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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!

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!

What Does God Say about Me?

Let’s just look at Romans through chapter 8.  There are obviously thousands of other promises and things that God says about us in the Bible.  But here are some of the most basic and foundational tenets of Scripture upon which we may build our lives, hope and faith with confidence.  It is time to tear out all that is ungodly in our thinking and build on the foundation of Christ and His Word alone.  HERE is my hope!  THIS is my identity!  THIS is my strength!  HERE is my power and purpose in life!

  • I am a sinner in desperate need of the gift of Christ.  I cannot earn favor with God.  I can’t be good enough.  My efforts at being good are THOUSANDS OF MILES off target.  There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.  Romans 3:11-12  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  Romans 3:23
  • God is interested in my FAITH in what Jesus did for me.  His work on the cross for me and His resurrection (and my receiving His gift) is the only thing that makes me right with Him.  When a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.  However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.  Romans 4:4-5
  • Jesus paid my sin debt in full.  I owed Him infinitely more than I could never pay.  The words, “it was credited to him (Abraham)” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.  Romans 4:23-25
  • I have peace with God!  I have access to grace!  ME!?!?!?!?!  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  Romans 5:1-2
  • When I hated God, Jesus died for me.  How much more will He do for me now that I love and serve Him as Lord!?!?   For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life?  Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received reconciliation (with God).  Romans 5:10-11
  • Jesus alone has the power to make me right with God.  I can trust Him.  He is God, He is not a man that He should lie.  When God is satisfied with what Jesus did on my behalf, who on earth am I to question if Jesus’ blood was adequate to cover my sin?  Am I above God?  For just as through the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man (Jesus) the many will  be made righteous.  Romans 5:19
  • I am dead to sin when I am living for Christ and trusting Him for my salvation.  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Romans 6:2-3  Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Romans 6:11
  • I am not a slave to sin anymore.  I am a slave to righteousness!  I am FREE from the power of sin and death!  He is my Master.   Our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.  Romans 6:6-7   Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.  Romans 6:14   You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.  Romans 6:18
  • God desires me to live for Him and bear fruit for Him, fruit that will last.  God has beautiful purposes for me – to bring Him great glory and praise!  So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to Another, to Him Who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
  • I am not condemned by God!  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law (salvation by my own efforts) was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.  And so He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.  Romans 8:1-4
  • I can have supernatural life and peace!  Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.  You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.  And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.  Romans 8:5-9
  • I am a daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords!  I have no reason to fear! I am a co-heir with Christ!  For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by Him we cry, “Abba, (Daddy).” … Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.  Romans 8:15-17
  • There are great rewards coming in heaven for me that will make the suffering of this life look like nothing!  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  Romans 8:18
  • I am not in this alone, I have a strong Helper.    The Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express…. the Spirit intercedes for the saints (those who love Christ) in accordance with God’s will.  Romans 8:26-27
  • I cannot lose!  I will be victorious regardless of past, current or future circumstances or suffering!  God purposes to make me be more and more like Christ.  God knew me from the beginning of time.  He called me by name.  He made me right with Himself through Jesus.  He will glorify me one day in heaven.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son… and those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.  What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He Who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?  Romans 8:28-32
  • I am accepted.  I will never be abandoned.  I am safe and secure in my Lord’s love!  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:35,37-39

When Your Husband Sins Against You.

I am not an expert, a counselor, a psychologist, a theologian or a pastor. I am just an ordinary Christian wife. My posts and my blog may be helpful for you – they may not be.  I share ideas and suggestions – they are not rules and they are not guarantees.  Ultimately, each wife must prayerfully decide what she believes God wants her to do to obey Him and to honor Him in her unique situation. God has wisdom. I do not. I write specifically for wives who tend to be controlling and dominating. Wives who tend to be more quiet and have dominating husbands may find that my blog is not a good fit for them. If your husband is abusing you, please seek godly, experienced, wise counsel ASAP! Please be safe! My blog is not written for wives who are abused.
Get ready and brace yourselves, ladies.  I am about to deliver the most shocking news you have EVER heard.
Your husband is a HUGE sinner.  Like… he is in SERIOUS need of Jesus.  On his own – apart from Christ – he is selfish, unkind, unloving, mean, cruel, difficult to deal with, too passive or too aggressive, ungodly, an idolator and he possibly even struggles with lust, greed, lying, stealing, hatred, un-forgiveness, bitterness and ALL KINDS of heinous sins.
I know – it’s mind boggling.  🙂  I’m sure you haven’t figured that out on your own  – so you probably don’t believe me.  You may need to go check with him on this one, right?
Just kidding!  Please do NOT go check with him! 🙂
It’s funny – all of us as wives see our husbands’ sins SO clearly.  It’s our own sin that we tend not to see.  And I usually focus on OUR sin, OUR responsibilities, OUR obedience to God and our side of the equation.  That is where our power is, after all!
But we ALL have to deal with our husbands sinning against us – just like all husbands have to deal with wives sinning against them.  Sometimes it’s much worse than others.  This topic could seriously be a book in and of itself.  So this one post isn’t an exhaustive resource on dealing with our husbands’ sin in a godly way.  But it is hopefully a starting point.
SOME BASICS
Expect your husband to sin against you at times.  He is not God.  He will mess up. He will do hurtful and hateful things sometimes.  Other times, it may seem like he is being hateful – but he may not actually intend to be hateful – it could be a misunderstanding. He is human.  And that has to be ok. Yes, he is supposed to represent Christ to you in the marriage – but he is not Christ and to expect perfection is just setting yourself up for a disaster.
Focus on your own mountain of sin on a daily basis, and try not to focus much on his.  The more I see what a wretched sinner I am  – and just how much Jesus has forgiven me for – the more grace I have to lavish forgiveness, mercy and grace on my husband.
Gary Thomas in “Sacred Influence” says, “We are most tempted to sin when we have been sinned against.”  That is SO TRUE!  So  – be Spirit-filled.  Have God’s power in you.  Repent of all your sin.  Obey God’s Word.  Then you will have the power of God to respond without sin when your husband sins against you.  Being angry is not sinful  – but in our anger, we must not sin against our husbands!
God is sovereign.  He has assigned my husband to me for my good, as a gift to me, as my leader, protector and provider.  But He has also assigned my particular husband to me to use his sins to mold me into the image of Christ.  God will use my husband’s sin against me as a hammer and chisel to create the image of Christ in my soul.  It will be PAINFUL.  It will be a cross I must bear.  And God will use it for my good and His glory.
Wow.
WE HAVE SO MUCH POWER!
We are NOT responsible for our husband’s sin.  They are accountable to God for their sin and we are accountable to God for our own sin.
But – because we are one flesh  – our response to our husbands’ sin is powerful.  We can either respond with evil and cause the whole thing to spiral downward completely towards destruction and the death of the marriage, or we can respond in the power of God’s Spirit and breathe healing, life, strength, grace, peace, hope and help into our marriage when our husbands sin against us.
BEING UNLOVING, CRUEL AND HATEFUL
It’s possible that your man is a total narcissist who is incurable and who will be chronically selfish and cruel his whole life.  There are a few of those in the world.
Thankfully, MOST men are fairly decent guys.  They are all sinners, of course.  But most men will respond well to respect.  Now if you have been extremely disrespectful for 15 years – it will take time for your husband to really trust you and begin to open up to you again.  He may continue to stonewall for a year or more from the time you implement respect and submission and stop controlling and being disrespectful.  But ultimately, you are called to respect your husband and submit to His God-given leadership out of obedience to Christ regardless of the results.  So, it is our duty to obey God’s Word and honor Christ in our marriage regardless of what our husbands are or aren’t doing.
The great news is – usually, as we get rid of disrespect and learn to speak “respect” in a meaningful way to our husbands – the verbal abuse, unloving behavior and comments usually dramatically decrease over time.
Some possible ways wives may handle such situations – say (calmly):
  • Ouch!
  • That really hurt my feelings.
  • Did I do something disrespectful just now?  That felt unloving to me.
  • Please don’t speak to me like that or I will need to leave the room.  (And then, respectfully, with dignity and poise, leave the room if he cannot control his temper.)
  • Please don’t yell.  I feel so scared when you do that.
  • Please don’t say things like that – it hurts me so much.

Hopefully, just saying something like that will elicit an apology.

If not, you may want to give him some space, respectfully, to process his feelings for a few hours or over night. And keep some distance.  Then when he approaches you, you can say, “I’m still upset/hurt/sad.”  And you really don’t have to go into much more detail than that.  He will probably apologize.

But also, consider that Jesus calls us to bless when we are cursed and to repay evil with good and to pray for those who mistreat us.  So during that time of giving space, we can be praying for our husbands and for Satan’s strongholds to be torn down.  We can pray that God will help us to forgive and have wisdom about how to bless our husbands.  And we can pray about what kind thing we could do to show respect and love.

Please do not go on a big emotional tirade against your man!  Then he will be thinking about YOUR anger, bitterness, rage and sin and he won’t have to think about his sin!  If you can respond WITHOUT sin to him when he sins against you – he will have SO MUCH weight of conviction and he will eventually apologize on his own.

The more respected he usually feels  -the more it will tear his soul apart to see that he has hurt  you, the woman he loves most in all the world.  Your distance and pain will make him feel AWFUL and he will try to make things right.

If he feels constantly disrespected – he may not care much about your feelings – and you may have to pray and wait on God to work in his heart as you continue to obey God yourself, expecting God, not your husband, to meet your emotional and spiritual needs.

As you begin to actually stop disrespecting him – which repels him – and you learn to begin to respect him – he will likely be drawn back to you.
Then – he may eventually begin to actually care about your feelings.
When he gets used to you being joyful, happy, content, smiling, accepting and welcoming – he will probably want to keep that feeling going.  Your happiness and joy is his greatest reward.  If you are mean, negative, angry, scolding, yelling, name-calling and disrespectful all the time – he will most likely build a wall against you and shut you out of his heart.  He may decide it is impossible to please you and it’s not worth trying.  And he may not care that you are in pain.  He may be in too much pain himself to care that you are in pain.  And he may not respect you because you are so down on him all the time.  Men sometimes only let people they respect influence their decisions and actions.
But when you respect him and are a joy – he may begin to want you to be happy, to open his heart up to you slowly, and eventually he may care VERY much about your feelings and happiness. Eventually, all it may take is for that light of faith and trust in your eyes and the beautiful smile on your face to go away for a minute or two and he will be asking what he can do to make you happy again.  Yes.  Really.
The silent thing is about spiritual things.  You are silent about God and church and Bible reading, etc (I Peter 3:1-2 – if you have a husband who is disobedient to the Word of God), and show him respect.
If he is flirting or doing inappropriate things with other women (short of an affair)- some possible ideas of things to prayerfully consider saying (only if God leads you to say one of these things),
  • I don’t want you to have women friends.  I think that is dangerous.  I don’t have male friends – there are too many temptations in those situations for anyone.  No one is exempt from the temptation to have an affair.  Everyone has to guard their hearts, even pastors and strong Christian leaders.  No one plans to have an affair – it happens because we don’t prevent it and protect our marriage with a hedge of precautions and boundaries.
  •  I feel so hurt when you flirt with women.
  • I only want you to flirt with me.
  • I feel so sad that you are talking with other women.
  • I am scared that you don’t let me be your friend on Facebook.  I feel afraid to trust you when I see you shut me out from certain areas of your life.
  • I want to trust you and respect you- and I am scared to right now.  Please make it easier for me to be able to totally trust you and respect you as the God-given leader of our marriage.
  • I want you to stop talking with her.
  • I want to feel completely safe and protected with you.
  • I want to know that you are protecting our marriage and your heart.
So – you say what you want WITHOUT lashing out in anger.  You are vulnerable and share your feelings in a pure way, a VERY, VERY, VERY boiled down and brief way.  He can hear you when you talk to him like this.  You can cry and be sad.  But if you attack him with anger and an emotional ocean of negativity – he may drown in it.
Then – as you become respectful and he begins to care about your feelings – all you have to do is look sad and say you are sad – and he will probably apologize.  If he doesn’t, you just respectfully move away and create some distance from him.  Bob Grant, marriage therapist, says “Words are for women.  Men don’t respond to words.  Men respond to pain and distance.”  So you sharing your painful feelings “I feel X”  and moving away physically and emotionally will make him feel guilt and want to make things better.  Yes – this is the exact opposite of how we as women want to handle this.  Want to dump our ocean of negativity on him and blast him for an hour or two with all our horrible emotions.  This does NOT help our husbands come back to us!  It repels them.  So it is up to us to learn to communicate in a way that is EFFECTIVE for our husbands to best hear our hearts and our main message.
You don’t have to argue.  You don’t have to lose control.  The more you do those things, the more you push him to the women you don’t want him to talk to.  He finds acceptance and validation and respect there.  He needs to find acceptance, validation, edification, appreciation, affection and respect with YOU.
LYING
If your husband is telling little lies, I think that being calm about it and not making a huge deal about it would be helpful.  And keep in mind that the more he sees you trust him as leader and you respect him, the safer he will feel with you.  He may be lying to avoid a big reaction, drama, lecture, scolding, disrespect and contempt.  My suggestion, for whatever it is worth, is to respectfully, calmly and without emotion say something like:
  • honesty is REALLY important to me.
  • PLEASE tell me the truth.  We will work through this issue together.  I want to try to stay calm and hear what you have to say.  I don’t want you to be afraid of me freaking out and losing control of my emotions.  I want to respect you, and for me to be able to fully respect and trust you, I need to know for sure that you always tell me the truth.

When he does tell you the truth, maybe say:

  • THANK YOU SO MUCH for telling me the truth.  It’s painful for me to hear.  But I admire you greatly for having the courage to tell me the truth.  I feel so much safer knowing that you are being honest with me.  When you tell me the truth, even about little things, I REALLY respect that about you.
  • It means SO much to me that you have the courage to tell me the truth.  That helps me to respect the man you are so much.  I admire your willingness to be honest.  Thank you.

Then keep up the respect and nix all the disrespect.  As he sees he is safe – I think you’ll see the lying fade away in a few months, most likely.

If your husband is telling bigger lies, you may have to calmly and respectfully (and probably with great sadness) prayerfully consider saying something like:

  • dishonesty/lying is not OK.
  • I REALLY want to trust and respect you – but I just can’t respect lying.
  • I need to see you do X, Y and Z to help me rebuild my trust in you.  I need total honesty and transparency from you in order to work to be able to give you all of my respect and admiration again.
  • I’m really disappointed.
  • I am devastated.
  • I think we need to have some help.

You can do this WITHOUT attacking him.

If you catch him in big lies again or other major sin (adultery) – you may need to follow the Bible’s advice about when a brother sins against us (Matthew 18).  First we are to go show him his fault, just between the two of us in private (which means, NOT bashing him on FB or to friends, coworkers or family!)  If he doesn’t repent, then we take another believer – probably a strong Christian mentor or friend or pastor and respectfully confront him with that witness present and helping us.  Then the Bible says to take the matter before the church if he still won’t repent and treat him like an unbeliever.  Most churches don’t do discipline anymore.  Sadly.  But if he is living in habitual sin, you will have to treat him like an unbeliever – because he is not living at all with the power of Christ.  I Peter 3:1-2 would apply here.  You may have to implement consequences with gentleness, respect, poise and dignity.

ADULTERY

Please keep in mind that God can and does heal marriages that have suffered the devastation of adultery.  I know MANY marriages God has healed and that are very godly and strong now – stronger than ever – and the growth began after adultery.  This is not to say adultery is fine and not a big deal. It is a huge sin. It is not ever ok!

Adultery is not necessarily a death sentence for a marriage.  But contempt and unforgiveness will kill any relationship.

But there is help and hope and our God is a God of miracles and He is able to heal broken relationships and people when we trust and obey Him.  Please seek godly, wise, experienced, biblical counsel!

PHYSICAL ABUSE/SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Please get some godly, experienced help.  This issue is more than I can address – and you will need major help ASAP.

RELATED:

Confronting Our Husbands about Their Sin

Why I Don’t Write for Women with Abusive Husbands

Do I Condone Abuse?

 

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