Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Eliminating bitterness in your marriage.

 Bitterness is toxic.
 It can poison our minds into believing that forgiveness is an impossible feat, and waver our hearts desire to love our spouse unconditionally. Whether it stems from weeks, months or years before, it's not easily shaken nor corrected.
 This world is full of  grudges, and chips on soldiers, reacting with a defensive head instead of a compassionate heart. Even as Christians we too often hold resentment towards others, deliberately ignoring the simple truth that God forgives us on a daily basis without question.
Throughout Chris and I's five years of marriage, we have fed into the enemies lies of selfishness, resentment, bitterness, and denial over and over and over again. I have been the emotionally broken, short tempered, overly defensive, hurt driven wife, and he's been the non-apologetic, argument seeking, verbally abrasive husband, all stemming from those very lies.
 You've heard it said before "Hurt people, hurt people" and boy is that profoundly true. So what is it about bitterness and pain that is SO blinding? Is it because we live in fear of the idea of someone hurting us, or that pride really does hold immense power? I've heard my pastor say many times that we know pride is blinding because even the devil thinks that evil will prevail when it's all said and done. He still somehow believes he has the chance to win against God. Imagine that. We succumb to the same fallacy in our personal lives and furthermore, our marriages. We are driven by the notion of "I'll get you before you get me", and we build up a wall of  unrealistic emotional needs and standards that gives our spouse no other option but to fail. Our spouse is supposed to be our partner, yet we spend far too much time keeping score. Perhaps this is why the current divorce rate in the United States is 50 percent, which we could factor into a very long list of possibilities, but if we cannot recognize the most abundant possibility being the lack of God centered marriages, we are simply mocking the very sanctity of marriage itself.

Forgiveness vs. Forgetfulness.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that forgiveness and forgetfulness go hand in hand.
 God commands us to forgive. Not forget.
  Matthew 6:15 says, "If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
If we fear God's judgement, then forgiving should be the easy part, but forgetting can be a much larger task and takes time,patience, and effort from both you and your spouse. This is where we tend to struggle the most in our bitterness.
Personally, I tend to be a very emotionally guarded individual, loving hard but always from a distance; this has rang especially true throughout Chris and I's relationship. Early on there were  situations that caused heartache, and allowed bitterness to override forgiveness, because what I was receiving from my husband is not what I believed I deserved as his wife. Even when I would proclaim forgiveness, I struggled to remain emotionally vulnerable towards Chris, which I thought was for my own best interest, but in reality was hindering any growth in our covenant.  The constant question of "Why would he do this to me if he loved me?" became overwhelming and my desperation to guard my heart from further pain left me emotionally numb and withdrawn. Instead of focusing on the apology, I would regress back to the memory, re-living the pain, like ripping off a scab, and in turn I became a hypocrite in my forgiveness.
Sadly, I was overlooking a very important factor in the process. I was living in the past instead of having faith in the future. I was confusing forgiveness for forgetfulness, because I was afraid that if I moved beyond the hurt Chris wouldn't feel the need to rebuild trust.

Forgiveness is instant. Trust takes time.
In Rick Warren;s book, "The Purpose Driven Life" he says:
Many people are reluctant to show mercy because they don't understand the difference between trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past. Trust has to do with future behavior. Forgiveness must be immediate, whether or not a person asks for it. Trust must be rebuilt over time. Trust requires a track record. If someone hurts you repeatedly, you are commanded by God to forgive them instantly, but you are not expected to trust them immediately, and you are not expected to continue allowing them to hurt you.

Trust has been my biggest downfall in marriage.
Trusting someone requires the wall you've worked so hard to build, to fall; leaving you exposed and vulnerable. From someone who likes to be in control, this is quite terrifying! Although my intentions to trust in Chris were genuine, the fear of disappointment was a burden too heavy to bare. 
But trust is built on faith. Faith in what is unforeseen, not in our own understanding.

2 Corinthians 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.

If bitterness is based in pride, and pride is based in sin, and sin can only be forgiven by God, why do we continue to rely on ourselves to overcome it? We're not doing ourselves any favors by  guarding our hearts, instead of opening them up for God's blessings. Having faith does not mean we will not have suffering, but we will have peace in knowing we don't have to find a solution on our own. God does that for us. Faith does not make you a victim, or minimize your hurt, It takes far more strength to have faith in what you cannot see, than dwell on what you can.

Unconditional love that is always giving and impossible to take or be a taker.It devotes total commitment to seek your highest best no matter how anyone may respond. This form of love is totally selfless and does not change whether the love given is returned or not.
Do you love your spouse or Agape love your spouse?
If you're confused by the differential values of the two then you may be loving your spouse out of expectation instead of with purpose. In a society where "love" is plastered on anything and everything, completely disposable, it's no wonder many have lost sight of how to love properly in their marriages. Do you love your husband/wife like you love pizza, or do you love like God loves you?
To overcome bitterness, we must love like God. There's no other way.
I fail at this daily.
If we put sacrificial love at the forefront of our relationships, we will trump all possible resistance, including bitterness.

1 Corinthians 13:4-84. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Loves does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
Was this scripture part of your wedding day? It was ours. It is for many, and for good reason. Imagine if you sat down with your spouse and made a habit of reading it on a regular basis. We need to remind ourselves often of what God designed the covenant to be, and if we do so we will undoubtedly experience thriving and flourishing marriages.

Ways to combat bitterness:- Pray with and for your spouse
-Reset and manage expectations for one another
-Set guidelines to feel more secure in your relationship
-Eliminate "you never", and "you always" from your vocabulary
- Drop ultimatums.
-Seek Godly couple's counsel
-Reassurance, reassurance, reassurance.
-Voice your hurt.
-Refrain from "venting" to loved ones about your spouse
-Fast, and talk to God
-Hold hands, hug, kiss, make love.(It may be the last thing you want to do, but physical connection should not be abandoned)
-Replace tv time with conversation

I hope if you are one that is struggling with hurt or bitterness in your marriage, you find comfort in the truth that you can and will overcome whatever trial you and your spouse are facing. Marriage is tough, but God is bigger, and I'm thankful for that beautiful truth. As draining as this post was to write, I'm thankful for EVERY bit of my testimony no matter how painful. I'm blessed to have a husband who continues to fight alongside me for a healthy and abundant marriage, and I will NEVER allow the enemy to destroy the promises I made before my groom nor my God.

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