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What if I’m holding a grudge in my marriage?

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
November 3, 2022 3:00 am

What if I’m holding a grudge in my marriage?

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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November 3, 2022 3:00 am

Is your marriage moving towards oneness or isolation? On FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson discuss habits for a great marriage, and what to do when you're holding a grudge.

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So today, let's talk about this little thing that can happen in a marriage or really any relationship that if you don't pay attention to it, you can find yourself isolated.

I'm totally intrigued. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.

And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. I mean, it happens in every relationship.

We'll apply it to marriage, obviously. That's when, like, your spouse says something or does something that offends you, that hurts you. Which every one of us has experienced, yes. You did it to me today.

No. No, I mean, I did it to you today. I mean, it happens. It can be a daily thing. It's this little offense, and if you don't deal with it, it can become bitterness. You can become hurt. You can, like, want to pay them back for how they said or did something. Are we talking about revenge and bitterness?

Yeah, I mean, I think it's really bitterness. I heard, well, actually, I said this once in a sermon. Well, hey. Here you go.

I can quote me as a preacher. Offense is an event. It happens. You're going to be offended.

Offended is a choice. How about that for depth? Huh? Pretty deep. You know what, Pastor Dave?

You are good. Whatever. I guarantee I stole that from another pastor.

You know, all work and no plagiarism leads to a boring sermon, so. But I think this topic of bitterness is big, because if we let an offense go, I've done it myself. If anyone has heard our 10-year anniversary, I became so bitter in that I feel like after a while I lost all of my feelings because I never dealt with my bitterness. It happens in every relationship. It's happened in ours over and over.

It's never not going to happen. It's going to keep happening. There's going to be things that we do or say, and every relationship's gone through that. There are parents that have felt that about their kids, and kids, I've felt that about my parents. Me too. You did too.

I mean, we all have. And so it's interesting if you look at this word bitterness, here's a definition, anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly, resentment. And that right there could describe a lot of marriages, because you feel like you've been treated unfairly and you're resentful. And I don't deserve it.

I don't deserve the way I'm being treated. Yeah, and so you carry that even to, I even looked up in the dictionary, revenge. And when I say dictionary, it's not an actual book, you go online now, Wikipedia, but look at revenge. It says, the act of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hand. See, I think of revenge, I think of a movie. You think that happens in marriage, that we want revenge?

Yeah, I think that's what we're talking about. You get hurt. Again, you're offended. You may not even identify it in the moment because often offenses are very slight or very minor. But over time, it seems to grow that comment, that action that hurt you sort of grows. And then here's the thing, you're carrying around baggage in your marriage, in your family.

With your friends. It could be related to something done to you or said to you this week, but it could be 10, 15, 30 years ago, and you're carrying around, you have a root of bitterness. That's a New Testament term Paul wrote about, don't let a root of bitterness sort of get a hold of your heart.

And so it's real, it's like a root, it's deep. And then revenge is like, I just want payback, I want them to hurt like I've been hurt. So we do things, say things or else we just cut off sort of the relationship. You can't really do that in marriage, but you can because you're living together and you're married, but you're isolated.

You put up a wall. Yeah. And we say at the weekend, remember marriage getaway. Every marriage is moving toward oneness or drifting toward isolation and bitterness. If you don't deal with it, that's what we're talking about today.

It has to be dealt with. If you don't deal with it, you are going to drift toward isolation. You don't move toward oneness. You have to intentionally do things to move toward oneness, but you will drift toward isolation and bitterness is often the root. And if you don't deal with your bitterness, I mean, this sounds crazy, but your bitterness will deal with you in some way. I'm even thinking physically, like people that are bitter, it's like they shrivel up. Their soul is malnourished and God doesn't want us to remain bitter. And it's one of the reasons our interview with Stephen Byers, the pastor and therapist who wrote about overcoming bitterness, we got more comments on that show and I thought, why is that?

Because people are carrying bitterness. So the question is, what do we do with it? And here's the thing, we've said this over and over, marriage is awesome. So fun. Yes. I mean, it's awesome.

Yeah. But there's people listening going, no, no, no, no, it isn't because marriage is also really, really hard. It's both and right. Same time, it's wonderful and we celebrate it. And there are moments where it's like ecstasy.

It's like, I couldn't be happier. And there are a lot of moments where I'm hurt. It's hard, parenting's hard, relationships at the workplace are hard, relationships at church are hard.

I mean, relationships are wonderful. They're agony. They're both.

And you know, you got to be able to say both. And the reason they get hard is bitterness. And so we, you know, we've joked about this before, but you know, when a couple gets married, if we could see what's happening in that church on their wedding day, you've got this groom, you've got this bride and you don't see it because you can't see it physically. But if you could pull back the curtain, you would see luggage at the feet of both of them because they're carrying in baggage. And a lot of that is bitterness they're bringing in into the relationship.

Think about this. People have heard us tell this story and we're not going to get into it of one of our first fights in our marriage, months after we were married, so happy. And you know, I start to walk out of the room because we're in a fight and I don't realize I'm doing what I've always done, but I withdraw. So I start to walk out of the room and you yell, come back here and fight me like a man, you chicken. Yeah. You do it pretty good. And you know, I turn around and I curse at you and I leave. And people have heard that story, it's in our vertical marriage, small group video.

It's in the book, but here's the thing. I did not curse at me any longer. I don't think I've ever cursed since. You haven't? Yeah.

41 years. And it's funny when we tell that story, people think, gee whiz, Dave must be a cussing man. No, it's just one time in our marriage, but anyway, here's what I didn't know. And I don't think a lot of us know when we get married, we carry baggage. What I carried into our marriage was bitterness toward my dad that I had never dealt with. And what I did in that moment, which now is a funny story in the chapter title of a chapter in our book, what I did in that moment was I copied what I saw my dad do.

Not even know it. In fact, I remember going to college thinking I will never become like my dad. And there I was, Exodus 20, the 10 commandments, the sins of the father will visit into the legacy.

I was copying that. And so it's like, okay, I had never dealt with this bitterness that now is coming out in our marriage toward my spouse. And I think a lot of us, if we could sort of take that extension cord back that's connected to us back to where that bitterness comes from, we would have a different marriage, a better marriage, because you got to deal with that. So that's why we're talking about that today. We got to know how to understand how to deal with this bitterness. I'm a visual person. So when you were saying that, I had this picture of people like, oh, that was in my past, but I had this picture of us as people leaking, like there's holes in us.

And that somewhere, somehow, that bitterness leaks out and it's usually onto the people that we love and cherish. Yeah. And I didn't even know I was doing it and I would have promised you I would not do that.

I think. I would not bring that into my marriage. I think when I saw you outside kicking the lawnmower when it didn't work, gave me an idea that something might be going on. And I just thought I'm just angry at the lawnmower, yet it was connecting. You were kicking it over and over.

I mean, those are our early years of marriage. Do you want to bring that up again? Do you want to tell everybody how I was kicking the lawnmower? I think I got a baseball bat.

And then I was performing an exorcism thinking Satan was in my lawnmower. Okay, let's get back to the topic of hands. So a couple of thoughts. Let's talk about this.

Okay. When you think about marriage and relationships, here's what I want to say. God has a really, really, really, really good plan.

Is it really good? It's really good for relationships, for marriage, for family, for the church. I think we need to start there as a foundational truth. God's plan for your marriage, for your family, for your relationships at church and even in your neighborhood, His plan is really good. So that's sort of the mission of relationships from God's perspective. So here's what I want to lay out. God's plan, God's strategy, and God's tactic. His plan is really good, and here's what His plan is. And some of you need to write this down. This is good preaching, I hope.

His plan is what I would call revelation. Does that make any sense? Yeah. What? I don't know. You don't know.

You just acted like you do. I'm such a good wife. No, I mean, I think when you pull back and you say, okay, what does God want to do through your marriage? What's God want to do through relationships in the church? What's God want to do between Christians who love Him and love each other?

He wants to reveal Himself to the world through our relationships. Oh, I knew that. That's what revelation means. Yeah. Okay, I get that. It's this big spiritual term, but it basically means God wants to reveal to your neighbors who He is and what His character is like by how a husband and wife who claimed to be Christ followers treat one another. That's scary.

Some people were totally convicted right now. Yeah. I mean, it's bigger than just, I want to be happy. I mean, God wants your marriage to work, and He wants you to thrive in it and flourish in it, but it's bigger than that. You pull back and say, what does God really want to do? He actually wants to reveal Himself to the world through the way that Christians treat one another and treat people that don't believe.

Let me add this too. It's not that you're doing it perfectly. No. They don't want to see a perfect couple.

They want to see an authentic couple who is following Jesus, and they might fail and fall, but God kind of picks them back up and He gives its thought, Holy Spirit power that even in our brokenness, we still run toward each other and we run toward God. Yeah. And that's His strategy. Remember I said there's a plan.

What's His strategy? You just articulated it. It's unity. In marriage, it would be oneness. So how is God going to reveal Himself to the world?

Unity in the body of Christ, unity between a husband and wife, unity between parents and their kids. And like you just said, it's not going to be perfect. We're not going to do this perfectly. We're going to fall short over and over again, but the world is watching. And I mean the world, those that do not believe, those that aren't going to church, they're watching Christians and they're looking for unity. When I say that, what do you think?

Like, wow, how are we doing? I know. I look at the divorce rate and it makes me sad because sometimes you don't see a huge difference in the church. There is actually a huge difference.

But the world would see that statistically. You're saying there's a huge difference in those who really are walking with Jesus in prayer. Like it makes a huge difference.

Yeah. I mean, the divorce rate is 27% lower for followers of Christ who are involved in a church, involved in different areas of their life, which means they don't just show up. They really are involved. But I think the world's watching the unity of the church, not just marriage.

How do we get along with each other? Oh, absolutely. So if his plan is to reveal himself through unity, his tactic, how does he do that? Is forgiveness. We need to be able to forgive when we're offended. And it's interesting, you know, when you go to what I call the Lord's Prayer, John 17, most people think the Lord's Prayer, our Father, our heart in heaven. And obviously when the disciples asked Jesus to teach him to pray, that's what he said. But there's this long prayer that Jesus prayed in the Gospel of John. I love this prayer.

Chapter 17, it's actually called the High Priestly Prayer, and you really get the sense, the heart of God revealed through Jesus' prayer about unity. Do you want me to read it? I can read it. Go ahead. Okay. Dave knows that I like to read out loud.

She likes to read out loud. Jesus is saying this and he's praying this and he says, my prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who believe in me through their message. By the way, did you catch that? Who are those who believe in me through their message?

You and me. Yeah. He's literally thinking thousands of years ahead. He's praying for not just the disciples, but us.

And then he says that all of them may be one. Unity. Yeah. Father, just as you are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

So you see it? There it is. May they know that.

That's a purpose statement. May they also be in us so that the world may be believed that I'm real. That you sent me. He's saying that if they're unified, the world will believe so he's praying for unity. I have given them the glory that you gave me so that they may be one as we are one. Wow. I am them and you and me so that they may be brought to complete unity. And then he says, then the world will know that you sent me and I have loved them even as you have loved me. Wow.

That's good. Jesus' heart is like, man, if the world's going to see me, it's going to be through the unity of followers of me. And again, as I say that, I'm like, so how are we doing as a church? I remember a few years ago when, you know, things were happening in our country and there's all kinds of division about riots and is, you know, the beginning of the pandemic and race stuff was all over politics, you know, there was division everywhere, everywhere. And I remember, you know, I shouldn't have done this, but I'm on Facebook and I'm looking at some post about division and, you know, we go into the comments section and all these people, I mean, there's three, 400 comments, they're attacking one another back and forth. And again, I should have just closed my computer and said, I'm not even going to read this.

This is just division. It's attacking. It was sarcastic. It was very hurtful. And I found myself reading, you know, 15 minutes, you know, I can't stop, it's like watching a car wreck.

That's a trap. You know, and then toward the end, these two people are just going after each other and it's very hurtful and very demeaning of one another. And I remember thinking, man, these people, this is, this is vicious.

This is so wrong. And you know, I wanted to jump in, but I'm like, I'm not jumping in this thing. I'm just, and then I looked at like, who are these people? And I realized I knew both of them.

They're both Christ followers. And I just thought, oh my goodness, the world is watching this. They're watching us talk to one another and it was full of division. It was destroying one another. I mean, name calling and things that we say, you would never do that as a follower of Christ.

And the world's watching and Jesus prayed, I pray that you be unified, I pray that you be one so that the world would believe that God sent Jesus. And I thought the world is walking away from this and you know what is at the root of that whole thing? Bitterness.

I was going to say Satan. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, that's a good transition because if God has a really, really, really good plan for your marriage and relationships, here's the flip side of that.

Satan has a really, really, really, really bad plan. Yeah. I'm obviously exaggerating the really. Really? Are you really?

You get it? No, it's true. He has a really, really bad plan. And you know, we often think Satan's not real, the devil's just a made up concept.

Here's the thing. If you believe in Jesus, you have to believe in Satan because Jesus talked about him and dealt with him in real time in the New Testament. It's like he's real and if God has a plan for your marriage, which is oneness, trust me, Satan has a plan for your marriage as well and for the church.

It's the opposite of oneness, the opposite of unity is disunity. I'm thinking of Jesus, those last few verses in that scripture that I've read in John 17 when he says, I am them and you and me so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and I have loved them even as you've loved me.

That's the picture. That's exactly what God, what Jesus is longing for. And so you're saying Satan will do everything in his power to not let that happen.

Oh yeah. And Jesus told us that. John 10, 10. He refers to Satan as the thief and he says the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. That's his plan.

I have come that they may have life and have it to the full, which involves unity. So if God's plan is revelation to reveal himself and his strategy is unity or oneness and his tactic is forgiveness, which we're going to talk about probably tomorrow, Satan has a different plan. His plan is destruction. He just told us, Jesus said, steal, kill and destroy. His strategy to destroy unity is division. And guess what his tactic is?

A fence. Remember we talked at the beginning, we talked about a little offense. Satan will use a little action. It could be big, but it could often be a little offense that seems minor at the moment, but grows in our bitter spirit. Our root of bitterness gets hold of our heart and it can just destroy, divide a unified church, a unified marriage, a unified family, can be split apart, destroyed through the vision and it often starts with a comment or an action that is very hurtful. What a sobering thought. When you think I'm just having this fight with a friend or my husband or my kids, but underneath that, the big picture is Satan is kind of like, yes, because his tactic is division. Yeah. We're not saying every time something happens in your life, the devil made me do it, but I often think we underestimate the reality of evil as a source and his name is Satan and he would love to destroy your marriage, your relationship with your kids.

He would love to divide this church. And again, it often starts with an offense, which is an event, but to hold onto that and be offended is a choice that we make. So why does this matter? What do we do? You mentioned earlier the 10-year anniversary. You were bitter. What'd you do with that?

Yeah. So bitter and because of these little things and it had come to the point where I had no feelings left and I think that can happen a lot of marriage. I took it to Jesus and what we did and a lot of people have heard that is I repented because I really was not forgiving you. And the reason I wasn't forgiving you is because I felt like you're not changing.

I told you what I was feeling and you're not doing anything about it. Yeah. And you didn't repent immediately. You carried that for months, not years, but months and that had shut down my heart. And I really felt like I don't even know if I want to be in this anymore.

Yeah. And I think most of us don't go to repent. We don't go to God.

I was thinking, what do most even Christians in the church do with an offense? Here's what we do. We hold onto it. We tell others about it.

It's called gossip. In the church, we do this really spiritual thing. We bring it up as a prayer request at a small group about, hey, you need to pray for John. Well, really?

Why? Oh, John did this or John said that. And we Christianize it. We spiritualize it. And all we're doing is getting others around us to be bitter with us and to endorse our bitterness instead of saying, okay, and again, you didn't do any of that, but you held onto it for months, maybe close to a year before probably we had a moment where we brought God into it.

We call it going vertical, but it's like until that moment, it was just bitterness. Do you think we can let go of bitterness even if a spouse or a friend doesn't change? Yeah, I think we can with God's help. I don't think we can do it apart from Him because it's deep. Even my bitterness toward my dad was deep. And I had to go on a journey and say, Jesus, I can't forgive him. I don't want to forgive him. And he doesn't deserve it.

Yeah. He didn't do anything to reconcile with me. He didn't even apologize for it. And so it's like a big decision to say, okay, I'm going to, as Louis Smeeds in his book on forgiveness says, I'm going to allow Jesus to do spiritual surgery on my heart. It's an internal thing, but we have to say, I'm willing to take the first step to say, I need to forgive. I need to put this offense away and stop this root of bitterness.

And I can't. So Jesus, would you begin to work on me? You're listening to David and Wilson on family life today.

This is so good. Dave's still got a few thoughts as a reality check coming up in just a minute, but first, we'll never overcome bitterness in our hearts and be able to forgive those who've wronged us if we don't understand the love of God. That's why we love to send you a copy of Jessica Thompson's book, How God Loves Us.

It's a 40 day devotional of discovering his character in the fruit of the spirit. So as we take this short break from the conversation, I want you to know that it's critical you understand how valuable you are to this program. As you consider partnering with us at family life, we want you to know that you are proactively changing lives. When you do partner with us, it helps us keep conversations like today's coming at you every single day. You can go to to give, or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329.

That's 800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And when you do, we'd love to send you a copy of How God Loves Us by Jessica Thompson. It's our thanks to you when you partner financially with us today. Okay, here's Dave with a few final words of honest reflection when it comes to overcoming bitterness and seeking forgiveness. And I'm not going to sit here and act like it's instantaneous, like it was a week later I forgave my dad. It was years, but the process starts the day you say, Jesus, I'm letting you in this area. That person may never change.

They may never bless me, but I want you to give me the power to bless them even if they never bless me. That changes a person's heart. And that's their next step. And tomorrow on Family Life Today, Dave and Ann Wilson continue the conversation to talk about resolving the little offenses that happen around us. That's tomorrow. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: small.en / 2022-11-09 00:20:19 / 2022-11-09 00:26:36 / 6

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