Best question when frustrated

There’s a golden phrase I discovered many years ago.  When I started using it, I found it helped prevent my husband from getting defensive when I was upset or frustrated about something he had said or done.  Instead of accusing him of doing something wrong, I learned to kindly and sincerely ask this question: “Help me understand why…”

This simple question prevents the monster of defensiveness from raising its ugly head.  By asking your husband to “help me understand”, you’re communicating two things to your husband.  1) You really do care about his perspective and feelings, and 2) You’re acknowledging there may actually be a legitimate reason for why he did or said whatever.  At least, you’re giving him a chance to explain himself before you start arguing with him or condemning him!!  

By asking your husband to help you understand his behavior or perspective, you’re avoiding a foolish argument.  Proverbs 18:2 says “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.”  By asking your husband to help you understand his perspective, you’re pleasing both God and your husband by living out the instructions in Philippians 2:4 “Each of you should consider not only your own interests, but also the interests of others.”

Try this phrase when you sense a potential ugly argument is headed your way.  You can not only use this phrase with your husband, but with your children, your in-laws, your co-workers, your boss, and more.  Again, the phrase (actually a question) is….”Help me understand why…”

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Are you giving Satan this foothold?

The Bible says in Ephesians 4:26 – 27, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Well, over the years of my marriage to Raul, I didn’t always obey that instruction and my disobedience was almost disastrous!  One occasion comes to mind as a good example.  My husband had acted in a way that really bothered me.  I was steaming for hours and couldn’t even bring myself to talk to him about it because I feared we’d get embroiled in a huge conflict.  So, I went to bed early, by myself.  I went to bed by myself, wrapped in a blanket of resentment, bitterness, and ugly thoughts about my husband.  As I lay there steaming, that resentment started morphing into thoughts such as “I’d be better off without him” and “He’s such a jerk. I’m going to be cold as ice toward him from now on.”

I am so thankful the Holy Spirit finally broke through and prompted me to get out of bed and go speak with my husband.  I sensed that I was giving the devil a “foothold” in my marriage through me stuffing the issue and letting resentment grow.  So, I went and found my husband in the living room, knelt by his side as he was sitting on the couch and told him that I truly do see so many good qualities in him.  I also told him why his behavior had bothered me. 

I know you’re thinking he agreed with my assessment, but he didn’t!!!  However, a good thing did happen.  We calmly acknowledged our difference of opinion, and I was able to go to sleep in peace.  There was no wedge between me and my husband.  Don’t allow the enemy to gain a foothold in your marriage.  Resist the temptation to go to sleep with simmering anger and resentment.

How to refresh your weary soul

Are you feeling weary, discouraged or burdened?  Perhaps you’re feeling frustrated with others or even yourself.  This remedy might seem strange, but God says that when we meditate on His principles and begin applying them in our lives, our souls will be refreshed!  Psalm 19:7-8 says “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

Maybe your soul is weary or discouraged because you’ve been trying to handle difficult people and circumstances with your own wisdom.  Maybe it’s time to search out God’s wisdom instead.  For instance, if you are depressed about your husband’s continuing verbal abuse toward you and your children, maybe your soul will be refreshed as you read God’s instructions for dealing with someone who is sinning against you.  You might want to read Matthew 18:15-17.  

Perhaps you’re dealing with a rebellious child who isn’t responding to your explanations about why he or she should listen to you.  Maybe your soul will be refreshed as you read God’s instructions for molding your children into people of character.  You might want to read Proverbs 13:24 “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” 

God won’t waste your pain

Christmas can be one of the happiest times of the year. However, it can also be one of the hardest times of the year for those who have lost a loved one, or find themselves alone in a new town, or have little money to buy presents because of a recent job loss. No one really embraces heartbreak or suffering.  We usually do everything we can to avoid it, and we often complain to God when He doesn’t put an end to it at our first request.  But maybe he is allowing the suffering for a really good reason.  Maybe He has purpose even when he allows us to experience disappointment or even heartbreak.

I think of several stories from the Bible.  Joseph’s story in Genesis, chapters 37-50, is a prime example.  Even though Joseph endured great suffering for many years as he wrongly spent time in prison, God had a masterful plan he was executing behind the scenes….a plan that would involve Joseph rising to great power in Egypt and helping his family gain food during a famine in Israel.  I also think of the great apostles Peter and Paul.  They were beaten and thrown into prison, but God later miraculously freed them from prison and their story inspired many to follow Christ.

The Bible reveals that there is purpose in suffering and heartbreak.  Romans 5:3-5 says “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”   So, perhaps instead of feeling sorry for ourselves or feeling anger toward God, maybe you and I should choose to trust God even in the midst of heartbreak.  Maybe we should ask God to use our suffering to build our character.  God won’t waste your heartbreak.  He will use it to do something beautiful.

How to avoid “crazy cycle” in marriage

In every marriage, there will certainly be times where you find yourself disappointed or frustrated with your husband.  The question isn’t…how can you and I avoid those challenging times?  The question is…how are we going to respond to the challenge?

I’ve met many wives who allow themselves to sink into self-pity or get all riled up with anger toward their husband.  Neither one of those responses is helpful!  In fact, a crazy cycle begins in the marriage.  The wife lets her husband know how disappointed she is in him…he feels like a failure so he either responds with mean words or withdraws…she gets even more disappointed…and the cycle continues!  Please allow me to suggest a couple of new ways to look at those times when your husband has frustrated or disappointed you:

Instead of focusing solely on what he’s doing wrong, choose to rejoice in what he’s doing right.  This is the essence of Philippians 4:8 “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”  In other words, instead of developing a sour taste in your mouth by dwelling on his every fault, choose to look at your husband as a work in progress.  God doesn’t transform a person overnight (including you!).  So, choose to relish in the sweetness of every good thing your husband does and every good choice he makes.  For your soul, it will be like sipping on sweet lemonade instead of sucking on bitter lemons.

P.S.  You’ll look a lot more attractive to your husband when your mouth isn’t puckered up like you’ve been sucking on sour lemons!

P.S.S. If your husband is WAY out of bounds with his behavior and actually sinning against you, you may need to establish some firm boundaries, while at the same time choosing to remind yourself of his good qualities as well!

3 ways to handle a bad day

Sometimes, life just gets plain hard.  You forget to pay a bill on time and get hit with a giant “late fee”.  You catch your husband looking at pornography.  You teenager lies to you.  Your child accidentally drops an entire jog of milk on the kitchen floor.  Ugh!

At times like these, it’s easy to feel weighed down.  It’s so common for us to give into despair and depression.  But instead of conceding defeat, we can regain our spiritual equilibrium by practicing 3 things: 

1) Recognize this is a scheme of the enemy to try to steal, kill or destroy your joy  (John 10:10 “the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy”)

2)  Remind your soul of the enemy’s inability against our mighty God (1 John 4:4 “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”)  *Sometimes I even laugh at Satan’s pitiful attempts to drag me down!  I like putting him back in his place!

3) Trust that God will carry you through this challenge and even redeem the circumstances so that something good comes about in the long run. God is an expert at turning lemons into lemonade! (Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”)

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Power of your inner spouse-talk

We’ve all heard of self-talk, but allow me to introduce a different kind of internal narrative that can be just as negative as your self-talk. It is the internal talk about your spouse!

The things you say, whether out loud or in your head, greatly influence the way you feel and act.  In fact, Proverbs 18:21 says “the tongue has the power of life and death“.  In other words, when your inner spouse-talk is constantly pointing out your husband’s flaws or rehearsing the past ways he’s let you down…your words reinforce a negative attitude and behavior toward your husband.  If not corrected, this negative attitude and behavior on your part can eventually lead to prolonged bitterness, depression, and even the death of your marriage.

Ladies, we must do what the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 10:5…”take every thought captive“.  Start noticing the things you are saying in your head about your husband.  If a negative thought enters your mind, don’t give it room!  Instead, look for something positive to say about your husband.  He DOES have some positive qualities.  Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying your should ignore major sin in your husband’s life. You might need to ask him to make serious changes if he’s short-tempered or looking at porn or sitting around playing video games while you work your tush off. What I am saying is that we need to strive to look for the good in our husbands too. Make sure you spend more time engaging in positive inner spouse-talk than the negative kind!

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Do NOT make major decisions if…

You may have heard of the acronym H.A.L.T.  It stands for hungry, angry, lonely, tired.   It is a caution often used in addiction recovery where people are urged not to make any drastic decisions when one of those 4 conditions applies.

That’s a really good caution for wives as well!  Don’t make any major decisions about leaving your husband, filing for divorce, or even giving full vent to your temper if you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired.  However, I would like to add one more condition.  Don’t make any major decisions when….it’s that time of the month!!  Women are often so overly-emotional in the days leading up to their period, that we become drama queens!  Everything happening around us is exaggerated in intensity.  So, even though you feel like reacting in a dramatic way, remind yourself to pause and see if you still feel the same way 3 or 4 days later.

This verse comes to mind.  James 1:19-20  My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Waiting for God’s timing & help!

When we feel angered, or disappointed, or frustrated with our husband, it’s so natural to immediately give in to our emotions and let our husband know exactly what a failure he is!  We feel entitled to unleash our fury and it actually feels kind of cathartic for a moment.  It lets the pent-up steam out of our bodies. Whew!

However, the damage we cause to that person in the process of our “venting” can have the opposite effect of what we desired.  We were hoping the person would immediately grasp how wrong they’ve been, quickly apologize, cheerfully repair the damage they’ve done and humbly seek to win back our trust and respect.  Unfortunately, when we give full vent to our anger and disappointment, without waiting on God’s timing, we can crush that other person with condemning words spoken in the heat of the moment.  In response to our anger and harsh words, that other person usually becomes defensive and lashes back at us…or withdraws from us and goes off to self-medicate in an unhealthy way.  Neither option is good!

It’s so much better for us to pause before venting our anger!  During that pause, you might have to leave the room to spend a moment with God, but it’s so worth it!  Ask God to show you when to speak to your husband, what exact words to use, and how to offer encouragement and hope…even if you’re asking for him to change his behavior.

Here are 4 Bible verses that might be worth printing out for yourself.  They remind us to be patient, to wait for the Lord’s guidance and to do what HE says you should do instead of reacting impulsively!

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Psalm 27:14 Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Psalm 32:8 The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.     I will advise you and watch over you.”

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