The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”Jeremiah 17:9-10 ESV
Jeremiah understands what we all need to grasp a little better – sin starts in the heart. The problem doesn’t exist outside of you; the problem exists inside of you. If we’re ever going to realize healing in our marriages, we have to start there. We have to allow the Spirit to do the hard work of cleaning out our hearts.
The truth is, our hearts are not naturally open to criticism from our spouses or anyone else. None of us like to be confronted or questioned. It’s why our defenses rise when accused – even if there is truth in the accusation. We will work hard to defend our position and convince others of our righteousness rather than humbly listening to what they have to say. If we have been misjudged or misunderstood by our spouses, we will pull out our catalog of righteous acts in defense of ourselves, proving we only have the best of intentions.
We also tend to see the wrongs of our spouses more easily than we see our own. We confront them with things we excuse in ourselves, seeing our transgressions as less wrong, and convince others of our own righteousness. Self-righteousness is more natural for us than humility.
If you want to know the pure joy of a peaceful marriage, then you need to humble yourself. Stop looking at the sins of your spouse and take the time to look into your own heart. I know you may be thinking, “But you don’t know my spouse. You don’t know how he talks to me…how she nags at me…how he dismisses me…how she belittles me. You don’t know how they have hurt me.” I do. I understand relational hurt because I live here in this broken world with you. But I also know if you want to find healing in your marriage, you have to start by humbling yourself – that’s when God will step into your relationship.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.James 4:10 ESV
He doesn’t tell us to humble our spouses; He tells us to humble ourselves – that’s when He will exalt us.
James writes these words just after he instructs us to cleanse our hands and hearts from our sin. In order to have a peaceful marriage, you must be living in a right relationship with God. You must be living in a right relationship with God. That’s it. Don’t concern yourself with your spouse. If you are in a right relationship with God, your marriage will be blessed because He will exalt you….even if your spouse is not. He promises.
In order to live in a right relationship with God, to enjoy that peace and contentment, to know true joy and comfort, we need to acknowledge and repent of our sins. We cannot truly repent of our sins unless we see them as God sees them. James is desperately trying to get us to see our sin as God sees our sin in these verses. We are told in this very same passage from James, when we place the things of this world over God, we make ourselves an enemy of God – that should pierce our soul to the very depths with grief. When we take the time to honestly look into our hearts at what causes the conflicts and quarrels in our lives, and we seek the self-focus that lies deep within us, our hearts should mourn at the way we replace Him with our own passions and desires. We should weep at the way we destroy and kill relationships in our lives because of our own selfish desires. It should wreck us.
The beautiful part of our relationship with the Lord is that when we humble ourselves before the Lord – when we fall to our knees and weep over the ugliness of our sin – He exalts us. When we go beyond just acknowledging our sin, when we are truly broken over our wrongs – to Him and to the people in our lives – He will lift us up. He will lift us up in our marriages and in our lives. It is then that we find the peace and joy and laughter our hearts long to know.
Far too often, our pride gets in the way of this process. We may be able to get to the place of recognizing our sin, but we generally don’t let Him take us to a place of true brokenness over our sin. Our pride will justify our sin for one reason or another – she deserved it, he started it, I was having a rough day. We see that we were wrong, but we quickly attach an excuse to our sin to justify it. We resist becoming truly broken over our sin because that’s a hard place to go. We have to be vulnerable and allow our heart to grieve…but it’s hard to allow that kind of pain into our lives. So we keep ourselves distracted, and we ignore it, thinking that acknowledging it is good enough.
Humble yourself. Allow Him to take you to the place of deep mourning over your sin, allow him to show you how He sees your sin, how your spouse sees you. While it is painful for the moment, there is such joy that follows. He will exalt you.
Press on ~ you are loved💗