There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
Hands that Shed Innocent Blood
Given that murder is the ultimate bloodshed, it’s important to remember John’s words: “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.” –1 John 3:15
This is a powerful statement, especially given the Biblical definitions of “love” and “hate.” The rest of this post will be written with John’s definition of “murder” in mind.
I think the questions about this item can be broken into two categories. First, do I actively participate in this sin:
1. Do I intentionally harm innocent people?
Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you. (Proverbs 23:10-11)
Remember that God is the Defender of the innocent. If you’re not the innocent in a given situation, who is your defender?
2. Do I seek to serve myself despite knowing that my actions will hurt others?
A wicked man accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the course of justice. (Proverbs 17:23)
Are you willing harm others for the right price? And remember, the “price” isn’t necessarily money. It could be attention, preferential treatment, accolades, etc. What is your price?
3. Do I seek to serve myself without considering how this might affect others?
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
It’s so easy for us to take action thoughtlessly. We don’t set out to hurt others, we just don’t care if we do – at least not as much as we care about our own interests. In the verse above, God asks us to “consider others” and to look “to the interests of others.” He’s asking us to actively concern ourselves with how our actions affect those around us – and those far away.
The second category of questions deals with passively committing this sin: Even if I’m not actively shedding innocent blood, am I doing anything to stop those who are? And am I applying tourniquets to the wounded? Some questions to consider in this regard:
4. Do I look for ways to help and protect the innocent?
It is not good to punish an innocent man, or to flog officials for their integrity. (Proverbs 17:26)
Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent — the Lord detests them both. (Proverbs 17:15)
Seeking to right injustices can seem like an incredibly daunting task – and no one person can take up every worthy cause. However, we should be asking God what cause(s) He wants us involved in. (For advice about how to help without becoming overwhelmed by the problems in our world, click here: avoiding the superwoman complex.)
5. Do I look for ways to help those who are hurting?
Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land. (Proverbs 25:25)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
While some people are certainly more gifted at offering comfort to those who are hurting, we’re all capable of genuinely showing an interest in and a concern for other people. Do you shy away from those opportunities? Most of us wouldn’t let a man bleed to death, but many of us will watch a man grieve to death.
6. Do I stand up for those who need an advocate?
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)
As we discussed above, God is the ultimate defender of the innocent — but He wants us to be involved in this work. In many situations, this means actively opposing their oppressors. In such cases, there is a temptation to fool ourselves into thinking that we can remain neutral. We can’t. In such cases, remaining “neutral” is just a cowardly attempt to abandon the weak to their oppressors without making ourselves look bad. God is not fooled:
10 If you falter in times of trouble,
how small is your strength!
11 Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay each person according to what he has done? (Proverbs 24:10-12)
God is not neutral in such situations, and when He calls us to advocate for the innocent, He has called us to His side. We can accept His call or reject it, but we can’t stay neutral. God has chosen His side. Which side are you on?
Challenge: This week, go beyond not actively shedding innocent blood, and ask God how you He would have you protect the innocent and bandage the wounded.
Next Week: a heart that devises wicked schemes
Last Week: a lying tongue, part 3c
Start of the Series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6
Want to read more?
You know that annoying person you try to avoid? Yeah, me too….: what to do about annoying people
Can your marriage help the next generation? I think so: why YOUR strong marriage matters to kids that aren’t yours
Is nagging our husbands really a problem? Why I think it is: How culture is sabotaging our marriages
Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one
Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted
Of course the list of things God hates starts here. Just in case I thought I was going to go into this series of posts feeling pretty proud of my ability to hate the wicked things God hates, I have to start with the one I have the most trouble with.
The first item on the list in Proverbs 6 of seven things God detests is “haughty eyes” – proud eyes, in other words. The question, then, is this: Are there areas of pride in your life?
Below are some questions that might help us focus on this area. (And it was helpful to me to really try to answer these as I wrote them. I didn’t always like the honest answer, but as we’ll talk about in the next post, God also hates dishonesty. So trying to cover up my pride with dishonesty is probably not a good choice. )
1. Do I feel superior to others with regard to intelligence? Or education? Or accomplishments? Or finances? Or appearance? Or patience? Or wisdom? Or holiness? Or ……..? (And am I too proud to see the irony in almost all of this?)
2. Do I look down on others because of these perceived differences? Do I ever treat others differently because of this? Am I less likely to associate with people I see as less intelligent, attractive, etc.? Do I avoid people who look or dress a certain way? Etc.
3. Do I take pride in my gifts and accomplishments (or the gifts and accomplishments of my husband or children) without remembering to give God the honor and credit and thanks?
4. Do I feel that I “deserve” certain things? A certain size of house? Certain clothes? A certain amount of respect because of my job or wisdom or other gifts and accomplishments?
5. Do I act like I want to help people, but secretly enjoy thinking I’m better than them?
Most of us can answer “yes” to at least one part of one of these 5 questions. So, if that’s the case, how do we start fixing our haughty eyes?
First, I think it’s important to remember whom we are apart from God: No one. We are condemned, helpless souls. With God, though? We are children of the King. We are recipients of His blessings. That’s where we get all of our intelligence, wisdom, holiness, wealth, beauty, patience, and so on. From God. Each of these is a blessing that He’s chosen to give us. And this is true of “the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). All blessings come from God – “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17) – whether or not we decide to acknowledge it. So, no reason for pride there. God tells us this in Jeremiah 9:23-24:
This is what the LORD says:
“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,
24 but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the LORD.
What do we have to boast about? Knowing God! And the more we know God, the more we know we don’t have anything else to boast about. Think you have something else to boast about? Use that as a motivation to get to know God better!
Paul knew where his pride should be too, when he said in 2 Corinthians 12:9:
But he [God] said to me [Paul], “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
So there’s another thing we can boast about: God’s strength in our weaknesses.
And Paul wrote in Galatians 6:14:
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
So there’s another thing: the cross.
Finally, in 1 John 2:16, John reminds us where our desire to boast about ourselves comes from:
For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.
So, to summarize: God hates selfish pride and boasting. Our desire to boast about ourselves (or our families, etc.) comes from the world, not from God. The only things we really have to boast about are knowing God, God’s strength in our weakness, and the cross.
So what does this mean for us in our daily lives? A couple of things:
1. We have to get rid of our selfish boasting. This doesn’t mean we can never tell our friends that our son scored a goal or our daughter got an “A” or our husband got promoted. What it does mean is we have to do those things prayerfully.
Before the words come out of your mouth, ask yourself (and God) these two things:
a. Can I honestly say that I am sharing this information in a way that encourages someone else or brings glory to God?
b. Does God want me to share this information right now?
Asking these two questions has kept me quiet on numerous occasions. And it’s HARD. Boasting is a really natural thing to do. We want to feel good about ourselves and our families, and we want others to as well. But whose glory are we seeking in this case? We should be seeking God’s glory and helping point others to Him. Does what you’re about to say meet either of those goals?
2. We have to get rid of pride. Boasting is the outward manifestation of a prideful heart. Getting rid of boasting is important, but it doesn’t solve our heart issue. The pride in our hearts (maybe even pride about the fact that we aren’t boastful!) is the real problem. Remember, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
A couple places to start with this:
a. Focus on building others up. When you’re talking with a friend, for instance, resolve to only ask questions about what she’s talking about, instead of steering the conversation toward yourself.
b. Memorize some of the verses above to defend yourself against the devil when he tempts you to be prideful — and he will. Don’t let the devil turn a gift or accomplishment God has blessed you with into an occasion for sin!
What have you found that helps you guard your heart against pride?
Read Part 3a of the series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 3a — a lying tongue
Missed Part One of this series? Click here: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 1
Want to read more?
Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one
Start of the role model series: (becoming) a role model, part one
Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward
Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife
Start the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted
But what if you don’t always feel joyful?
[An important caveat: I’m not talking here about people who are truly grieving. I’m not qualified to talk about what it’s like to go through a holiday season after the death of a loved one. So please know that I’m not saying that if you’re grieving this December, then you’re doing something wrong. I do believe the Scriptures below offer joy (and peace and hope, etc.) even in the worst of circumstances, but I also know that the worst of circumstances can make that joy (etc.) hard to feel at times. I’m talking more, in this post, about those of us who often go through the typical activities of the season joylessly, without a clear reason and often without understanding why.]
Consider what your Christmas preparations and celebrations are focused on. We are bombarded from the time Halloween ends until the after-Christmas sales are over with images and commercials and people who try to get our focus off what actually matters.
Think about it: Even something seemingly innocent like Southern Living magazine (which I have a gift subscription to, and which I like) contains an overwhelming array of ways our houses need to be decorated and new foods we should prepare. After looking at some of the pictures of meticulously decorated dinner tables, our centerpiece of jars and lights might look a little pathetic. But: Does God want adorable place cards for everyone who comes to your house – or does He want you to be patient and kind and joyful?
And think about what our culture tells us matters in regards to gifts: More! Bigger! Newer! We’re going to look at how to be a good gift-giver on Friday, and I’ll invite you to consider rethinking what constitutes a “good” gift. I’ll say now that I love gifts. I like getting them. I like giving them. I like picking them out. I like wrapping them. I like opening them. I like watching people open them. I am in no way anti-gifts. It’s just that everything has to be put in its proper place – and gifts are one area that causes a lot of unnecessary stress for people.
Re-focusing our preparations and celebrations on what matters can make a big difference in our joy.
Consider what God says about joy and how we might use His Words of wisdom to feel more joyful:
4 For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD;
I sing for joy at the works of your hands.
5 How great are your works, O LORD,
how profound your thoughts!
Consider the work of God’s hands. Your husband, children, parents, siblings, friends. They’ve all been crafted by God. The snow, the birds, the Christmas trees. All crafted by God. The lights, the food, the decorations. All crafted by God. Whatever parts of Christmas we find joy in can help us find joy in God – because He created everything that brings us joy!
23 A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—
and how good is a timely word!
We usually think of our words as a way to bring joy (or harm) to others. In this verse, though, we’re told that words affect the speaker, too. How might you use your words to lift someone else up AND increase your own joy? Who in your life could use a timely word?
16 When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
O LORD God Almighty.
Here we’re told that joy comes from eating the words of God. If you haven’t regularly been reading (and digesting) God’s Word, please start. I know it may not seem like it at first, but God’s Word is an amazing and never-ending source of joy.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.
God’s commands give joy to our hearts. Which command might He be asking you to pay more attention to?
1 Peter 1:8-9:
8 Though you have not seen [Jesus], you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
We are filled with joy as we love and believe in Jesus. As we receive the salvation of our souls, we are filled with joy. When was the last time you spent some time thinking about what an amazing gift salvation is? It is the best and most important gift of the season. Have you shown others how grateful you are for this gift? Have you shown God?
3 John 1:3-4
3 It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
John is not speaking primarily of biological children here. He’s talking about people in his spiritual heritage. He finds joy in seeing others (especially those whom he’s influenced) live out their faith. Consider who in your life has faith that brings you joy.
Psalm 16:11 (and Acts 2:28):
11 You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Note that these are not necessarily temporal pleasures. These are eternal pleasures. They are far better, but they may not look like we expect them to. When looking for joy, remember to focus on the eternal. How has God brought you closer to Himself in a way that prepares you to spend eternity with Him? How has He helped you work on becoming holy, as He is holy?
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Jesus came to give us an abundant life. If we aren’t living that life, then we’ve allowed something/someone else to steal part of that life from us. What better time to allow God to take it back than during the celebration of His arrival!
John 4:10, 13-14:
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” . . .
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinking this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give Him will never thirst. Indeed, that water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
If you don’t feel joyful, ask God to fill you. (Remember, joy is a fruit of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23.)
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Joy (and peace) come from trusting in God. Is there something you’re not trusting Him with? Maybe some part of your holiday preparations or plans? What worries have you not let go of? I love this verse because we’re told that so many good things come from trusting in God: joy, peace, hope. I pray all these things for you for Christmas.
Ultimately, resting in and focusing on God is what restores our joy. How can God be a more present part of your Christmas preparations and celebrations? Please share your ideas in the comment section below!
Previous Christmas Post: (becoming) excited for the season
Next Christmas post (on Friday): (becoming) a good gift-giver
To read the fully submitted series, click here: (becoming) fully submitted
To read the wife series, click here:(becoming) a godly wife
With the traffic, crowds, hustle, and rudeness that we often encounter at stores, malls, parking lots (and in our own houses!), it’s easy to get huffy. “If everyone would just do things the right way,” I often find myself thinking, “then everything would run more smoothly.”
If that lady would get in the slow lane (since she apparently wants to go 5 miles an hour under the speed limit), then traffic could progress at a normal pace.
If people would actually count to see if they have 15 items before jumping into the express line (instead of counting those 10 boxes of cereal as one item), then the express line could function properly – as an express line!
But, alas. This isn’t how it works.
Our challenge today: Decide to offer an additional measure of patience to those you encounter today (and preferably this whole season — and our whole lives, for that matter — but let’s start small).
Consider: Is the 3 minutes you’d save if you weren’t behind the slow driver (or if the express line was really an express line) really worth the anxiety and frustration you’re allowing it to create?
Consider, too, what those people might be experiencing: Might the woman in the express line have a child to pick up at daycare? Might the slow driver be nervous because she had an accident a couple of weeks ago, and has been overly cautious since? Consider the stresses that your life doesn’t have, instead of the stresses it does.
And consider the fact that we’ve all been that person – too slow, a terrible item-counter, etc., at some point. When we were that person, one of two things happened: Either patience was extended to us – in which case we might not even realize what a blessing that was from someone. Or we were met with impatience – and we all know that’s not pleasant (and it rarely makes things move any faster, anyway).
So, instead of reacting out of frustration, behave with wisdom, respond with patience. (This is our part of “everyone just doing things the right way.”) And, remember, patience isn’t something we can conjure up on our own; it involves remaining in God, and being filled with His patience. Maybe, with God’s help, you could even throw the “offender” a smile….
Up next (on Monday): (becoming) prepared for the season
Want to read more?
Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted
Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife
Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward
Start of the role model series: (becoming) a role model, part one
Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one
Start of the Proverbs 6 series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6
Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful
Are you a worrier? Try this post: (becoming) less of a worrier
Last Monday we talked about nagging and the damage it does. One of the biggest problems with nagging is what it often leads to: complaining to others about our husbands.
Do you want to usher satan into your marriage, roll out the red carpet, offer him a warm beverage, ask him to make himself at home? Complain about your husband to other people.
[As has become my habit, I’ll give a caveat here: if you need professional help in your marriage, by all means, seek it from your pastor or from a Christian counselor. That’s not complaining. That’s trying to strengthen your marriage. If you need advice or a safe place to express your feelings (and you aren’t using “advice” or “expressing your feelings” as a cover for complaining), then I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to seek it from another Christian woman. (A group of women becomes more problematic because it’s unlikely all of them will be strong Christians). And this should be a strong Christian woman. One who won’t let your advice-seeking turn into a husband-bashing session. And we know the difference when we think about it for a minute. And remember: “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord” (Proverbs 16:2). God knows what our motive is. He knows if we’re truly seeking godly counsel or if we’re using that as a cover for gossip. He cannot be fooled (Galatians 6:7).]
But the type of communication covered in the caveat above isn’t most of what we see. What we see are wives complaining about their husbands to other women. Because he can’t wrangle the kid correctly. Because he still hasn’t gotten the oil changed. Because he acts like a child. Because he’s just so clueless. These are throwaway comments to so many women. They aren’t thought about; they’re just said. There’s no moment of reflection: Will this build my husband up or tear him down? Will this honor God’s plan for marriage or dishonor it?
We laugh about how hapless our husbands are. We top each other with stories of the ridiculous things our husbands have done. Ways they’ve failed us. As with nagging, we focus on the negative. And then we wonder why we’re dissatisfied in our marriages.
A few things I think we need to think about:
1. Why would we want other women to think our husbands are incompetent morons? Why would we want other women to think our husbands are children, incapable of leading? (What is motivating us when we complain?)
2. What the Bible says about this:
a. Proverbs 11:12: A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. [And our relationship with our husband should be far closer than our relationship with our neighbor.]
b. Proverbs 12:18: Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. [Our husbands are pierced by this badmouthing, even if they never say anything. It’s painful to see the woman who is supposed to be your closest companion belittle you to others. We need to be the tongue of the wise. Our words need to heal, not pierce. If our tongues aren’t the ones healing our husbands, they may drive them to others for that healing.]
c. Proverbs 14:1: The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. [Why are we trying to destroy our own homes?]
d. Proverbs 15:28: The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes folly. [This one is hard for me. Not regarding complaining about my husband, but regarding almost anything else. In so many situations, I know what I want to say, and I know the tone in which I want to say it. I don’t want to weigh my answer because I know that God will often change my words, my tone, or keep me silent altogether. I’d much rather gush than weigh when it comes to words. Ultimately, though, I know I have to learn how to keep a reign on my tongue. The Bible is full of verses that tell me that. (Such as James 1:26: If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.) This takes an act of will, though. This isn’t something that’s going to magically (or even easily) happen.]
e. 1 Peter 4:11: If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. [Is what you’re about to say going to bring praise and glory to God? Does what you’re about to say line up with the Word of God? Sometimes I don’t like answering these questions, but this is what we’re called to.]
3. If the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, then what we are doing is akin to the Church walking around telling people: listen to how Jesus failed me. Listen to how He keeps messing up. Listen to how incompetent He is. We wouldn’t think this was okay. And I understand the difference: Jesus is perfect, our husbands aren’t. But we aren’t told that the perfect husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church — just that the husband is. We aren’t let off the hook because our husbands aren’t perfect.
4. Why do we think talking negatively about our husbands will make anything better? Honestly, has anyone ever talked about her husband behind his back, gotten it off her chest, and never done it again because that one session of complaining met her needs? Nope. Because those sessions of complaining can’t meet our needs. They may make us feel better short-term, but we’ll find that we have to keep coming back to them to get that short-term feeling. Complaining about our husbands doesn’t fix anything. It’s an empty “solution” that has to always be repeated. It’s similar to the sacrifices that had to be offered year after year in the Old Testament. Those sacrifices were not a permanent solution. They “fixed” the problem for a time, but had to be repeated because the same problem kept coming back. Similarly, complaining “fixes” our problem temporarily (because we’ve vented), but we haven’t actually SOLVED the problem. We’ve just put a band-aid on it. And this wound will reopen.
The only solution to the yearly sacrifices was Jesus. He was the only way those sacrifices could stop because He was the only thing that actually FIXED the problem of our sinfulness. In the same way, He is the only solution to problems in our marriage. He is the only thing that can FIX our marriages. He is the solution that never runs out. He is the only One who can heal our wounds.
So, what does this mean in practical terms? It means we turn to Jesus (and our husbands), not to others, when we’ve run out of patience with our husbands.
Jesus is the only permanent solution. This doesn’t mean, though, that you can use Him once and be done with Him. The exact opposite in fact. [He told us to take up our crosses daily (Luke 9:23).] He commanded us to remain in Him, and said that we could do nothing apart from Him (John 15:4-5). It does mean, however, that in Christ, you’re on “the Way” to permanently improving your marriage.
What I said last week about nagging holds true here as well: Like any bad habit, this one will take time (and God’s help) to break. It’s a process of being intentional about trying, leaning on God’s power, and apologizing when we mess up – to our husbands, to the women we complained to (or whoever else who may have heard it, children, etc.), to God.
Start now. Tell God you’re sorry. Ask Him to draw you closer to Him. Tell Him you know He is sufficient for you — and that His way is sufficient for you.
Start today. Tell your husband you’re sorry. Tell him that keeping a rein on your tongue is hard for you – women just are verbal; we process things by talking about them – and ask if he’ll help by being more willing to talk through things when they come up. This does not mean we nag our husbands more when problems come up. This means we talk kindly (in ways that honor our husbands and our God) and calmly (prayerfully weighing our words). And that we stay more focused on how we can improve in the situation than how he can.
Under conviction from God, I made the decision before we were married that I would not complain about my husband to other people. (As I said last week, it’s easier to not start a habit than it is to break one, so I’m grateful that God was so firm with me about this early on.) This is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And let me be clear: I don’t feel isolated. I don’t feel like I have to bottle up my emotions. In fact, I feel far closer to my husband because of it. We solve our skirmishes. We work through our issues. [More about conflict resolution in future posts.] And it draws me closer to God – because let’s be honest: HE solves our skirmishes. HE enables us to work through whatever the issue is.
If I have sacrificed anything in this decision, it is the false intimacy women feel with one another when they complain about their husbands. I’m willing, however, to trade false intimacy with a friend for true intimacy with my husband. I’ll make that trade every time.
And please understand: I’ve made plenty of bad decisions. I’ve had to unlearn LOTS of bad habits. I know how hard it is to give up something that you’ve always done. Something you’re comfortable with. Something you feel nervous without. So, even though this isn’t my struggle, I do know what it’s like to have similar struggles.
So, here’s the challenge: Stop complaining about your husband to other people. Start stopping today. (As always, I’d love to hear your insights below!)
Next Week: Okay, I’m willing to stop complaining, but do I have to stop listening to other women complain? (aka: being the light, but not fueling the fire)
To read the wife series from the beginning, click here: wife, part 1
To read the fully submitted series, click here: fully submitted, part 1
Micah 6:8: He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
[This is one of those great “sum it up” verses. Here’s what the Lord requires of you (because it’s good – for Him, for others, for you): balance justice and mercy and walk (humbly) with Him. Walking with someone, of course, gives us the image of always being with someone. Staying in step with someone. Sometimes I wonder what God wants. Here he tells me.]
James 1:26: If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
[While it may manifest itself in different ways (harshness, gossip, anger, meanness, lies, blame, among others), most of us have difficulty corralling our tongues at times. Because of that, I think this is a hard verse to think about. But, I find when I do try to keep it in the forefront of my mind, I tend to do a better job giving God my tongue reins.]
John 15:4: Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
[I want to bear fruit. This tells me how I can. It also tells me how I can make sure I DON’T bear fruit.]
Psalm 127:1a: Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.
[I do not want to labor in vain. I want God to be the builder of our home and family. I think this is difficult, though, when I have ideas about how things should go. This verse helps me remember that my ideas are never going to be better than God’s.]
So, what verses really make you think? Why?
Our culture has accepted that wives nag. We see it on commercials, TV shows (think Debra from Everybody Loves Raymond, Carrie from King of Queens), many of us heard our mothers do it, many of us do it ourselves.
Nagging is one of the most culturally embedded problems in our marriages. And the tragedy of it is that nagging has become expected, accepted as “the way marriage works” – and nagging paves the way for huge problems in marriages.
Think about the cliché for a minute: “paves the way.” Nagging smoothes out the road for other problems, welcomes other problems, makes it easy for other problems to enter our marriages – and the marriages of millions of Americans. Once we get into a habit of nagging, we’re more likely to be unsatisfied in our marriages. And why wouldn’t we be? If our focus is constantly on what our husbands are doing wrong, what they aren’t doing, why they aren’t doing it, etc., how do we expect to feel satisfied in our marriages? And if we aren’t satisfied, that can lead to many, many problems: seeking male attention outside of marriage, griping to our friends, etc.
So, here’s my advice: Don’t let a TV show or even the dominant cultural norms define who you are in your marriage. Yes, nagging is normal in this world. Yes, short term, it feels kinda good to “get it off our chests.” But, no, it’s not God’s Will for our marriages. It is not God’s best for our lives.
Like any bad habit this one will take time (and God’s help) to break. It’s a process of being intentional about trying, leaning on God’s power, and apologizing when we mess up (to our husbands and to God).
The fact is, nagging is not just seen as something women do, but it’s often seen as actually part of a woman’s nature. And while it certainly wasn’t part of our nature in the paradise God created, it does seem to be part of the corruption of femininity – a temptation common to fallen daughters of Eve. And God, in His infinite wisdom, knew this was an issue we’d struggle with. He knew this aspect of our sin nature would conflict with His Spirit Who lives in us.
Galatians 5:16-18: 16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 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. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
And consider this: 5 times in Proverbs a “quarrelsome wife” is referred to. While this can certainly be seen as a warning for men (Don’t marry this type of woman!), I think this can also be seen as a reminder for women (Don’t be this type of woman!).
Proverbs 19:13b — a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping. [Think about that: Drip, drip, drip, drip……same sound over and over and over……gets annoying after awhile.]
Proverbs 21:9 — Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
Proverbs 21:19 — Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.
Proverbs 25:24 — Better to live on the corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. [Identical to Proverbs 21:9]
Proverbs 27:15 — A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day. [This calls to mind “adding insult to injury.” It’s already raining, and a quarrelsome wife makes things worse for her husband, instead of making them better.]
Consider what these verses are telling us: Terrible living conditions are better than living with a quarrelsome wife. We make our homes less welcoming than a desert, when they should be sanctuaries for our husbands. We make even embarrassment and exposure to the elements preferable to being in a house with us, when our homes should welcome our husbands with open arms.
I think the “living on a corner of the roof” imagery is interesting. The typical Israelite house at this time would likely have a flat roof made of mud and twigs (which required a lot of upkeep). Even living on that would be better than living with a quarrelsome wife.
I wonder – and I can’t prove this, but I wonder – if there was also an element of embarrassment to this image. Bear with me here: Patriarchs were incredibly important in this society, and housing arrangements were often designed around this familial structure. For instance, a father (and his wife), his sons (and their wives and children) would often all live in a closely networked series of structures. If you were living on your roof, it seems like everyone in the family would know. And if the head of the household was living on the roof, it would seem pretty obvious that something was wrong in the husband-wife relationship. That, I imagine, would be embarrassing for a man. BUT, from these verses, it sounds like that embarrassment of living on your roof would be better than having to live in the house with your quarrelsome wife. Again, this interpretation in not explicitly stated in Scripture. I think it follows, though, from what we know about the time period and the family structure.
And make no mistake, quarrelsome wives are still embarrassing today; even if their husbands don’t end up on the roof, often their husbands end up trying to avoid them in other ways. They may not retreat to the roof or the desert, but usually they’ll try to retreat to somewhere else. I’m not saying this is the correct response from the man; on the contrary, I think men retreating instead of leading the household is one of the biggest problems in modern marriages. But I’m also saying that as women, this retreating is partly our fault. We often make it harder for our men to lead, and we make it easier (and more tempting) to retreat.
We nag. We degrade. We embarrass. They feel disrespected. So they retreat. They close us out.
They retreat. They close us out. We feel unloved. So we nag. We degrade. We embarrass.
You get the picture.
The cycle has to stop somewhere. Why not with us? Why not today? I know a lot of you have heard this song, but give this video a listen. Anytime he says “city,” substitute “marriage.” There’s no reason to wait — start here. Start now.
So, what’s the challenge today? Stop nagging. Why wait? Start here. Start now. (And if you’re a younger woman reading this — maybe just married or not married yet — please remember, it’s hard to break these habits. It’s much easier not to form them in the first place.)
Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Strategies? Failures? Successes? Leave a comment below!
Next Monday: Want to make your husband resent you? Want to make his friends pity him? Want to swing the door to your marriage wide open for Satan? Find out how next Monday!
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Last time we talked about some things we might need to let go of as wives. Today, I’d like to spend a little time on some things we might need to start doing — or at least ways we might need to refocus our efforts.
So let’s start here: In what three areas do you least like serving your husband? Or, put another way, what three specific things do you know he likes/wants/appreciates/needs, but you just don’t like to do?
By doing the things we like to do to serve our husbands, we’re really serving ourselves, not our husbands. These things might still be helpful to our husbands, but as long as they’re things we also want, they are service to ourselves primarily. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad things. If my husband and I both want the laundry done, and I do the laundry, that’s good — it’s just not selfless service.
By intentionally ignoring the aspects of serving our husbands that we don’t like, we’re ultimately saying “I’ll ‘serve’ you as long as I like it, as long as I want to, as long as I’m getting something out of it, too.” Consider what terrible marriage vows that would make: “I promise to love and serve you as long as I like what that entails. When I don’t like what it entails, however, I will choose to not serve you. You’re not that important.” Yikes!
But essentially that’s what we’re telling our husbands when we don’t seek to meet the needs they want met. We put ourselves first by only meeting his needs if we’re not being too inconvenienced, as long as it’s not too much extra effort for us. This is incredibly hurtful. Imagine if your husband only loved you when it was convenient for him — if, when you were difficult to love (and for some of us, this is much of the time!), he stopped bothering. And I know some of you don’t have to imagine this at all; you live it. But you know how hurtful this is, and how harmful it is to a marriage. And this is exactly what we do to our husbands oftentimes. We “love” them (read: put their needs first) when their wants and needs don’t interfere with our own – so we’re not really putting their wants needs ahead of ours at all.
Okay, so consider again those three ways that your husband would like to be served that you don’t like. These might be mundane. For instance, while my husband isn’t a fan of piles lying about the house, I don’t really like putting laundry away:
(This photo is from about 5 years ago. Generally my piles aren’t quite as bad now…..)
One (or more) of the three might be of a more adult nature. (I will not be inserting a picture here.)
Some of the three might be things he’s been asking you to do for a long time. This summer I made an extensive chart of things I wanted to get done and things my husband wanted me to do. Some of these things had been on my to-do list for years. Let me tell you – it felt REALLY good to get them all done!
Now, once you’ve thought of your three things, ask yourself: why do you dislike them?
First, are they illegal? Are they physically dangerous or otherwise harmful to you or others? If so, obviously I’m not advocating that you do them. I am suggesting that you seek help outside yourself, however. Here’s a resource that may help: http://referrals-loc.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/referrals_loc.cfg/php/loc/enduser/loc.php.
If none of this is true, consider: Is it because these three things are boring to you? Or time-consuming for you? Or uninteresting for you? See the pattern? All of these have to do with our preferences — not his needs.
God has so much more in store for our marriages than we ever allow Him to do! The sorts of blessings He can give us in our relationship with our husbands are unmatched in any other human relationship. But He will not flood our marriages with these blessings if we are serving ourselves instead of one another.
Do we always feel like serving (again, read: loving) our husbands in selfless ways? No! (Well, if you do, then you’re a much better woman than I am!)
Why don’t we always feel like serving our husbands? Plenty of reasons, I believe. Sometimes the fault is theirs: they act in hard-to-love ways sometimes; they don’t always love us like they should. Sometimes the fault is ours: we’re too busy with our own needs or the needs of others (unless you are clearly led to do this by God, don’t replace service to your husband with service to someone (anyone!) else); we’re tired; whatever he’s asking for doesn’t seem important to us.
But the main reason we don’t meet our husbands’ needs is that we aren’t loving God the way we should. Once we are continually (daily, minute-by-minute) being filled with God’s love, loving our husbands becomes possible. It becomes fulfilling. Even enjoyable. . . . usually.
And what does it mean to continually be filled with God’s love? (See the previous post about abiding in Him.) Ultimately, the main thing in our lives has to be our relationship with God — He is our Source of strength, our best friend, our Father, the Lover of our souls.
And He has an amazing design for our marriages! Not all good marriages will look the same – and that’s good – our walks with God don’t all look the same either. My prayer is that we’ll all find God’s best for our marriages – and this takes time. Time with God. Time serving our husbands. All of this, though, is time well spent.
Here’s my challenge to you today: Look at your list of three ways your husband would like to be served that you don’t like. (Again, as long as they’re not harmful, etc.,) prayerfully consider doing all three of these sometime this week. I know that might seem ambitious, but we put a lot of effort into lots of far-less-important things.
Think about this: If someone from church called and needed you to do three things that would take some rearranging of your schedule and some extra time from your week, would you do them? What if your child’s teacher needed you to do something for the classroom? What if your boss needed you to pick up some work, maybe for a co-worker who got sick? What if a friend needed some extra attention? We rearrange and reallocate our time for lots of different reasons. Reasons that, ultimately, should come AFTER our service to our husbands.
So, rearrange and reallocate what you have to. Show your husband that next to God, he’s the most important thing in your life. And, remember, he’s not going to believe he’s important if these things are done grudgingly. This has to be done with a cheerful, servant’s heart.
I’d love hear about successes or roadblocks, either in the comments here or in an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Trust me, ladies. Our husbands will notice this!
Next week: part 3 of the wife series: the biggest and most culturally-encouraged saboteur of marriages….
Click here to read part 1 of the wife series: “why won’t he________?”
Click here to read the “(becoming) fully submitted” series.
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Thanks to all of you who are praying for the anonymous girls in this week’s (prayer) warrior wednesday post!
Ephesians 5:22 reads: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
And I’ve been wondering:
Do we struggle to submit to our husbands as unto the Lord because we aren’t submitted to the Lord in the way we should be?
If our relationships with God are out-of-whack, it shouldn’t surprise us that our relationships with our husbands have problems. If we’re having trouble putting God (who is all-wise, all-good, has our best interests at heart all the time) first, of course we’ll have trouble putting our husbands (who are, as humans, flawed) before ourselves.
And, while those of us who are “good wives” often pay lip service to submitting, to putting our husbands’ needs in front of our own, when it comes down to it, we often want to hold our husbands to a standard that we don’t want to hold ourselves to — we expect his selfless service to us, and we feel like anything less than that lets us off the hook. We find ourselves thinking things like: “He didn’t seem interested in my day, so I’m not going to have sex with him tonight.” OR “He doesn’t seem to be handling this problem correctly/fast enough, so I’m going to take over.
This is not an option we’re given in Scripture — it doesn’t say “wives submit to your husbands when you feel they’re living for you.” Nope. It just says to submit. Well, submit as to the LORD. Which brings us back to our original question: Are we having trouble submitting to our husbands because we’re not fully submitted to God?
Hopefully, we’ve begun working on fully submitting to God. That, in and of itself, will do wonders for our marriage, because it is God’s Will that we honor and respect our husbands. If we’re in God’s Will at all times, respect for our husbands will naturally flow from that. This post, though, is about what respecting our husbands looks like a little more specifically.
TWO NOTES BEFORE I BEGIN:
ONE: While this post is specifically about marriage, I think it’s important for unmarried women as well. First, many of you will eventually marry, and being aware of some of these common problems beforehand might help you and your husband avoid some of them. Second, those whom God never calls to marry will, very likely, have married friends who face struggles in the husband-wife relationship. Perhaps something here could help you as you minister to them. Plus, much of what we’re going to talk about affects all of our relationships, not just the husband/wife relationship. (Mark 9:35: Sitting down Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”)
TWO: I’d like to note here that it might seem like these next couple of posts are unfairly hard on wives. That I don’t say enough about what our husbands should be doing. Here’s why: We can’t control what our husbands do. We can only control what we do. What we’d like to do is change our husbands so they’ll do what we’d like them to. Or we’d like to use their shortcomings as an excuse to not improve ourselves as wives. All of this is selfishness (sin) and all of this is very natural. We like easy fixes. We like comfortable things. We like getting what we want. But, as Christians, we’re called to something better.
In addition, these posts are about the Biblical role of the wife, not the husband. I’m not going to handle the husband part because I feel like that will tempt us to focus on his shortcomings, instead of our own. What follows is meant to help us become better wives — no matter what kinds of husbands we have. I can almost guarantee you, though, that allowing God to make you a better wife will help make your husband a better husband. But that can’t be our goal. Our goal is to honor God and our husbands. Period.
Without further ado…….
This post is going to pose several questions. These are NOT rhetorical. I think it’s helpful if you stop and answer them. They also don’t always have a right or wrong answer. Sometimes, it just a matter of taking stock of where you are so you know how to move forward.
First, what three things do you feel like you’ve told your husband over and over or asked him to do over and over?
Second, why can’t you let go of these things? This isn’t meant to imply that you should have to, but I think trying to articulate why something is so important to you can help you plan how to handle the issue in the future.
For example, if you’re constantly telling your husband to drink less because he’s had a DUI, is spending too much money on the habit, and frightens the kids when he’s drunk, I’m not telling you that you have to stop being so selfish and leave him alone. Quite the opposite in this case: your concern is stemming from actual safety and relational concerns. I would recommend, though, getting help other than just yourself. (A great resource is Focus on the Family’s website. They offer solid advice on a wide variety of issues: www.family.org. You can also call to talk to family care specialist or look up Christian counselors in your area: http://family.custhelp.com/app/home.)
However, for many of us, what we nag our husbands about is not nearly so important. So, once you have your list, consider why you can’t let go of those issues. WHY is this so important to you? What need of yours would he be meeting if he did these three things?
For instance, let’s say you always tell him to get projects, etc., done faster. Just totally pulling this example out of the sky. Have no real experience with it or anything…. J
And this speed is important to you because, well, you want these projects done. The house would look better. Or he could then move on to a new project. Etc. He should want to do this for you because you want it done. In this case, though, if it doesn’t get done, there’s no real harm.
Consider, too, why he might be taking so long. Does he even know how to do the project? Does he have other things that are more pressing priorities? Is he just a slow person? Is the project not important to him?
1. If he doesn’t know how to do the project, there’s a good chance this is causing him quite a bit of anxiety. As we’ll talk about in a later post, there’s a lot of pressure on men to know how to do stuff. More than there is on women. Maybe easing up on him would relieve some of that pressure. And really, is the project so important that it’s worth causing him anxiety over?
2. If he has other, more pressing concerns, then he probably needs to be cut some slack. If he actually has more to do than he can get done in a day/week/month, then asking him how you can help with the load might be a good idea.
3. Is he just a slow person? Honestly, this was probably something you knew about him before you married him. But maybe he’s gotten worse. Or maybe you thought you could “fix” him. But, if this is a trait you knew he had when you married him, you’re probably going to have to let your timetable go in a lot of cases.
If you’re pretty sure he’s just a slow mover, I’d ask him about this. My husband is notoriously slow at almost everything — and I knew this going in. The positive side of this is that almost everything he does is done to an incredibly high standard and he makes very few mistakes. The negative side of this is that he’s SLOW! And I’m NOT!
We’ve found lots of ways to cope with our different styles (and I’m happy to talk about them, if anyone finds themselves in a similar situation) — and for the most part, we work very well together. That doesn’t mean, however, that the slowness never gets on my nerves. However, this is usually a personal preference thing, not an actual issue. (Even if I sometimes feel like my preference is the correct one!) If this is the case for you and your husband, I would recommend talking about it. Our discussions have taken us some time (time I don’t always feel like we have to spare), but they’ve allowed us to utilize our strengths really well — and spending the time talking about it when we’re both level-headed has led to far fewer disagreements.
4. Is the project not important to him? Sure, he should want to do it because it’s important to you, but the fact is, he’s not perfect at this putting-others-first thing either. Again, you might find out why it’s not important to him. Was he not consulted about the decisions regarding the project? Is it a project he doesn’t see the need for? It is outside his area of interest? Talking about this might help you handle projects better in the future.
Overall, though, I’d recommend prayerfully considering letting go of the top three things that you feel you tell your husband over and over or ask your husband to do over and over. Unless, as discussed above, this is an actual issue (drinking problem, violence, etc.), it’s probably a matter of preference. And, as we’ve discussed, his needs should be put ahead of your own.
I’ll grant here that this is much easier if you’re both trying to do this the right way. If both of you are trying to put the other first, you won’t bother him so much with projects, etc., and he’ll get done what is important to you. Both of you will make some sacrifices and both of you will have needs met. And if, like me, you’re blessed enough to have a husband who leads and puts you first, take some time to thank him today. I think sometimes those of us with husbands who do this well underestimate how much easier that makes our roles as Biblical wives. If, however, this is a one way street, it becomes much harder. The truth is, though, that it’s still what we’re called to as Christian wives. If your husband isn’t a Christian (or claims to be one, but doesn’t show much evidence of it), remember that you are not alone! God is with you through this journey – and other women who have been in the same situation can offer solid advice. Here are some resources that can help you:
Focus on the Family Advice: http://family.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/25920.
Book Recommended by Focus on the Family: http://family.christianbook.com/spiritually-single-raising-godly-doesnt-believe/nancy-meyer/9781576838747/pd/38747?event=CF
Another Book Recommended by Focus on the Family: http://family.christianbook.com/doesnt-believe-encouragement-alone-their-faith/nancy-kennedy/9781578564347/pd/64344?event=CF
So, Challenge One on the road to becoming a more godly wife: Prayerfully consider letting go of some things that you most nag your husband about. Realize that “why won’t he . . . . ?” isn’t the only question to ask. The right question to ask might be “why won’t I . . . .?” Remember that this is a sacrifice you’re making for the good of your marriage. Remember also that it doesn’t even begin to compare to the sacrifice God made for the good of your relationship with him.
I’d love to hear about successes, questions, concerns, etc., as you work on loving your husband more and more. Please comment below!
Want to read more? Check out the start of the (becoming) fully submitted series.
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