She was sitting in my office with tears in her eyes when she said, “I know that as a Christian I shouldn’t feel this way, but I’ve been so hurt by my husband that I can’t stand to look at him. I’ve even thought how wonderful it would be if God just took him.”
She was experiencing a severe case of bitterness, which bordered on hatred. Bitterness is that state of mind and attitude of the heart that grows out of deep hurt and anger.
Hurt is a natural, emotional response when you’re treated unfairly, and it’s closely followed by anger. Anger often motivates you to take action against the person who caused you hurt. Anger isn’t sinful. Even Jesus felt anger (Matthew 21:12-13). However, Scripture challenges you to respond positively to your hurt and anger. You must take these emotions to God and allows His Spirit and His Word to guide you in seeking to take constructive action.
In a marriage, this means that when your spouse has hurt you, you should ask God to help you to confront your spouse with the wrong that stimulated your anger. Jesus made this clear in Luke 17:3 when He said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” The word rebuke means to “put a weight upon.” You’re to lay the matter in your spouse’s lap. Your desire should be that your spouse admits wrongdoing and apologizes sincerely, so that you may forgive him or her and be reconciled.
However, when you fail to confront your spouse, or you confront and your spouse denies any wrongdoing and refuses to reconcile, the hurt and anger often lead to bitterness and sometimes hatred.
On those occasions when a spouse refuses to reconcile, the Christian must find a way to release the hurt and anger to God and put his or her spouse in the hands of God who is both loving and just. You aren’t to carry the anger in your heart. That’s why Scripture says that you’re to get rid of anger before dark (Ephesians 4:26). I believe the releasing of hurt and anger to God must be a conscious, decisive act. Only when you release your anger and your spouse to God can you have inner peace.
When you fail to do this and allow hurt and anger to remain in your heart, they transition to bitterness. You become a part of the problem rather than part of the solution. When bitterness remains in your heart, you tend to express your emotions with harsh, cutting, critical words that, in turn, make the situation worse.
Paul instructs husbands to “love your wives and don’t be bitter toward them” (Colossians 3:19). When you allow bitterness to live in your heart, you’re playing into Satan’s hands. Bitterness and anger lead to destructive behavior, which hurts not only others, but also destroys your own sense of peace.
However, when you release your hurt and anger and put your spouse in His hands, you’re free to be used by God as a positive influence on your spouse. Again the writer of Proverbs says, “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).
The word harsh grows out of the Hebrew word for bitter. Bitterness leads you to hard words, which stir up anger toward your spouse. The situation becomes explosive, which is detrimental to the couple, the children, and the cause of Christ in the world.
Scripture is clear, “Do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: ‘Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). God is fully capable of rendering justice to your spouse. You must allow Him to do His work.
Your responsibility is clear. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes” (Romans 12:17). You’re even challenged to return good for evil. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink . . . Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good” (Romans 12:20-21).
With the help and power of the Holy Spirit, the wife who cried in my office learned how to practice the teachings of Scripture. She shared with me that she’d been nudged by God to bake a pie for her husband. She told him that she’d been praying and that God had impressed on her to bake him a pie. He accepted the pie and thanked her for it. That was the first step in their reconciliation process.
I can’t promise that all couples will be reconciled if you follow the biblical pattern of handling hurt and anger, but I can assure you that it’s the best response you can have when you’re wrong. Such a response has the potential of being used in a powerful way in God’s hands. You must never allow hurt, anger, bitterness, and hatred to become a way of life.
Article courtesy of HomeLife Magazine
Gary Chapman is an author and marriage conference leader and serves on staff of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. He and his wife, Karolyn, have two grown children. Learn more about Gary at 5LoveLanguages.com.