As we discussed in the last post, the problems of an unclean heart are major – and we cannot solve them ourselves. That doesn’t mean our situation is hopeless, however. There is one (and only one) cure for unclean hearts: God’s love. Only God is able to transform our selfish hearts into selfless hearts, hearts filled with love for Him and for others.
This week we’ll look at the effects of that transformation.
Some of the effects of this transformation are visible. When we have God’s love in our hearts, we can see a difference in the way we treat others:
Through [Jesus] you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:21-23)
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
The verses above show that our clean hearts are often evident in our actions. We obey God’s truth and show active love for others. We are prepared to talk to others about our faith – but we do so with gentleness and respect.
In the last post, we discussed the close relationship also between the condition of our hearts and our words – but mostly with a focus on the negative. In contrast, we see the positive aspects of this relationship when we have God’s love in our heart. When His love is in our hearts, our words reflect that:
I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices (Psalm 16:8-9a)
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:5-7)
And, as these verses, suggest, while we are dependent on God’s grace in all of this, He does not intend for either our hearts or our mouths to be passive in this process. The Bible regularly encourages its readers to actively employ their hearts and mouths – and all they are – in service to God:
Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:19b-20)
In fact, the Bible teaches that both our hearts and our mouths play a part in our salvation. Paul writes (referring to a passage from Deuteronomy),
But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:8-10)
And while (as Paul reminds us elsewhere) salvation is a gift from God that we can never earn, we must decide how to respond to God’s gift. The response God calls us to begins in our hearts – but it cannot end there. It isn’t just a feeling we get one day, and it’s not a matter of completing a church ritual. A true belief will affect the way we live. (As Paul also said, “‘I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds’” (Acts 26:20).) A heart that truly accepts the love of God will respond with loving words and actions.
Again, please don’t get caught up in rituals here, which vary from culture to culture. What matters is that our response to God’s gift of salvation changes us inside AND outside.
And of course, the most important part of having God’s love in our hearts is the effect it has on our relationship with Him. When we have God’s love in our hearts, we are closer to God:
LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?
He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,
who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,
who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
will never be shaken. (Psalm 15)
As the passage above says, we can dwell with God when our hearts are right with Him. And it is this relationship with God that provides us with assurance of our status as His beloved children:
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
Furthermore, it is in this loving relationship with God that we find His joy and peace:
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always. (1 Chronicles 16:9-11)
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:26-27)
Clean hearts – hearts transformed by God’s amazing love – are wonderful things. However, as the last verse suggests, clean hearts can be hard to maintain. So many things that can dirty our hearts beg for our attention. Next week we’ll look at the problems our clean hearts face – and the resources God has provided for us in our struggle to keep our hearts clean.
Next Week: a heart that devises wicked schemes, part 4
Last Week: a heart that devises wicked schemes, part 2
Start of the Series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6
Want to read more?
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
You know that annoying person you try to avoid? Yeah, me too….: what to do about annoying people
Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one
Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted
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!
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