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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.

The Blessing of Having a Husband Who Won't Pray with His Wife

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WHAT??!!!   Did you read that right?  Surely, I’ve GOT to be kidding!
Let me start by saying:
I believe that husbands SHOULD pray with their wives.  I believe it is their God-given responsibility to do so  – if they are believers in Christ.  I believe husbands will be accountable to God for their spiritual leadership – which I believe includes praying with their wives and children and teaching their families the Word of God as well as living out a godly example every day.
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But what is a wife to do if this is not happening?
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Hang with me, ladies.  This gets really good.
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REALITY IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM OUR EXPECTATIONS MANY TIMES
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I used to be REALLY upset about the fact that we didn’t pray together.  I longed for my husband to pray with me and resented every day that passed that he didn’t do it.  I wanted us to be close to each other and close to God.  What could be more beautiful, godly, intimate, holy, intoxicating and powerful than praying together as a couple?
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Unfortunately, MOST Christian husbands and wives don’t pray together.  I wish we all did. I think we all should.  But reality is that a lot of husbands can’t or won’t pray with their wives for a variety of reasons.
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Sometimes our husbands don’t pray with us because we intimidate them, criticize them, condemn them, judge their spirituality, act holier-than-thou, take over control of the marriage, disrespect them, rebel against their God-given leadership or react negatively when our men DO try to lead spiritually in some way.(For more about this – check out this post )
I CAN CONTROL ME.  I CAN’T CONTROL HIM.  I’M FINE WITH THAT NOW!
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I can ask my husband for what I want.  And I do – now – but sparingly, respectfully and with a pleasant tone of voice and a smile.  I ask him to pray about specific needs with me a few times a month – and he is always willing now if I ask him. (Each marriage and stage in marriage will be different – so pray and seek God’s wisdom about if you ought to approach your husband at all, or how often)
When I first started learning respect and submission, I had to follow I Peter 3:1-2 and be silent about spiritual things, including prayer – after so many years of trying to MAKE my husband do what I wanted him to do.  He needed time to hear God’s voice for himself. I fully understand now that I can’t MAKE him do what I want him to do.  And that is actually a very good thing.  God gave us all a free will.  Part of being a strong leader is a man makes his own choices and decisions.
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He is not always going to do things my way.  Now, I know that is a huge blessing!.  His ways are often much better than my ways – it turns out!
He may not always do things God’s way – that is part of having a human, sinner as a leader.
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But I can still put all my hope, faith and trust in my Lord that He in His amazing sovereignty will work things out for my best and for His glory because I love Him and am called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28-29).  And I can respond in obedience to God’s Word for me regardless of my husband’s behavior.  Even if my husband sins or makes mistakes, my Lord is big enough, powerful enough and “sovereign enough” to turn those evil things into something good because I trust Him.
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AVOIDING BITTERNESS ABOUT A “PRAYERLESS” MARRIAGE
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  • Now, I have laid down my expectations.   I don’t expect my husband to pray with me.  I don’t demand that he pray with me.  I am thankful for what he gives to me in our relationship – and I graciously (by the power of God in me) accept when he does not do things I would like.
  • My goal is to be receptive to God’s Spirit, my husband’s leadership, to be a safe place for him to know that he won’t be criticized or judged and to make sure I am abiding in Christ and praying for my husband fervently and passionately myself.
  • It takes MANY years for a man to become a godly leader.  I must be patient for God to work in my husband and focus on what God wants to do in ME!
  • I also keep in mind that scripture never says, “Husbands must initiate prayer with their wives.”  I also can’t find a verse that commands husbands to pray with their wives.  I think it is clearly implied!  But I have to be very careful about my expectations and what I label as sin or about coming across as being spiritually superior, self-righteous or condemning and critical.  Nothing will turn off a husband faster to spiritual things than  catching a whiff of those prideful, self-righteous attributes.
  • I have prayer sisters!  I get to pray with my Christian prayer partners and watch God at work together.  It is AMAZING!  I would strongly recommend that wives pray about finding a godly mentor wife and prayer partner.
  • I am free to grow in Christ – I do not have to “wait for my husband.”  I am to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling and trust God to work in my husband.  The closer I am to Christ, the MORE respectful, kind, gracious and merciful I will be to my husband – and that will influence him to  draw nearer to God, too.
  • I now know that I can have total access to God’s will when I am trusting in my God.  My husband cannot thwart God’s plans for me.  My husband cannot take me out of the sovereignty of God.  God is powerful and sovereign and will accomplish His purposes in my life whether my husband prays with me or not.  My faith is in my Lord alone!
  • I also know that there are MANY aspects to spiritual leadership that go way beyond whether my husband is initiating prayer.  And many of those things – demonstrating love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, obeying God’s Word, being filled with the Spirit of God – are MUCH more important and vital than whether he initiates prayer or not.  I believe a husband can be a strong, godly, spiritual leader as long as he is tuned into God HIMSELF.  Praying together would be great.  But it does not mean our husbands are spiritual failures if they don’t grab us by the hand and have a daily prayer time with us.  Check out my youtube video about this if you’d like! http://youtu.be/CgB9SiV9ZgI.
IT IS NOT ALWAYS A GOOD THING FOR A HUSBAND TO PRAY WITH HIS WIFE
If he prays with the wrong motive or prays for the wrong reason(s) – that is sin – it is for wives, too, of course!
Ways that him praying with you could be sin:
– to please you
– to make you feel better
– to make himself look more spiritual than he really is
– to be heard by you
– to lecture you
– to manipulate you
– if his heart is not in it, if he is not actually intimate with God, it is hypocrisy
– doing it just because you want him to will not bring you satisfaction and it will not honor God
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If a husband is not praying to God on his own – he probably has no business praying to God with his wife.  He needs to have his own strong relationship with Christ independently first.
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I think that this particular issue is actually quite clear in Scripture – that when we pray to be seen or heard by people (if our motives are not pure) – God is NOT pleased and will NOT hear our prayers.
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Matthew 6:5-6 – And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, Who is unseen.  Then your Father, Who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
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I don’t think this excludes praying together in small groups or as a couple or corporately.  But I think that our motives for prayer matter greatly to God.  If a husband only prays with his wife to placate her – but is not right in his relationship with God – it is a pretty useless activity.
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It can be a blessing for a godly wife when her ungodly husband (or a husband with ungodly motives at the time) won’t pray with her:
  • He would do more harm than good if he did.
  • She needs to learn to depend solely on Christ, not her husband.  This issue can sometimes reveal that a wife has her husband as an idol, or has his praying with her or his spirituality or his sinlessness as an idol in her heart.

I am SO glad God gave me time to learn to depend on Him alone!

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OTHER CONSEQUENCES OF A HUSBAND’S SINFUL PRAYERS
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Besides his prayers being fruitless, not honoring to God and not be heard by God – when a husband is not right with God and is living in his own flesh:
  • he may use prayer as an opportunity to try to humiliate his wife before God
  • he may use prayer to criticize his wife’s faults and flaws
  • he may pridefully brag about himself before God and his wife, bringing God’s opposition against him
  • he may use prayer to try to manipulate his wife into doing what he selfishly wants
  • he may claim something is “God’s will” just to try to get her to go along with it when it really is not God’s will at all
  • he may be cruel, critical and belittling to his wife as he “speaks to God”  because he is not full of God’s Spirit
  • he may be arrogant and try to make himself look better and more spiritual than his wife

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Something that is much worse than having a husband who won’t pray with you is having a carnal/sinful husband who WILL pray with you in ways that dishonor God and seek to control, disrespect and manipulate you.

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OUR REAL DESIRE GOES MUCH DEEPER THAN GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS
What we as wives want – is for our husbands to be strong men of God, thriving and growing and vibrant in their walks with Him. We want them to pray in private by themselves and come from a place of spiritual strength and to be filled with God’s Spirit – and then to pray with us.  Not praying to go through the motions or to look spiritual, but husbands who are genuinely living with Christ as Lord and totally submitted and yielded to Him.
This desires we have for our husbands  to be close to God and to be spiritually one with us are God-given desires.  And they are God’s will.  So we can pray and know that God will cause these prayers to be answered in His time, in His way, by His power and for His glory –  when we are praying with proper respect and reverence for God, our husband’s authority and proper motives.
And we can speed the answers along a bit by our obedience to respect our husbands and cooperate with their God-given leadership.  But it may be YEARS before we see our prayers answered.   There are going to be times, if we believe our husbands are far from God and acting in disobedience, that we practice I Peter 3:1-2.  That is what will bring them closer to God.
I pray for God’s wisdom for each of us about approaching our husbands about praying together. There are times when I believe it is good and important for us to ask for what we desire, “Honey, I have an idea. I want us to start praying together every day. Would now be a good time?” There are also times when God will prompt us to be quiet and pray and wait. I pray for each of us to be sensitive to God’s leading and prompting!
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http://peacefulwife.com/2012/09/03/being-a-good-follower/
http://peacefulwife.com/2012/06/28/im-the-spiritually-mature-one-in-this-marriage/
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MY HUSBAND’S PERSPECTIVE ON HOW HARD IT IS FOR HUSBANDS TO PRAY WITH THEIR WIVES SOMETIMES – http://respectedhusband.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/praying-with-your-wife/
ANOTHER RESOURCE
http://blog.christianitytoday.com/women/2012/11/hes-just-not-a-spiritual-leade.html?utm_source=hermeneutics&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=12202499&utm_content=145747842&utm_campaign=2012#.UMpCmqYlwVE.email

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!

Each Wife's Journey is a One-of-a-Kind

Dirt Road with Maple Trees in Winter SunriseOne reason I write this blog is because I had a HARD time finding resources to learn about respect, godly femininity and biblical submission when I began my own journey 4 years ago.  And when I did find resources, they often didn’t have many practical examples, or they had practical examples, but they weren’t from a Christian perspective.   I was SOOOOO clueless about all of this stuff, that I needed “Respect for Dummies” or “Being a Godly Wife 101.”  I didn’t have a mentor and I was unbelievably confused.

I would ask my husband constantly, “Is this respectful?”  “Is that disrespectful?”  I had NO idea.  And, sadly, he wasn’t sure those first few months what he thought was respectful or not.  I needed HELP!

I needed SOMEWHERE to start.  A place to plant my feet and then I might be able to see more clearly  where to go from there.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE ME!!!!!!   🙂

I give practical examples and suggestions because I needed something like that so desperately 4 years ago.  Does that mean that the exact words I say and the exact things I do are the only way to be a respectful and submissive wife?  NOPE!

I try to give many wives’ stories because I hope to expose wives to a variety of women and the different styles they have as they respect and submit to their unique husbands.

Submission and respect are not one-size-fits-all.  Not for husbands and not for wives!

That is one reason I love the post about what husbands find to be disrespectful so interesting.  It is a compilation from about 7 different men.  They each have their own unique take on what disrespect and respect is.  Some things are fairly universal, but then there are some idiosyncrasies that are wholly their own.   I think it is FASCINATING to learn what it is to look at life from a masculine perspective and then to discover all the tiny nuances that are particular to each husband – it is like examining each beautiful snowflake under a microscope and learning to admire each one.

THE DETAILS ARE YOUR OWN

My hope is that I will give you a place to start and point you towards Christ and His Word.  Then you can think about things, pray about the examples, tune in to God’s Spirit,  talk with your husband if it’s appropriate – and find your OWN brand of how to make this work.  God’s commands are the same for all of us, but we are each unique individuals and all of our husbands are different and have different preferences and needs and each wife has her own personality.  So the practical application of obeying God’s Word will look different in each marriage.  It will be up to you to hash out the details for your marriage!

If you don’t like the way I word things, do it in a way that you like better!    If you try something and your husband doesn’t like it – that is not a fit for him – and that’s ok.  It will give you a chance to talk with him and get to know what he would prefer and what would speak respect best to him.  That is the important thing!   This is ultimately about learning the broad concepts and then fitting them to your personality, your husband, your marriage and your life.

YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN BE YOU!

This journey will be a deeply personal one.  No two journeys will look exactly the same.  We each have unique personalities, perspectives, life histories,  husbands, backgrounds and mindsets that will impact us and stamp our own fingerprint on how we do this.

Each wife will need to work out her own salvation with fear and trembling – and by listening intently to God’s Spirit and His Word and her husband’s leadership.

God has YOU in THIS family, in THIS home, with THESE children in THIS town and THIS country with THESE friends and acquaintances for His divine purposes.  He has unique and wonderful  plans for you that will be different than His plans for me.  You have different gifts and talents than I do.  He has a very special ministry in mind for you in your family, to your husband and for others that will bring you incredible fulfillment.  I pray for you to abide in the center of God’s will for you – that He might accomplish His beautiful purposes in your life and might bring Himself the greatest glory through you, your faith, your marriage, your husband and your family!

YOU ARE WELCOME TO SHARE YOUR BRAND OF RESPECT AND SUBMISSION

If you would like to talk about what God has done in your life and your marriage – or how you and your husband work respect and submission, I would love to hear from you!  I especially love details – a specific situation, a certain beautiful ritual that you and your husband share that is meaningful to you, words you use to show respect, examples of how you cooperate with your husband’s leadership cheerfully and joyfully…  leave me a comment!

ANOTHER RESOURCE

You’ll definitely want to check out Nina Roesner’s book, “The Respect Dare” and her FB page.  She has worked with thousands of women in The Daughters of Sara program and her book has many stories of unique ways that women learn and apply respect in their situations.

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!

A Wife Finds Joy Again after Years of Grief

Today’s post is an email I received from a wife I talked with a few months ago. She was still deeply hurting and grieving over the  sudden loss of her teenage son 4 years ago. She had learned about respect before – but “lost ground” during her grief – very understandably!

This precious wife was STUCK.  She was angry with God.  She was bitter towards her husband.  The question that really began to turn the lights on spiritually for her was, “Is it possible that you may have grieved the Holy Spirit?”

I could hear the self-pity and bitterness in her heart and knew that she had grieved God’s Spirit.  And – in that moment, she began to see the problem.  She was dry and without God’s peace, joy and the fruit of the Spirit because she was hanging onto bitterness and unforgiveness.  When she repented – His power began to flood her soul again.  Nothing brings me greater joy than to get to witness one of my sisters reach that critical point of brokenness and humility and then see the Niagra Falls of heaven pour into her soul!  I just never get tired of that!  It’s pretty addictive – watching God work miracles like that.

HER DESCRIPTION OF WHERE SHE WAS SPIRITUALLY THE PAST 4 YEARS:

I had let my brokenness morph into something so unhealthy that I had just gotten shackled up tight in a stronghold of self-pity and bitterness. When I felt like I was further spiritually than my husband, even that had a root of “poor me, my son died and I can’t even be married to a man who loves me and leads me like Christ. Poor me, my life is so hard. Guess God just uses me as some kind of martyr type… etc. You get it… on and on with self-pity and bitterness. And God has showed me what a deep, ugly sin self-pity is. And bitterness too, but the self-pity thing was a surprise to me how ugly it can be in God’s sight.

THE EMAIL SHE SENT ME AFTER WE HAD SPOKEN:

Hey! I thought I would share my latest blog with you. It is a start at processing all God is showing me since we talked yesterday. I know that I have grieved the Holy Spirit in the context of my relationship, too, I just know that between me and God is the beginning. I am finally ready to truly apologize to my husband and ask for forgiveness (for being disrespectful, unforgiving and controlling). I plan to get specific with my sin with no explanation so he won’t misinterpret it as justification. I can’t believe it! Yesterday, I still wasn’t ready. I knew if I said it, I still wouldn’t mean it. But, today… FREEDOM!!

I am feeling wonderful!! It’s like a floodgate of JOY has been released in my spirit!! I am so NEW!!  I know it! I had almost given up on feeling LIFE like this again since my son died. It is unbelievable!   After 4 years, the last 2 of those with me begging God to heal me yet rebelling somehow all at the same time… I am FREE! I know it. I don’t expect it to be perfect from here… I will still have PMS days, and days where I have to take lies captive… but something is most definitely new!!

Oh my! This Scripture just popped in my mind….

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

Oh the joys of hiding Scripture in your heart for God to pull out just when He wants to speak to you!! He just absolutely confirmed that He is doing a new thing… right here, right now, again! I am in an oasis! And oh how good it feels after years of my spirit being so dry!

As far as the fumble… I just flat out owned it and apologized. Hmmm… imagine that?! 🙂 It wasn’t horrible, but I want him to know and SEE the changes in me. He is already noticing that something is up! 😉

All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you, April!! For being obedient to His call to change your own marriage and then letting the Lord use you the way you do to help Him change others!

It almost seems too simple that the first time we talked that the Lord worked such a breakthrough in me, but oh you just have no idea how long I have begged, and wrestled, and fought, and well… you get the idea. I am just so blessed!! And our precious God is just so WILD and GOOD!!!

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!

Fighting Fair

Fighting Fair - Couple fighting
When your blood starts boiling and the steam starts escaping, resort to FIGHT.

Getting into the ring

Today’s guest post is from www.cuppa.wordpress.com

We have all been there I am sure. Fighting. Despite your best intentions or highest commitment to maintain a healthy happy relationship, it inevitably happens that we end up disagreeing with our other half. Why? I suspect because we were created as unique individuals who each bring their own history, experiences and expectations to the marriage relationship.

I used to leave our arguments feeling blue. I hated knowing that we wasted valuable time by disagreeing but I reckon I failed to see the bigger picture. Yes, arguments are a waste of time when:

  • It is all about me and getting my way
  • Proving a point
  • Winning

But there is hope. Fighting and arguments can really be a valuable opportunity for each of us to:

  • Learn more about our partners
  • See our husband’s leadership in action and to show respect for it
  • Resolving our concerns in a way that leaves both of us feeling more connected because of our shared victory.

Fighting fair

“The greatest part of our happiness depends on our dispositions, not our circumstances.” Martha Washington

My heart is for happy, healthy marriages that honour God while creating an environment for both spouses to become ALL that God has called them to be. Having said that, I honestly don’t see how we can hope to go through life and into marriage without ever experiencing friction or conflict. I do believe that the difference for us (women called to be wives and mothers of character) lies in the how…

A formula that works for us is to FIGHT.

  • Face each other and make eye contact. Address your issues and each other directly with courtesy and respect. I have found that it is much easier to run my mouth or speak without thinking when the ceiling is my only witness or when I find myself speaking to the bedside table. Looking at my SAMM reminds me both of the reward (our relationship) and the person (his feelings, thoughts and perspectives) during the conversation.
  • Ignore distractions. No phones, TV or children. If there are “distractions” around (feeding the children etc) it may not be the best time to have the conversation. Agree to discuss at a later stage and agree on a specific time (“Let’s talk about this after I put the SuperStar in bed”) I realise that not all disagreements are as easily postponed BUT it is a worthy challenge to accept.
  • Guard your tongue. Don’t resort to unkind, unflattering words in the heat of the battle. Once said it is impossible to take back so be very sure about what you want to say. Name-calling isn’t acceptable and neither is labeling or stereotyping. I am a quick thinker with a feisty personality and a heavy tongue so I understand if you think that this is a unachievable benchmark. I have also said things that should have been left unsaid and I have seen the hurt that words create. When you are tempted to name-call ask yourself “why”? I have found that when it is time to accept responsibility, it is easier for me to ‘deflect’ than to accept. Knowing what triggers your responses will help you to avoid the traps in future.
  • Halt the history.Avoid the “you always…” or “You never” statements. Look at what (SPECIFICALLY) you are disagreeing about and focus on discussing that one thing. Don’t allow the rabbit-holes to tempt you. Accept your part in the argument, take responsibility for your actions and own up when necessary. It is never easy but the alternative creates a messy, selfish marriage built on destructive arguments and unkind words.
  • Touch. I know… you think I am mad and delusional. Who wants to touch when you are fighting?? That is exactly the point. Reach out and break through the barriers of resistance and anger. It is far easier to remain in the moment without losing yourself or the objective when you are anchored by your partner.
  • Stay in it to win it!Don’t give up or bail out. stick with it. Neither of you will have real peace until your issue has been resolved.

“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Eph 4:26 NIV

My final say…

“Do everything in love.” 1 Cor 16:14 NIV

Yes. Fight with love. That means we should STOP looking at how WE are wronged or how WE should be accommodated. Love looks at the needs of the other person. Love looks at how to accommodate the other party. Love speaks with respect, it uses kind words even when it offers an honest perspective and love offers forgiveness. Love will help us to see opportunities to recognise our husband’s leadership and wisdom.

Love will help us to remove our selfish needs from the conversation as we build a strong, healthy, beautiful relationship that honours God.

Thanks for sharing my Cuppa.

FIGHTS formula from Laurie Kehler, notes and explanations by yours truly.
 
 
Related posts by Peacefulwife:
We Don’t Fight or Argue Anymore
 
An Anger Management Tip
 
Responding to Our Husbands’ Constructive Criticisms – VIDEO
 
Avoiding Pride and Self-righteousness as a Wife
 
If I am RIGHT, but Don’t Have Love and Respect, I am Wrong
 
Our Words Can Cause Catastrophic Damage
 
Husbands Share What Is Disrespectful to Them
 
Things that Fuel a Spirit of Discontentment in Me
 
Instead of Going on a Big, Emotional, Verbal Tirade
 
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