. I started to love him in a different way….not the desparate way I was. I was peaceful! My mind wasn’t in a whirlwind anymore. I wasn’t worried about everything anymore. I saw my marriage in a way I had NEVER seen it before!!

    What happened?? Did my husband turn into the perfect husband over night?? NOPE!!! He was his same grouchy self. He still did the same things. He still tried to get me to react and fight. What changed was ME!

    All of sudden what God thought of my actions mattered so much more. I could see my marriage as one big picture, not just this valley we were in.

    Now that my husband sees the change in me, he is much happier. He is beginning to trust me again with his heart. I am not the emotionally unstable mess I was. I don’t try to control every aspect of his life. I don’t see little problems as the end of the world anymore. He smiles more often now and that HUGE REWARD to me….to see that I am not making him miserable anymore.

    As April has said many times, this is not about changing your husband, it is about changing us. But one thing I see is when husbands feel respected and honored they tend to work harder to be better men. It is so important that we see that our actions and reactions can impact the way our husbands act and react.

    1. Daisymae,

      I LOVE THIS SO MUCH! Would you please consider allowing me to share it anonymously? How I PRAISE GOD for all that He is doing in your life! WOOHOO!

    2. Daisyme..I am reading your post in July. I have spent the last year wracking my brains out trying to figure out how to fix the mess in my marriage. And for most of our marriage I have made my husband my idol to please and be codependent with. I have been a desperate mess for way too long.

      April and all the women who share their stories on this blog have helped me see that I need only answer To God. Some days I feel free and confident in the love God has for me, and whatever my husband says or does is on him. Then there are days that I fall back into that desperate, scared, clingy little girl that can’t understand why I am not loved.

      I have tried to change my husband in desperate way…NEVER WORKED AND CREATED MORE MESS…now I know I have to change myself.

      1. Betsy,

        Let me encourage you – let God change you! You will need HIS power because your own strength is nowhere near enough. But He absolutely can change you as you fully yield to Him and give Him access to the darkest corners of your heart and soul.

        Much love to you! I am excited about what God is doing in your heart!

  3. I believe the first time I heard about the respect men need was in a book by Dr. Laura Schlessinger called “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.” I got it as a gift just after I’d gotten married. I read some of it, and as I read it, I believe that was when I was trying to do the “respect” thing on my own power. I was so frustrated because just after I’d gotten married, it seemed I couldn’t do anything right (my husband’s mom is an AMAZING homemaker and cook; always has been… and I’ve never even been close to that!) and it frustrated me that I was reading this book that told me I needed to fix things about myself. It’s funny, because I thought I actually enjoyed that book, but the other day my husband told me, “Remember that book about respecting your husband that you stopped reading because it made you mad?” (I have a very poor memory, I should add.) I was like, “What? The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands?” He said, “I don’t know; I just know it was by that Jewish lady.” (She was the only Jewish lady whose about marriage I’d had, that I could think of!)

    Apparently I hated the book when I was reading it – so much so that I stopped reading it (which I am loath to do with any book… I have a touch of OCD in that area and when I read something I don’t like, I usually give it a few more chapters, hoping it’ll get better)! How strange! I’d learned back then how to be respectful but the thought so overwhelmed me (because I thought I had to do it in my own power) that I didn’t even really bother with it! To be honest, I probably agreed with some major parts of the book, but struggled with the “Keep the house, stay attractive for your husband, etc” parts that I thought were too old-fashioned for me. (It’s funny, now… LOL)

    Anyway, above the comments, I saw a blog entitled, “When I Shut Up, My Husband Heard God.” That reminds me of what happened when I decided to learn all I could about respect… except my husband was the one who was quiet and I was the one who heard God. It was crazy… I remember thinking at one point (I don’t know if it was during the hairbrush incident or before) that we really needed counseling, because Camron wasn’t treating me right. God quietly spoke to my heart, “What if YOU are wrong, too? What will you do then?” Talk about humbled!!!

    I think that a lot of it has to do with allowing God to speak to us. If we aren’t ready for a message, even hearing it won’t help. It’s like our ears are closed and our eyes are blind… but when God speaks into our hearts and we’re willing to listen, and not to force it, but to just let Him have His way in us… it is so comforting.

    My family is certainly not perfect. My husband isn’t, and I’m DEFINITELY not.. but I find a lot more peace nowadays than I used to have. There are still things on my mind, but I’m praying that He shows me what I need to do in those areas, and if I need to do anything at all!

    Thanks again for your blog, April. SO helpful. It’s good to read a book, but a book has an ending, eventually… your blog is a continual reminder to me that I need to honor God by honoring my husband. 🙂

  4. April,

    I loved reading this post. So good! Wish that your blog (and Lori’s) had been available when I married 25 years ago…no blogs then! What great wisdom God pours forth from you (both).

    I wanted to share another aspect of knowing that the power of the Holy Spirit is guiding me in being a peaceful wife. Prior to the Lord convicting me and causing huge changes in me as a wife, I struggled with my husband’s loving correction and even his attempts to talk with me about my sin towards him. I was defensive and responded in (what I know now were) disrespectful ways. Throughout this journey of biblical submission, I find that I truly and deeply desire to know when I have said or done something that was hurtful or disrespectful towards him or anyone else for that matter. I want to understand him fuller and how my words and actions affect him. I want to grow under his spiritual leadership, have a teachable spirit and be given the opportunity to ask for forgiveness and be restored to God and to my beloved husband with even greater intimacy. Although, correction is painful at times, it is so sweet to know that my husband trusts my heart and my reactions. I could NEVER, NEVER, NEVER do this on my own accord. This is the power of the Holy Spirit sanctifying me and changing my desires. I praise the Lord for His Grace towards me!

    Much love to you,
    Martha

    1. Martha,

      OH YES!!!!!!!! What an important point!

      Yes, we are able to take a life-giving rebuke and constructive criticism as God works in us. Yes, it hurts, but we realize that it is the path to growth when we receive correction and prayerfully consider the things our husbands are concerned about.
      Love this!

  5. I would say sometime in 2013 is when I started reading this blog. But I must say wow, this is probably the most impactful post yet. To me at least. A lot of the points on this post were exactly what I needed to hear. The first list just blew me away. All I kept saying was “wow” because I realized how much I have ahead of me. It changed my perspective from trying to do all I can and be the wife my husband wants me to to focusing on how God wants me to be. That goes first. Also I have to trust more that God is working on my husband and his bad habits. I can’t do much about it so just let it go in a sense. It’s almost as if a weight was lifted. Instead of trying to please my husband, I just have to focus on pleasing God. I have sooo much work to do!!! Thank you April for all that you do!!!

    1. Kat,

      I am so excited that God used this post to speak to you so powerfully. What an answer to my prayers. Thank you very much for sharing! 🙂 I’m thankful God is willing to pour through my life to yours. He is SO GOOD.

  6. April, thank you for your minister. I have been reading your blog since last summer…my marriage failed and I searched ‘Respect’ in Google, I found your blog. I wish I had found it 2-3years ago. Through you I did see how disrespectful I was. And was so far away for God. My husband and I are separated and right now it doesn’t look like we will very get back together. I’m going through some painful counselling this week to deal with pain and hurt form when I was born till now.
    I would appreciated if you ladies would pray that I will be filled with the Holy Spirit, let go of all evil things, and for give the ones that hurt?
    Thank you all.

    1. HW,

      My precious sister! I will absolutely pray these things with you and I pray for your husband and lay your marriage in the Father’s hands, asking for Him to reconciled heal it in His time for His glory – but first I pray for healing individually for yourself and your husband by the power of God’s Spirit and the truth of His Word. I pray He will illumine all the lies and sinful strongholds that are destroying you and that you might be willing to trash them and receive the truth and healing He has for you!

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