Is There a Difference Between Conviction and Condemnation?

 I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us– 2nd Corinthians 7:9 NIV

We live in a very judgy world.

Cancel culture is just one example. Canceling is an increasingly common practice that can be done in either a global or private kind of a way. 

 It works like this: 

Canceling happens globally when someone gets caught doing something or saying something a person or group of people do not like. The disapproving person or group goes after the “sinner” and punishes them for their language and/or behavior. The poor schmuck is then publicly disgraced and shamed. They lose their job, reputation and social status. They essentially become an outcast or a social pariah. 

A person is privately canceled when a friend or family member cuts them out of their life and gives them the silent treatment without explaining why they are giving them the silent treatment. 

Sigh. 

Supposedly, the whole point of cancelling someone is to get them to a place of conviction in their lives, where they acknowledge their misdeeds so they can grow.  Anyone who has actually been cancelled (either in a global or a personal way) will tell you being canceled feels more like hardcore condemnation without any mercy whatsoever. 

For the record.

I am not an advocate of cancelling. It is, in my opinion, perhaps the least healthy, least virtuous thing we do in this raging-dumpster-fire of a culture. However, the nature and stated purpose of cancelling raises an important question for believers:

Is there a difference between condemnation and conviction?

This is a question that needs answering.  

Both are biblical concepts (Romans 5:16, 1st Thessalonians 1:5, 2nd Corinthians 7:10-11). However, the Bible teaches there is a difference between the two. It matters because our view of these issues has a massive impact on how we see God, work out our salvation and treat other people when they sin against us (Philippians 2:12, Luke 7:47, Luke 6:37, 2nd Corinthians 2:9-11).   

So. 

Condemnation can be defined as a decree or sentence of guilt.  It is always accompanied by a sense we have failed and are unworthy of forgiveness. 

Condemnation always leads to hopelessness.

Conviction, on the other hand, is something the New Testament calls “godly sorrow” (2nd Corinthians 7:10-11). Conviction is a little different. It’s more like a deep and heartfelt sense we have gone off the rails and missed the mark. It is always accompanied by a sense we need to correct our course in some way. 

Conviction can be every bit as painful as condemnation. However, conviction is good because without guilt it is impossible to experience repentance and the spiritual restoration repentance brings. 

Here’s the struggle:

Condemnation and conviction sound a lot alike and condemnation can look a lot like conviction and conviction can feel an awful lot like condemnation. This is especially true if we’ve been up to no good in some area of our lives. 

Because condemnation and conviction feel so similar, some Christians are inclined to write off any guilty feelings they experience as condemnation and therefore irrelevant (Romans 8:1). Ignoring feelings of guilt is a profoundly bad idea because the Bible teaches ignoring our conscience is a spiritually risky thing to do (1st Corinthians 8:7-12) because it can lead to a hardening of the heart (Ephesians 4:18). Therefore, it is always best to pay attention to feelings of guilt. Guilty feelings should drive us to seek the Holy Spirit so we can figure out if there’s something we need to deal with in our lives before sin takes root and produces chaos and pain. 

Condemnation is a tool the enemy uses to discourage us. Therefore, it is not uncommon to experience condemnation AFTER we have already confessed our sin to God and corrected course. Condemnation will sometimes come from an unexpected source like an off-handed comment from a friend. It can come from our own hypersensitive conscience. Condemnation never gives hope. Instead it leaves us with an overwhelming sense of despondency and hopelessness. Condemnation screams into our souls that God will never be happy with us again. Condemnation almost always leads to more sin rather than less.

The whole point of spiritual conviction or godly sorrow is to facilitate change. Therefore, it is often accompanied by a feeling that we are guilty and have offended God. However, conviction also always comes with an understanding of what we need to do to get things right. God never leaves us in the dark or wondering where stand with Him. Godly conviction never leaves us feeling hopeless, despondent or like we will never be good enough. The path to repentance and healing is sometimes difficult. Repentance always means making some sort of a change. It might mean breaking off a relationship, changing a behavior, apologizing, making restitution but the path to a pure conscience is always clear. Conviction (godly sorrow) always leads to repentance.  

It is critical Christians understand God only condemns those who refuse to embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior (Romans 8:1, Jude 1:4). It is equally important to understand guilt is good as long as we know what to do with it (Acts 3:19). 

Just say “NO” to Woke Silliness Regarding Words-

Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen– 2nd Timothy 2:14b NIV 

Lately, I have not felt like myself and I am not a fan of not feeling like myself.

After one especially gloomy day it occurred to me that getting mad about something might pull me out of my funk. I don’t enjoy getting worked-up over stupid stuff for no good reason.  However, I have found that genuine moral outrage has a way of taking my mind off of my feelings and helping me get some perspective about what really matters. 

Anyway.  

Sometimes God takes His sweet time responding to my requests. Other times I get what I want when I want it.  This was one of those times. The very next day, on Facebook I came across a story about a memorial at Wheaten College.  

The memorial honors the death of Wheaton graduate Jim Elliot and four of his missionary colleagues. The men were murdered while attempting to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador in 1956.   The wording on the memorial has been deemed troublesome and will be changed because it uses the word “savage” to describe the Auca tribesmen who brutally murdered Jim Elliot and his colleagues. 

So, (here comes the genuine moral outrage part)

What the heck? Seriously.

Changing the wording of the memorial feels like a brazen attempt to reframe and rewrite someone else’s story. 

 Who are we to think this is okay? 

Is it really our place to reword someone else’s experience, especially when they are no longer around to weigh in on the situation? What makes this generation of Christians righteous enough, insightful or wise enough to get to decide how past generations tell the stories of THEIR life experiences?  Are we really that arrogant and condescending? 

Furthermore. 

The wording of the plaque was written with the consent of Jim Elliot’s wife and the families of the other martyred missionaries. They had zero problem with the words chosen. It should also be noted that the tribesmen and women who later converted to Christianity after murdering the other missionaries described their own behavior as unacceptable and yes, savage. It was guilt over their sin that eventually led many in the tribe to repent and embrace Jesus as Lord. 

It’s true that this is a vastly different time than when the memorial was created. It’s also true words like savage carry a lot of baggage and can be dehumanizing when used thoughtlessly.  No one with any sensitivity would use the word savage to describe a people group in the year 2021.

However.

It’s also true many modern Christians feel the church has gotten missions work wrong for the last two thousand years. Those folks feel it is our responsibility to right the wrongs past Christians committed. Is it really though? Are we really clever enough or righteous enough to correctly judge the intentions and actions of past generations of Christians? Wouldn’t it be wiser for us to worry about ourselves for a change? Perhaps it would be spiritually safer to leave the job of judging past generations up to God and let Him decide who got it right and who got it wrong? 

 I’m just spit-balling here. 

ALL people are made in the image of God. Dehumanizing other people is ALWAYS wrong. Nonetheless, some actions are wrong, evil and yes, even savage. It’s okay to call out evil and savagery when we see it.  There is simply no room for woke idiocy in the Church when God Himself describes the human heart as “wicked” and so “corrupt” that no one but Him can even come close to understanding it. Telling the truth is not the same as dehumanizing someone. Being real about who we are and what we’ve done is the only way to bring about repentance, salvation, personal healing and restoration of relationships.  Furthermore, telling the hard truth about the past is the only way to prevent ugly events from being repeated. 

 The bigger issue at play here is where woke ideas concerning words will eventually lead us. Rewriting a memorial some might judge offensive might not feel like a big deal. However, it sets a precedence. Non-Christians have been rewriting history and censoring what they don’t like for some time now.  Christians would do well to remember that writing and art from the past chronicles history and helps us understand the feelings and experiences of those who lived before us. Literature and art also helps us to understand and even define what it means to be human. If we lose or revise those works we will remove some opportunity for offense. However, we also lose a chunk of our history and even some vital pieces of our humanity in the process.  Most concerning to me is what will happen to the Bible if Christians decide to start taking their cues on this issue from the world. It could very well be next in line for some serious “rephrasing”.  

The Bible was intended to offend (John 6:60-62, Matthew 11:6) 

The Idol of “Nice”-

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols~ 1stJohn 5:21 NIV

“Being nice” has become an idol we worship with wild abandon. 

Before you exit out to write me a long comment listing detailing the countless ways people have become rude, vulgar and belligerent, read on. 

I have not lost my mind.  

It is true that there are many people in our culture who become aggressively rude, foulmouthed and abusive at the tiniest provocation. However, if you look at the context of their aggression; their hostility is nearly always directed at people who they categorize as hateful, rude or disrespectful. 

It is never acceptable to be “not nice” anymore. Unless, of course someone else is determined to be “not nice”. Once the judgment of “not nice” has been established, literally anything goes. It is then acceptable to unleash untold hell on those judged to be “not nice”.  

This insight came as I was reading an article. The writer of the article believes evangelical support for President Trump (rather than the churches lack of holiness or the average Christian’s reluctance to share the gospel) is hurting our Christian witness in America. He believes that it would be best for Christian voters to dump Trump and take our lumps with whoever gets elected next; rather than continuing to discredit the reputation of Christianity with support for the President. 

The primary grievance the writer seemed to have with the President is not his with policies but rather his lack of politeness and absence of niceness. It is true there are those who do have issues with Trump’s conservative policies. However, they rarely attack his policies. Instead they focus endlessly on his lack of decorum, dignity and niceness.  

Sigh. 

Our collective obsession with niceness transcends the realm of politics.  Despite laws safeguarding free speech there is an influential movement afoot to shut down any and all speech thought to be “not nice”.  Racist, sexist and homophobic speech has been deemed the least “nice” speech because that sort of speech is categorically awful.  Clever individuals have recognized that the most efficient way to silence speech they don’t like and to be given the go ahead to be “not nice” to the person speaking is to twist their speech into something racist, sexist and/or homophobic. Universities routinely suppress the speech of students who hold views considered “not nice”. These same schools regularly disinvite speakers whiny students feel are “not nice”. Professors have actually been fired from jobs for openly sharing views decreed “not nice”.

There’s more:

The Berkley city council has prohibited the use of gender specific pronouns in their city code because it is “not nice” to call someone a pronoun they don’t identify with. Berkley has determined that it is categorially “not nice” to offend a gender confused person or a woman or anyone so now a manhole cover will be called a “maintenance hole” and manpower will be termed “human effort” and brothers and sisters will now be called “siblings”. 

Welcome to 1984 folks. 

The entire west coast is being taken over by homeless people. Sections of entire cities are no longer fit to live in. Nothing is being done to correct this problem or help the homeless because it has been determined by mostly democratic leadership in those cities that it is “not nice” to make judgments about the lifestyle choices of others. Medical professionals will admit in their more vulnerable moments they are reluctant to tell patients they are overweight or that their lifestyle choices are going to kill them because they do not want to be perceived as “not nice” or “judgmental”. 

The idol of nice has slipped into the church and is creating chaos.  For years now, churches, even evangelical churches have systematically softened language concerning sin. In some situations, churches have stopped discussing topics—no matter how biblical those topics might be— because someone— somewhere might possibly feel those topics are “not nice”. The teachings of Calvinism have made serious inroads in recent years, even in denominations that are not traditionally Calvinistic. I suspect one of the reasons Calvinism has become popular is because Calvinism teaches Christians they never have to tell unbelievers they are going to hell or even evangelize them (decidedly “not nice” things). Calvinists believe it is the sole responsibility of the Holy Spirit to reach unbelievers and He does not want or need our help. If these strategies were effective I would support them, but they are not. Church attendance has plummeted and authentic conversions have become rarer. The vast majority of church growth in recent decades has been what experts call “transfer growth” or Christians simply transferring from one church or denomination to another church or denomination.   

Idols must be dealt with decisively.  

Christians must balance “niceness” with truthfulness in a culture that is literally dying before our very eyes (Ephesians 4:15, Ephesians 4:25). It is the ultimate in fiddling while Rome burns to worry more about being labeled “not nice” than to worry about the souls of people or the future of our civilization.  

I Cast One Vote for A Little Less Civilization-

Stop fooling yourselves. If you count yourself above average in intelligence, as judged by this world’s standards, you had better put this all aside and be a fool rather than let it hold you back from the true wisdom from above- 1stCorinthians 3:18 TLB 

I am an unapologetic fan of the refinements a civilized society provides. 

The refinements of civilization include (but are not limited to) gems such as indoor plumbing, civil rights, ready-to-wear clothing, paved roads, and an objective system of justice. Nor, should we forget about electricity, education for all people even poor people, toilet paper, human rights and around the clock delivery services.  

Synonyms for the word civilized include: educated, sophisticated, polite, enlightened and improved. No normal person would argue against education, politeness, enlightenment, improvement and toilet paper.

Seriously.  

This week my views were challenged. The challenge ensued as I was listening to a podcast about biological boys who identify as girls competing in girls’ sports. The host (Eric Metaxes) said in passing that he was afraid we have become so civilized as a society concerning this issue that we have essentially lost our good sense and ability to distinguish fantasy from reality.

As a lover of civilization I found his choice of words offensive. It felt absurd to intimate that a society could become too advanced, too enlightened, too polite and too sophisticated. But then I found some definitions for the word civilization. One caught my attention:   

The act or process of civilizing, as by bringing out of a savage, uneducated, or unrefined state. 

Okay, so, it occurred to me that one trait of savage, uneducated and unrefined people is that they do not fear rejecting ideas that appear idiotic and inane. Because they are unsophisticated and savage they laugh, mock and scoff at ideas that make no sense. Savages have not been trained to look deeper than the obvious so they make their judgments based on the obvious and are unafraid to state the obvious. 

 Conversely, educated, enlightened and polite people have been taught to believe that open-mindedness is the highest value humans can attain to. Therefore, the obvious answer is rarely the correct answer, it just appears to be correct to unsophisticated savages who do not know any better. Educators reinforce this mindset by reminding students frequently that people once believed that the earth was flat because it appears to flat and that for centuries no one believed disease was spread by germs because no one could see germs. 

Differences over what exactly makes an individual a male or a female is one of the clearest illustrations of this phenomenon. To an “uncivilized” person, it is evident that a man who SAYS he is a woman is not actually a woman.  The man in question might wish he was a woman or enjoy pretending he is a woman. It’s even possible he might think he has female feelings.  An “uncivilized” person would say that feelings cannot alter reality. A person is what their DNA and private parts say they are. Period. An “uncivilized” person would also say that allowing a man who says he is woman to play sports against actual women or offering reproductive healthcare to people who were not born with actual uterus’s is just a whole lot of crazy talk.

That’s not all. 

There are members of an “anti-fascist” organization committing real acts of physical violence against people who SAY things the “anti-fascists” find aggressive. The “anti-fascists” feel very strongly that hurtful words and hostile speech are actually forms of violence, every bit as painful as being kicked in the crotch. Therefore, the “anti-fascists” feel it is perfectly rational to kick people in the crotch, punch people in the face and throw objects at anyone who they feel is verbally aggressive. A sophisticated person would say that if the “anti-fascists” FEEL words are every bit as violent as actions, who are we to argue with them? Perhaps for those soft-hearted, little cupcakes getting called a mean name or having their worldview questioned is just as hurtful as say, being punched repeatedly in the face. 

There’s more.

 A baby is only a baby if the woman pregnant with the baby wants it to be a baby. If a woman does not want the baby to be a baby, it magically transforms into a soulless blob of tissue. The courts have decided it is not acceptable to ask a perfectly acceptable question on the census form because some feel the MOTIVES for asking the question might be dubious. If one person feels another person said something racist then the person is a racist. If one pampered football player feels a symbol means something sinister then the symbol is suddenly sinister.  

Sigh.

Somewhere, somehow the “civilized” among us decided that feelings are more important than science, truth, or the actual experiences of millions of people. When feelings are king even the most “civilized” among us will nod their heads at pure madness simply because it is uncivilized and impolite to do anything else.

Maybe it’s time to be a little less “civilized” and lot more sensible.  

Six Things-

For the ear tests words, as the palate tastes food. Let us choose justice for ourselves;
let us know among ourselves what is good- Job 34:2-3 NKJV

I had an unusual problem this week. I found myself totally at a loss for a decent blog topic. 

Typically, blog topics just kind of come to me. But, for some reason it just didn’t happen this week.  Typically, by Tuesday afternoon I have an idea locked down and ready to go but for some reason I literally had nothing this week. 

Zero. Zilch. Nada.

 So, I did this thing I do on the rare occasions I find myself utterly desperate for thought-provoking writing material. I spent a couple of hours one-night binge-watching some of the popular cable news channels (FOX, CNN, MSNBC). I have found in the past that there is almost always enough crazy stuff being reported on the news to generate at least a blog post or two. 

It worked. 

I learned a lot that night, most of it was more than a bit maddening. I also ended-up with a serious glut of excess material. It turns out there is quite a lot of super outrageous stuff going on in the world.  I do not believe Christians should run or hide from the ugliness and sin in our world. Christians are called to fight darkness rather than flee from it. Because I believe that I decided to share (most) of what I learned. My hope is that you will spend some time in prayer over these issues and looking for ways to engage with our sin-sick world.

The sex industry is being normalized for teens by adults who are smart enough to know better- 

A popular periodical marketed to girls between the ages of 12 and 17 published an article about the importance of destigmatizing and normalizing “sex work” (AKA prostitution). The article was entitled “Sex Work is Real Work”. For the record, no one has to convince me that sex workis real work. Sex work is without a doubt the most grueling, dreadful, dehumanizing, horrific work there is. What I don’t understand is why a magizine that presents itself as pro-girl and pro-woman would write an article that glamourizes the job and might possibly inspire young women to consider a vocation that degrades, marginalizes and damages women solely for the sexual gratification of men. Wasn’t that the sort of thing feminism was supposed to end? 

Drug use is trendy once again-

Recreational drug use became popular in the 1960’s and use rose steadily throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. Then drug use plummeted in the early years of the 21stcentury.  For the first time since the 1980’s drug use is rising among 8th, 10thand 12thgraders. When questioned about drug use teens admit that this is due almost entirely to decriminalization and legalization efforts on the state level. Legalization and decriminalization have removed fears of addiction and being saddled with a criminal record. As a result, for the first time in decades teens view drug use as a potential positive rather than an overwhelmingly negative experience. This means that millions more teenagers are voluntarily damaging their brains before they really even get an opportunity to use them.  

City and State leaders are refusing to be honest about homelessness- 

Homelessness is booming (especially in the West). Leaders in cities where homelessness has become an issue refuse to blame the thing those who work with the homeless say is the number one cause of homelessness: drug use. Perhaps it’s because those states are beginning to view taxing drug use as a potential money maker and they don’t want to admit that there is a cost to legalizing drugs and encouraging drug use. 

 HBO has a new program for teens- 

In its first season Euphoriahas showcased hardcore drug use, full frontal nudity, masturbation, endless expressions of nihilism and transgender teenagers having sex with adults. Whoo-hoo. Thanks HBO, we didn’t have nearly enough filth on T.V. 

A small minority of parents are cashing in on their children’s gender confusion-

Apparently, there are parents who dress their kids up as the opposite gender and parading them around for money. I literally have no words and I always have words. Words are my thing. We obviously need revival if these parents aren’t in jail for this.

Powerful words are being abused- 

This is nothing new.  Hardly a week goes by when a lawmaker or newscaster doesn’t call someone a NAZI or refer to the holocaust in an inappropriate manner. But this week Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took it to a new level when she claimed that immigrants who voluntarily turned themselves in at the border hoping to become citizens are being forced to live in “concentration camps”. Sigh.   

A tiny minority is redefining morality-

A particular senator who is hoping to become the President stated emphatically this past week that taking a pro-life position is so outside the mainstream that pro-life people shouldn’t be judges. What? Who gave this woman the “right” to redefine what the mainstream is or isn’t?  

Okay, so, now you have a prayer list for the week. Let’s get to it. 

Five Things every Christian Ought to Think About Everyday-

Finally, brothers and sisters, 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~ Philippians 4:8 NIV

 I have been “cursed” with a temperament that tends to overthink just about everything. I also veer towards thinking a lot about a lot of different issues. There is literally no end to the number of random thoughts and ideas that flit through my head in a given day. Regrettably, I do not have a mind like a steel trap. As a result, most of those thoughts and ideas depart as quickly as they appear.

All that being said, occasionally someone will say something that will cause a random thought to take root and I will spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about a subject and that subject makes its way into a blog post. 

Such was the case this past week. 

 We have teenager in our home who states at least six times a day that she “just didn’t think” about something. The things the girl does not think about are things most people think about all the time without even realizing they are thinking about them. Her curiously vexing acknowledgement has gotten me thinking a great deal about the subject of thinking. More specifically, I have been thinking about how what we think about (or don’t think about) shapes who we become and what we do. In the NASB version of the Bible Proverbs 23:7 says that what a man thinks about he eventually becomes and Jesus further expresses the same idea in Mark 7:21 when He states that evil thoughts always precede evil behavior. 

 Very few (if any) Christians are inclined toward the kind of thinking that leads to openly evil behavior. Rather, most Christians tend towards the kind of wrong thinking that leads to misguided or incorrect behavior. The problem with misguided or incorrect behavior committed by Christians is that it almost always leads to a kind of passive evil that hurts people on an eternal level because it is done in the name of religion. The bottom line on this issue is that what Christians choose to think about matters. I came up with five random things I believe we should all think about on a regular basis because if we don’t we suffer and so does everyone else.  

Beginning with:   

People really can change-

The gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ is about far more than simply sidestepping an eternity spent in hell (although that message is definitely in there). The really good news of the gospel is that sinful, dirty, mucked-up human beings can be entirely transformed into new people with new desires and new attitudes when they put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ (Romans 12:2, 2ndCorinthians 3:18, 2ndCorinthians 5:17). When we forget this categorically startling truth it diminishes the churches power to transform the culture because we tend to sideline those Christians we deem less desirable due to their lack of education, past mistakes or upbringing. It also keeps individuals from personally seeking the radical transformation necessary for every Christian to reach their full potential in Jesus. 

God loves people we don’t love just as much as He loves us-

God loves all of us in spite of our idiocy, faults, weaknesses and inability to pull it together and get the job done. That means that God wants the ridiculous, bothersome, entirely not self-aware people in our lives to learn from their mistakes, grow in their relationships and become better people. He might even be using us to orchestrate those things in their lives. Keep this truth at the forefront of your mind next time another Christian starts to bug you.  

 Feelings are mostly wrong-

Recently, a real live human (a Christian) told me with a straight face that if they “felt that something was true their feelings made it true”. I will not lie, it took me a minute to recover my bearings. I am categorically unaccustomed to hearing that kind of bold-faced insanity being spoken aloud. Once I recovered, I quickly pointed out that two people can have opposing feelings about the exact same issue or situation.  When that kind of conflict develops it has to be an agreed upon set of facts that becomes the deciding factor in what is true. If any other standard becomes the norm we will devolve into moral and intellectual chaos.

Politics and religion are not equal-

I have some strong political views, most of them are solidly conservative. I try to base my views on biblical truth rather than my feelings or what our Western culture believes about a particular issue. However, even with those qualifiers my political views are not on the same level as my religious beliefs. We should be very careful about writing off other people based entirely on their political opinions. Rather, we should attempt to persuade those who think differently than we do with reason, grace and biblical truth. 

 And finally, mercy is way better than judgment, I am a truth person. This reality is demonstrated in the fact that every spiritual gifts’ test I have ever taken I consistently scored lowest on mercy. Every. Single. Time. Even the times I tried to cheat and game the test I still scored dead last on mercy.  I am not proud of this fact but it is a fact. I fought against this fact for years and tried desperately to be softer and squishier than the way God made me. It took me a while to realize that people like me add something necessary to the body of Christ. We keep the feelers from getting excessively feely and the mercy folks from handing out cheap grace like it was fun-size candy on Halloween. That being said, with God mercy always wins out over judgment (James 2:13) and if I want to be like Jesus I have to embrace the grace and mercy He came to give. 

Five Steps to Begin the Process of Healing a Sick Marriage-

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV

 My husband and I have been married for nearly three decades and our marriage, like most marriages has gone through its fair share of ups and downs over the years. Through the good and the bad I have concluded that there is nothing in this world quite as great as a good marriage. Nothing is better or more rewarding in this life than the closeness, camaraderie and fun of a healthy, happy marriage. Conversely, a bad marriage is nothing short of hell on earth. There are simply no words to describe the awkward agony of waking-up every single day of your life next to the person you least want to talk to.

 It just sucks.

 All marriages (even the really great ones) inevitably go through at least one season where communication halts and the relationship feels doomed. During this period both parties inevitably wonder if it’s even worth it to keep trying.

 Like many young couples, that season came fairly early on in our marriage. We spent the better part of a really miserable year either squabbling bitterly over the most stupid stuff imaginable or giving each other the silent treatment over the same stupid stuff. Needless to say we were not “living our best life”. However at the end of that really awful year, we had worked through a horde of really thorny issues, our relationship was stronger and we were both better, happier, healthier people.

 Marriage matters.

Therefore everything that can be done to fix a bad marriage should be done. Every marriage is different and every situation is unique, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution to fixing a bad marriage. However, the following five recommendations can be a game-changer in even the most broken relationships:

 Choose to be kind no matter how the other person responds-

 Kindness is a quality conspicuously missing in unhappy marriages. Too often we wait for the other person to be kind before we show kindness. That sort of willful pride and stubbornness never yields anything healthy or good. In order for a healing process to begin, one person has to humble him or herself and commit to speaking kindly to—and doing thoughtful things for—the other person. Even if the other person acts like a jerk at first. Usually, the other person eventually responds in kind and the marriage gets a new beginning.    

Lay down your weapons-

 Each half of an unhappy couple has their own arsenal of verbal weapons they use to emotionally pummel their spouse. It might be calling the other person hurtful names or constantly reminding them of a past sin or bringing up a character flaw. Whatever it is, at the root of any arsenal is one of two things: either the sin of unforgiveness or pure meanness. whatever the case may be, I advise immediate repentance.

 Nix the silent treatment-

 Not everyone uses the silent treatment. Those who do, use it to shut down conversations they are too immature to have or as a tool to get their own way. People who employ this method have learned that if they clam-up for long enough, more often than not, the other person will eventually acquiesce to whatever they want just to end the awkwardness. The silent treatment is a self-indulgent, passive-aggressive power play that not only destroys marriages but friendships and even the parent-child bond. It’s dangerous because eventually the other person will weary of the perpetual game playing and either walk out on the relationship or stay, adjust to the silence and begin living their own life. Either way the marriage is over. If one or both parties need time to calm down, that’s fine, as long as things eventually get talked out.

 Call sin what it is and and make the choice to repent-

I am thankful for the modern psychology movement because it has helped us to understand the reasons why people do the weird, sinful things people do. That said, psychology has also helped to create an environment where we blame our sin on other people or trauma, rather than our own choices. It is not uncommon for Christians to blame genetics, stress, or a bad upbringing for behavior the Bible calls willful sinfulness. The bottom line is that no matter our experiences we are all responsible before God for what we do and don’t do. We all have the ability to make changes. Change begins with the acknowledgment that our behavior is sinful, even if the behavior or attitude has a genetic component or came about as a result of trauma. This must be followed-up with a commitment to obedience and permanent repentance.

 And finally, look at you. One characteristic common to all bad marriages is that both parties almost always have their focus firmly fixed on the bad behavior of their spouse. Conversely, both parties are also unwilling to own-up to their own bad habits, problems. No one on a bad marriage is willing to acknowledge how their sin is creating chaos in the relationship. If you want to fix your marriage, stop focusing on what the other person is or isn’t doing. Instead, make a commitment to pray about what you need to change or begin doing so that you can become the husband or wife God wants you to be.

     

Responding to Hurt

I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know. For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me; inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst~ Job 32:17-19 NIV

 My father-in-law died seventeen years ago without warning from a massive stroke. He was a good man, relatively  young and healthy. His death was an enormous shock. Immediately following the funeral one of his work colleagues “comforted” my husband by telling him he could “relate to his grief” because his dog had died the week before.

 I know a man in his sixties who still remembers with tears in his eyes the sting of having his first-grade teacher tell him he was struggling to learn to read because he was “dumb.”

 A friend suffered through the heartache of several miscarriages before giving birth to two healthy children. After each miscarriage at least one person told her that she should be grateful she miscarried because “there was probably something wrong with it anyway”.

 If had a dollar for every time some nitwit encouraged me in an overly calm tone to “just relax” when freaking out was clearly the reasonable option, I would be writing from a lawn chair on a sunny beach right now.  

 Words.

 Anyone who has lived longer than a decade in this world has undoubtedly been the casualty of stupid, hurtful or just plain thoughtless words. The most painful kind of hurtful words are words that attack things about ourselves that we cannot change, such as our looks or intellectual abilities. Insensitive words wound by getting inside our heads and altering how we see ourselves and view the world.

 God has a lot to say on the subject of words. The writer of Proverbs cautions his readers:“The tongue has the power of life and death.” 1st Corinthians thirteen teaches that one significant aspect of loving others well is avoiding the use of rude or boastful words. In Matthew 12:36 Jesus warns of looming judgment for those who habitually speak without carefully considering the impact their words might have on others.    

 Decent people agree that words should never be impulsively spoken or unnecessarily rude. No one should speak without carefully considering how they would feel if someone said the same thing to them if they found themselves in the same situation.

 All that being said, how we respond to the stupid stuff people say to us, is from a spiritual perspective, every bit as important as being careful about what we say to others. Responding with grace to hurtful words begins with the sometimes-difficult admission that we too have hurt others with our words just as we have been hurt by the thoughtless words of other people. I once informed a boy who declared his affection for me in a love note that I would never return his feelings because he “smelled weird” (proof-positive that sometimes mean things are also true). I still squirm when I think about some of the hurtful “guidance” I hastily doled out to others when I was beyond old enough to know better.

 There is an inclination in our day and age for people, even Christian people, to take hurtful words to heart and nurture their hurt by ruminating on hurtful words rather than choosing to forgive and move on. Nurturing hurt does nothing but create a breeding ground for bitterness and inevitably leads us to use our wounds as a justification to:

  1. Shut the offender out of our lives completely.
  2. Gossip about their lack of empathy to any who will listen.
  3. Freak out, say whatever is on OUR minds and then demand an apology that the offender probably won’t mean even if they do say it.

 All of the above reactions feel great but are categorically wrong. Each one feeds our sin nature, shuts down communication and effectively ends the relationship. Offense and unresolved hurt over careless words are the devil’s preferred playground. Offense keeps us self-focused, bitter and unable to see ourselves or others clearly.

 Letting go of hurt is not easy. We have to discipline our minds to take the hurt we feel to God and ask Him to empower us to let go of hurt, rather than hang on to it. We must be willing to pray that people who say foolish, mean or hurtful things, will become more self-aware and we must choose forgiveness every time.