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Giving Our Children the Gift of Peace

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Many parents are scrambling to find the BEST Christmas gifts for their children – spending hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars on toys, electronics, clothes and jewelry.  It’s so normal now for Christmas to be all about STUFF.  We easily turn Christmas into a monument to materialism, selfishness, greed and things.  Santa and gifts and decorations can become idols to our children, even to adults – as we set our hearts on those things above our desire for Christ.  It is a struggle to focus on Jesus and His truth in our culture and not allow Christmas to become something ungodly.

But there is something even worse, in my view.

TURNING CHRISTMAS INTO WAR

Christmas is supposed to be to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ – the coming of the Messiah – the Prince of Peace.  But for many families where Christ is not Lord, celebrating His birth becomes another occasion for feuds, hatred, bitterness, contempt,  rage, screaming, cussing and even violence.

  • DIVORCE – What an ugly thing Christmas can be in this situation.  Each parent battles to have the children for themselves on Christmas.  Or they have to measure out the minutes and it has to be “exactly equal” or it is NOT FAIR because “he got the children one more hour than I did.”   It can become a competition to see who can buy bigger and better gifts sometimes so that the children will “love” the more generous parent more.  Some ex-spouses even use the celebration of the birth of the Son of God to create hostility in front of their children, screaming and calling the other parent the most dreadful things and saying, “I hate you!” in front of their children.
  • DIVIDED FAMILIES – Other families are not in a divorce situation, but there is incredible tension and division in the home between parents.  The celebration of Christmas becomes a battle ground of who gets to have control and power and make the decisions.  And the bickering, fighting, yelling, cursing, hatred and sometimes violence become the main event.

When we are living “in the flesh” we will have results like these.  It is a guarantee:

Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.  

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control…

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Galatians 5:16-17,19-24

OUR CHILDREN

What does it do to a child to witness his parents tearing each other down, berating each other, hating each other, calling each other horrible names, accusing each other of terrible things, fighting over the children, trying to take revenge, trying to cause as much pain as possible to each other, using their children as weapons against each other, full of rage, bitterness and resentment – all in front of their children?

A child loses:

  • his sense of security and safety
  • his understanding of a loving God
  • his ability to have trust in relationships in the future
  • his ability to have peace himself
  • any joy that Christmas might bring

A child gains:

  • incredible anxiety and fear
  • a desire to try to control others to attempt to maintain his own safety
  • a sense of guilt – that the hatred is somehow his fault
  • grief over the dream of his family being a loving, joyful, beautiful place
  • a picture of God being as out of control and unloving as his parents
  • an inability to respect God-given authority and to submit to God and to God-given authority
  • health problems related to stress

This list is not exhaustive, certainly.

TO HATE A PERSON IS TO BE AS A MURDERER IN GOD’S EYES

Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.  I John 3:15

We love because He first loved us.  If anyone says: “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  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 commandment: “Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”  I John 4:19-21

It is time to ask God to examine our hearts under the surgical light and instrument of His Word.  It hurts to lie still while He removes all the filth and rot and does open heart surgery on our souls.  But we NEED it!  If that root of bitterness and hatred does not come out, it will destroy us and our fellowship with God and we forfeit the power of God to work in our hearts and lives.  We cannot afford the luxury of hatred!  We need Jesus desperately!  And we need His power in us so that we can be the people He wants us to be.

THE GREATEST GIFT

What I desire for all of our children for Christmas this year is that they might see the peace and power of God modeled in their parents and that they might experience the peace of Christ in their families and homes.

For this gift to be a reality – it will take each of us submitting ourselves fully to Christ and His Word and His will.  We will have to give up our rights, our way, our desires, our wisdom, our plans, our will, our selfishness and be willing to embrace God’s will, His way, His wisdom and His glory.  It will mean looking out for what is best for our children, not just what I want.

It will mean my willingness to humble myself and return evil with good, to pray for those who misuse me and for those who mistreat me.  It will mean that I must be willing to sacrifice of myself for the good of others.  For example:

  • If I am divorced, I may decide God is calling me to be generous and allow my ex-husband to have the children all day on Christmas day, and I can make arrangements to celebrate with my children another day that week graciously and cooperatively.
  • Even if my husband or ex-husband is hateful towards me – I can choose to submit to Christ and to be filled with His Spirit’s power and to respond with gentleness, respect, godly love, peace and strength.
  • I can lay down my agenda and my way and my insistence on being “right” about how to celebrate or where to celebrate Christmas and cooperate with my husband and realize that the details of the celebration and the gifts are no where near as important as the gift of giving my children peace of mind, unity, love and respect between their parents.
  • I can respond to hatred with blessing.
  • I can respond to cursing with the power of prayer.
  • I can respond to mind games and power plays with generosity, kindness, cooperation and respect (unless I am being asked to sin).  THAT will bring glory to Jesus and might just cause my husband or ex-husband to go, “HUH?!?”  And start thinking that maybe this Jesus that I have is really a treasure.
  • I can refuse to yell and scream and cuss.  I can ask God to fill me with His Spirit and give me self-control so that my children don’t have to witness the horror of their mother being full of rage and out of control and scary.

When I genuinely have God’s peace in my own soul – God will empower me to have peace with other people AND I will also be in a position to share God’s peace with my children and teach them His ways.  There is no better gift than the Lordship of Christ and all the spiritual riches of heaven!

Lord,

How I pray that You might change OUR hearts today.  Convict us of our hatred, bitterness and wrong doing.  Show us the ungodliness in our souls.  Help us to have godly sorrow and to turn from our ways and our wisdom and to humbly turn to You – knowing we are wretched sinners who desperately need Jesus every moment!

Change us!  Make us the wives and moms and ex-wives You desire us to be.  Let Your Spirit rule in our hearts.  Let Your powerful love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control be the hallmarks of our lives!  Richly bless our children through us.  Pour out your Spirit on us and remove anything offensive to You and pour through us to our precious children.

Let our homes be sanctuaries of peace with God and peace with one another.  Let our homes be full of the joy and strength of Christ.  Let our homes be full of faith in the almighty God.  Let us make room in our hearts for You this Christmas and every day, Lord!

In the Name and power of Christ,

Amen!

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE AUDITORY LEARNERS, here’s a Youtube video on this topic!

http://youtu.be/7WjPhS7MHCo

Forgiveness

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

Be Still My Bitter Heart

Bitterness is Toxic and Contagious

Exploring the Depths of Bitterness

Finding God’s Victory Over Bitterness

STEPPING STONES TO FORGIVENESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is SERIOUS stuff!

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY – THE LIFE OF JOSEPH

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

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

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

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

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY – THE LIFE OF JESUS

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

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

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

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

GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER MY LIFE, TOO

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

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

Bitterness is Contagious and Toxic!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Bitterness can become my idol.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whew!  What a scary thought that is!

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

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

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

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

So – I cannot shine for Christ.

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

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

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

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

THANK GOD HE HAS PROVIDED VICTORY FOR US IN JESUS!

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

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

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

PRAISE GOD!

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

Precious sisters in Jesus,

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

In the Name and power of Christ,

Amen!

RELATED POSTS:

Exploring the Depths of Bitterness

Finding God’s Victory Over Bitterness

Be Still, My Bitter Heart

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

A Peacefulwife VIDEO about nonverbal disrespect

Be Still, My Bitter Heart

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

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

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

UNEARTHING BITTERNESS

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

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

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

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

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BITTERNESS YIELDS POISONED FRUIT

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

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

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

CHRIST WON’T LEAVE US IN OUR SIN

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

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

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

Finding God’s Victory over Bitterness

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

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

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

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

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

Verses she used for the godly thoughts:

Matthew 18:32-33, Matthew 19:6

Romans 8:28-29

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

Colossians 3:2, 14

Ephesians 4

Philippians 2:3-4

I Peter 3:9

James 1:5

I John 1:9

SOME INSIGHTS FROM A FRIEND THIS WEEK:

I realized several things:

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

Exploring the Depths of Bitterness

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

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

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

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

YUCK.

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

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

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

WHAT IS BITTERNESS?

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

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

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

Bitterness/unforgiveness = wickedness

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

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

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

WHY IS BITTERNESS WRONG?

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

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

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

2. Ungrateful and Complaining

3. Judges motives

4. Self-Centered – victim

5. Excessive Sorrow

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

7. Brooding – plays the wrong suffered over and over

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

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

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

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

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

Forgiveness and trust are not the same thing.

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

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

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

Causes of Bitterness –

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

Signs of Bitterness

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

Fruit of Bitterness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!!!

Why Won’t My Husband Just Love Me???

If you are a wife who is feeling lonely and unloved – I feel your pain VERY DEEPLY! I pursued my husband for 15 years in our marriage and wanted his love SO MUCH! I was lonely, frustrated, angry, and felt extremely unloved at times.

Most wives are in such horrible pain and we only see our own pain – not our husbands’ pain.  We don’t realize that often – he is just as wounded and injured as we are.  We don’t realize our own contribution to the mess and just want our husbands to be:

  • more loving
  • more plugged in
  • more kind
  • more romantic
  • more understanding
  • more sympathetic to their pain

It’s not that these desires are wrong necessarily.  The issue is when we put these desires above everything else in life.

Ideally – husbands would continue to love and pursue their wives even if we are messing things up a lot. But it would take a very Holy Spirit-filled man to react that way to a wife’s desperation/demands/hostility/control/disrespect.  Most men are NOT THERE.

God made wives to need love primarily.  God made husbands to need respect primarily.  When we are not getting what we legitimately need – we react by not meeting our spouse’s legitimate need.  THIS DOESN’T WORK!  SOMEONE has to start meeting the other person’s needs even if he/she isn’t getting his/her own needs met for a time.

Unfortunately – the way we wives usually react when we feel unloved is disrespectful. And when men feel disrespected their knee jerk reaction is unloving. So the crazy cycle begins (Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs).

THE PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE

God designed marriage with a very specific purpose (Ephesians 5:22-33) – to be a living demonstration of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.  Husbands are to play the part of Christ loving, providing, leading, being selfless and servant-hearted.  And wives are to represent the adoration, reverence, awe, devotion and submission of the church to Jesus.

Husbands are wired by God to need respect in the most profound ways in order to feel loving.  Wives are wired by God to need love deeply in order to feel respectful.

You can’t change your husband.  You can only change your relationship with Christ and your behavior.  You can’t make him love you.  You can only influence him in a godly way.  BUT that way is VERY powerful!

FOLLOWING YOUR HEART WILL MAKE THINGS WORSE!

To attract your husband – you have to do what works for HIM to feel attracted to you.  Giving him more and more love won’t help at all.  He doesn’t long for love the way you do.  He longs for respect, faith, admiration, trust, friendliness, your beautiful smile, and a sense that you actually LIKE him as a man and accept him as he is.

If you smother him with neediness and constant phone calls and texts and you try to demand his attention, change him or even worse – beg, cry, pout, whine, manipulate or try to force him to do what you want – HE WILL NOT DO IT. Those tactics repulse men.

Bob Grant (a marriage counselor and author) says, “No one likes to be told what to do.  But men REALLY don’t like to be told what to do.”

When we are resorting to those desperate methods to try to MAKE our men love us and MAKE them do what we want – we are actually committing idolatry. I did this FOR A LONG, LONG TIME. I didn’t see it. All I saw was, “He is unloving! He SHOULD do X, Y and Z for ME!” But I didn’t notice how I was hurting him. He never told me I was disrespectful and he never told me I hurt him. I assumed he had no feelings. And I was WRONG.

I HAD A FOREST IN MY OWN EYE

I was putting my desire to feel loved way above my desire for Christ. Any time I HAVE to have something other than Christ to be happy – that is idolatry. And there is no worse sin than that. I broke the first commandment (from the 10 commandments) all day long every day for many years – and I thought I was a great Christian.  But I was living in sin, so I didn’t have God’s power working full blast in me, and I didn’t have the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.  I had grieved God’s heart and His Spirit could not stay in fellowship with me with all that filth in my soul.  I didn’t lose my relationship with Him – but I lost connection with Him and His full power in my life

I didn’t see my pride. I really believed “I know better than my husband.” “I’m smarter than he is.” “I need to take over because he WON’T MAN UP.” And so I tried to control him and I treated him with disrespect. I criticized him daily. I lectured him. I ordered him around. I told him what to do and how to do it. I rolled my eyes at him. I raised my voice and used the angry mama scolding tone with him. I didn’t pay much attention to his feelings or what he thought was important or what he wanted. If he didn’t answer me within 5 seconds, I was ANGRY. I acted like I was better than him because I really thought I was. I had MOUNTAINS of pride.

When I finally saw it – I was mortified. I thought I was such a great wife – but I wasn’t. I wasn’t taking care of my husband’s legitimate and God-given need for respect. I didn’t even really know what respect or disrespect meant to a man! And I wasn’t allowing him to lead even though God designated him the leader in the marriage.

I was stressed out, lonely, angry, anxious, unforgiving, resentful, fearful and thought that I had to make things happen, that I was in charge – not God. That is how I lived – as if I were in God’s place and God barely existed.  That was all HUGE sin and the results of my sin and living in my own strength and wisdom were obvious.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

I had to learn to put Christ first. He has to be my Lord and my God. I have to be willing to sacrifice MY wants, MY will, MY way, MY rights, MY wisdom, MY needs and take on God’s will, His desires, His goals, His purpose, His plan and His wisdom. I had to REALLY, REALLY humble myself hundreds of notches and be contrite before God – seeing the depths of my sin – and seeing the heights of God’s holiness and that I fell miles and miles short of His standard. I had to really see how much sin debt I owed to Jesus – that I owed Him BILLIONS of $ for my sin, not just a few hundred bucks.

I had to learn to put Him first in every area of my life and hold nothing back from Him. I had to learn to obey His Word and seek His will.

It was only when I had Jesus in the right place in my heart and took my husband, my being in control and my feeling loved off the throne of my soul that God began to work powerfully in me and my marriage. He eventually gave me the desires of my heart – to feel loved by my husband again. BUT my motive had to be to please God not to try to make my husband love me.

WHAT WORKS

When my motives are right in God’s sight and I obey Him and respect my husband and cooperate with his leadership – THEN my husband is powerfully attracted to me and WANTS to love me again.

My humble attitude attracts my husband – the idea that he has valuable wisdom and insight that are important to our marriage and family is a necessary ingredient of respecting him!

I stepped down from control and allowed him to make decisions.  I tell him what I want and like and need (usually once) and then I let him make the ultimate decision and trust that God will use my husband to lead me to His will.  I don’t cooperate with sin – but everything else, I joyfully and cheerfully cooperate with my husband about.

When I seek God’s design for marriage and look at His commands for wives and am willing to obey them – God blesses me greatly in my walk with Him and my marriage!

I’M THANKFUL I COULDN’T MAKE MY HUSBAND LOVE ME NOW

I learned that it was actually a HUGE BLESSING that my husband refused to pursue me when I was idolizing him. If he had rewarded me by giving me what I wanted – he would have created a monster! What a blessing to have a man who will not be manipulated or coerced or forced into what we want. That is a sign of a strong leader who stands by his convictions.

I believe sometimes – but not always – wives might experiencing intense emotional pain and distress because they may have their husbands, or feelings of being loved or trying to be in control themselves as idols in their hearts. I pray you will examine your relationship with Christ and put Him in His proper place in your life and commit to do things His way. Then I think you will see miracles in time that will blow your mind.

I am here if you want to talk more! MUCH LOVE and BIG HUGS precious sisters!

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My Demon

A Wife’s Power in Marriage

If you have a very difficult husband, please check out Nina Roesner’s “Strength and Dignity” eCourse

If you are experiencing severe issues in your marriage, please contact the appropriate people for help – the police, a trusted, godly counselor, a doctor, a trusted pastor, etc… This post is not written for women who are experiencing abuse, whose husbands are involved in active addictions or uncontrolled mental illness or spiritual oppression/demon possession.

If You Are Getting Stuck

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

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

BROKENNESS

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

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

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

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

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

THEN…

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

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

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

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

THE LITMUS TEST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Wife Reports in 30 Days into Her Journey

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

FROM PEACEFULWIFE:

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

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

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

 

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