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Expectations – Part 1

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We all go into marriage with a lot of expectations.  (Click here for Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

And, as a reader of mine quoted last week,

“Expectations are premeditated resentment.”

Ladies, what are some expectations you have of your husband and marriage?

Some expectations – I believe are valid.  I believe we should be able to expect our wedding vows to be honored.  But sometimes even that doesn’t happen, sadly.

WHAT ARE SOME EXPECTATIONS THAT GET US INTO TROUBLE?  WHEN I THINK:

  • if I love my husband well (or submit to him biblically and respect him), that my husband will always love and cherish me the way I want him to – that he will “owe me” and must please me or must be the man I want him to be or act in certain ways
  • if I do things right – God will also “owe me” and I will never have to suffer
  • my husband will never turn me down for sex
  • my husband must be perfect and must never sin against me
  • that marriage will be like a romantic movie, I will constantly feel “in love” and “loved”
  • that marriage will solve all my problems
  • that if I am married, I will never be lonely

There are many more possibilities, but this is a good place to start.   Keep in mind that these expectations can easily become idols for us – and we can easily set our hearts on these things instead of on Jesus alone.

We will look at some additional expectations tomorrow.

LET’S TALK ABOUT REALITY VS. EACH OF THE ABOVE EXPECTATIONS

  •  I have an obligation to my Lord, Jesus Christ, to obey His Word and to love my husband, respect him and honor his God-given leadership (Ephesians 5:22-33, Titus 2:2-5, I Corinthians 11:3, I Peter 3:1-6).  But my accountability to God is for my own sin and my own obedience and God requires my obedience to His Word regardless of my husband’s corresponding obedience to God’s Word to love me as Christ loves the church.  Husbands are people.  They have free will.  Just like my husband cannot force me to obey God and love Him, I cannot force my husband to love God and obey Him.  And I cannot force him to love me either.
  • God values suffering when it is for His glory. God promises that we will suffer in this life.  Jesus suffered as an example for us.  And God wants to use suffering to make us more like Jesus.  My life will have suffering.  But God’s promise is that He will be there to empower me to endure and that He will teach me and make me more like Jesus.  I will learn the most during my times of suffering if I will listen for God’s voice.
  • Reality is that husbands do reject their wives sexually, sometimes.  Some husbands do this more than others.  But the way I respond when I am rejected is a big indicator of how close I am to God.  Can I take my hurt and pain to Jesus and find my fulfillment, joy, strength and purpose in Him alone?  Or do I begin to cherish a grudge and bitterness and hatred?  God can and will use these situations to help make me more holy if I am willing to do things His way and let go of my own wisdom.
  • Husbands are human.  They are all wretched sinners in desperate need of Christ!  So are wives! He WILL sin against you – the question is only when and how much.  God can and will use these opportunities to reveal the sin in your own heart because we are most tempted to sin when we have been sinned against (Gary Thomas Sacred Marriage).  If I cannot respond to my husband’s sin with mercy, forgiveness, grace, respect, gentleness and speaking the truth in love (after removing the sin from my own life first) – then I have a lot of sin to confess and repent of before my Holy God.
  • Marriage CAN be very romantic sometimes.  But it is not Hollywood.   And it can be and will be excruciatingly painful other times.  It will not follow a carefully scripted movie plot line.  When we expect men to act the way they do in romantic chick-flicks (which are often written by women) – we are buying into a fantasy that completely warps real masculinity.  We set up false expectations for our men when we consume these things. If watching romantic movies, reading romantic books and listening to love songs creates discontentment in you – romance may be an idol and it is time to stop watching and listening to these things and time to focus on Jesus and His love.
  •  Paul says that those who have married will have much trouble in this life.  Marriage does not solve nearly as many problems as it creates!  Marriage is a gift and a blessing.  God designed it to demonstrate His love and relationship with His people.  But in a marriage between two sinners – there is MUCH TROUBLE.  Expect that.  Be prepared for it.  Don’t complain and argue.  Be ready to give grace and to roll with reality and be flexible.  Your way is not the most important thing.  God’s will is the most important thing!
  • The loneliness that happens sometimes in marriage is a loneliness that far exceeds (in my view) the loneliness of being single.  There are times that we will be lonely, VERY lonely in our marriages.  I believe that is our cue to look to Jesus.  Our husbands will fail us.  But Jesus never will.  When I keep my heart set completely on Jesus alone – I will find the belonging, the security, the peace, the love, the acceptance and companionship I so desperately long for.

WHAT DO I DO WHEN MY HUSBAND DOES NOT MEET  MY EXPECTATIONS?

Do I believe I am justified to sin against him by cussing, screaming, yelling, throwing things, hating him, resenting him, gossiping against him, undermining him to our children, withholding sex from him, not forgiving him, thinking I am so much better than he is, belittling him, disrespecting him, taking over and trying to control him and the family?  If I respond in even one of these ways – I am in sin before God.

The way I respond when my husband doesn’t meet my expectations reveals the level of sin in my heart.  It shows whether the sinful nature is in control or God’s Spirit is in control.  When God’s Spirit is in control, He empowers me to respond to my husband, even if he sins against me with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.

Take a minute and think about

1. What are your expectations of your husband and marriage?  Are any of them toxic?

2. How do you respond when your expectations are not met?

3. What idols and sin is God revealing here that He wants to deal with and remove from your heart?

Handling "External Pressure" on This Journey

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A Wife’s Questions

I just wanted to start off by saying thank you and God bless you so much for your labor of love in creating the wonderful blogs that are blessing me and so many others.  I was thinking to myself this morning that ever since I discovered your blog about a month ago I have been so inspired and so relieved!  So many of the things I felt God speaking to my heart over the past few months are so well covered in there as confirmation, and it is amazing to see you and others describe walking through this journey. I feel like I am not alone in learning some of these things that can be difficult on the flesh, especially after being a certain way for so long.
Something I have deeply struggled with relationship-wise is what I view as great “external pressure”.  The people around me have always been very much involved in every aspect of my life.  But in this season, I find it so difficult to talk to the people around me even about minor things because I worry about their judgement and comments, especially as I walk through this respect journey.  Its hard enough dealing with my own expectations, but when I focus on my family and friends, its unbearable! So I have a hard time opening up even as I am learning awesome things and see God moving in the midst of it. My attitude right now is that I have been listening to the wrong people for so long; others opinions, the devil’s lies, and my own flesh. Now I am doing something different, which is listening to God and obeying Him alone for a change, leaving whatever the outcome will be to Him, and I just want to stay focused instead of being so stressed that I feel I need to avoid people sometimes. I just want to be able to be honest about my growth journey while at the same time not letting their opinions bother me too much.
My question is what is the best way to deal with all the questions all my well meaning friends and family members constantly have about my relationship?  I don’t want their comments to get in the way of how God leads me, but I feel weak in this area. When they notice I’m not talking about my man very much, because they are so used to me being an “open book” they harass me and ask why I’m not updating them on things, then I feel guilty lol! I almost feel like I need to establish new ground rules, because I feel like this is a delicate period.  I just wanted your take on the best way to go about this.

Peacefulwife’s Response

WHAT I DID (I am not saying this is what everyone should do – this is just what I personally did)
I was controlling and disrespectful towards other people in my life, too, before I learned this stuff – AND I had awful boundaries, or no boundaries, and was always an open book as you describe and also allowed other people to control me before.
When I realized my sin – and WOW – was there a lot of it – I wanted to hide in a cave and never talk to another person again.  I knew I would sin if I opened my mouth.  And back then, I would have.  Everything out of my mouth was criticism, control, disrespect, gossip, bitterness, pride… yep.  Sin.  
I actually immediately backed away from everyone.  I practically disappeared as I began studying respect and biblical submission and realizing my sin and repenting and asking God to take all the evil out and rebuild on His foundation alone.
I was afraid to talk to anyone.  I knew I would say something disrespectful and I did NOT trust myself with words to anyone for a long time.  I am not sure that this is necessarily the healthiest thing ever – it would have been better if I had a godly mentoring wife, probably, or a women’s study group or a godly girlfriend or two, but I didn’t at the time.
I became a bit of a recluse, praying, studying and trying to apply what I was learning just to my marriage.  I could only really focus on that one thing at first.  So I apologized to my husband and my young children, and began to try to set a godly example of respect and submission for them, too.
I spent hours studying, praying, reading and taking notes almost every day.  I was SO DETERMINED to learn this stuff and do it God’s way.
THE RESULTS
Backing away from my family and friends actually ended up being good in several ways for me (again, I am not saying this is what everyone must do):
– it kept me from temptation with MY MOUTH
– it forced me to develop new and stronger boundaries and hedges to protect my marriage.  I had not properly “left” other relationships to “cling” to my husband.  So part of backing away helped me cement in my mind, and probably in their minds, that I was leaving all others and cleaving to my husband.
– I wasn’t trying to explain what I was doing to other people
– it gave me time to  work through all the new things I was learning and time to try to process all the new information I was studying before I had to apply it in more difficult situations
You may not have to back away as much as I did. I don’t know!  But I had to take some BIG STEPS BACK emotionally and even time-wise for a long time as I learned.  Later, I was able to re-enter some of those relationships and only speak highly of my husband.  But it took time.
Some people did not take kindly to me backing away.  But I didn’t single anyone out, I just backed away from everyone but God, Greg and my children.  I focused on those relationships and was loving and kind to others, but didn’t do a lot of talking with other people for awhile.
If people ask questions, only say POSITIVE things about your husband and your marriage.
** For wives being physically abused or who have SERIOUS problems in their marriage, please find godly, experienced help ASAP!  Those issues go far beyond the scope of this post and this blog** 
HANDLING CRITICISM AND QUESTIONS
First of all, the unfortunate reality in most cultures today is that  there are almost no women who will be supportive of your efforts to truly become a godly wife – not when you talk about respecting your husband and honoring his leadership.  And if you use the word, “submission,” you may have rotten tomatoes thrown at your head.   If you don’t have super godly friends, even Christian women will get upset about respect and biblical submission – some of them become downright hostile.
Many times, we have learned our disrespectful and controlling ways from our own mothers and sisters  – so sometimes they can be the most difficult to deal with. (My own mother was not at all controlling and was very respectful – but I guess I learned the control thing from being a dominant twin).  And if you talk about what you are learning with them, they may take these new ideas as a huge threat and try to control you even more than ever.  The HARDEST place to break dysfunctional relationships is in our family of origin.  That is usually where we learned our messed up ways of relating to people, and we can quickly revert back to those old ways when we are around our family because that is what is expected and it is hard to buck against the usual old “dance” that everyone does in the family.
Right now, I am not sure I would do much explaining.
You can smile and say, “Thanks for asking.  I’m doing well.  God is working on my heart.”
And if they pressure for more, “I am not at liberty to discuss any details right now.  Thanks for praying for me. :)”
PEOPLE’S PRYING QUESTIONS
People probably don’t mean to cause angst and trouble and pain, but sometimes the questions they ask are just not very polite!  Definitely don’t expect anything from your man right now (for Valentine’s Day).  Thank him if he does something for you.
But you can just nonchalantly say something to those who ask what you got for Valentine’s Day like, “That’s my little secret.”  or “I have such an amazing husband, he is a gift from God in and of himself.”  Or “God has given my husband to me.  I’m really thankful for him.”  Or, “I hope I get to spend some time with my favorite man in the world tonight.”  Something that promotes your admiration of your husband and expresses your gratitude.
NEW GROUND RULES
YES.  You will need new ground rules and boundaries.  Here are my goals:
  • I don’t talk negatively about my man or anyone else’s marriage or their relationship
  • I don’t gossip (about my husband or anyone else)
  • I only say positive things about husband
  • I don’t ask other people for advice about my husband – only godly mentoring wives
  • I build a hedge of protection around my heart and marriage – “guard your heart, it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs)  Being a Christian does NOT mean we are total open books.  I used to think it did!   We are honest and open to a degree, but there are some things we must guard as sacred and precious that are not available to public view.  Our marriages are one of those things.  The most important thing!
  • I may need to say something like, “God is working in me.  I can’t talk about it much right now.  Thanks for understanding.”  Or “God is teaching me so much.  It’s too personal to go into right now.  I hope I can share more one day.”
The way God-given authority works is like this:
God>>Christ>>Husband>>Wife>>Children
Also there are God-given authorities we must submit to like the government, church leaders, our bosses, the police, teachers, etc.  Children must submit to their parents.  But once a child is grown, God commands us to honor our parents, but not to submit to them and obey them.
You answer to God primarily and also to your husband.  Your goals are to please THEM.  First to please God – and then your man.  If your husband asks you to sin or condone sin, you must respectfully resist him to obey God.
Other people’s opinions and ideas are nice, but you do not answer to those people.  It is no longer your job to please other people.  (That can quickly become idolatry – seeking the approval of men over the approval of God)  You answer to God and your husband.  It helps to clarify that, I think!

The Wife’s Response Back to Me

Thanks so much!  I think the thing that gets me the most is when people seem to think I’m “suffering in silence” since I am being so quiet nowadays.  Mind you he is the sweetest, kindest, gentlest person, not mistreating me in any way, but the emotional distance I feel right now is the thing that makes it difficult. Is my flesh suffering as I learn to walk this out? Absolutely!  And sometimes the repentance I feel is so thick and the lessons and realizations and remorse hit me so hard that I feel heavy.  But I don’t know that its for me to necessarily share with everyone. I think that since females are so used to sharing our feelings with eachother that it seems natural that that would be the case, but for some reasonthese feelings seem sacred as I am going through my process and allowing God to show me things.  I hope that makes sense, just venting.  It can be hard changing so much in a short period of time!  But I know its all for a great purpose.

Here is a post about healthy boundaries and controlling people that might help, too.
YOU ARE WELCOME TO SHARE YOUR STRUGGLES!
All wives struggle on this path!  It is the most difficult and wonderful thing most women will ever do in their lives, in my view!  Please share your struggles or your story if you would like to.  MANY sisters in Christ are on this same walk and we are stronger when we hold hands and walk together side by side!

A Widow's Pain

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** Check out my Peacefulwife Blog FB page today for more discussion on godly femininity and physical intimacy

I heard from a dear woman who has been in such deep spiritual pain since her husband died 7 years ago.  She has very graciously allowed me to share my correspondence with her.  God has been at work this past week mightily in her life.  It is the most amazing thing to watch Him lift her chin to see His eyes blazing with love for her – and to see the hope and faith begin to flood her soul again after years of barren spiritual drought and grief.

PART OF HER EMAIL TO ME:

Does God really talk to his people? Does he really care?  I lost my husband and had to put my (disabled) child in a home and my family literally broke apart.  I am lifeless, I have no joy and no desires for anything.  I am not depressed, I have been like this for years. My light died.  I function but without a purpose.  I would like to have God restore my life, have a mate to enjoy life with, I try my best to have a great attitude, try by best to be obedient, submit to His will but what is that?
When I try to move forward in faith, it is met with disappointments and it puts me further into darkness, how can I trust God?  I truly thought that a family was a Bible-based thing only to find that it has been destroyed.

I hear so many people say, “God has a plan for your life.” So what’s the plan? If I am breathing right now, why doesn’t God reveal the plan? Are we to wait until the plan unfolds to begin living?  I’ve been in a holding pattern waiting for God to answer for the past seven years.  Isn’t that a long time?

PART OF MY RESPONSE:

You have obviously been through an incredibly difficult situation in losing your husband.  I am SO, SO sorry for your loss. 🙁   I  don’t have the answers about all the reasons why God allowed that to happen and why you are still here and why you haven’t found another man yet.
I can tell you that God showed me some things in my life about when I didn’t have joy that may be helpful here.
Galatians 5:22 is the fruit of the Spirit.  This is what we will have in our lives automatically when the Spirit of God has full reign in our lives.
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control.
 
What I didn’t fully appreciate years ago was that if the Spirit is in control, I will have ALL of these in increasing measure on a daily basis – with a few exceptions when I stumble.
 
Galatians 5:19-20 describes the fruit of the sinful nature.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions

What I didn’t get about this list years ago – was that if I am doing ANY of these things frequently – I am controlled by the sinful nature, not God’s Spirit.  I easily looked at the things like witchcraft, drunkenness and orgies and said, “I don’t do those things!  So I’m fine.”  But I ignored the fact that I had resentment, hatred, unforgiveness, selfishness, idolatry, discord, gossip, PRIDE and other sins listed as heinous in God’s sight on a daily basis. 🙁

 
I know that Joseph had to suffer as a slave and in prison undeservedly for 14 years before he got to see God’s ultimate plans for him materialize.  But God was at work the whole time, planning things perfectly.  God’s timing is often MUCH, MUCH, MUCH slower than ours.  Moses waited until he was 80 years old to lead the people out of Israel.  God was preparing him that whole time – 40 years in Egypt with royalty and 40 years in the dessert as a shepherd.  Abraham waited until he was 100  years old to have the child of the promise- Isaac.  The people of Israel waited in captivity for 480 years or so before God delivered them in His perfect timing, by His power, for His glory to accomplish His purposes. He used Egypt as an incubator to grow the baby nation into a huge nation of millions.
God’s ways are not are ways.  His wisdom is much higher than ours.  We can’t see what He is doing or what His plans are – but I do know He has good plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11-14.)  I don’t know if His plans include another husband for you or not.  Only He knows that.  But His plans DEFINITELY include you being VERY close to Him, trusting Him, living by faith, being full of His Spirit, peace, joy and abundant life as you bring glory to His Name.
I think you need God to open your eyes to whatever it is that has His Spirit bottlenecked and is keeping it from flowing like Niagra Falls in your life.  He can help you see it.  I can’t.  And when you do, and you are broken before Him – THAT is when things will start to happen.  He will change YOU.  He will change your heart and mind.  He will change your desires.  And then you will be able to lay all that You want before Him and sacrifice your dreams, wisdom, pain, goals, plans and purposes to Him and be willing to pick up His purposes, His will, His wisdom, His strength, His desires – no matter what they might be – sight unseen.  Then I believe that the joy and peace will begin to flood your soul again.
A BIT OF HER EMAIL:

I realize it now, you nailed it. I do have an idol. I do put the want of a mate in front of God.

MY RESPONSE:

You know – desiring a husband is a good thing.  Desiring to feel loved is good.  Desiring to be in a family is good.  It is not the desire in and of itself that is a problem.  I think it is even a God-given desire.  The issue comes when I set my heart on that thing instead of on Jesus.  Then it is an idol  -and then I will NEVER find contentment.

God will not allow me to find contentment and the fruit of His Spirit through idols.  He will force me to come to Him alone to find my greatest purpose, love, strength and joy to find His spiritual abundant life.

Is it possible you may be bitter at God?  A little root of bitterness can be extremely destructive.  And it can also shut out God’s Spirit from your heart.
I believe that God wants to change you before He can take you another step.  I think you are going to sit right here in the wilderness, if necessary, for 40 years – until you are able to trust Him again – regardless of the results.
Our God most certainly CAN and DOES heal.  He can heal you!  I don’t know the reasons why He has chosen certain things to happen in your life or mine.  But I do know that this is not His choice – for you to live in misery, fear and hopelessness.
God’s peace, love, joy, hope, gentleness, goodness… all of His spiritual riches are completely available to you, my precious sister.  It is a Niagra Falls rushing beside you, and you don’t believe that He can fill up your little tea cup.  But He CAN and He will.  It all depends on you.  YOU are the one that has the controls over how much of the Holy Spirit can flow into your life.  Right now it is a tiny trickle.  But it can be a huge flood.  That is up to  you and your faith.  You can’t afford not to trust God.  Not trusting him only leads to death.  His perfect love will drive out all fear.
I KNOW I will be tested.  That is a guarantee.   I used to live in constant fear and worry, trying to figure out how I was going to make everything work out and keep bad things from happening.  But it was me picturing everything WITHOUT God’s Spirit helping me because I didn’t have Him in control of my life and didn’t even realize it.
I decided a few years ago that I trusted God’s sovereignty and that IF He decided to allow something to happen, He would surely use it for His greatest glory and my ultimate good and He might use it to bring many to Himself.  Who am I to say that if God thinks a tragedy might bring glory to Him that I won’t cooperate with that?  Why am I exempt from difficulties or suffering?  God uses suffering to test our faith and show us what we are truly made of.   God even counts suffering for Him to be a blessing.
Untested faith is not faith.
I expect trials.  I expect tragedy at times.  And I am at peace about it.  I decided that I wanted God’s glory in my life more than anything else.  At any cost.  And I trust Him to provide for me and my family. And I hold all things loosely except for Jesus – knowing that He can give and take away at any time.  Now I am able to really live –  because I am not afraid.  If something bad happens, I know I can trust God’s loving hands and that He will be with me and His Spirit will support me.  If I have Him, I know I will be ok.
PART OF HER EMAIL:
I was on the train today. As I looked out of the window, I saw a tall chimney stack, blowing out dirty dark steam. I wondered if that’s how I look and smell to God. Still on the train, I past a park. I remembered how on one hot summer day, the spinklers were on and no one was under it. I was remindered that the blessings of God are there, one just needs to be under it.  I recalled a sermon, actually, the only thing I remembered was one line. That line was “so do you plan to miss God’s plan for your life” that minister grinned and shook his head. That line has been ebedded into my mind and has haunted me for years and it still does.
Who wants to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, Am I insane?  Do I really want to throw my life away?  Of course not. 
April, I love God, not because I want something from Him but because I do.   I asked God, to make me relentless until I find Him, ( Not a man, but God, Ha!)  Pray for me so that this journey won’t flip flop.
Pray for me, For God did tell me to look for him after my husband died but I allowed the bitterness to settle in. I have gone thru a process, a cleaning process of other things but the trace of bitterness still lingers. Help me extinguish it.
Pray for me as I will pray for you.  For God has given you a gift, to speak the truth to people’s heart, don’t ever stop. Let the Spirit of the Lord guide you to help others.
So let’s see where MY Journey begins.
 

What Does Jesus Want Me to Do in My Marriage?

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Marriage is HARD.

Really – I would even say it is impossible – in human strength and effort alone.

Men and women are SO different.  We think and feel entirely differently.  We have different priorities and needs many times.  We approach things from completely opposite perspectives.  We have very different strengths and weaknesses.  Marriage is practically a recipe for torture – apart from Christ.

That is the key.  If we look to our husbands or to ourselves – we will destroy our marriage.  I must keep my eyes on Christ!  He is the only source of power that will enable our marriage to be what He designed it to be.  I must daily live for Him and abide in Him!

THE PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE

God designed people.  And God designed marriage.  He designed marriage for several purposes:

  • to be a living parable of the intimate spiritual relationship and the oneness of Christ and His church
  • to provide a stable, loving, nurturing, secure, safe, healthy place for children to be born and raised to know God and love Him and to learn how to love others and be prepared to be responsible, faithful, fruitful servants of Christ.
  • to form us more and more into the image of Christ – to make us holy (NOT primarily to make us happy!)
  • to teach children how to have a healthy, vibrant and flourishing marriage and how to be godly parents themselves
  • to provide a solid foundation and building block for healthy, secure, productive and godly societies.
  • to provide companionship and unity in the most intimate human relationship.
  • to provide a safe, loving, perfect place for sex and procreation
  • as a classroom to learn to love and forgive
  • because it is not good for man to  be alone – God designed a helpmeet suitable for him

This list is not exhaustive – but it provides a good glimpse into some of the biggest reasons why God chose to design and institute marriage.

WHEN MY HUSBAND SINS AGAINST ME

The problem with two sinners being married is – they WILL sin against each other and they WILL hurt each other.  There is no perfect marriage partner (except Jesus).  So it is our job to learn to be great forgivers and to tap into God’s power to be able to do this.  When I am putting Christ first and setting my heart on Him, His will, His Word and His glory, He will empower me to deal with anything my husband might do – and I can trust that He will use even my husband’s sin and mistakes ultimately for my good and His glory.

What would Jesus tell me to do when my husband is unkind, verbally abusive, arrogant, demeaning, mean, belittling, disrespectful, unloving, selfish, hateful, prideful, refusing to be intimate with me, trying to force me to be intimate with him, flirting with other women, lying, being irresponsible with money, not taking the best care of our children (in my view), not praying with me, not abiding in Christ, not reading his Bible, being materialistic, putting other things ahead of Christ or ahead of our marriage that are inappropriate…?

LET’S APPLY LUKE 6:20-49 TO OUR MARRIAGES

(I am going to alter the words a bit to fit to our marriages)

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when your husband/extended family members/coworkers/neighbors/others hate you, when they exclude you and insult  you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man.

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.  For that is how (people) treated the prophets.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.

Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.

Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.

Woe to you when (everyone in your life) speaks well of you, for that is how (people) treated the false prophets.  (People pleasing does not please God!)

But I tell you who hear Me:

  • Love your husband when he acts like he is your enemy
  • do good to him if he hates you
  • bless him if he curses you
  • pray for him when he mistreats you.  
  • If your husband strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.  (I would add, get some godly, wise, experienced help ASAP!)
  • If he takes your (coat), do not stop him from taking your (shirt/dress).  
  • Give to him when he asks you
  • if your husband takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
  • Do to your husband as you would have him do to you (meet his needs and be a godly wife, just like you want him to meet your needs and be a godly husband)
  • if you love him only when he loves you, what credit is that to you? Even (unbelievers) love those who love them. 
  • If you do good to him only when he is good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even (unbelievers) do that.
  • If you lend to him (give something to him or do something for him) and expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even (unbelievers) lend to (unbelievers), expecting to be repaid in full.
  • love your husband when it feels like he is your enemy, do good to him, and lend to him (do kind, respectful things for him) without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be (daughters) of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 
  • Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
  • Do not judge your husband, and you will not be judged.  
  • Do not condemn your husband, and you will not be condemned.
  • Forgive your husband, and you will be forgiven.
  • Give to your husband, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Can a blind wife lead a blind husband?  Will they not both fall into a pit?  A student is not above his Teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his Teacher.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your husband’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you tell your husband, “Husband, let me take the speck out of your eye,” when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your husband’s eye.

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.  Each tree is recognized by its own fruit… The good wife brings good things out of the good stored up in her heart (her husband doesn’t MAKE her act good, the Spirit of God inside of her causes her to act good!), and the evil wife brings evil things out of the evil stored up in her heart (her husband doesn’t MAKE her act bad, her own sin and fleshly nature cause her to react in sin).  For out of the overflow of her heart, her mouth speaks.

Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say to do for your husband?

I will show you what she is like who who comes to Me and hears My words and puts them into practice.  She is like a man building a house (a life, a marriage, a family), who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock  When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, for it was well  built.

But the wife who hears My words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house (a life, a marriage, a family) on the ground without a foundation.  The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete

Lord,

Give us ears to hear and hearts that are willing to obey.  Tear down any strongholds of the enemy in our souls.  Give us Your power to humble ourselves and submit to You and honor You in our marriages!

In the Name and power of Christ,

Amen!

OTHER SCRIPTURES

Ephesians 5 – God’s design for marriage

I Corinthians 11:2-13  –  God’s authority structure for marriage

I Corinthians 13:4-7  – God’s definition of love in marriage

Galatians 5:19-22 – a comparison of a life powered by self vs. a life powered by God’s Spirit

I John

You won't Relent.

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A guest post from Kayla at www.lessonsofmercy.wordpress.com  – THANK YOU for sharing what God is working on with you.  I LOVE this post!

Relent: What is the definition exactly?

1.) to soften in feeling, temper, or determination; become more mild, compassionate, or forgiving.
2.) to become less severe; slacken
So if I say “God WON’T relent until He has every. single. part. of me”, what am I saying?
God won’t lose his burning feelings for me no matter if I resist. He won’t for one second back off in His determination to break me of ME. He won’t change in His feelings of compassion or forgiveness and just start “allowing” my sin because I don’t want to give it up. He isn’t going to be less severe with His judgment against my stubborn heart.
Do you get that tonight?
That’s seriously incredible friends.  How many times does a friend have to spit in your face, deny you, question you, sin against you before you relent from them and move on?
I know for me tonight… God has dealt with me on some issues so many times, I’m embarrassed to say what I still struggle with because for crying out loud.. LEARN MY LESSON already!
And here God is tonight, showing up, pounding on my heart, getting resources in my hands, getting music in my ears that breaks me in ways I have never wanted anyone to know I need broken. Not even my husband- my best friend- who knows 99% of everything.
I talked about Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book “Brokenness” on the blog before.  Let me share with you just a small little section of what I read tonight in her book on page 96-97.
“You see, though some of us may never blatantly defy God by committing adultery or embezzling money from the church or committing some other egregious sin, all it takes for me – or for you – to get into a position where God is forced to resist us is to refuse to humble ourselves and be broken before Him in one “little” matter. God always resists the proud – whether that proud person is a blasphemer or an adulterer, or a pastor or a home-schooling Mom.”
I have some “little” things.  Especially one in particular. I have to deal with this.  I can’t not deal with this… God won’t relent.  He won’t stop.  And I won’t stop fighting the battle until *I* surrender.
I’m going to share my new FAVORITE song.  It isn’t new… but it’s new to me.
It is long… but worth it.  And there are some sections you don’t want to miss.
My favorite line is as follows:
I don’t want to talk about You, like You’re not in the room.  I want to look right at You, I want to sing right to You.

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!

Rejoice in Suffering

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

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

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

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

THE UNFORTUNATE TRUTH ABOUT SINFUL HUMAN NATURE

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

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

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

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

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

SUFFERING HAS A HOLY PURPOSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT KINDS OF SUFFERINGS MIGHT GOD ALLOW?

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

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

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

IN MARRIAGE

I hear SO MANY wives say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUR GOD IS HUGE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRAYER

Lord,

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

In the Name and power of Christ,

Amen!

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