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Forgiveness

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We have been focusing on bitterness a good bit this week.  If you have missed it, here are links to the other posts:

Be Still My Bitter Heart

Bitterness is Toxic and Contagious

Exploring the Depths of Bitterness

Finding God’s Victory Over Bitterness

STEPPING STONES TO FORGIVENESS

I want to see ALL traces of bitterness gone in myself and in all of you!  I want to see Christ deliver us from our sin that we might live in His victory and abundant life full of His peace, joy and purpose.  Just the smallest amount of bitterness or unforgiveness will grow into a destructive force of evil in my life.

If you live with people, you will have plenty of “legitimate” reasons to be bitter.  You will be sinned against – and it is not wrong to feel anger when someone sins against us.  Anger is a gift from God that is supposed to alert us to our boundaries being violated or us being sinned against. But, in that anger, I am not to sin!  And I must get rid of the anger and deal with it quickly before it gives the enemy a foothold in my life.

So, how do I begin to forgive when I am deeply hurt and someone sinned against me?

SEE THE DEPTHS OF MY OWN SIN AND THE MASSIVE DEBT CHRIST PAID FOR ME

For me, this is the first step.  I used to think I was really “not that bad” and didn’t have much sin in my own life.  That massive PRIDE in my heart fueled ungodly thoughts in me like:

  • I don’t deserve to be treated this way
  • I would NEVER do that to someone.  I am so much better than that person
  • I am a victim here
  • I deserve to hold on to my anger and unforgiveness
  • He/she doesn’t deserve my forgiveness

When I think that I am above reproach – I start to think I shouldn’t have to forgive.  But that is so untrue!  God Himself is SINLESS and HOLY and He forgives.  Am I above God that I am exempt from forgiving others?  That was PRIDE in my heart.  SKY HIGH PRIDE.

When I start to look at MYSELF – and begin a rough tally of all the sin in my own life – just in my past (not to mention my future!) – I know now that I owe Jesus “billions of dollars” of sin debt.  I had constant idolatry in my heart for decades (acting as if I were sovereign instead of God, putting myself and being in control up as an idol, expecting my husband to be Christ and making him an idol), PRIDE, PRIDE, PRIDE, unforgiveness, gossip, bitterness… MOUNTAINS of sin.

When I see the sin in my own life – and how desperately I need forgiveness and all that Christ has forgiven me for – how can I not show that mercy to others who sin against me.  They are doing the SAME things that I have done!  I need mercy, and so do they.

(Matthew 18:21-35 – a parable about how we are to forgive)

UNDERSTAND THAT IF I REFUSE TO FORGIVE, GOD WILL NOT FORGIVE ME.  I NEED HIS FORGIVENESS!  THIS IS NOT AN OPTION.  IT IS  A COMMAND AND A NECESSITY.

It is spiritual suicide for me to refuse to forgive someone.  I then forfeit God’s power working in me, His strength, His Spirit’s filling me, His forgiveness and the fruit of His Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  I NEED those things!  I need the presence and intimate fellowship of Christ.  I have NOTHING without Him!

I am addicted to Jesus.  He is my LORD.  I need Him in my life and I MUST have him.  I need to do whatever He wants me to do in order to stay close to Him and be able to abide in Him.

Read the book of I John this week if you can.  Read it with bitterness and unforgiveness in mind and see how God wants us to live if we belong to Him.  There is no room for sin.  It all has to go!  Unforgiveness = wickedness to Christ.  I cannot afford the luxury of unforgiveness.

UNFORGIVENESS AND BITTERNESS ARE GATEWAY SINS THAT LEAD TO MANY OTHER SINS – IT IS POISON!

Not only do I forfeit the blessings of God and of obedience when I refuse to forgive, I embrace the poison fruit of unforgiveness and bitterness.  It leads to death!  Death of relationships, depression, anxiety, many other sins (gossip, division, feuds, jealousy, lack of faith, even stealing, suicide or murder if it is left long enough in my heart).

A tiny amount of bitterness grows and takes over my soul, my thoughts, my life and my identity.  It can actually become my purpose in life if I allow it to continue – it can become my idol!  Other people can see bitterness in me and it makes me toxic to everyone else.  People will want to avoid me.  Bitterness is contagious – the Bible says not to let a bitter root grow up that will defile many.

This is SERIOUS stuff!

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY – THE LIFE OF JOSEPH

One of my favorite stories about forgiveness is that of Joseph in the Old Testament (Genesis 38-45).  If anyone had reason to be bitter, it was Joseph.  His brothers were jealous of him and staged his fake death and sold him into slavery.  As a slave, his master’s wife accused him falsely of attempted rape and he was sent to prison, though he was innocent.  In prison, he helped the Pharaoh’s cup bearer, but the cup bearer forgot to mention Joseph to the Pharaoh.  He was a slave or a prisoner for MANY YEARS.

But this young man did not become bitter.  I LOVE his attitude and how he handled things!  He trusted himself to God.

And when the time came that his God-given dreams came true and he stood before his brothers as the 2nd in command in Egypt and they were all bowing down to him – he responded in godliness. He did test his brothers to see if they had changed.  He checked to see if they were trustworthy.  But then, when he revealed himself to them – he did not have them killed or imprisoned or tortured.  His response amazes me!

Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.  For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping.  But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”  (Genesis 45:5-8) And he forgave them, loved them, hugged them, wept with them and gave them the finest clothes, food and land and he provided for them out of all the wealth God had given him.

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY – THE LIFE OF JESUS

Jesus, also, was able to forgive as He was being crucified because:

1. He knew that the people didn’t realize what they were doing

2. He knew that it was God’s will for Him to suffer and die and take the punishment we deserved so that God’s wrath might be satisfied, and He might make a way to bring us into a right relationship with God.

He trusted the sovereignty of God.  This wasn’t about him and being comfortable. This was about doing what God wanted Him to do so that He might save many from hell and from separation from God.

GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER MY LIFE, TOO

When someone hurts me or wounds me or sins against me – what they intended for evil, God intends for good and He can and will use even the sin of others against me to accomplish His good purposes, to make me more like Christ and to bring great glory to Himself.

This is a HUGE key in being able to forgive – to see the sovereign hand of God in the midst of my pain and to trust His heart even when I can’t trust the heart of the person/people who are sinning against me.

Bitterness is Contagious and Toxic!

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Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.   Hebrews 12:14-15

WHAT IS IT ABOUT ONE PERSON’S BITTERNESS THAT DEFILES MANY?

In this passage – there is a TON of spiritual meat!

  • it is impossible to live in peace with others and be bitter
  • it is impossible to be holy and be bitter
  • it is impossible to see God without holiness
  • it is impossible to grasp the grace of God and be bitter
  • bitterness grows to cause trouble (in the church, in families, in businesses, in neighborhoods, ANYWHERE)
  • bitterness yields a toxic harvest that contaminates many people

1. My bitterness may lead others to become bitter towards the same person/thing I am bitter about

When I am bitter – I am seething with unforgiveness and a sense of justifiable anger.  I am fueled primarily by PRIDE – pride that I don’t deserve this treatment and that I am better than the person with whom I am bitter, that I ought to be sovereign instead of God, that I know best for myself and for others, that I should decide and dole out what the punishment for sin against me should be… LOTS OF PRIDE.

I cherish my grudge more than my relationship with God.  My bitterness leads me to more sin.  As the bitterness tree grows – it takes over my heart, my life, my thoughts, my words and my actions.  The tree begins to develop fruit.  Fruit like – hatred, avoidance, lack of love, lack of faith in God, deceit, lying, being divisive, gossip, possibly even violence or adultery – depending on my situation.  And the fruit drops into my life and the lives of those around me, rotting and allowing the small seeds of bitterness to spread and germinate in other places.

When I am bitter, I WANT to gossip about the person with whom I am bitter.  I WANT to run them down.  I WANT to hurt their reputation and try to build myself up by stomping them into the ground.  Gossip defiles my listeners.  And the people listening to me may become convinced to become angry, unforgiving or bitter towards the target of my bitterness, too.  Or, at the very least, they will lose respect and regard for the target of my bitterness or for me!  This happens at work, in extended families, in the church and especially in the home.

Children who have a parent who sets out to turn them against the other parent often develop great bitterness and unforgiveness themselves towards that other parent – not realizing until they are adults how much they have been defrauded by the bitter parent.  They can literally be robbed of the love of one parent and a relationship with that parent by having a bitter parent try to turn them against the other parent.

2. Others may become bitter towards me because it is HARD to love a bitter person.  My bitterness is so obnoxious, foul and toxic.

When I am bitter, I become more and more consumed with my anger, my justification of my own sin, my pride, my rights, my desire for revenge, my needs, my purposes, my will, MYSELF – that I can hardly see anything or anyone else around me eventually.

There is certainly no room for Christ to co-exist in my heart with a tree of bitterness.  Even a tiny seed or root of it offends His holiness.  I have to choose – Christ or bitterness.

It is HARD to love someone engulfed in bitterness.  They are sharp and prickly.  They practically develop a force field around them that love bounces off of.  It is exhausting to be around them.  They are depressing and draining.  They are an endless pit of need and negativity.  It is EASY to begin to develop bitterness towards a bitter person.  Of course, Jesus can give us to power to continue to love them  – but if we start reacting in our own flesh, we can be very tempted to be bitter with one who is bitter.

3. Bitterness can become my idol.

I can become completely entangled if bitterness continues to grow unchecked.  My very identity becomes BITTERNESS toward a person, an event or even God.  The tree of bitterness, and many generations of offspring trees that grow from the seeds of the fruit of the first tree – produces a FOREST of sin in my life that is inescapable.

If I am a very bitter person, I only want to talk about one thing – my bitterness.  (Bitterness grows in stages and is progressive, so it may start out only consuming a portion of my attention, but if given plenty of fuel and a  nourishing environment of continued anger, pride, rebellion against God and unforgiveness – it will completely take over my soul.)

It can become my IDOL.  I want to wallow in it and luxuriate in the mire of it.  I want to run the other person down – or run God down.  I wants the world to know what a victim I am and how powerless and wonderful and innocent I am and what justice I have been denied.

Bitterness blocks my view of God’s sovereignty.  When I am bitter, I cannot accept God’s grace for myself or for my offender.  I cannot receive grace.  I cannot give grace.  I cannot forgive.  So God will not forgive me.  It is a dark, depressing, lonely, cold, miserable prison.

If I am bitter with a person – I am ultimately also bitter at God.

For anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen, CANNOT love God, whom he has not seen.  And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God MUST also love his brother.  I John 4:20b-21

We don’t understand that God counts the way we treat other people as if we are treating Him that way.  The person to whom I show the least amount of love is the way I love God – that is how He judges me.

Whew!  What a scary thought that is!

The whole book of I John is an incredible study on NOT living in bitterness and hatred, but living in the love of God.

Idolatry destroys my fellowship with God and destroys every facet of my life – my soul, my relationships, my finances (eventually), my health, my emotions, my family…  Idolatry has a steep price – it causes discontentment, an insatiable desire for more that cannot satisfy, frustration, anxiety, worry, lack of joy, lack of peace, misery and sometimes even death.

4. Others may become bitter with God because of my bitterness

If I am bitter – I won’t forgive.  I won’t accept God’s grace for myself and I won’t extend God’s grace to others.  God says I am wicked if I refuse to forgive as I have been forgiven (Matthew 18).  I am a slave to sin and the flesh, and I can’t have God’s power or His Spirit or the fruit of His Spirit in my life.  I don’t see the sovereignty of God to work through this situation for my good and His glory.

So – I cannot shine for Christ.

In fact, if I call myself a Christian but am holding on to bitterness, I convolute and distort the image of Christ that I am projecting and will REPEL others from the gospel and the truth of God.

Why would anyone want to come to Christ if living for Him looks like ME – living in bitterness?

Especially my spouse and children will be affected.  If they are not believers, my horrific “witness” will erect a massive stumbling block for them to come to Christ.  I am an awful billboard for Christianity and for Jesus when I live in disobedience to Him.  If they are believers, my poor example will influence them greatly towards ungodliness, too.

My sin will trip others and entangle them.  They may resent God and be bitter at Him, too.  Because my bitterness is contagious and because I can make it hard for them to see the sovereignty of God, the love of God, to accept the grace of God.  And, I make it REALLY hard to love me.  And if they don’t love me, they can’t love God.

THANK GOD HE HAS PROVIDED VICTORY FOR US IN JESUS!

If Jesus is not your Savior and Lord – you can pray and ask Him to be.  Check out the post on my home page about how to have a relationship with Christ!

For those of you who have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord – here is what we can do when we are convicted of sin:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  I John 1:8-9

PRAISE GOD!

The blood of Jesus is strong enough and more than sufficient to cover any sin we might commit.  We can ask for forgiveness.  We can agree with Him that what we are doing is sin.  We can turn from our sin and decide we want to walk on God’s narrow path that leads to life.  And then we need HIS power to be able to obey Him.  So that means, we allow Him to remove all the sin in every corner of our hearts.  We abide in Him – we stay in His Word often.  We pray continually through the day.  We seek His will, His wisdom and His glory and we lay down our own selfish desires and our wisdom .  We long to obey Him in everything.  We ask Him to fill us with His Spirit.  We are still and listen for His voice and read His Word with a deep hunger.  We want HIM more than ANYTHING in life.

Precious sisters in Jesus,

The bitterness has to go!  I am looking at myself first.  We cannot afford to hold on to this destructive sin anymore.  How I pray that God might speak to each of our hearts and tear out every trace of bitterness -replacing it with His Spirit, the fruit of His Spirit and His abundant life!

In the Name and power of Christ,

Amen!

RELATED POSTS:

Exploring the Depths of Bitterness

Finding God’s Victory Over Bitterness

Be Still, My Bitter Heart

We Are Always Wretched Sinners on Our Own – We Never “Arrive”

A Peacefulwife VIDEO about nonverbal disrespect

Be Still, My Bitter Heart

Today’s post is a guest post by my dear sister in Christ, Selena, at www.joyfullysubmitted.com.  Thank you, Selena, for allowing me to share this post!  I pray that it will bless and edify many for the glory of God.

For the past week, some friends and I have been experiencing what it feels like to have our hearts turned inside out and upside down.  The Lord has used the isolated experience of one as an amazing tool to cleanse the hearts of us all, of some known, but mostly unknown and unrepented of bitterness and ghastly unforgiveness!  We have had the sinful contents of our bitter hearts, ever so gently shaken loose, so that we could choose to either acknowledge the presence of sin and repent of it, or continue to ignore its contents and go on growing more and more removed from God.  For some of us, the existence of bitterness was no shock! We had a moderate awareness on some level of its existence.  But for others, this revelation broke our hearts, and brought agony to our souls as these evils were revealed under the all illuminating light of God’s Word…

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For most of the week, I have remained silent…reading the emails that have gone back and forth as one thing after another was revealed or exposed…as one realization after another pierced the hearts of those of us impacted.  What God revealed to one, He revealed to another, and with each revelation of the depth of the darkness still lurking in our hearts, we prayed all the more…and with each prayer came another level of confession and repentance… and the more we confessed and repented, the more healing took place.

UNEARTHING BITTERNESS

The biggest hurt/most humbling thing for me was realizing that I had NOT forgiven as I thought I had.  Or rather, that I had not forgiven at all.  And that bitterness is just the tip of a very evil, ugly iceberg!  The root of bitterness is unforgiveness…and the root of unforgiveness is and has ALWAYS  BEEN PRIIIIIDE!!!!!! (That was me yelling at myself) Foolish pride. Evil pride. Ugly pride. God offending pride.  And after all of the years that I have known the Lord, it is still found in me… in my heart.  Some may ask why is this such a big deal, after all, we’re only human right. Wrong! We are women of faith! And not just a faith but THE faith. We have placed our faith in the One True and Living God and in His Son Jesus the Christ! We have been changed … trans-formed! (This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Cor.5:17)  Because we are His we no longer desire the things of this world!!! We no longer want to be like the world!!! And we no longer are ok with the world being in us!!! We want it out!! Out of our hearts!!! Out of our minds!!! Out of our families!!! When speaking of people of the same Faith that we profess, the Book of Hebrews said the following;

“How much more do I need to say? … They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.” Hebrews 11:32-40

This experience…this full recognition of the evil pride that repeatedly spawns bitterness in the hearts of Gods people everywhere, including in my own heart, has worked to revive the fight in me.  Hebrews has reminded me of the spiritual stock that we all come from…of the cloth that we’re cut from.  We are ‘more than conquerors’ (Romans 8:37), and that means that we can, by the power of the life-giving Spirit that now abides in us, conquer even bitterness…pride… envy…jealousy…and all of their ugly relatives!!!!

The healing that began in the hearts of our small prayer group is just the beginning!!! We are able to overcome bitterness, and through our testimonies, help others to overcome and experience healing too!!! God’s mercy has empowered us to not “just pretend to love others. [but to] Really love them. [to really]Hate what is wrong. [to truly]Hold tightly to what is good. [to] Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other… [to] Bless those who persecute [us]. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think [we] know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead,“If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:9-21)

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BITTERNESS YIELDS POISONED FRUIT

You see, pride says that I deserve better…in my case, that I deserved to be treated better than they treated me, 20 years ago as well as off and on throughout the years. Unforgiveness sets in because I want God to punish them and to do it quickly and visibly, where I can see that they got ‘in trouble’ for wronging wonderful me!! Bitterness sets in over time when the punishment never seems to come, and the wrong never seems to be made right.

Over time these evil emotions begin to feel normal, and comfortable, and we begin to feel justified, and pride begins to grow and gain strength.  And eventually, our refusal to forgive becomes justifiable, and bitterness becomes our friend. We don’t even realize that we are now living in a prison of our own making, and while pride has convinced us that we are right, its true evil is camouflaged…hidden from our view, and the absolute distortion of the image of Christ being perfected in us is now all that is visible. Bitterness makes us unattractive…it manipulates us, our responses or reactions.  Where we should be acting in the love of God and displaying His mercy, when bitterness takes our hearts captive, we become the puppets of the enemy of our souls.  And the name of our God is defamed….

“But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?” 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

CHRIST WON’T LEAVE US IN OUR SIN

I am going to wrap this up with one more thing that I was reminded of this week; Ephesians 5 tells us that Christ not only loved the church, but that he

“gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” 

This past week my beautiful prayer sisters and I experienced that ‘washing of water by the word’, and it was painfully glorious!!! Bitterness no longer reigns in the most holy place of our hearts! We now know what it looks like and smells like and sounds like…and how it feels!!! And we know most of all that it is an overwhelming offense to the presence of our merciful, forgiving and gracious God.  More than ANYTHING we want to honor Him!!!! More than ANYTHING we want our lives to bring Him glory!!! More than ANYTHING we want to hear Him say ‘Well done!’!!!!! We are choosing daily to forgive. we are choosing daily to love. We are FIGHTING MINUTE BY MINUTE to remain humble.  And by the power of His life-giving Spirit we will be VICTORIOUS!!! Won’t you join us??? Forgive today…resist the self-imposed prison of bitterness that the enemy is trying to sneak into your hearts under the guise of justifiable anger or wisdom…choose today to love with Gods love, and let it heal our hearts together….

Finding God’s Victory over Bitterness

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Yesterday, we looked at many of the causes, signs and consequences of bitterness – if you missed that post, you can find it here.

I have discovered that I have to dig down deeply and examine all of my angry thoughts, write down exactly why I am upset and then compare my thoughts to the truth of God’s Word and trash the things I am thinking and believing that aren’t true. (But I need to throw away the list of wrongs I have suffered after I have examined them!)  I also need to identify all of my sinful reactions and repent of each individual sin towards each individual person and memory that contains the smallest root of bitterness.  I realize now that even old memories from long ago need to be uprooted and inspected for hidden traces of bitterness to get all of that before God and remove even the smallest particles – or it will fester.  I lay still before God on the operating table as He opens up my heart and examines every dark crevice. I need God to renew my mind by the power of His truth and His Word.  I must take each thought captive for Christ and allow Him to examine my heart and mind and extract every offensive way in me.  I desperately need time in His Word daily and time in confession of my own myriads of sins daily and time praising and thanking Him. I pray we will be sensitive to God’s Spirit and able to hear His voice:

  • pride – “I am better than so and so.”  “I would NEVER do what he/she did.”  “I am so much more spiritually mature than him.”  I have to ALWAYS be on the lookout for pride.  God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.  James 4:6 Pride is a HUGE source of fuel for bitterness in my heart.  “I deserve better.”  “I know better than her what we should do.”  “I am not that sinful.”  “He doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.”  “I am above THAT sin.”  “He/she is SO spiritually weak to fall into THAT temptation.”  “That is unforgivable.  I will NOT forgive that!”
  • ungodly motives – I am VERY SINFUL and wicked on my own.  I am in desperate need of Jesus! I have to constantly check WHY I want to do things and allow God to expose sin, pride, desire for glory for myself, selfishness, and many other sins!  The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?  Jeremiah 17:9  I can easily be blind to my own sinful motives.  I need God to show me my sin, and other believers and other people to tell me the sin they see in me.
  • unforgiveness – Jesus commands us to forgive so that God will forgive us.  Matthew 6:14-15  Unforgiveness is HUGE sin in the  sight of our holy God.
  • gossip – usually born from my pride and wanting to prove how much better I am than someone.  MORE PRIDE!  Gossip is part of the fruit of the flesh, it is NEVER of God!  What are my motives when I am sharing stories about others?  Am I looking out for their best and for God’s glory?  Or am I trying to make them look bad and make myself look wise,  am I trying to hurt the person and ruin his/her reputation and turn others against them or using their sins/errors for entertainment?
  • fear – I need to think about God’s Word and that perfect love drives out all fear, and that the only One I truly need to fear is God – “what can man do to me?”  If I have God’s power in me and His Spirit filling me, He will give me the strength, courage and wisdom to handle another person’s sin in His way for His glory.  I don’t have to be afraid of another person’s attempts to control me, their disapproval, their unkind words, their anger.  If I am paralyzed by fear, I am not trusting God.  I have a lack of faith in His sovereignty and power to work in my life.  Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Hebrews 11:6  I don’t have to be swayed by sinful attempts of others to control me.  I don’t have to get upset or react sinfully myself.  I am no longer a slave to sin!  Now I am a slave to Christ!  I may calmly respond in the power of the Holy Spirit and refuse to cooperate with sin and ask God to give me His love for them. (If someone is violent towards you or threatening you physical harm, please do not trust your safety to them.  You may need to get away, may need to involve the police.  Please find godly, local, experienced counsel if you are in physical danger!)  I can forgive, but I don’t have to trust until the person earns my trust back.  But I need to desire to work towards reconciliation as far as it depends on me and God working in me.
  • idolatry – wanting people’s approval, wanting to please people, wanting people to think I am perfect, expecting other people to make me be happy, demanding things of others, insisting on MY will, MY way, MY desires, MY goals, MY needs, MY feelings of being loved…  If I am giving other people power over my emotions and feelings and believing evil things they say, but ignoring what God’s Word says – I have a big problem!   It is what GOD says that matters – not what others say!  If their opinions and statements and condemnation don’t line up with scripture – I don’t hang onto their words! Just because someone says something about me, does not mean it is true.  It is up to me to take that statement to God and His Word and examine it.  There is no reason to blindly swallow poison from other people. If that person could act in spiritual maturity, love and wisdom – he/she would!  But right now that person may be held captive by sin or by the enemy – and may not be able to be the person God desires them to  be.  God may want to use me and His Spirit in me to show His love, mercy, kindness and grace to that person who is acting hatefully to draw him/her to Himself.  When others mistreat me – God is watching carefully!  There are many tests of my faith each day.  I pray we will hear God’s voice and honor Him!  My reaction to others’ sin reveals my character.  Other people cannot MAKE me fly into a rage.  God’s  Spirit is to be in control of me – not my sin nature!   If I am not seeking God’s will, His dreams, His goals, His presence, His righteousness, His Word, His power and His pleasure – I may be dealing with idolatry.
  • undealt with sin – if someone sinned against me, but I didn’t go to them in love and truth and tell them that they hurt me, I was wrong.  It is my responsibility to tell someone (calmly) if they wrong me.

Martha Pearce in The Excellent Wife has a chart  of Bitter Thoughts and Kind, Tender-hearted, Forgiving thoughts to replace the bitter thought.    This same concept can be applied to ANY relationship.  What a fantastic place to start!

She lists many of  the bitter thoughts wives think, and replaces it with a truth from scripture and with a kind thought.  What a  GREAT way to counter bitterness and find victory in Christ!

Verses she used for the godly thoughts:

Matthew 18:32-33, Matthew 19:6

Romans 8:28-29

I Corinthians 4:4-8, I Corinthians 6:11, I Corinthians 10:13

Colossians 3:2, 14

Ephesians 4

Philippians 2:3-4

I Peter 3:9

James 1:5

I John 1:9

SOME INSIGHTS FROM A FRIEND THIS WEEK:

I realized several things:

1. I am SO quick to get angry
2. My anger and bitterness toward them is not just about this one incident-this is just one more incident that can be added to the long list of wrongs that I’ve been keeping 🙁
3. The beauty of Christ cannot be seen in me if I’m pouting and angry
4. I need to forgive these people and treat them kindly
5. I have absolutely no desire in my flesh to do that right now
6. I desperately need the Lord to bring me to that place!
April, I think your right in saying bitterness is progressive, and just recently learned that forgiveness can also be progressive. In Tim Keller’s Galatians study, there’s chapter on forgiveness. This has been very helpful to me, and I think it can be applied to bitterness as well since they seem to go hand in hand. He states:
  “When someone has wronged you, it means they owe you; they have a debt with you. Forgiveness is to absorb the cost of the debt yourself. You pay the price yourself, and you refuse to exact the price out of the person in any way. Forgiveness means you free the person from penalty for a sin by paying the price yourself.
  
   Realize that forgiveness is granted (often for a long time) before it is felt. Forgiveness is not primarily a feeling, but a set of actions and disciplines. Forgiveness is a promise NOT to exact the price of the sin from the person who wronged you. This promise means a repeated set of ‘payments’ in which you relinquish revenge. It is hard, and (for a while) constant. If this promise is kept actively, eventually the feeling of anger subsides.”
 
   He goes on to quote Dan Hamilton from his book Forgiveness: “Forgiveness is to deal with our emotions by sending them away- by denying ourselves the dark pleasures of venting them or fondling them in our minds.”  “Once upon a time I was engaged to a young woman who changed her mind. I forgave her…but only in small sums over a year…They were made whenever I spoke to her and refrained from rehearsing the past, whenever I renounced  jealousy and self-pity, whenever I saw her with another man, whenever I praised her to others when I wanted to slice away at her reputation. Those were the payments- but she never saw them. And her own payment was unseen by me…but I do know that she forgave me…Forgiveness is more than a matter of refusing to hate someone. It is also a matter of choosing to demonstrate love and acceptance to the offender…Pain is the consequence of sin; there is no easy way to deal with it. Wood, nails, and pain are the currency of forgiveness, the love that heals.”
 
WOW! How powerful is that??? Sisters, I just wonder how quickly the bitterness we’re harboring would fade away if we would begin absorbing the costs ourselves. To refuse to dwell on past hurts, to take every thought captive the moment they pop into our head, to release the offender from our high expectations, to not find our satisfaction in the approval of men, to choose to show love to those that hurt us, to remember Christ absorbed the costs of our debts… There are so many ways to make payments…and it’s so HARD! But freedom awaits us on the other side of it! I pray that the Lord will soften my heart and bring me to the place where I am delighted to make the payments, where I LOOK for ways to do it, because I know there’s no way I can do it in my own power!
FROM PEACEFULWIFE:
We will explore more about forgiveness and victory over bitterness tomorrow!  I am SO excited to share God’s wisdom and His path to freedom, joy, peace and abundant life!

Exploring the Depths of Bitterness

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This is Part 1 of a series on Bitterness.  (Click here for Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4)

Thank You, God, for a Husband Who Is Willing to Tell Me the Hard Stuff

My husband shocked me one night this week when he told me about some bitterness that he saw in me that I totally thought I had resolved.  At first, I was speechless.  I wanted to defend myself.  I wanted to say that I had totally taken care of all of that and that he was surely mistaken.  It was about some very old issues that I thought I had laid to rest.

Then, I decided to listen to my husband’s wisdom and not argue.  Maybe God is speaking to me here through my husband’s leadership.  I better be careful not to quickly dismiss something if my husband sees it.  So, I thought some more and realized – you know, maybe he’s right.  Maybe he can see something I can’t see.

YUCK.

I don’t LIKE being called out on my sin!  But – I am a pretty experienced sinner and I have a long history of deceiving myself  – so I decided to really think and pray about what he said.  And, I soon realized – HE WAS RIGHT!

I am SO thankful that my husband had the courage to tell me what he saw.  I need a man like that!  I have blind spots.  What a blessing his leadership is to me.

I want to really search out everything about bitterness and forgiveness and get to the bottom of the root so God can help us tear the whole root out and we won’t continue to be stuck with the debilitating consequences of bitterness in our lives.  I am on a crusade to end bitterness – with God’s Spirit and truth working in us!

WHAT IS BITTERNESS?

It is a hanging on to wrongs suffered.  It is holding on to anger.  It is a desire for revenge or justice against the one who has wronged us.  It is a refusal to forgive.

We all have many reasons to be bitter.  We all have family members, siblings, husbands, friends, church members, neighbors, in-laws, coworkers and random strangers who are sinners who have sinned against us.  It is not wrong to be angry when we are sinned against – but, in our anger we are not to sin.

Bitterness and unforgiveness is HUGE sin.  In Matthew 18, Jesus talks about a servant who owed his master millions of dollars and the master forgave him and had mercy on him.  Then the same servant refused to forgive his fellow slave who owed him a small amount of money.  The master said to the unforgiving servant, “You WICKED slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me.  Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?”

Bitterness/unforgiveness = wickedness

Bitterness and unforgiveness are MY problem.  It shows a faulty understanding on my part of God’s character and sovereignty.  It also shows my character and reveals any area that I am lacking the power of God’s Spirit..  There is no exception given to us where we are exempt from the command to forgive those who sin against us.

MANY of you have had to forgive MUCH MORE than I ever have.  But we are all commanded to forgive, regardless of the wounds we have suffered.  None of us can do this on our own.  We need the power of God’s Spirit to do this!

It only takes the SMALLEST amount of bitterness to grow into a huge, destructive tree that produces deadly fruit and poison in my life.

WHY IS BITTERNESS WRONG?

  • Jesus commands us to forgive so that God will forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15).
  • it is a gateway sin that leads to MANY other sins.
  • God commands us “not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God… Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”  Ephesians 4:30-31
  • “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”  Hebrews 12:15   Bitterness cannot lead to holiness.  It cannot lead to peace.  It also defiles MANY.  One person’s bitterness spreads like poison among many.
  • “‘In your anger do not sin.’  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”  Ephesians 4:26.  Holding on to anger, nursing a grudge – creates a place for Satan to enter into our souls and lives.  Even holding on to anger over night creates a place for Satan to attack and hang onto us.  Bitterness is progressive.  It is a process.  It grows over time given a nurturing environment.  It spreads and becomes stronger and begins to consume our whole lives.

FROM THE EXCELLENT WIFE by MARTHA PEACE…(this is an awesome section on bitterness!)

Common Signs of Bitterness
1. Gossip and Slander
Gossip and bitterness defile many other people.  YIKES!

2. Ungrateful and Complaining

3. Judges motives

4. Self-Centered – victim

5. Excessive Sorrow

6. Vengeful – looks for ways to avoid person.  Leaves, pouts, gives the cold shoulder

7. Brooding – plays the wrong suffered over and over

8. Loss of joy – sin of bitterness> intense emotional pain and misery

9. A critical, judgmental attitude – focus on what other did wrong, not self

The doctrine of bitterness
– it grows when you take into account a wrong suffered.  Thinking about the bad thing feeds bitterness.  dwelling on the wrong suffered greatly intensifies emotional pain, making it seemingly unbearable at times
no strength, no happiness, no peace, no hope.  The emotional pain intensifies and sin will likely begin to multiply
– more sinful thoughts, anger, wrath, clamor, slander and possibly malice.  At this point, the other will be unable to do anything right in your eyes, even if they are trying.
– bitterness hurts your children

bitter feelings improve as you clear your conscience and begin to make second mile investments

– doing something extra special nice for the person, going above and beyond the call of duty.
– don’t return evil for evil but give a blessing instead
– the more intense your hurt, the greater the need to give blessings instead – eventually your emotional pain will abate and in the meantime you will be glorifying God immensely if your motive is to obey and please God.
– put off the bitterness by putting on kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving thoughts  Ephes 4:31-32
– keep a brief log of your bitter thoughts.  each time you feel hurt or resentful, write down your thoughts word for word. Then take the time to go over each thought and convert it to a kind, tender-hearted or forgiving thought.  Take each thought captive in obedience to Christ.

Forgiveness and trust are not the same thing.

Bitterness destroys love.  It stirs up overwhelming hurt feelings. T he sin of bitterness spreads and hurts other people.  It is, foremost, a grievous sin against God. The key to repenting of bitterness is to take every thought captive, replace those bitter thoughts with kind, tender-hearted and forgiving thoughts and go the second mile.  Truly there is nothing that your husband has done that you cannot forgive,  If your husband is not trustworthy, he can re-earn your trust.  Regardless of whether your husband is a failure before God, you do not have to be.

I used to try to get rid of my bitter thoughts, but didn’t understand that I needed to REPLACE them with kind, tender-hearted, forgiving thoughts.  No wonder I struggled so much for so long!

SOME PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS FROM MYSELF AND SOME OF MY PRAYER PARTNERS AND READERS:

Causes of Bitterness –

  • PRIDE, PRIDE, PRIDE – I am better than that person.  I am more spiritual.  I am more mature.  I would handle things so much better than they did.  I would NEVER do X like they did.  I don’t deserve what happened to me.  How dare that person treat ME that way
  • unmet expectations
  • idolatry of someone’s approval – then when they don’t approve or try to control, we are UPSET.
  • idolatry of self
  • trying to control others instead of allowing them to be responsible for their own decisions and emotions (idolatry of self)
  • trying to make other people responsible for my emotions, happiness and contentment (idolatry) instead of setting my heart on Christ
  • being different from another person and not understanding where he/she is coming from
  • being sinned against but handling my resulting anger sinfully – or undealt with sin against me
  • disobeying God’s Word for handling conflict in a godly manner (not lovingly confronting someone when they sin against me, trying to ignore it.  Sin CANNOT be ignored!  It must be paid for!  I have to pay for it, or they have to pay for it – or, if I am in Christ, His blood and sacrificial death can pay for it.  But it will hurt.)
  • selfishness
  • unforgiveness – cherishing my anger more than my relationship with Christ and His forgiveness of me
  • jealousy

Signs of Bitterness

  • feeling tense about that person, anxiety about seeing them
  • depression, insomnia (if you are thinking and thinking and obsessing about the wrong suffered) – other things can cause depression or insomnia, too, but bitterness alone can be a cause, or it can be a contributing factor.
  • DISRESPECT
  • lack of self-control – yelling, swearing, cussing, hateful tone of voice, sarcasm
  • broken, dysfunctional relationships
  • chronic pain can be a sign of bitterness, unforgiveness and resentment and can be made worse by lack of forgiveness.  Bitterness changes our body chemistry and makes us more sensitive to pain, it also reduces our immune system measurably and makes us more prone to infections.  The increased cortisol and adrenaline can cause a host of illnesses-  headaches, ulcers, insomnia, irritability, heart problems, increased blood pressure, digestion problems, IBS, and many more! (All of these health problems have possible other causes, too.  But bitterness can contribute to or cause these things.)
  • wanting to avoid the person
  • wanting vengeance
  • worry
  • fear, lack of faith in God (without faith, it is impossible to please God!)
  • wanting to gossip about the person
  • not praying for the person
  • replaying the wrong over and over
  • making hateful jokes about the person, with a prideful attitude of superiority and conceit
  • jealousy
  • withholding physical intimacy (in marriage), withholding affection (in relationships with children/parents/extended family, refusing to hug or shake hands.
  • refusal to smile at the person and greet them
  • fear – fear of confrontation or fear the person won’t care about my feelings, fear of conflict or someone else’s control or abuse
  • focus on person or self and not God’s character and sovereignty
  • being annoyed by everything about the person
  • hatred and evil intentions

Fruit of Bitterness

Bitterness starts out small, but grows and strengthens and can totally consume a person’s life.  It leads to greater and greater sin and contaminates many others with its poison..

  • hatred, malice, contempt, rage, plotting evil, major disrespect, screaming, cussing, yelling, hateful words, destruction of relationships, resentment,  wanting the person to be dead, violence, murder, war
  • gossip, slander
  • separation, divorce (bitterness is not always the cause of these things, but it is often a huge part of the cause)
  • adultery (out of a desire for revenge, or because bitterness causes a spouse to withhold sex from the other, this can lead to temptations for both spouses)
  • anxiety, worry, overwhelming fear, dread, depression, possibly even suicide if left unchecked
  • pride, arrogance, condemnations, judging the other with evil thoughts
  • a critical spirit, complaining, arguing, discontent, lack of gratitude
  • division, disunity, factions, arguing, fighting, yelling, loss of self-control, loss of temper
  • idolatry of self/pride/anger/bitterness/unmet expectations
  • an inability to put any faith or trust in the person, vilification of the person
  • lying, dishonesty, deception
  • jealousy
  • feuds, bullying
  • a seared conscience eventually, that can no longer hear God’s voice
  • vengeance and revenge, wanting to make the person pay, not depending on God to handle justice and vengeance
  • a desire to take anything good from the person, stealing, arson, attempting to sabotage the person and his/her livelihood/income.
  • separation from God, the grieving of God’s Spirit, the loss of God’s power and all of the fruit of the Spirit – no joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control.
  • a huge stronghold of Satan, sin and the flesh
  • attempts to cause other family members, friends, coworkers, church members to hate and turn on the person, also
  • total loss of influence and witness for Christ, smearing the name of Christ in filth (if we claim to be His followers), others may be turned away from the gospel, especially our spouse and children

WE ARE JUST SCRATCHING THE SURFACE ON THE TOPIC OF BITTERNESS!

You are welcome to leave comments, insights, wisdom and resources that have been helpful for you on this topic!

We will explore more about overcoming bitterness and unforgiveness and  how to begin the process of forgiveness with God’s power in the next few posts!

I am praying God will release us all COMPLETELY from every trace of bitterness that we might live in His glorious light, freedom, truth, peace and joy!  He is perfectly able to give us complete victory over bitterness and empower us to forgive as He does!

How I Handle the Toilet Seat Being Left Up and Other Quandaries

There are some things that are universal struggles in almost every marriage.  Sometimes these tiny little insignificant things can turn into huge issues and fights, unfortunately.

So what is a wife to do when her husband constantly leaves the toilet seat up, and she ends up splashing in the nasty toilet water in the middle of the night?  Or what is a wife to do when her husband doesn’t help with the laundry, or leaves dirty clothes all over the bedroom, or leaves wet towels on the bed or tracks dirt and mud through the house after she just vacuumed and mopped – again?

SOME PERSPECTIVE

One thing that helps me A LOT is to talk with widows and read the stories of widows.  There was an article about some of the September 11th widows and they all talked about how hard it was to hear wives complaining about these little inconveniences that come with living with a husband.  They talked about how much they WISHED they could have those kinds of “problems” again and have their men back in their lives.

SOME SUGGESTIONS

Here is how I handle some of those little annoying things now that used to get under my skin and fill me with resentment.   Yes, you could ask very respectfully, and probably only once (or occasionally) – “Honey, would you please do X?  I would appreciate it so much!”  But if that doesn’t work…

  • the toilet seat – Now, I just assume that the seat is probably up.  So I feel in the dark and yep, it’s up.  So I put it down and then I don’t fall in the toilet.  I don’t expect the seat to be down.  I live with a husband, and that is part of living with a man sometimes.  And I think about how glad I am to have him in my life.  I don’t nag him.  I don’t make any deal out of it at all.  I just changed my expectations.  It’s not that big of a deal!  You know what IS a big deal to God?  My resentment, bitterness and un-forgiveness.  Those are ugly sins in God’s book.  Leaving the toilet seat up is not a sin. I happen to know my husband’s heart well enough to know that he doesn’t purposely leave the seat up to try to annoy me. And, I always leave the seat down, so he has to put it up. He doesn’t complain about that!
  • clothes strewn around the bathroom/bedroom/wet towels on the floor or bed – Most of the time, my husband puts his dirty clothes in the hamper. If he doesn’t,  I take 2 seconds and put them in the hamper.  I don’t complain about it.  I don’t even think hateful thoughts.  It doesn’t upset me anymore at all.  It doesn’t take much of my time.  I think “I am so glad to be able to serve my husband and serve Jesus by taking care of him this way.”  And I don’t get the least bit annoyed.  I know I will probably be a widow in the next 10-30 years and I will have a very neat house and won’t have to clean up after anyone then.  And I know I will MISS my husband so much.  I want to savor every moment of being with him.  Who knows how many days we have left to enjoy each other’s company?  I don’t want to have any regrets.
  • dishes put into the dishwasher “wrong” –  I thank my husband for taking care of the dishes and cleaning up.  I hug him and kiss him and smile at him and tell him what an awesome man I have that he would do all of that for me!  Then when I take the dishes out of the dishwasher, if there are some that have crud on them, I soak them and rewash them. (Sometimes that happens when I load the dishwasher, too!) I could ask him to put them in a different way – respectfully. Or I could say, “Honey, the dishes don’t seem to be getting clean in the dishwasher,” and give him the chance to evaluate the situation. I don’t get angry.  I’m thankful for Greg’s willingness to help me with chores now.  Life has not always been like this!  So any time he helps me in ANY way, I thank him and pile on the praise and encouragement.  I do NOT criticize his help.  I appreciate him.
  • tracking dirt through the clean house – This actually happens a good bit when my husband is working on renovation projects at our house.  Thankfully, we have hardwood floors almost everywhere, so that makes it a bit easier.  I focus on the beautiful work my husband is doing to create my dream home for me.  That is one of the biggest ways he likes to show his love for me.  So, I don’t get on him about it at all.  I just wait until the work is done for the day and cheerfully sweep the floor again and thank him for the incredible job he’s doing on the house.  I don’t resent him.  I don’t get angry.  I hum or sing a praise song to God and I sweep the floor.  Then I go cuddle with my man after he gets cleaned up and I hug and kiss him and listen to him talk about all of his amazing plans for his latest project and I smile and appreciate having such a talented husband who loves me SO much that he is willing to do all that hard work just to delight me.

MY HUSBAND DOES A LOT FOR ME

I used to silently, or not so silently, keep score and try to weigh what I was doing in the marriage each day compared to my husband.  And I would resent him if I felt I had to do more chores around the house.  It helps a lot that I am not working as much anymore, so I have more time to spend on chores and I’m not trying to work a full time job AND do the housekeeping and be a wife and mother.  That was just WAY too much for me to handle!  Now I only work about 11-20 hours/week.

Now when I do work, my husband helps me.  I don’t usually ask him to do anything.  He feels so respected now, he just does it all on his own.  He’ll do laundry now, and even fold it and put it away!??!?  He’ll do the dishes now, especially days that I am working.  He’ll cook supper for me.  A man who feels greatly respected is wired by God to want to serve those who honor him. I don’t respect and honor him so that he will do things for me. But, he often does wonderful things these days just because he loves me and likes to see me smile.

Even before my husband was feeling a lot more respected and started helping me so much more, I began to change and see all the ways he contributes to our marriage, household and family and how he NEVER complains.  He takes care of all the outside chores and yard work.  He does the renovation projects.  He goes under the house and works on the ducts or the plumbing if needed.  Plumbing can get particularly nasty.  He doesn’t complain when he has to work on the sewage pipe and gets filthy.  He is MY HERO for being willing to do all that stuff for me.  He amazes me with his determination and perseverance and the way he seriously never complains no matter how hot it is in the attic when he’s putting insulation up there or how smelly and nasty it is under the house.  I can definitely find plenty of things to appreciate and thank him for and things to respect him for.  He contributes so much to making our house beautiful and safe and well-functioning.  How can I really measure what I do against all those things he does that I would NEVER be willing or able to do?

So, I don’t keep score anymore.  I just serve my husband and my Jesus with all my heart.  I sing songs to God all throughout the day.  I think about the things I respect and admire about my husband and all of his strengths.  And I am the happiest, most joyful and peaceful wife in the world.

SHARE:

How has God inspired you to handle the little things that your husband does that used to annoy you? Maybe your story might inspire another wife!

Rejoice in Suffering

Could there be a more unpalatable idea to us than this?  We don’t WANT to suffer – EVER!  And we certainly cannot begin to fathom REJOICING in suffering!  We only want comfort, ease, health and material wealth.  And we have plenty of preachers who are glad to tell us that it’s God’s will for us to be “healthy, wealthy and wise.”

Well – I have to stand up and say emphatically that the prosperity gospel is false teaching!  That is not what the Bible tells us to expect as believers.  In fact, if the prosperity gospel were true, then Jesus should have been born in human luxury, lived in mansions, had servants and never suffered – certainly He should have never been flogged and crucified as an innocent man!

God sent Jesus here to live in poverty, to suffer for what was right, to receive horrific abuse from us-  His enemies at the time, to crush Him so that His wrath could be satisfied and so that we might be free from the punishment we deserve for our sin.  If Jesus – Who obviously lived in the very center of God’s will all the time – suffered as part of God’s divine will – we can and should expect to suffer, too.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the Lord makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand.  After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied; by His knowledge My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities.”  Isaiah 53:10-11

THE UNFORTUNATE TRUTH ABOUT SINFUL HUMAN NATURE

In the Old Testament, I read it over and over and over again:

“When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud, then they forgot Me.”  Hosea 13:6

God’s blessings of material wealth and prosperity >> our pride >>  our self-indulgence >> we think we don’t need God/idolatry

Poverty and suffering >> our humility >> turns our hearts to God in dependence (we see the depths of our need for Him) >> our increased faith in God

Over and over again, prosperity in Israel created stubborn, rebellious, ungrateful hearts.  And it was only after God brought disaster and punishment that the people turned to Him and cried out for Him to save them.  Prosperity makes us spoiled, selfish and ungodly most of the time.  It happens to our children when they get everything they want, and it happens to us as adults, too.

SUFFERING HAS A HOLY PURPOSE

I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead.  Philippians 2:10-11

I am the true Vine, and My Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit HE PRUNES so that it will be even more fruitful.  John 1:1-2

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.  Acts 5:41

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4

(speaking to slaves) If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.”  When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats.  Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him Who judges justly.  He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.  I Peter 2:20-24

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. I Peter 3:13

Since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.  As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.  I Peter 4:1-2

Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the Name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you…  If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that Name.  I Peter 4:12-14,16

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.  I Peter 4:19

Just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  II Corinthians 1:5

Suffering is God’s tool to mold us into the image of Christ.  Certain suffering is God’s will for us.  (Not for us to suffer for doing wrong, but to suffer for doing right).  My temporary happiness is not God’s goal!  God uses suffering as discipline to train us in holiness – as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.  Holiness is a vastly more important priority to God for my life than my happiness. He used suffering to keep Paul humble (his thorn in the flesh).  He uses suffering to refine our faith, to bring the sin (dross) to the top and skim it off and to purify our faith and make it more valuable and beautiful.

When I know God more and more – how loving, kind and good He is – I don’t have to fear suffering anymore!  When I understand His sovereignty and how He will use suffering for my benefit – what would I fear?  The only thing to fear is being outside of the will of God.  If I am in the will of God, even if that includes suffering, I am safe in His arms.  And I can have a gentle and peaceful spirit that does not give way to fear that is of great beauty in the sight of God and my husband.  (I Peter 3:6)

WHAT KINDS OF SUFFERINGS MIGHT GOD ALLOW?

  • spiritual
  • Satanic/demonic attack
  • mental strain
  • emotional (depression, anxiety – sometimes these can be because of medical conditions, and sometimes they are a result of us cherishing sin – a red flag that it is time to do a sweeping soul search with God’s Word and His light to show us if we are holding on to any sin)
  • marital problems
  • family issues/problems
  • death of a loved one
  • suffering because of my sin or because of someone else’s sin or just because of the curse of sin on the world
  • financial
  • health problems
  • disasters
  • government oppression
  • persecution because of our faith
  • martyrdom

God tailors and uses the sufferings and trials we experience to accomplish His purposes in our lives.

We are not to seek out suffering or inflict suffering on ourselves.  God determines the trials we will face.

IN MARRIAGE

I hear SO MANY wives say:

  • I don’t want to get hurt.  If I show respect, he’ll make decisions to purposely hurt me and our children.
  • I don’t want to be taken advantage of.  I need to protect myself.
  • My husband doesn’t deserve my respect.  I don’t want to obey God’s commands for me as a wife.
  • My husband has hurt me too much, I can’t obey God.
  • My husband isn’t a believer, so I can’t respect him and I can’t submit to him.
  • I want to feel loved first by my husband, then I will obey God.  God needs to change my husband first.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  Matthew 10:39

To live with Jesus as Lord, I must lay down my will, my dreams, my rights, my plans, my wisdom, my expectations, my agenda, my needs, my weakness, my sin and my desires.  I sacrifice them to Jesus and I pick up my cross (of sharing in His suffering and death) and follow Him.  I die to myself and my flesh and sin.  And I live for Christ.  So now, I pick up His will, His dreams, His goals, His plans, His wisdom, His power, His righteousness, His holiness and His desires.  He plants within me the mind and heart of Christ.  He gives me His holy desires.

Thankfully – God wired men to respond to respect and submission with a desire to serve.  Most of the time, the more respectful and cooperative a wife is, the more loving, kind, thoughtful and protective a husband will be.  But even if our husbands don’t seem to “respond well” to our obedience to God – we are still accountable before God to obey Him.   He will rewards us in heaven for how we treat our husbands here – regardless of their response to us.

(If there is physical abuse, drug addiction or infidelity – a wife may not be able to trust her husband or cooperate with his sin during that time – please seek godly, experienced help if this is your current situation!)

There will be emotional and spiritual suffering in marriage as we mature, learn and grow.  God will use marriage to expose our own selfishness, pride, idolatry, unforgiveness and sin.  He uses all of this to refine us and to bring us to greater maturity.

OUR GOD IS HUGE!

A big part of how we submit and yield ourselves to Jesus on a daily basis and pick up our cross is that we will submit to our husbands’ leadership (unless he is asking us to sin or condone sin).  Even if we disagree.  Even if we don’t get our way.  Even if it doesn’t look like things will work out the way we think they should.

In my view, this is one of a woman’s biggest tests of her faith in Christ.  

I have been AMAZED at the ways God has worked things out in my personal life when I submitted to my husband – even when I disagreed – how God caused things to happen that were so much better than anything I could have asked for or imagined.  God’s wisdom is INFINITELY HIGHER than my own!  It doesn’t matter if I get “my way” – I want God’s will!  He is the only one Who knows how to get me there – so I have to trust Him to lead me through my husband.

Our God is big enough and “sovereign enough” that He is able to lead us through our sinful husbands when we have a heart to love and obey Him above all else!

Our husbands DON’T deserve our respect.  But God commands us to respect them.  And if God commands it, I need to do it even if I don’t understand or agree.  Now –  I can see that God is commanding us to give our husbands what they NEED to thrive and become more godly – not what they deserve.  But even if I can’t see why God commands me to do something, it is my duty before Him to obey Him.

We don’t deserve our husbands’ unconditional love and godly leadership.  We can be REALLY unlovable sometimes!  I know that I sure can!  But we NEED it.  That is why God commands husbands to do those things.

This is not about giving our husbands what we think they deserve.  What all people deserve is punishment from a holy God.  We don’t want what we deserve!

This journey of faith is about obeying God, seeking His will and His way and His glory.  It is about bringing healing, God’s power and strength and unity to marriage for God’s glory.  It is about keeping the gospel of Christ shining brightly without tarnishing it by our rebelliousness.  Titus 2:5 says that wives are to be subject to their husbands so that the word of God will not be maligned.  When I take control in my marriage – the very gospel of Christ is injured!  MAY IT NEVER BE!  Our obedience to God’s Word is SO MUCH BIGGER than our own marriages!  Our obedience to Him  in our marriages draws others to Christ – and our disobedience will repel them.

If my husband is doing wrong, God says that it is His to avenge, He will repay.  We can trust Him to handle revenge and justice in His time and His way for His glory.  I must respectfully and cautiously confront sin at times (keeping my eyes constantly on my own motives and pride – making sure I am not in sin myself) – but God’s Spirit is plenty capable of changing my husbands’ heart and convicting him in His time and His way.  He does not need my help!  I would only get in the way and stall things and make it hard for my husband to hear God’s voice!  In fact, I have done that many times – and it did not work!

PRAYER

Lord,

I pray that You might help us to embrace suffering that is in Your will for us!  Help us to see that there will be pain and suffering in marriage and that You use that to make us holy and more like Jesus and that suffering is a HUGE blessing when we embrace it as Your tool to refine our faith and test our character and make us more spiritually mature.  Help us be willing to sacrifice ourselves in order to obey You in our marriages.  Help us be willing to suffer for what is right if necessary.  Use us to repay evil with good and cursing with blessing.  Use us to show Your kindness to our husbands – even when they don’t deserve it.  Let us lay down our sin – our unforgiveness, bitterness, idolatry, wanting to control things ourselves, anxiety, lust, gossip, jealousy, hatred, malice, rebelliousness and every sin that displeases You.  Fill us with Your Spirit and Your power to become the godly wives You desire us to be.  Use us to greatly bless our husbands and children.  We can’t do this in our own strength.  Help us to abide in You daily, praise You constantly, sing songs of praise and gratitude to You in our hearts all day long, pray fervently without ceasing and seek You above all else in our lives.  Let us love You wholeheartedly and let us give ourselves fully to You without any reservation.  Use us to be Your faithful servants and to bring You honor and praise.

In the Name and power of Christ,

Amen!

Baby Steps

This is an email from a wife (with her permission) – I think it may be very encouraging to those of you who are beginning the journey to become a godly wife – to learn to submit to and respect your husband and most of all to ultimately learn to reverence and submit to Christ!
Thank you for asking….I think I am good…I continue to work on respecting my husband and being patient.  The respecting part really has been a pretty smooth transition for me…it is the patience and making sure that my prayers for my husband are not  intended for my own gain…(not for what I want him to change but) that I am actually praying for my husband’s leadership and growth.  This is the hardest part for me…
Some success stories from the past week:
1. We went to the local grocery store on Saturday morning…never would have been my choice but DH wanted to.…the place was a mad house to say the least…now in the past the trip very likely could have become stressful.
I held my tongue and allowed DH to choose things without my comments on the cost, brand or quantity.  As we went to checkout  DH chose the self-checkout…again not my first choice due to all the produce we had in the cart…not fun to enter all those individual codes. Typically I would have jumped in and took over…I am far the superior cashier:)  But instead I walked to the end of the lane and did not say a word besides helping to bag and contain our six year old. 
I was amazed to watch as my husband calmly went through the items in the cart, he actually figured it all out without my help:)  As we walked out of the store I complimented him on his check out skills…I swear I witnessed him almost stand taller…he smiled and laughed and said,  “I did well, didn’t I?”
Ok, so I know this is minor in the whole picture of things but the thing that stuck out in my mind is how this very minor incident set the tone for our whole dayDH walked away feeling good and it stayed with us all for hours.  Now in the past we would have not been in a full argument or anything but we both could have walked away feeling stressed and irritated with each other due to my need to try and take over the situation.
2. We live in a very small neighborhood and our neighbors are good friends.   DH and I try to do date night every couple of months but truthfully the cost of the babysitter can deter us from going out at times.  I started thinking last week – why do we all just keep sitting around on Saturday night in our separate houses attempting to entertain our children when we could pool our resources and give everyone a little break.  So I first asked DH if he was on board….typically I would have planned and then told him what I was up to….he agreed to my little plan.
I talked with the other wives in the neighborhood with small children and now we have scheduled date night for all couples for the next three months with free babysitting….here is how it works…we picked a Saturday in December that is free for all families…one family is designated as the stay home couple…the other two couples are free to spend a Saturday evening however they desire.  The stay home couple will provide dinner, entertainment (which truthfully with our kiddos is only supervision at this point they entertain each other), movie and snacks.  We picked numbers out of a hat….we picked the first night home.  DH comment when I told him, “You may just end up saving everyone’s marriage, this is one of your best ideas yet:)
3. I think the other thing that sticks out in my mind over the last couple of weeks is how many times in the past I have pressured and stressed about the time it was taking my husband to make a decision when truthfully he was just thinking it over in his own way.  I cannot tell you how many times I have asked my DH in the last few weeks a question, not a big decision ie, “What time do you want to leave for my parents on Thanksgiving.?”  My husband will respond, “I am not sure let me think about it.”  I have in the past gotten frustrated and impatient, really how hard is this.  Now I catch myself, remind myself that this is just how he is processes and let it go.  So much more peaceful on both of our ends…and the world has not even come to an end:)

If You Are Getting Stuck

The times I have gotten stuck on my journey to obey God’s Word as a wife and to totally submit to Him in my entire life, including my marriage and to learn His design for me to respect and submit to my husband – there is usually one or more of the following going on:

  • bitterness – I am hanging on to resentment and unforgiveness.  When I do this, I forfeit God’s Holy Spirit abiding in me and empowering me.  It is IMPOSSIBLE to be a godly wife and to live in constant fellowship with Christ if I am cherishing ANY sin in my heart.  I MUST sincerely, humbly and deeply repent.
  • pride – I start thinking I know best.  I know better than God.  I know better than God’s Word.  I know better than my husband.  I should be the one in control.  I’d do a much better job than my husband at leading.  He’s messing everything up.
  • lack of faith in God or my husband – without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  And without faith in my husband, it is impossible for me to show respect to him in a way that will mean anything to him.
  • idolatry – I started looking to other things besides Christ for my fulfillment, contentment and happiness.  THIS IS VERY EASY TO DO!  I have to CONSTANTLY check my motives.  WHY am I doing what I am doing?  Am I really doing this to honor God?  Or am I doing it to try to control my husband and make him love me more?  Am I doing this to try to force my husband to make me feel loved?  Am I doing this because I love God with all my heart, want to know Him more and want to obey Him?  Or am I doing the respect thing because I want to try to CONTROL God?  Motive matter GREATLY to our husbands and to God.
  • self-righteousness – I start thinking I am better than my husband.  This is sin!

BROKENNESS

If I do not start from a place of total humility and brokenness – weeping over the magnitude of my own sin in God’s sight – I still have a lot more repenting to do.

It is only when I am utterly humble and contrite before God and tear down all my idols and all my false understanding of him and of myself that I can please Him.  I have to see how utterly spiritually poor, impoverished and critically ill I am to be in the right place.

I must be willing to lay everything down on the altar and sacrifice it to Jesus.  I have to die to myself – willingly.

If there is something that I am holding back from Him and afraid to trust Him about – I have an idol – and I have a lot more work to do.

His perfect love drives out all fear.  The one who fears has not been made perfect in love.

THEN…

The power of God will begin to move in my own heart in extremely powerful ways.

God’s power is fiercely strong in me when I look to Him to be the only source of my identity, the only source of my joy, the only source of my strength and the only purpose in my life.  I must want His will much more than my own – even if I don’t know exactly what His will might involve.  I trust Him.

My highest goal is to bring honor and glory to my Lord.

This is the secret of contentment, joy, peace and abundant life!

THE LITMUS TEST

If I am acting in my own strength and have sin in my heart, I will see multiple characteristics of the flesh predominantly in my heart on a daily basis – and in increasing measure (Galatians 5:19-21):

  • sexual immorality
  • impurity
  • debauchery (excessive use of alcohol/drugs/sex)
  • idolatry
  • witchcraft
  • hatred
  • discord
  • jealousy
  • fits of rage
  • selfish ambition
  • dissensions
  • factions
  • envy
  • drunkenness
  • orgies
  • and the like

If I have things in my heart from the above list, I have either not accepted the gift of Jesus Christ to pay for my sins and asked Him to be my Savior and Lord – or I am not living with Him as Lord.  I have grieved His Spirit and am clinging to sin more than to Jesus.

If His Spirit is in charge – I will see ALL of the fruit of the Spirit in my life daily and in increasing measure (Galatians 5:22):

  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • goodness
  • gentleness
  • self-control
  • no envy
  • no boasting
  • no rudeness
  • no pride
  • no self-seeking
  • not easily angered
  • keep no record of wrongs suffered
  • forgiveness  (unforgiveness = wickedness, the parable of the servant whose master forgave him a great debt, and then the servant wouldn’t forgive his fellow servant a small debt – the master called him, “You wicked servant!”)
  • no delight in evil  (ie: unforgiveness, idolatry, control, pride, selfishness, lust and gossip)
  • rejoice with the truth
  • I protect my husband
  • I trust my husband (or want to move towards being able to rebuild trust) and even more, I trust my Lord
  • I hope in my husband and my Lord
  • I always persevere in my marriage by God’s strength

When I am living in the power of God’s Spirit – these things on this list will be a daily reality and become normal.  God does this.  I cannot do these things AT ALL on my own.  I just have to be plugged in to His power source, spending time in His Word, surrendering my heart, yielding my life completely and without reservation, praying constantly, praising Him constantly, meditation on His Word all throughout the day.

This is what a “normal” Christian life is supposed to look like!

One Wife Reports in 30 Days into Her Journey

This wife is SO VERY PRECIOUS to me!  We have spent a lot of time hashing through questions, issues, confusion and troubling emotions the past few weeks together.  And I can see God at work so powerfully in her.  I appreciate her willingness to share her story.  I think her perspective might be extremely helpful to other wives who are just beginning their journey towards committing to obey God to respect and submit to their husbands.  This is a LONG journey – a lifetime commitment to do things God’s way regardless of our feelings and regardless of our husbands’ response.  First – God changes us.  First, we have to be convicted of our own sin and then VERY BROKEN and humble.  And this is HARD.  It feels like contortion and goes against our own wisdom and the world’s wisdom diametrically.  But thankfully, God often gives us little victories along the way.  That is VERY helpful to keep up the motivation!  Enjoy her story!
FROM A WIFE
I have finished Feminine Appeal.  It was a good book.  (From Peacefulwife – I LOVE that book!)  I think the point that stuck out to me (thinking back on the argument my husband and I had a month ago over working/chores/housework that sent me searching the internet for help) was that God called WOMEN to be keepers of the home  (Titus 2:5)… and to manage the home (1 Timothy 5:4).  Not once did he command men to take care of a home.  I had never thought about that before…. and he commanded men to work, not women  (Genesis 3:17 and 1 Timothy 5:8).  Now, I still believe it is wonderful for my husband to help me when I need help and he wants to but I also see that it is MY responsibility to care for our home.  I am still working and plan to continue- but I work from home and can put in 1 hour or 100 so it is very flexible for me to work around my family and be available for them.   I just had never really thought about what the bible said on that subject until it was brought to my attention through reading this book.
And I have done some clothes shopping in the last few weeks with modesty in mind (she had asked her husband about her wardrobe, and he asked her to dress more modestly recently)  which meant I have been careful to choose tops that have higher necklines and skirts that have a longer hemline.  I admit that it was a bit hard to bypass the sexy little tops but I keep remembering when my husband told me, “When you dress like that then you are advertising,” and I am not advertising!  I am taken!  By shopping for more modest clothing, it has gave me more of a sense of belonging to my husband, and made me feel closer to him.  That may not make sense… I am not quite sure how to say what I mean… but I think you will get the point.  It is a lovely feeling to know that he doesn’t want anyone else to see what belongs to him.
I am having good days and bad in my quest to follow God’s instructions for wives.
Once in the last week, my husband said something that hurt my feelings and I told him in very simple words. “You hurt my feelings when you said ______” and he immediately apologized.  I was nervous that I would have to leave the room if he didn’t and then we might be not speaking for hours but thankfully he responded sweetly and I was happy that handling a minor conflict went easily and was over in the space of two sentances.  (That will probably be most wives’ experience, that the more they practice respect and submission, the fewer and fewer conflicts there are, and they are much more easily resolved when they do happen!)
Also, although alot of this is NOT natural yet – it is getting to be very natural to say “Whatever you think”, “Whatever you think is best, sweetheart” and “I trust your decision” which is wonderful!  I am thankful one part of this is becoming a part of me instead of such a stretch!  Hopefully in time all of it will become more natural.
And though my husband has always been loving and used endearments when he speaks with me,  he has started using terms of endearment I had not heard in a very long time. Pet names he had only been using extremely rarely are now almost daily occurances. 

FROM PEACEFULWIFE:

This is a process.  It is a lifetime commitment to obey God and seek Him first and do things His way.  Our motives are because we long to please God – NOT because we want our husbands to love us more.  It is REALLY important to have the right motives here or you will be stuck and very frustrated.

It takes time for God to change our hearts.  This is not an instant thing.  His power works in us – but we also must do a lot of hard work ourselves.  You are welcome to share your story about learning to respect and submit to God and your husband!  I’d love to share your story, too.  

Let me know if you have questions  – I will do my best to point you to Christ and His Word!

 

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