"He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings." Psalm 40:2

Love…and bitterness {Marriage Monday}

Love.

It’s probably one of the most discussed, most romanticized, most difficult, and most misunderstood concepts. Volumes have been written about it – fact and fiction, logical and not, truth and untruth.

Love is one thing the majority of couples assume is present when they walk the aisle and declare an “I do” that’s meant to resound for a lifetime.

I’m not going to try and explain what real love is, or why it’s not something we “fall” in or out of. I want to begin today with the assumption that when we married our husband we really, genuinely, loved him. Let’s assume we were completely and wholeheartedly committed to him. Yes, this is often not the case, but let’s think this love thing through a bit just now assuming our marriage began as it should have.

Let’s also assume that since then, something has gone wrong.

Many, many couples come to a point where they wonder what went wrong. If we truly had love for our husband, then what has hindered it?

Dealing with our husband’s faults is for another day – we must first stop and take a long, hard look at ourselves and see what we can change on our end. What has crept in and stifled the love we once had?

It could be a number of things, but so very often it has something to do with bitterness.

Never mind what started it. Never mind what he did. Again, that’s not what we’re going to look at right now. The bottom line with bitterness is that we allowed unforgiveness to take root and are nursing our growing feelings of hurt — and it’s wrong.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” {Psalm 139:23-24}

Martha Peace, in her ever-helpful book The Excellent Wife, gives us a revealing list of symptoms and signs of bitterness. Let’s read through the list with an open heart, asking the Lord to show us if we have any of these symptoms:

9 Common Signs of Bitterness

1. Gossip and Slander – In the process of complaining, the wife gossips about him and slanders her husband, thereby defiling others. She has either nothing or very little that is good to say about him.

“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” Hebrews 12:15-17

2. Ungrateful and Complaining – The wife is not grateful to her husband. She murmurs to herself and complains to others about him.

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing” Philippians 2:14

3. Judges Motives – Whatever he does is suspect in her eyes. Even if he does something nice, she thinks his motive must be off. For example, “He only did that to look good to his parents.” “I know it seemed like a nice gesture, but he didn’t really mean it.”

“Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5, emphasis added

4. Self-Centered – The wife spends a lot of time thinking about herself. She is very self-absorbed. Her focus is fixed on herself and the hurts done against her.

“…do not merely look out for your own personal interests” Philippians 2:4

5. Excessive Sorrow – Grief and hurt has crowded out any joy, peace, or love that she used to have. It has, in fact, filled up her heart. It may, at times, overwhelm her.

“But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart” John 16:6

6. Vengeful – The wife looks for ways to avoid her husband. Perhaps she leaves when he is home, pouts, or gives him a cold shoulder. She is paying him back for what he has done to her.

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone…Never take your own personal revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God…” Romans 12:17, 19

7. Brooding – The wife broods about what her husband has done. She thinks about it often and plays it over and over in her mind.

“Love does not take into account a wrong suffered.” 1 Corinthians 13:5

8. Loss of Joy – Lately, the wife has little or no delight in her relationship with the Lord. Because of her sin, instead of God’s peace and joy, she is experiencing intense emotional pain and misery.

“And I shall delight in Thy commandments which I love.” Psalm 119:47

9. A Critical, Judgmental Attitude – It is difficult for the wife to take her focus off what her husband has done wrong and focus instead on what she is doing wrong.

“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:51

Dear sister, if you recognize any of these signs of bitterness in yourself, repent of them and lay them at the feet of your Savior. Your love for your husband and your marriage will never grow while you harbor bitterness, bathing in negative thoughts. There is a time to respond to the wrongs your husband has done, but you can never work through things effectively with him until your heart is free from bitterness.

I highly recommend reading the entire book The Excellent Wife, including chapter nine – Love – from which I drew this list. Ms. Peace follows the list with excellent biblical instructions on overcoming bitterness by God’s grace.

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” {Ephesians 4:31-32}

1The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace, p.88-90

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