Put on your new nature, created to be like God....
truly righteous and holy. And “don’t sin by
letting anger control you.”
Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,
for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
_ Ephesians 4:24, 26–27
I could feel my love growing cold. I hated how I felt
inside, and yet everything in me wanted to build a wall around my
heart so there would be no more hopes or expectations to fall dead at
my feet. But a walled-off heart makes for a heavy load. Eventually,
your legs give out from under you.
Being a woman of God, I spent a lot of time every morning in
Scripture and in prayer; I loved to worship God and serve in my
church. I had an active walk of faith and yet the honest truth was
that my love for my husband was fading, and I was only dragging
my feet down the path of duty.
How could I reconcile loving God but not my husband? I
couldn’t. As a child of God, I knew I could not compartmentalize
such things and get away with it for very long. Gradually, my
attitude toward my husband spilled over into other areas of my
life. Little things irritated me more than they should. I assumed
certain people had malicious motives when they probably didn’t.
And worst of all, God’s voice grew more and more quiet with
each passing day.
God wasn’t moving away from me, of course, but I was
moving away from Him. We know we can’t have it both ways. We
can’t love God and dislike people. The Peanuts character Linus
once said, “I love mankind....it’s people I can’t stand!” That sentiment
may be humorous, but God won’t let us off with such a conclusion.
Jesus declared the most important commandment to be
that we love God with everything in us. He continued by saying,
“A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself ’”
Through the early years of our marriage, we dealt with many
trials....health issues being the greatest....and because we had
poor insurance, we found ourselves in deep financial debt. Amidst
all of this my husband was a rock and worked hard, sometimes
two or three jobs to keep us afloat.
Eventually though, our long season of back-to-back crises
subsided, and we began the hard work of rebuilding our lives.
Over the years, we paid back more than twenty thousand dollars
worth of medical debt. Day after day, month after month, year
after year, we applied ourselves to getting on our feet again.
Some days we felt weary and worn out and wondered if we
were making any forward progress at all. But always at the right
time, God mercifully encouraged us onward. He even put it in the
hearts of a couple of our debtors to forgive our debts. Several
times we received gifts from loving friends. We also worked hard
and saved enough to build a new home and start fresh. All of this
took time, but it was well worth the effort. That season was so
painful it took years before I could look back on those memories
without getting a pit in my stomach.
God faithfully led us through the wilderness. And yet, even
though time had passed and life was better for us, and even
though we were no longer in crisis mode, my husband worked as
though we were. He became a true-blue workaholic.
Life became a blur as Kevin raced through life. I knew there
was no way to get that time back. As my husband spent more and
more time at work, he left more and more undone at home. The
ripple effect of his choices created waves of anxiety that continually
stirred within me.
Several times throughout our married life, Kevin faced the
truth that he tended to trust himself more than God. Upon each
revelation, he felt sincerely sorry and determined to live a more
balanced life that included time to manage our home life and time
with the family. And yet eventually these seasons always passed,
and Kevin was back to racing through life like a freight train.
A time came when our church needed someone to head up the
building program. Kevin took on that role on top of his forty- to
fifty-hour day job. He was excited about the prospect of serving
God in a big way, and this role fit his talents perfectly.
Kevin jumped in with both feet, and within no time, things
shifted and our marriage went way out of balance. There was no
room in our already crowded marriage for a twenty- to twentyfive-
hour a week commitment. We had three sons; I was working
part-time as an aerobics instructor, and speaking occasionally at
retreats and conferences, all the while trying to keep the dishes,
the laundry, and the housework done; and together we were overseeing
the youth program at our church (crazy, I know). I must
confess this is a very humbling story for us to share.
Kevin was all but absent from home. And when he was home,
he was on the phone, working on the computer, or buried in blueprints.
The kids and I talked to the side of his face while he opened
the mail. Still, when we did get his attention, he was the sweetest
and kindest guy in the world.
In his defense, he really felt inspired that he was doing something
worthwhile. In his day job, he oversees large construction
projects. So to volunteer time overseeing the building of a church
was very meaningful to him. And once the job grew before our
eyes, he felt he could not abandon his post. People were depending
on him, and the excitement was building (no pun intended). I
felt that he chose the building over me. Not that I wanted him to
quit or walk away from the project; I just wanted him to invest
some time into the things he was neglecting at home.
I worked hard to keep a good attitude, especially in front of
the kids, but since there were little to no emotional deposits being
made into our marriage for months at a time, our relationship was
steadily going bankrupt. Slowly but surely, my disappointment
turned to anger that eventually turned to cold love.
One day while crying out to God and begging Him to intervene,
He spoke very clearly to my heart. Susie, I know Kevin is
overcommitted and missing it right now, but you are the one who has
committed the greater sin. Though Kevin’s priorities are off and need
some adjusting, he is still very much in love with you and the boys.
You’ve committed the worse offense, because you’ve allowed your love
to grow cold. I want you to go sit at his feet and apologize for this sin
and ask him for forgiveness. If you want to fulfill all of the wonderful
things I’ve called you to, you will walk in humble forgiveness all of the
days of your life.
I was aghast. I thought back to countless conversations,
trying to get through to Kevin, and all I could see was a blank
stare that told me, I won’t change my schedule until this project is
done. So to go to him and apologize seemed like the most vulnerable,
unfair thing to do. If anything, my anger had become my
friend. I had let go of the hope of him changing, and my anger
fueled me to get done what needed to get done.
But I love and fear the Lord and have surrendered my life to
Him. He always deserves my obedience. As I spent more time
pondering how my love had grown cold, I thought of the countless
selfish acts I had committed. I gave Kevin the small piece of
chicken, the bumpy pillow, and sometimes I would go to bed
without saying good night. I stopped thinking his jokes were
funny and I lost my desire to dream with him. Not only, I am sure,
had I hurt my husband, but my lack of love was a direct affront to
my gracious and merciful God.
I did not want to live with anger! But to go and lay it down at
the feet of my husband with no hope or promise that he would see
what it cost me seemed almost over my head. I prayed for several
days for my own selfish heart....that God would prepare me in all
sincerity....and that God would prepare my husband as well.
After dinner one night I went into the living room where
Kevin was looking at his notes from a recent meeting. I swallowed
hard and sat on the floor by his feet. I looked up at him and he
looked right into my eyes. He put his notes down as if he knew I
had something important to say.
I opened my mouth to say my first word and my eyes filled
with tears. I proceeded. “I need to ask your forgiveness for something.
You know I’ve been very hurt and angry over how things
have gone these past two years. Well, the Lord showed me that
between the two of us, I am the one who has committed the
greater offense; I’ve allowed my love to grow cold. Please forgive
me. Though my feelings toward you have changed, I am going to
make a conscious effort to love and serve you whether you understand
me or not. I want all of what God has for me and I am going
to do what He asks me to do.”
As I spoke, Kevin’s mouth dropped open. It was as if with
each word I spoke, another scale fell from his eyes. After I finished,
his voice cracked and he asked, “Is this what my choices
have been doing to you?” I put my face in my hands and wept. It
was like a dam broke and I couldn’t stop it. Kevin came down on
the floor and wrapped me in his arms. There we sat, on the same
level, two very imperfect people, desperately in need of God’s
fresh mercies and grace.
From that day forward I kept my word and made the conscious
effort to love my husband while he struggled to overcome
his workaholic tendencies. And to be honest, there were days
when love was simply a choice. Over time, though, we were able
to share our deep-seated fears and disappointments. Little by little
we made deposits in an account that had been emptied. We now
put strict boundaries around our time and we tenaciously guard
our date nights.
Years have passed and I can honestly say that when I look at
my husband, I find love in my heart that almost overwhelms me.
He is funny and strong and faithful. He has worked hard to make
choices that have covered our home and rebuilt my trust. I see God
actively working in him, and he sees God actively working in me.
Now please let me say that every situation is different (and
complex) in its own way and obedience looks different on everyone.
In some situations anger is an appropriate response. At that
moment in the living room, obedience for me was to bow low; for
you at this moment, to obey may be to stand strong.1 Even so, for
all of us, the outcome is in God’s hands.
I have the opportunity to speak to countless women and my
heart just breaks every time I hear a new story of pain and frustration.
Their tired eyes reveal the burden and the load they are
Jane is dealing with her husband’s addiction to pornography.
Melanie is watching her husband’s obsession with computer
games eat up all of their family time. Julie takes life a day at a time
as her husband goes from one consuming hobby to another.
Please remember that you are not alone. Many women feel
what you feel and long for the same sense of joy and freedom in
their lives that you do. Take a few steps within your own sphere of
influence and you’ll find other women carrying a burden they
hadn’t planned on carrying.
Some are dealing with the wretched pain of infidelity and
wonder how they will ever trust anyone again. Others are dealing
with the drain of living with someone bound by an addiction.
Many women deal with the constant anxiety of being married
to a spouse who cannot keep a job; others ride the roller coaster of
living with a loved one who struggles with depression. Some have
learned to walk on eggshells because of their spouse ’s obsessions.
Others wish their spouses would notice something and snap out of
Moving day should have been a clue. I stood on the steps
of our new home with a three-month-old on my hip and an
inquisitive three-year-old darting around moving men and
boxes. My husband was not there; he was on call. I did not
know my neighbors and no family members lived nearby. I felt
Relocating five states away for my husband’s medical
residency seemed like a good idea. We chose our program
carefully, looking for one with low call the first year. “One
night a week” was the description. The actual program did not
fit the description, and he had a call schedule of one in every
three nights. My husband was gone one night, sleeping the
next, and present but grumpy on the third night. I often
described this year as feeling that I had a live-in boyfriend
rather than a husband. He showed up randomly and did not
participate in home life, parenting, or church hunting.
After fifteen months, I began sliding into a deep
depression. My attempts at talking to my husband were not
received well. He worked over eighty hours a week and just
wanted me to “get it together.” He did not have the time or
emotional resources to handle my problems. I had no close
friends or older women in whom I could confide. I did not spend
time in prayer or Bible study. I waited for all of my needs to be
met by my very busy husband.
The emotional stress mounted until I suffered a complete
breakdown. When I was encouraged to enter a hospital for
treatment, my husband and I settled on a different plan. He
took a leave of absence from work and we began counseling
My husband realized that a career was not worth losing a
wife and children. He committed to making family a priority. I
admitted that I needed to look to God to meet my emotional
and spiritual needs rather than to my husband. No man can fill
the needs intended to be met by God.
Stressful times magnify what is in a marriage....or better or
worse. Our crisis revealed the worst, and we chose to let God
change us. My husband now has the compassion and
understanding to treat depressed patients in his family practice. I
teach women’s Bible studies and look for young mothers who
need mentoring as I did, and because of my experiences, I’m able
to direct them to God and His Word to meet their needs.
....Emma from Texas
Some wives deal with the stress of having a materialistic, perfectionist
for a spouse; they are in debt up to their eyeballs and
would give anything for a simpler, free life. Other wives are worn
out from living with husbands who are messy pack rats and only
dream about having a sense of order in the home. All of these imbalances
create a burden for the spouse, and anger is a natural byproduct
when these kinds of stresses occur.
And yet as real as these struggles are and as hopeless as things
sometimes feel, even more real and steadfast is this promise: God
will never forsake His own; and we are His own. Our spouses may
get caught up in many things that will directly affect our lives.
They may make choices that devastate us. We may feel completely
misunderstood at times. But we must not despair because God understands
and He has made a way for us.
Are you carrying weights that drag you down? Is one of them
anger? If you are angry, it’s possible you have a good reason. You
may feel especially entitled to your anger. But do you know how
dangerous unresolved anger can be? Is anger worth having along
when you know it gives the Devil easy access to your life? Please
know that he wants to blow up and injure everything and everyone
Anger can make us cold; it can make us hot; it can take us off
the path, or it can blow our path to smithereens. Anger is natural,
but it needs to be disarmed. Would you dare pack explosives
before going to an airport? Packing anger in your spiritual luggage
is just as dangerous. It’s easily detected, sets off alarms, and
puts people on the defensive.
Underneath our anger is a certain mistrust of God. Somewhere
along the way we stopped believing that God is a God of
love and of justice. If we truly believed that our lives, our hopes,
and our dreams were in God’s hands, we wouldn’t be quite so
shocked when imperfect people hurt us or let us down.
We can thrive in these desperate places! It is much too easy to
think, “If only my life (or husband) was different, then I wouldn’t
be so angry and I would finally find the joy I am looking for....”
or “then I would be more productive,” or “then I would be a better
person.” And yet, it is on this journey that we find all of the things
we are looking for and find God to be all of who He says He is.
I say this with great care, but our ultimate goal is not our happiness
or even getting our way; our goal is the high calling of becoming
more like Christ. Instead of fighting for a perfect life, we
surrender to God that we might be perfected. Instead of being
angry that life has scraped us, we allow the rough times to shape
us into the image of Christ.
When we understand that it’s this journey that will deepen
us, we will find a joy that trumps the world’s fleeting happiness,
entitlements, and shallow selfishness, every time.
Though we may feel otherwise, anger is not our friend. Anger
will betray us if we insist on coddling, nurturing, and protecting
our right to it. And there will be countless reasons to get very
angry over the course of our married lives. We will be overlooked,
taken advantage of, and treated rudely. Our spouses are imperfect
people. Unfortunately our spouses are married to women who
need Jesus’ refining in our lives just as badly as they do.
What do we do, though, when the anger rises up within us?
How do we keep an eternal perspective when the moment is
pierced with pain? The Bible says, “In your anger do not sin;
when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent”
(Psalm 4:4 NIV).
Let’s take a closer look at what this passage means for us:
How often when wounded by someone else ’s sin, do we sin by
our response to them? More than once I’ve told my boys that the
Christian life is like a winding country road with deep ditches on
each side. One side represents outright rebellion, the other our
response to someone else ’s rebellion. The Devil couldn’t care less
which ditch he gets us into; he just wants us off the road.
Is your husband rebelling against God and sinning by his selfishness?
Don’t allow your anger or self-righteousness over his sin
to catapult you into the other ditch. Again, Satan doesn’t care if
you’re in the ditch because of rebellion or a false sense of perfection;
he just wants you off the road. These are moments of truth
for us, and our choices are critical. When we are wronged, let’s
not allow our anger to betray us or forfeit what God has for us!
May we always have the courage to let God deal with those who
make us angry and dare to pray, “Search me, O God, and know
my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything
in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting
life” (Psalm 139:23–24).
In my book Balance That Works When Life Doesn’t, I wrote
about how heavy things can make us stronger. Later in this book,
we will explore how certain heavy struggles can refine and
strengthen us. But for now it is important to know and remember
that anger is not a weight that will contribute to our growth. Traveling
with anger as our companion will only serve to weaken us
and diminish our ability to know and share God’s love. “People
with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great
foolishness” (Proverbs 14:29).
LENDING A HAND
Watch Your Step - Be careful not to think of yourself as a victim
unless you truly are....in which case; don’t wait; get the help you
need! In every situation, God’s love can reach you and will
provide a way for you. Refuse to allow anger to become an
explosive force in your life. Do not dwell on your anger toward
your husband....repent of it. As legitimate as your anger may be,
it will betray and eventually destroy you. Ask God to take your
anger from you. He will respond. In due time, He will intervene.
Get on the Right Path....Remember to think of yourself as an
overcomer. Remember that God is a God of justice, and He will
defend the humble heart. Remember to search your own heart.
Remember that God is big enough to do something beautiful in
Run From - Run from conversations that stir up your anger.
Guard your speech and only talk about your situation with
friends who walk in the humble fear of the Lord. Rehearsing and
revisiting offenses only re-offends the soul and re-injures the
relationship. Run from a complaining, grumbling attitude and
embrace hopeful expectation instead.
Destination Ahead - Run toward the Word of God, toward times
in His presence, and toward people who love you and call you to
higher ground. Rather than go through the motions of being the
good Christian wife while anger overtakes your inner life, get
real with God. Give Him every detail of every emotion you are
feeling. Stay connected with your church family. Keep your
prayer life alive.
Watch the Fine Line - Guard your heart from anger, humble
yourself before God, and be willing to forgive. BUT don’t
confuse this humble posture with being a doormat, someone who
never expresses your thoughts and disappointments, and who
misguidedly thinks it noble and martyrlike to let others walk all
God’s Promise for You Today - “In his kindness God called you to
share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. After you have
suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you,
and he will place you on a firm foundation”
(1 Peter 5:10 ).
Help me to keep my heart pure. I long to walk in Your
presence as I live here on earth (Psalm 116:9). You know what
has broken my heart and You know what it will take to heal
me. Heal me, Lord! And restore me! Fill me up with a heart of
love and forgiveness for my husband. Help me to see him as
You do. It doesn’t matter if he is not seeing things clearly; You
do, and that’s what counts. I entrust myself into Your care,
knowing You will come through for me in time. Keep anger
from betraying me so I can be faithful to You and those I love.
I need You every hour. Amen.
TO THINK ABOUT….
1. Read Ephesians 4:26–27
Allowing our anger to take hold of us (and our
perspective) is not only a sin; it gives the Devil a mighty
foothold. Describe a time when you regretfully allowed
anger to poison your life.
What would you do differently today?
The Greek word for the term “foothold” in this
passage is topos, which means opportunity, occasion,
power, space, and place. When we give way to our anger,
we give the Devil ample opportunity, power, and
occasion to ruin our lives. Does this make you look at
anger differently? If so, explain. If not, explain.
2. Read Matthew 6:14–15
a. How does this passage make you feel?
b. Look out the window. Imagine if you had a cross
planted in your yard and nailed to it was a list of offenses
for your neighbors to see. When you look at the cross, do
you see a list of your husband’s misdeeds, or is your own
list the first thing you see? Or do you walk in such a dayto-
day fellowship with God that when you look at the
empty cross you are simply thankful?
c. Though most of us don’t have a cross in our front
yards, we do display the offenses committed against us
and by us in the way we walk and talk and live. When we
walk closely with the Lord, our lists are quickly
reconciled with Christ’s forgiveness and only the
evidence of His love remains. Do you have a list that
needs to be covered in the mercy of Christ? Do you need
to forgive yourself and/or your husband? Write down
what comes to mind. Take the time, do the work, get rid
of your lists, and walk in forgiveness!
3. Read Ephesians 4:30–32
a. Take a minute and write this passage out in a
personalized prayer. Maybe this will help you get started:
“Precious Father, May I never bring You sorrow by the
way that I live because I belong to You. You’ve identified
me as Your own.....”
b. Now for something a little different....I call this a
“listening prayer.” Write a love letter to yourself from
Jesus; what do you suppose Jesus wants to say to you
during this season? I will give you a running start: “My
precious child, I love you so. I know what makes your
heart break, but I want you to know....”
4. Determine not to neglect your regular times of reading
and prayer. When anger rises up, bow low and entrust
yourself to God. Identify something in your life that has the
potential to pull you away from your relationship to God
and write it down. Pause for a moment and ask the Lord for
wisdom in this matter. Write down what you sense He is
*This is a prayer exercise and what you write should not be
taken as gospel (i.e., “God told me....”), or replace what
you read in the Bible. The more acquainted you are with
Scripture and the heart of the Father, the more biblically
accurate your listening prayers will become. Even so, we only
know in part; and yet God loves to reveal Himself to those
who seek after Him.