Years ago, my wife (Ashley) and I were in a funk. We bickered about everything. We would get to the end of a fight and ask each other, “What is going on? Why do we keep fighting?” Anxiety festered in our home. One day, we had another one of those fights. But unbeknownst to each other, we both started praying during the fight.
“God, what is the real issue here?”
We realized that the Enemy was poking at wounds in our hearts. We felt Peter’s warning about the enemy prowling around our marriage (1 Peter 5:8). Finally, after being in this funk for months, we recognized our common enemy and turned to the Lord together for help.
When the Enemy picks at wounds
A wound is a false belief, often about the self, that produces a strong reaction when provoked. I have a wound that says, “I am a failure.” Not, “sometimes I fail.” Rather, my wound informs an identity of shame fueled by failure. When I fail, I have learned that the enemy wants to knock me around by taking an instance of failure and telling me it's my whole story. In my marriage, there are times when I fail: I do not love my wife perfectly, or I get angry, or I do not balance my work and family time well. My wife, because she loves me, might point those things out to me because she is calling me up. She needs me to lead our family well. Though her good intentions are clear when my head is on straight, the Enemy presses into that failure wound and I start to tell myself (or her), “I can’t do anything right.” That is not true, but I feel it is true as the Enemy brings my wound to the forefront.
My wife also has a wound, one that I have learned to pay great attention to. Her wound goes like this: “I am second in importance.” Whenever she sensed something else was more important than her, she had a strong emotional reaction. Being in ministry means there is no shortage of important things to attend to. The enemy uses my role as lead pastor and her wound to put a wedge between us. A meeting goes long, but the Enemy reinforces in her “that meeting is more important than you.” An unexpected phone call happens when I’m playing with the kids, and she thinks “that person is more important than our family.”
A wound is a false belief, often about the self, that produces a strong reaction when provoked.
Follow the buoy
All of us have wounds that affect us. Our belief system is not something that we consciously think about; rather, it is something we operate from. We may operate with wounds that affect our ability to interpret the intentions of our spouse. “She does not care about me,” we might say to ourselves, when in reality she is doing the best that she can with what she has. In moments like this, when thoughts bubble to the surface, we need to follow the buoy down to the real source. Thoughts, emotions, choices, all of these are a result of what is going on beneath the surface. When we focus only on the buoy bobbing frantically above the water, we miss out on discovering what is causing that motion underneath.
We might ask ourselves, “What false belief, hurt, expectation or need is active in our belief system that is causing such a reaction?”
This gets to the heart of the issue, as Jesus said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
All of us are in process, and the Lord is working on the unfinished work of our hearts. In marriage, though, we can get discouraged when the mouth speaks, and we see more wounds – perhaps wounds we thought we or our spouse already dealt with. But consider it a grace when those wounds are revealed. The Spirit, in his timing, reveals the hurts of the heart and draws us into further freedom found in Christ.
In moments like this, when thoughts bubble to the surface, we need to follow the buoy down to the real source. Thoughts, emotions, choices, all of these are a result of what is going on beneath the surface.
For my wife and I, the Lord lifted the fog we were under and helped us to see the real issue: the heart.
Trent Butler in the Holman New Testament Commentary on Luke makes this comment on Jesus’ words, “How do you know what the heart is producing? Listen to the mouth. Your daily conversation issues from your heart.” When we followed the buoy and recognized our heart issues, the bickering stopped. Our conversations turned from accusing to listening, from nit-picking to understanding, from surface issues to heart issues. That is where the Lord did his healing work in and through us. Now when my wife and I recognize our old habits, we know what to do. And we praise God for supplying what we need.
Help your spouse heal
Perhaps your spouse has a different wound, one that leads to all kinds of discord. But recall the next few verses in 1 Peter 5: “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
Your marriage is strengthened when you resist the devil and stand firm in Christ. Do this together. Pay attention when you or your spouse has a strong emotional reaction to something, there may be a wound present. Through the power of the Spirit, lies are destroyed and true beliefs are built up. This is where healing occurs. Bring false beliefs, poor boundaries, lack of connection and whatever else to the Lord and be strengthened. He will restore you and your marriage.
The next time you find yourself in a period of discord, bickering or distance with your spouse, remember the scheming Enemy. I have wondered, how could I (a pastor) not see something so obvious? For a long time, I felt embarrassed by that. But now I see that the Enemy loves to work in the shadows. When we counsel others, we may struggle to see our own heart issues. But there is hope. God’s glorious light brings Satan’s tactics to the forefront, helping you return to the Lord for renewal and peace. Keep going, friends. Protect your marriage in God’s strength.
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