At any point in the process of the negative-thought-death-spiral, I can choose to get off of the ride if I am willing to turn to Jesus and do things His way.
What He wants me to do feels unnatural and awkward, at first. But it is LIFE-GIVING.
Let’s see how I might handle a triggering issue at different stages of this journey:
My husband doesn’t do something I want him to do. How will I respond?
Early in the Journey
In the beginning, it felt like major emotional and spiritual contortion to learn to take my thoughts captive for Christ.
Often I didn’t realize what I was doing until I was already spiraling. So I would go to my journal and write what I was thinking and pray to God and ask Him to help me. I worked through all of my negative thoughts and compared them to truth and God’s Word.
Whenever I got upset, I learned to go to God, prayer, my journal, and my Bible before trying to talk to Greg. This kept me from making a LOT of mistakes!
Note – My husband was not abusing me and my children and I were never in any kind of danger. If wives are dealing with very serious issues, please see the notes at the bottom of the post.
My process looked something like:
- I feel hurt because Greg didn’t do X.
- I have some expectations that are super important to me, and when they aren’t met, I get really upset.
- Lord, I wonder if these expectations could be idols for me?
- Do I make Greg’s attention, affection, time, gifts, words, etc… the most important things in my life?
- Do I need to lay down some of my expectations and die to myself?
- Help me find my contentment and security in You alone whether Greg does everything I want him to or not.
- I expected him to do this for me and I feel unloved because he didn’t do it. So I feel sad. It is okay to feel sad. But I want to examine what is behind my feelings. I know I can’t always trust them.
- When is my period due? PMS definitely makes me feel upset with Greg a lot more easily than normal. So I need to consider that. Am I exhausted, is my blood sugar low? Is my flesh really weak right now? Could that be fueling some of my negative emotions?
- I want to try to control him and make him do what I want. But I know that will only repel him and it won’t increase our connection. It wouldn’t honor God for me to act that way, either.
- Greg has the right to have free-will just like I do. Thank you, Lord, that we each have free-will because real love can’t exist without it. I don’t want him to be a robot. I don’t get to take away his choice. I am responsible for how I respond after he makes his choice. I can’t force him to do what I want him to do.
- I want to appreciate the things he wants to do for me, even the things I usually don’t notice. I choose to receive love from him in the way he shows it. Sometimes he shows love to me in ways I wouldn’t have asked for, but they are still valid ways of showing love.
- I am tempted to think that he doesn’t love me in this moment. But the truth is I don’t actually know his motives. I have no evidence that he was purposely trying to hurt me. Satan would really love for me to assume the worst like I have so many times in the past. But now I know that every time I assumed the worst about Greg for over 14 years, I was wrong. Way wrong.
- There is still a lot about his perspective, masculinity, and his personality I don’t fully understand. Maybe this issue falls into that realm. I might go read a book to help me better understand men in general later today.
- There is a lot of evidence that Greg does love me. (What you write here will be different, that is okay!)
- He went to the store for me when I was sick last week.
- He is remodeling the house to make a dream home for me to enjoy.
- He comes home to me every day.
- He has been faithful to me.
- He eats with us as a family every night.
- He takes us to church every Sunday and Wednesday night.
- He took the trash out for me last night when I asked him for help.
- I am tempted to go down that negative spiral of insecurity, worry, resentment, and freaking out. That feels familiar and comfortable. But it is not worth it. I resist Satan’s voice and submit myself to the Lordship of Jesus. I don’t know best. Jesus does know best.
- If I run with this assumption, I will probably be wrong and end up hurting Greg, hurting myself, and grieving the Lord’s heart.
- I can’t afford any bitterness in my heart or thoughts. Lord, I repent for every bitter thought in my heart against Greg. Bitterness can destroy our marriage and turn me into a cold, hateful woman I don’t want to be.
- I choose to forgive him for not doing what I wanted him to do. I trust You will help me handle it rightly if I discover that he really was trying to be unloving.
- I am completely loved and accepted by Jesus. He is always faithful to me and will never leave me or forsake me.
- I receive the promise that God will use all things in my life, including this, to help make me more like Jesus. Help me learn anything You want me to learn through this.
- I’m going to focus on X verse about grace, love, respect, or bitterness and memorize it.
- I’m going to read a chapter in the Bible, maybe in Psalms in a few minutes.
- I choose to find my security in Jesus and His love. I choose to rest in Him and His truth.
- I choose to take my thoughts captive for Christ and not let the enemy have access to my mind and heart. I will not let him use my thoughts and words to attack and accuse my husband.
- I understand that Greg is not perfect. I’m not either. We will both need grace, at times. I choose to give him grace now.
- I choose to assume the best about Greg. I don’t even know that he did anything wrong. I am not his judge, jury, and executioner.
- Greg is not my enemy. We are teammates.
- I’ll write out a list of things I respect about Greg. (What you write about your husband may be different, that is totally fine. Each personality and each person has their own strengths and weaknesses.)
- He is really intelligent.
- He’s patient and calm.
- He is great with the kids and their homework.
- He tries to take my feelings into consideration.
- He generally cares about what is best for me.
- He is responsible with money.
- He is a good provider.
- He treats his family and my family well.
- He doesn’t pressure me or have a critical spirit.
- He doesn’t try to control me.
- He doesn’t yell.
- Lord, is there something I could do to bless Greg today? Maybe he is stressed or having a bad day.
- I’m going to sing some praise songs to Jesus now.
I already know Greg’s heart and that his motives toward me are good. I have already laid down my unbiblical and unrealistic expectations. I accept Greg’s personality and how different he is from me.
My thought-process is streamlined to this:
- Hmm… I had hoped Greg would do X for me.
- Looks like he didn’t get a chance to do it. There’s probably a good reason for that.
- I’m going to keep enjoying my day. No need to take offense. I know he loves me.
Then I move on.
Depending on what it is, I may ask about it again, or I may let it go.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.James 4:7-10
This Approach Brings Peace!
Eventually, I got to taste how awesome it is not to have those negative, toxic thoughts. And then I realized how much damage the negative thoughts do and that if I savor them and feed them I can cause days, weeks, or months of damage to myself and my marriage. Now I know the price is way too high.
Now, because I invite the Holy Spirit to have control and because I have made taking my thoughts captive for Christ a consistent habit, I usually don’t have those old disrespectful, bitter thoughts.
At first, I couldn’t catch the wrong thoughts until I had been dwelling on them for a while. But, eventually, God helped me catch things earlier and earlier. Now, I can often recognize a toxic thought when it is still a temptation and invite God to help me shoot it down before I let it in the door of my mind.
If a tempting thought comes, I say, “Nope! I can’t afford to go there. I never want to be in that awful place again!” I recognize it is from the enemy and it is deadly. I seek to immediately reject it, replacing it with truth, love, and good things.
I usually recognize the enemy’s voice now and the creepy feeling that comes along with it. It isn’t charming anymore. It is deadly-sounding. I know where that voice wants to take me. I know that he wants to trap me back in that awful prison. And I never want to go there again!
So I go running back to Jesus, my Good Shepherd, and only want to listen to and obey His voice.
NOTE – If your husband is actually sinning against you in some way, there are God-honoring ways to address that. If you are dealing with extreme issues in your marriage (adultery, addictions, abuse, uncontrolled mental health issues, etc…) please reach out to a trusted counselor, pastor, doctor, or the police for help, depending on your needs.
Taking our thoughts captive for Christ doesn’t mean we have to just sit and be sinned against or abused. In this post, I talk about learning how to stop trying to control my husband and how not to automatically assume he has evil motives when I don’t know that is true. In my case, I always knew I was safe with my husband and that he had never tried to hurt me. If your husband really does have unloving or evil motives and you are not safe, please don’t ignore that truth, but seek appropriate outside help.
Finding Contentment in Christ Alone in Painful Trials – these spouses were sinned against (their spouses committed adultery). But these believers in Christ found beautiful ways to respond in the power of God.