I met Michelle on the Peaceful Wife blog, when she responded to a guest post I wrote called, “When ‘Submit’ Seems like a Dirty Word”. Michelle agreed to let me tell her story, here. May it encourage you deeply:
This came as a complete shock to Michelle. Yes, they had been going through a hard time, but Michelle figured their strife was the result of suffering through four years of unexplained infertility. That would strain any marriage. But now her husband wanted to quit the marriage altogether? Michelle was devastated. Thankfully, God was there.
Michelle began spending lots of time in her prayer closet. She begged God to give her some resources to help with the intense pain she was feeling. That’s when God led Michelle to the Peaceful Wife blog. Through lots of blog posts and Scripture reading, Michelle experienced something she was not expecting: She felt convicted.
It’s MY Fault?
God began to open Michelle’s eyes to the deep-rooted disrespect in her attitude toward her husband. While he wasn’t completely innocent, some of this (maybe most of it?) was her fault. What a face-palm experience!
Michelle had a habit of verbally assaulting her husband whenever she was hurt, angry, tired, or hormonal. She would lecture him on his behavior, or sulk for hours. These behaviors never brought any relief, but Michelle felt justified in these responses because she saw her pain as his fault.
Now, however, Michelle saw that she had been causing her husband pain! Repeatedly and habitually, she had been wounding him by:
- judging him
- constantly questioning his choices
- taking over tasks that he was doing “wrong”
- interrupting him
- trying to control every moment of his day
- making him feel as though he couldn’t do anything right
Michelle realized she was a very controlling, disrespectful wife, but by God’s grace, she was going to change. She knew it would take more than just being “nice” to keep divorce out of her future. Michelle’s heart needed to change.
Over the next four months, Michelle went to work, tearing out some of the wrong behavior and thinking patterns which the devil had used to hold her captive. Michelle began treating her husband with honor and respect. She started measuring her words, rather than unleashing pent up negativity on him. If she had a need or was upset about something, Michelle approached her husband in a God-honoring way.
Amazingly, Michelle’s marriage made a drastic shift. Back in December—when her husband asked for a divorce, he had no kind words or hugs for her. Now, every day held new hugs, cuddling, and compliments from him—which was so very nice!
Over those first months, God was gracious to ease Michelle in gently, but now it was time for a test.
It was April, and for two weeks Michelle’s stress had been rising. She sensed spiritual attac The children she takes care of had been behaving terribly, which wasn’t like them. And her husband had been staying out late and not texting her, which wasn’t like him. Plus, he had been neglecting to do a few things around the house.
For three weeks, Michelle had gently asked if he would mow the lawn. It was now embarrassingly overgrown—so long, the kids could hardly play outside! One day, Michelle’s husband promised that he would be home by 4 p.m. He would mow the grass, and then they would grill some hamburgers for dinner. Perfect.
But 4 p.m. came and went with no sign of him and no text.
Then 5 p.m. came and went.
By 5:45 p.m., Michelle was in her prayer closet, crying and shaking. She was absolutely fighting the desire to control her husband relieve her pain by lashing out in anger the moment he got home. She was so frustrated with him! Michelle begged God for the grace to not give in to her flesh!
He finally arrived at 6 p.m., after going to work out at the gym. Rather than attacking him, Michelle gently approached her husband about hurting her. She said, “I want to respect you. How can I help you with this situation?”
The whole interchange went so well that Michelle’s husband even hugged her and thanked her for approaching him so nicely. He went out to mow the grass and Michelle collapsed in gratitude. The crazy, controlling wife of twelve years had chosen to walk in the Spirit instead of the flesh! By the power of Jesus, Michelle had said no to herself and yes to God! She had passed the test! And now, with the mower buzzing in the background, she was completely awash in peace.
Michelle prayed, “And now, please Lord, give me a little rest before another round!” She knows that there will be battles ahead, but she also knows she can have victory by giving control to God!
I love Michelle’s story, don’t you? Notice five truths that are highlighted in her experience.
1. A disrespectful, controlling wife is often oblivious to her own sin.
Husbands are profoundly hurt by disrespect. We wives intuitively know this, and we often use it to our advantage when vying for control. What we fail to intuitively see is how very wrong we are.
Michelle had no idea how hurtful she was being. She was shocked that her husband wanted divorce. All she wanted was control! But when a wife is controlling, her husband (correctly) perceives this as disrespect, which God says is wrong. (Eph. 5:33)
2. God will show us our sin if we invite Him to.
I’m sure being convicted of her own sin was the last thing Michelle was hoping for, when she turned to God in devastation. But God is for us when he shows us our sin.
The sin of wanting control (which is another way of saying we want to play God) is so damaging to relationships. God shows us our sin, not because He wants to further devastate us, but because he wants our relationships to be healed.
3. Words have the power to destroy or heal.
Harsh, belittling, angry words, which naturally erupt from a controlling heart, have a corrosive effect on relationships—especially marriage. The opposite is also true. A wife who carefully measures her words and speaks only in an honoring, respectful way, can help heal her marriage. Michelle got to witness this miracle in a matter of months! But it’s important to note that either sort of words spring up from our hearts, which is where the change must originate.
4. Change happens when I say no to me and yes to God.
Michelle talked about doing battle with her flesh. Having the desire to be a godly, respectful, honoring wife is only half the battle. The other half of the battle is when we don’t want to!
Michelle was doing great until the grass got embarrassingly long. Then once again that desire to control her husband (the desire of the flesh) rose within her. Paul warned us this would happen:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for they are opposed to each other , to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Gal. 5:16-17
Do you hear the battle in those verses? The “test” Michelle experienced was a clash of wills—her own will and the will of the Spirit within her. Who was going to have control? Notice that Michelle went back to her prayer closet to prepare herself for battle. She was asking God for the power to say no to herself, and yes to Him.
Friends, we cannot be assured of a certain outcome (like a husband deciding against divorce). Change happens, not when we try to control the future (we can’t!), but when we let God have control of us.
5. Change IS possible!
For Control Girls like me, Michelle’s story imparts such hope! We can change. Yes, it will hurt to have God point out our sin. Yes, we will have to do battle with our flesh. But as we wrestle against our heart’s desire for control and put God in charge (instead of ourselves), change is possible. It happens gradually over time—one overgrown lawn after another.
Come and hear, all you who fear God,
And I will tell what he has done for my soul.
I cried to him with my mouth
And high praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
The Lord would not have listened;
But truly God has listened;
He has attended the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be to God,
Because he has not rejected my prayer
Or removed his steadfast love from me!
(Psalm 66:16-20 emphasis, mine.)