What Is Your Attitude Toward Your Household?

By H. A. Ironside (adapted from “Addresses On The Book Of Joshua,” pp.32-34)

“And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death. ” —Joshua 2:13 KJV

In this request Rahab showed a remarkable understanding of the desire of the God of Israel, for all through Scripture we see it is the purpose of God: His desire and will is to save His people in families, in households. If He shows mercy to one person in a household it is an indication that He wants to save every member of that family. Speaking of the coming judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, God said of Abraham, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do? … For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him” (Gen. 18:17,19).
Oh, Christian fathers and mothers, what about your attitude toward your households? Have you recognized your responsibility? Are you acting for God in the home to command your children after you? I know we live in a day of self-expression when we are taught that we should not quell the natural desires of our children, and most of us have given way to this teaching. As a result we have unconverted children in our homes, whose ways are the expression of their vile, wicked, corrupt natures. Scripture says, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Prov. 22:15).

Mrs. William Booth, wife of the first general of the Salvation Army, who reared a large family of eight children, claimed every one of them for God before they were born. She used to say, “I refuse to bring any child into the world to be damned in hell at last” (See 2 Th. 2:12). In their early days some of those children thought their mother was rather stern and hard because she would not allow them to go into the things of the world like other children, but the day came when every one of them thanked their mother for standing between them and the world, and all grew up to preach Christ and seek to bring others to Him.

A tremendous responsibility rests on parents in these matters. Too many parents say, “I will let my child go just so far in the ways of the world, and I hope eventually he will come to God,” only to learn that later on he does not desire to know God at all. Your child may rebel against your correction, but he will thank you for it later on when he has come to know the Lord. Your child may look upon you as old-fashioned, but when at last he has turned to Christ for salvation then he will indeed thank you for ever having sought to lead him in the way of righteousness.

Rahab was a poor woman who had gone down into the depth of sin, but now had turned to God, and her heart cried out for the deliverance of her loved ones; so she pleaded for her household.

In the New Testament we read of the Philippian jailor who came thinking only of himself. He cried out, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Apparently his family was gathered about him, and Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:30-31). That night there was great rejoicing in that house. The whole household was brought to faith in Christ and they confessed His name in baptism.

If you are the only saved member in your household, lay hold of God and in faith cry to Him for salvation for the other members of your family. Live Christ before them and look to God to bring them all to Himself. In this we may closely emulate the faith of Rahab.

In The Hands Of The LORD Of Hosts In Shiloh

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” —2 Timothy 2:15 KJV

By Scott Cassell

One key to understanding any section of the Bible is to clearly grasp how our Lord related to His people in the particular passage. In 1 Samuel 1:3, God’s title is given as “The LORD of hosts in Shiloh.” “Hosts” means “armies of heaven.” As the LORD of Hosts, God seeks to bless His own – us – with portions from Himself. He delights to use heavenly resources to bring us into practical possession of spiritual things. The Lord desires that we conquer spiritual ground and occupy it by what we do – and He will use the entire complement of His hosts that we might be blessed in this way.

Our enemies seek to occupy that heavenly ground, but it is intended for the saints. When Elisha’s servant was distressed by the surrounding army from Syria, the prophet prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened to see the Lord’s hosts standing nearby (2 Ki. 6:15-19). Elisha’s prayer was answered, and the servant then saw “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about.”

A Few Points From Joshua
The whole book of Joshua is very encouraging. In chapter 18 we read of the children of Israel assembling at Shiloh. Shiloh means “peaceful tranquility.” It was the proper place for His people, having journeyed out of Egypt, to begin their battles; and it was the place to return for solace later. There, Israel set up the tent of meeting, and we read the land of Canaan “was subdued before them” (v.1).

At this juncture in Israel’s journey, seven of the twelve tribes had yet to have their inheritance allocated. The New Testament book of Colossians was written to saints in much the same position. The passage in Joshua pictures believers who have been delivered from the world and placed in the presence of God’s victories. Yet, there was still more land to occupy than what had been already gained. It may be well to recognize that we are always in such a position of having more spiritual ground yet to be occupied than what has been already gained.

Lessons From Scripture
First and Second Samuel encourage us by telling about the Lord’s people’s passing through deep exercise while He, the Lord of Hosts, blessed them richly. The blessings are from the Lord’s own hand, matching the specific needs of the individual. Hannah, for example, initially was sorely troubled and deeply vexed, but then she gave birth to the prophet Samuel, who would be a blessing for God’s people. She described herself as “a woman of sorrowful spirit … [that] out of the abundance of my grief and provocation have I spoken hitherto” (1 Sam. 1:15-16 JND). Hannah was deeply hurt and richly blessed. We still read these many years later of her faith and the godly grace that our God worked in her life. Let’s consider a few Old Testament individuals with a little more detail.

Elkanah: During the time in which these saints lived it would seem obvious that many considered it a reproach, or point of shame, for a married couple to be childless. Perhaps it was regarded as a sign that God was not blessing them. Elkanah, Hannah’s husband, seemed to do several things correctly, including taking his entire family each year to the proper location to worship and sacrifice. However, his family was divided by strife. Hannah’s response to this conflict was prayer. Elkanah, by taking a second wife so he could have children, missed the rich blessing that Hannah experienced later.

It is not God’s plan for a man to have more than one wife, yet Elkanah used natural means to remove a reproach and solve his perceived problem. By contrast, Isaac prayed for his wife, Rebekah, and God gave them children (see Gen. 25:21). Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (KJV). It is clearly stated that Elkanah loved Hannah, but it would appear that he fell short in the daily giving of himself for her benefit. This is where the rich and honest feelings of being a husband are experienced.

In 1 Samuel 1:8 Elkanah asked Hannah, “Am not I better to thee than ten sons?” Perhaps he believed, just like many men today, that the love he felt for his wife was the solution to her problems. It is clear in this chapter that such was not the case, as Hannah continued to suffer. This married couple should have passed together through the deep exercise of not having children. Such a trial would have drawn the two closer to one another. If they had acted in unity regarding Hannah’s being childless, then today we would see the prophet Samuel as the son of this godly couple rather than the son for which Hannah alone prayed. Elkanah’s actions, however, in taking a second wife greatly contributed to Hannah’s suffering. This is a sobering message to all married men. How good it is to keep the great example of our Lord and how much He gave for His bride always before us.

Eli the priest: This man is set before us as the complete anti-type to the grace that the Lord of Hosts worked in Hannah. Eli lacked discernment, as his eyes were dim. We may recall others from Scripture who were blind, Samson (Jud. 16:21) physically, and Hezekiah (Isa. 38:14) and the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:17) spiritually.

In 1 Samuel 2, a man of God came to Eli and told him that he, Eli, honored his sons more than he did the LORD. Eli wanted to enjoy the things of this world through his two young sons. They were sinfully taking food from those who came to sacrifice and using it to enrich themselves. Eli took part in the same and became fat – heavy, sitting on a stool. Sadly, it appears this father simply saw his children as ones through whom he could benefit for his own pleasure.

By the contrasts presented, a lesson the Lord teaches us in these early verses of 1 Samuel 1-2 is how He would have us to view our dear children. After the Lord had worked deeply in Hannah’s soul, she came to see her child as a “vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21). This is the crux, the best way to view having offspring.

Eve: Perhaps an often-overlooked teaching on parenting and the home is the topic of the wife ruling the house. Let me first introduce a measure of background truth. The man Adam was placed into the garden of Eden, and “thus the heavens and the earth … were finished” (Gen. 2:1). All the animals of the air, sea and land had already been created. But unlike the animals, man initially had no mate. Adam must have known he was the only human on earth and that this whole creation was new. Then we read what the LORD God said: “It is not good that the man should be alone” (v.18). God was preparing Adam for what he was about to receive. Remember Adam was in innocence. The LORD God made Eve from a rib of Adam, having said, “I will make him an help meet for him” (v.18). The “help” is the answer to the problem of his being alone – a provision of greater worth than simply what is sufficient. The next phrase is what I am seeking to bring before us and consider: “meet for him.” It means his equal.

God had created an entire universe. Of the creatures he had made for earth, Adam was at the top. Eve occupied that same place in the order of creation. It is a pleasant thing to accept the simplicity of what God has established. The wife was God’s answer to man’s loneliness, and this required that she be like him. Keep in mind that, as students of Scripture, we know that the order of the home and the public place taken by men and by women is very specific, placing men as the head of the wife (1 Cor. 11:3). Yet they both take their role so as to exhibit God’s order, that their lives will say, “We believe God is right.”

Now consider 1 Timothy 5:14: “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households …” (ESV). In the Darby translation the phrase “manage their households” is translated as “rule the house.” This is not rule over her husband, but over the children and the everyday tasks of keeping things in order. Managing a household takes much work, especially one including children. It is a grand task and the stakes are enormous. Therefore, it is folly for a man to expect his wife to have a job outside the home and still effectively manage their household. The society we live in may not value the role of a young married woman staying home to manage the house and its many associated tasks, but in God’s eyes it is of utmost importance.

Hannah: The persecution that Hannah suffered was most intense at the time of going to Shiloh to offer sacrifice. It was then that her adversary provoked her year after year. Likewise, Satan certainly reserves his most subtle wiles, or tricks, for when we plan to attend a Bible study or prayer meeting.

Hannah needed a change in her perspective. Initially she simply wanted children, but the Lord had shut up her womb – yes, this was the Lord’s doing. The LORD performed a deep work in her life, such that she came to see the needs of God’s people. Hannah saw the circumstances in Israel as personified by Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. She then asked the LORD for a man child – not just a baby, but a prophet who could turn the hearts of His people toward God. His children need to be in submission and obedience – the great healing principle of humanity.

As to her son, Hannah initially said that she would “give him unto the LORD all the days of his life” (1 Sam. 1:11 KJV). Later she changed this to “as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD” (v.28). In both statements it was for his entire life. Once her son was born to her, she came to understand that you always have your children; and when they hurt, you hurt. For grandchildren, you hurt double: first for your grandchild and second for your son or daughter. It never ends. She came to realize that she would always be attached to him.

This believing mother expected her son to grow in the Lord. She made him a little coat each year (2:19), bigger than the year before. Looking at Hannah I am reminded: What would we do without our mothers?

“And Jehovah appeared again at Shiloh; for Jehovah revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of Jehovah … And what Samuel had said happened to all Israel” (1 Sam. 3:21, 4:1 JND). It appears from these two verses that Hannah’s suffering was greatly rewarded. Once the Lord had Samuel walking before Him, then the Lord of Hosts could support his growth with all of His heavenly resources.

Consider one other example. When David was fleeing from King Saul he could count on these same resources. A large number of miraculous things happened along the way as David acted in faith. On the other hand, when he greatly sinned, everything worked against him (2 Sam. 24); and his own attempt to bless Mephibosheth ran into confusion thanks to the lies and trickery of Ziba (16:1-4, 19:24-29).

May we learn to live in full dependence on our Lord and Savior – the LORD of Hosts! We will rest in a peaceful tranquility as we trust Him and lean on His grace.

A Few Words For Mothers

By Norman Anderson (adapted)

Mothers’ hearts are needed today as much as ever. It was in a time of disorder and disarray when Deborah is brought to our attention. In her song (Jud. 5:1-9) she recalled the glorious and prosperous days when leaders led in Israel, and the people presented themselves willingly to the LORD. Those were happy days of the testimony of God, but then things changed dramatically! Lawlessness became rampant, and traveling was dangerous. There was no fear of God before the eyes of the people. Leaders had ceased (v.7). Idolatry was practiced. These are not just characteristics of days gone by, for even in our day we are exhorted, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 Jn. 5:21 KJV). What is an idol? Anything that takes the place of God in our affections!

Conflict proved their weakness: “Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?” (Jud. 5:8). Their defenses were down; they were weaponless. “Then sang Deborah … I arose a mother in Israel” (vv.1-7). What a need then, and what a need today: mothers with a heart for the testimony of God, who bless the Lord and who feel with God!

The Specialness Of A Mother
What a blessed place the mother has in the home and with the children (Prov. 31). The father, usually, spends less time with them than the mother, who scripturally is the worker at home. How responsible and yet how privileged she is to have such close links with the family in their tender and formative years. What an opportunity for godly mothers to lay a good, scriptural and Christian foundation in her children.

Our holy and ever gracious Lord, when suspended upon the cruel cross, demonstrated the perfection of His humanity. Seeing His mother standing nearby in the company of that disciple whom He loved, the Lord Jesus put the stamp of His approval upon the blessedness of the natural relationship, saying, “Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (Jn. 19:26-27). Blessed consideration of our Lord! Oh, you younger believers with believing mothers, cherish them and listen to their admonishments, for they know what is best for you. “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law [teaching] of thy mother: for they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck” (Prov. 1:8-9).

A Letter To A Mother
This leads us to the consideration of 2 John, which is probably the last household word in the Scriptures. How dignified was the approach of John in this letter to a mother, perhaps a widowed mother for it is evident she was in charge of the house (v.10). “The elder unto the elect [chosen] lady and her children” – they walked in the truth. Notice the emphasis on truth!

“The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Ps. 119:130). How much such a mother needed divine help in leading her children aright. So John desired for her, first, “grace.” Grace senses the favor of God which had opened out the grand revelation of the present era: “Jesus Christ is come in flesh” (2 Jn. 7) and “the doctrine of the Christ” (v.9). That is, Himself come down and Himself gone up, and the unfolding of the truth of the Father and the Son – even eternal life! There is no reason at all why sisters in the Lord – Christian girls and women of any age – should not be spending time in the light of God’s Word and gaining from the deep things of God. How else will they be able to teach their children the truth?

In John’s letter, following grace comes “mercy” (v.3). In the busyness of life with its daily family cares and household chores, the mother needs mercy. It is that blessed quality of care and consideration which comes down to her in all the intricacies and pressures of the daily family life, to strengthen, bear her up and arm her for the way.

Then John sought “peace” for this mother. Oh, the tranquility and serenity of the mother who knows and enjoys the favor of God and is helped by the mercy of God! Note the source: “from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (v.3) – all that He is as Lord and Head.

This is what the beloved John desired for her, and with it the consciousness of all the charm and sweetness embodied in the precious name of Jesus. He sought for her the blessed atmosphere of the divine family – “the Son of the Father, in truth and love” (v.3), the bond of all.

Encouragement For A Mother
Such then is the requested supply for a mother among the Lord’s people in our day, with its erosion of family life and other problems. Here is the bulwark to hold back these issues of the world from intruding into the Christian home: grace, mercy, peace and truth, with love. Let every mother, and father too, “love one another. And this is love, that we walk after His commandments” (vv.5-6). May we remember always that obedience to the truth is the proof of love in truth.

Using The Sword Of The Spirit

By Eugene P Vedder, Jr. (adapted from the “Prayer Calendar,” November 2015)

It has often been pointed out that the sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon on the list of the pieces of the Christian’s armor given us in Ephesians 6. In ancient times armies had many different weapons, a number of which are mentioned in the Bible. A sword, like a bayonet today, could be used at close range for both defense and offense. Likewise, God’s Word is our weapon against the enemy.

How should we use God’s Word against the enemy? God’s Word is not meant to be used as a club for the flesh. It goes without saying that we should not use our Bibles to physically hit someone. Swords are seldom used in warfare today, but fencing is still a skilled sport in the Olympics and otherwise. Using God’s Word against the enemy of our souls is not a light matter. It involves being able to use the right specific texts against our foe. God wants us to know His Word and use it with skill, but not with mere human skill. The Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible is willing and desires to aid us in how we use it.

As always, the Lord Jesus is our great example here. After His baptism He spent 40 days without food in the wilderness tempted by the Devil. Three of the temptations are recorded for us in both Matthew and Luke.

To resist Satan, our Lord, who repeatedly refers to Himself as “the Son of Man,” did not make use of His divine power as Son of God. Rather, He was here as the dependent Man, the Holy One of God, not doing His own will. According to Isaiah 50:4, He was guided by God the Father’s direction morning by morning in every word and deed. He countered each temptation by quoting a verse of Scripture refuting that temptation. He was thoroughly acquainted with even what we might think of as obscure Scripture passages. “It is written” was how He warded off every thrust of the enemy.

As we study the Acts and Epistles we find the apostles often quoting from the Old Testament in their messages and writings. Those who know Greek tell us that some of these quotations are from the Septuagint, a translation into Greek of the Old Testament that had been made more than 200 years earlier. Other quotations are very literal translations from the Hebrew, and some are very free renderings of or allusions to the passage referred to in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit guided the apostles in all that they said or wrote. We appreciate too that the Holy Spirit led the New Testament writers, thereby providing us with an absolutely accurate record of the apostles’ teaching.

We also know, but often do not bear in mind, that in scriptural times every copy of any portion of God’s Word was written by hand. Scrolls were bulky and costly, and very few people would have possessed their own copies of such books. Printing was not invented until the mid-1400’s. We are enormously blessed to have in our language personal copies of the Bible that we can read and carry with us wherever we go! We can even store the entire Bible on a cell phone.

In the days of the Lord and His apostles many people were illiterate, a problem that even today has not been completely overcome. To be able to use the sword of the Spirit meant that a person had paid careful attention when hearing the Word read, had taken it in, digested it and, in all likelihood, memorized portions of it. Likewise we are to hide God’s Word in our hearts, the center of our beings. This is more than just having an intellectual knowledge of the Word.

Memorization is something that many of our educational systems no longer promote. We can understand this in terms of the things of this world. All sorts of information is readily available to us with a few clicks of the fingers on the internet. God’s Word, however, is not just for the mind.

Technology has made it easy to count how many times a word or phrase occurs in the Bible or in a portion of it, whether in our own language or in the original Hebrew or Greek in which God’s Word was written. But what does this mean to our heart? How do we grow in our appreciation of the preciousness of the Lord Jesus or of the privilege of being a member of the body of Christ? How do we grow in our longing to please Him and to make Him known? Such joys and desires are matters of the heart rather than merely of the mind!

One way we give assent to the value of memorization is by having our children learn verses and recite them in Sunday School. Yet we tend to be rather half-hearted in this. Often we commend a child who stumbles through or even reads a single verse that he began to learn a few minutes earlier, and which he will in all likelihood forget before the end of the day. We seldom explain the meanings of words and concepts which the child does not understand, and we most often expect the verses to be memorized in an antiquated translation to which children have difficulty relating. We would help our children and new Christians better to hide God’s Word in their hearts if they would be taught the meanings of the verses they learn. In Nehemiah’s day God’s earthly people rejoiced “because they had understood the words that were declared unto them” (Neh. 8:12), not simply because they had been at a big, unusually important meeting. Following this meeting they were interested in learning more of what God had to say to them!

Hiding God’s Word in our hearts is more than merely memorizing Scripture. God has given most of our children excellent minds. It is amazing how much they can take in and how well they can learn! God gives them credit for wanting to learn too, and He tells parents to answer their questions. One of our biggest mistakes in teaching our children the Word is to ask school age children to learn only one verse a week. Most are capable of learning longer passages, far more than we usually expect them to do. It pays to take time to answer their questions, encourage and challenge them to learn to use and become proficient in the use of the sword of the Spirit. How greatly we can help them by taking time to read God’s Word to them and with them, teaching them to understand what God says and helping them to hide these things in their hearts. We too will be helped as we help them! God’s Word is a rich mine of treasure. There is no limit to how much we can enjoy it and be benefited by seeking to understand and hide it in our hearts, making it part of our inmost being.

By Eugene P Vedder, Jr. (adapted from the “Prayer Calendar,” November 2015)

Resolving Family Conflicts

By Emmanuel V. John

Last month we considered several techniques to aid in resolving family conflicts using the “REL” in the word “RELATIONSHIP.” As a reminder, the acrostic is shown below. This month we continue by beginning with the letter “A.” 

RRespect the person, recognize the conflict and draw resources from God.
EEvaluate the situation and establish new principles for marital and family relationships.
LLet go of resentment, initiate love and clarify roles.
AApproach the situation with a positive attitude and be accessible to one another.
TTackle the problems and put on virtues.
IImprove communication skills.
OOvercome criticism and negativism by intellectual and spiritual intervention.
NName the problem and nurture the family relationships.
SStart again to build the relationship.
HHelp each other in a humble manner.
IIntervene early in the conflict to begin positive changes.
PPromote problem solving skills.

Approach The Situation With A Positive Attitude And Be Accessible To One Another
One’s approach, attitude and accessibility to another are very important in resolving relationship conflicts. Knowledge without love may cause one to say the right thing but in a wrong manner. This is not communication! We live in a world where everyone has something to say but no one has time to listen. As a result, the family has difficulty in resolving conflicts. It is important for the husband to be available and accessible to the wife and children, and vice versa. The heart cry of so many is not for loved ones to give presents to compensate for their lack of availability, but it is for their presence in order that communication and sharing of emotions can take place.

Many husbands are busy with their jobs to such an extent that the family is given the leftovers. The situation is like a husband going to a restaurant, enjoying a delicious meal and then asking the server to put his remaining food in a bag to take home as a gift to his wife. Such husbands spend most of their time immersed in their jobs and hobbies and then have no time for their wives and children.

In order to resolve conflicts, husbands and wives should be available and accessible to each other and to the children. This accessibility can promote enjoyment between family members. If the husband is home he is available to demonstrate spiritual leadership, can listen to and show respect for his wife and children, and is able to properly discipline the children. When conflicts are resolved in a calm, cooperative and prayerful manner, a healthy relationship is maintained.

Tackle The Problems And Put On Virtues 
Deal with conflict as soon as possible by attacking the problem, not the person! It is often “the little foxes that spoil the vines” (Song 2:15 NKJV). When small, seemingly unimportant incidents are left unresolved, they accumulate and result in an explosion which can lead to a breakdown in the family’s relationships.

Tackling conflicts in an early stage can slow or even prevent worse things from developing. Instead, there can be a continued development and display of virtues – things that are good and profitable – in the relationship. When we turn our wills and lives over to God, He gives us the power to work through the conflicts and overcome the old patterns of dysfunctional behavior. We then are encouraged to tackle and eliminate the emotional disturbances in our own lives and thus promote harmony. “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another” (Col. 3:8-9). This means that God insists that we recognize our own weaknesses, renounce and release them by receiving God’s forgiveness, forgiving each other and ourselves. We may not forget the hurt experienced from past conflicts, but in fulfilling these verses we will not dwell on the past failures or repeatedly remind each other of them.

Therefore bad behaviors and practices can be replaced by virtues to promote family relationships, and these virtues should be implemented as soon as possible. Put on the following virtues:

  • Compassion – displaying mercy or tenderness instead of being judgmental or rigid.
  • Kindness – the opposite of selfishness.
  • Humility – as opposed to pride.
  • Gentleness – in contrast to self-assertiveness.
  • Patience – not overreacting to conflicts, but reflecting love in action in conflict resolution.
  • Forbearance – demonstrating tolerance in working through conflicts.
  • Forgiveness – not holding any charges against the person who has confessed his or her faults. Remember, this is not optional – it is God’s command.
  • Love – looking beyond faults while recognizing needs and initiating the necessary sacrifices to improve the relationship.

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (vv.12-14).

Improve Communication Skills 
Communication is vital in all family relationships. We are always communicating, whether with spoken or body language. The important thing, however, is what and how we communicate. The breakdown in communication continues to be the major underlying conflict in relationships, and gossip should always be avoided. Four simple ways of effective communication are:

  • To say what we mean and mean what we say,
  • To attack the problem and not the person,
  • To agree to disagree so there is no power struggle, and
  • To communicate in love.

As human beings we need to communicate our feelings, objectives, expectations, goals and the like. Hence, a breakdown in communication has significant consequences. Such a breakdown can occur in a number of ways. Sometimes family members verbalize their negative feelings in the wrong manner which then triggers more conflicts. At other times they express positive feelings but with the wrong attitude, arousing defense mechanisms or anger. Further, two family members may be so occupied with negative actions that they are not tuned in to hear what the other person is saying. In his book, Speaking From The Heart, Ken Durham presents five suggestions for conflict resolution that show the importance of communication:

  • Focus on one issue at a time.
  • Deal with conflict before things reach the boiling point.
  • Open up and talk about it.
  • Don’t exaggerate.
  • No cheap shots.1

In my own work with families, I have discovered four patterns of communication:

  1. Confrontational communication occurs when one family member attacks another instead of attacking the problem. This is typically seen when the husband stands face to face with his wife and threatens her. Remember that Cain was angry and envious of Abel his brother because Abel’s gift was accepted by God: “Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and … Cain rose against Abel his brother and killed him” (Gen. 4:8).
  2. Conflicting communication is when, for example, the father says one thing with words while the mother gives the opposite message by her posture. The conflict may be heard and seen in one person as well, as shown in the communication of Lot with his family. He tried to convince his sons-in-law concerning the pending judgment of Sodom. “So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, ‘Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!’ But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking” (19:14). Lot’s behavior at that time did not match his words. Moreover, while Lot was escaping and looking ahead, his wife looked backward, resulting in her immediate death (v.26).
  3. Conspiring communication is manifested when, for example, the wife and children agree to attack the father. We are reminded of Miriam and Aaron who conspired against Moses, their brother, because he chose a wife who was from a different ethnic background. As a result of the conspiracy, they suffered significant consequences: “Suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper” (Num. 12:10).
  4. Cooperative communication takes place when the family attacks the problem together. This means that the husband takes the leadership role and the wife stands by his side, being very supportive of what is right. Both the husband and wife remain side by side, looking at the same problem and verbalizing their ideas of how the conflict should be resolved. They are able to listen to each other, accept differences of opinion and agree on the best solution. This reminds me of Eve who was taken from Adam’s side to facilitate togetherness as displayed in side by side communication.

The most effective ingredient in communication is love. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1). One of the great experts in communication, Howard G. Hendricks, said that communication must not be faked, but it should be done in love. He concluded, “You cannot communicate in depth to a person until you love him. And the more you love him, the more you will communicate.” 2 Thus, one of the powerful techniques in conflict resolution is being able to communicate one’s feelings when necessary, in truth and love.

Overcome Criticism And Negativism Through Intellectual And Spiritual Intervention 
Many family members focus on each other’s negatives or weaknesses rather than on the strengths. Society focuses on negativism. In the family, constant criticism leads to feelings of insecurity, low self-esteem, inadequacy and fear of rejection. However, criticism can be eliminated by restructuring one’s cognitive, or thinking process, to respect others – highly valuing the family and giving approval, acceptance and encouragement.

It is possible to overcome criticism by the power of the Holy Spirit. One does not ignore his or her weaknesses, but he focuses on strengths to overcome them. Hence, instead of worrying about things that are not done, one appreciates the good that is done. By doing this, one can maintain a positive attitude and compliment rather than criticize. Josh McDowell concluded “that relationship with God is the starting point to find love, for I will never be separated from God’s love.” 3 Thus, criticism and negativism can be overcome by accepting God’s healing love and by proper thinking.

Name The Problem And Nurture The Family Relationships 
Because of the complexities of family relationships and the constant changes of life, conflict resolution is a continual process. Therefore, instead of using the defense mechanisms of denial and avoidance, one should name the problem, confront each situation calmly and provide moral support for each other. This means sharing the various aspects of family life between husband and wife. H. Norman Wright stresses that “the presence of Christ, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and intense effort and work dedicated to the application of Scripture can bring stability, growth and mutual satisfaction into a marital relationship.” 4 This technique identifies the problem and reassures continued support to help speed conflict resolution without any fear of rejection or abandonment.

Start Again To Build The Relationship 
Starting over requires both spouses to work through the “pain of holding on” to past conflicts and “the panic of letting go” of them. It may be difficult for a wife and husband to forgive each other. However, once the process of forgiveness has begun, it is important not to bury a dead dog with its tail hanging out, as the old saying goes. Although it takes time for damaged emotions to heal, one should be willing to commit to the Lord the entire painful situation that has been resolved and not dwell or hold on to it. Some family members are afraid to let go of their painful experiences because retaining them seems to justify their present negative reactions. Letting go does not simply mean forgetting the hurt (which is essentially impossible), but laying hold on God’s promises and “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).

Starting over also implies a reflection on the family’s past joys and pleasant experiences. It recognizes the time and conditions when the relationship began to weaken and conflicts were left unresolved. But one begins where one currently is in the relationship, knowing that he or she cannot change the past. A person can only prevent the past conflicts from affecting the present.

When driving a car it is important to glance in the mirror to see the past – the traffic behind. But to be preoccupied with looking in the mirror could result in a crash. Glancing at the speedometer to see the present speed is also important, but to simply focus on the speedometer also can be dangerous. One has to spend most of the time looking where one is going. So, like driving a car, a spouse needs to glance at the mirror to see the past and at the speedometer to see the present, but he or she needs to spend most of the time looking ahead in the direction the family situation is going.

One should not use today’s energy to regret the past or be overly concerned about tomorrow, but use it to solve today’s conflicts. Charles Swindoll concluded that if one knows the Lord Jesus, then “fix your eyes on Him and refuse to give up or turn back. If not, STOP! Give Him your struggles and receive Him as Lord and Savior by faith. He has all the strength you need to keep you on your road.” 5

Help Each Other In A Humble Manner 
Many families are too proud to face the reality of their problems. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). Hence, humility is vitally important in conflict resolution. Ego needs to be deflated and a person feel powerless before there is full dependence on God. The center letter of “pride” is “I,” whereas with “humility,” the letter “U” comes before “I.” Helping each other in the problem-solving process encourages trust and a strong support system. Members are able to share all their joys, sorrows and expectations together.

Intervene Early In The Conflict To Begin Positive Changes 
Many spouses have conflicts that result from problems earlier in their lives. A husband or wife might have been brought up in a miserable family setting that abounded with resentment, explosive anger, abuse, addiction and abandonment. That person may struggle with low self-esteem, sensitivity to rejection, fear of abandonment and repressed feelings of anger. No matter if one was brought up in a miserable or a happy family, internal changes are needed because of the sinful nature of all humans.

When one turns his or her life and will over to God, He produces changes within the heart which are manifested in behavior. These changes create a feeling of intimacy with God and the family. As a result, the negative emotions which were experienced in the early family system are not transferred into the present relationship with the same intensity. When negative emotions still surface, the individual is able to take control of them with God’s help. The family therefore experiences a transformation which produces intimacy, openness, honesty and love.

Many families attempt to resolve conflicts superficially, but it is vital to work through the cause of conflicts and not just the symptoms. One needs to face the reality of his or her internal life, identify the problems and seek God’s help in making positive changes.

Promote Problem Solving Skills 
The things which break our bodies and crush our spirits are not necessarily our daily tasks, but our tensions and worries about our future. I have found that prayer, devotion and Christian counseling can play a vital role in resolving tensions within the family system. Be encouraged to pray to God! “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (Jn. 16:24).

It is said that “the family that prays together stays together.” It is truly therapeutic to pray sincerely to God at any time, anywhere, under any circumstance and in any position, whether verbally or silently. Prayer diminishes despair. In addition to personal prayer, family prayer and devotions help resolve conflicts and maintain a healthy family relationship. Regardless of the conflicts, the Lord Jesus Christ understands and cares. “We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Remember that God also uses others to help us resolve our conflicts. When one stands close to a tall building the top seems almost insurmountable, but when the building is viewed from a distance, it doesn’t seem as tall because the perception changes. Similarly, when one is close to a family problem, it seems overwhelming. Therefore, when the family is unable to resolve the conflict they should seek out a Christian counselor who is able to help them work through the problem from an objective, biblical perspective.

It is not our action but our reaction to problems that is important, and conflict resolution demands time, energy, sacrifice and some pain. But the end result is always worth it because of the restored joy in the family.

Our society is swamped with information on the family yet starved for wisdom in resolving conflicts. Knowledge may be acquired from books but wisdom comes from God. Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge properly. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (Jas. 1:5). We need help from above to deal with the problems below. As we draw resources from God we are able to break down long-standing barriers in our lives.

Concluding Thoughts 
The family remains the foundation of our society. If the family is weak then the whole nation is weak. Factors which cause conflicts date back to the fall of man, and that seed of deception has been the dominant force in the destruction of the family. Our problems have their roots in sin and our sinful nature (Rom. 5:12-21), but there is hope.

Perhaps, with all of a family’s problems identified, one might say, “God can’t really resolve all the conflicts in the relationship.” But, God can! How? The answer is found in this same word “HOW.” Be …

  • H-onest with God, with yourself and with each other,
  • O-pen to God’s will, and
  • W-illing to initiate changes in the relationship.

These techniques, when put into operation, will maintain and move the family along in the right direction on the highway to a happier relationship – and one that pleases God.

Hannah And Samuel


By Ernst-August Bremicker

Many readers of the Bible know the story of Hannah and Samuel as it is told to us in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah had prayed for a son, and God answered her prayer. Therefore she named him Samuel, meaning “heard by God.” For a time, until he was weaned, Hannah kept him at home with her; then she fulfilled a vow she had made by bringing Samuel to Eli the priest at Shiloh. It was there that Samuel was to appear and remain before the LORD (v.22).

Let’s see what we can learn from Hannah with regard to our children. I would like to refer to the great objective of a biblically oriented upbringing and then point out four steps to this goal. In doing this we do not merely want to see Hannah as a picture of a mother who is a believer, but we want to consider what she did and apply it to us who are parents or youth workers.

The Great Objective Of Biblically Oriented Upbringing Of Children 
Hannah had a great desire: Samuel should be brought into the house of God and there appear before the LORD. He should remain and be useful. Hannah’s desire was fulfilled and Samuel became a servant of the LORD, worshiping Him at Shiloh. Samuel also became a prophet, through whom God spoke to His people and who spoke to God on behalf of the people.

In the New Testament, God demands that we bring up our children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4 NKJV). This instruction is given especially to fathers for they bear this responsibility before God, but of course it applies to mothers as well. Bringing up children has various objectives. Naturally we would like to see them learning what is useful for living here on earth. General knowledge, specific skills and social competence are all indispensible for life. Virtues such as thankfulness, courtesy, kindness, diligence, orderliness and punctuality should not be missing from the teaching program. That we should be examples in these things goes without saying. But this is not the most important objective. The story of Hannah and Samuel teaches us what matters most about our children:

  • They should be brought to the Lord Jesus. When the Lord Jesus was here on earth He said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them” (Mt. 19:14). We have the lovely task of bringing children to Jesus, causing them to come into contact with Him early and be blessed by Him. This is our first and most important objective. Our children should receive Him as their Savior, yet each child must get saved personally. As parents we can either support and help them, or – for example, by unloving, selfish behavior – be a hindrance or stumbling block to them.
  • They should remain with Him. If our children have received the Lord Jesus as their Savior they should get to know Him better. To remain with Him means to learn to know and treasure fellowship with Him. We should guide our children to read God’s Word and carry on a personal prayer life. Thus they will get to know Him more and more.
  • They should be useful for Him. The service of God has two major aspects. First of all, there is the aspect of worship in the narrow sense, meaning that our children learn to worship the Lord. Samuel already was doing this at an early age (1 Sam. 1:28). While children learn what worship is during meetings of the local church, the principal place of such learning is at home in the presence of their parents. Secondly, service for God consists of being useful instruments for Him, at His disposal for whatever tasks He may give. Our children and young people should not just come to know Jesus as their Savior; they should also know Him as their Lord, whom they follow and serve.

Hannah’s longing was fulfilled. The Scripture says, “And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the LORD and men” (2:26) and, “Now the boy Samuel ministered to the LORD before Eli” (3:1).

Four Steps To The Goal 
We may now ask how Samuel’s parents reached their goal of having their son become a man of God. At the same time we fully understand that God had His hand in the matter. For Samuel to become what he became was pure grace. If our children’s upbringing shows the result we desired, this is nothing but grace. We did not do even one thing to merit it. But may we never use grace as an excuse not to live up to our responsibility. Let’s look at Hannah and her responsibility, for it is no different with us:

  1. Hannah nursed her son (1:23). This is nothing unusual of course, but at that time this was the only possible way of nourishing a little child. In application to ourselves we learn that spiritual nourishment is absolutely necessary for our children. We cannot begin too early to acquaint our children with the “pure milk of the Word” of God (1 Pet. 2:2). Only then can they make spiritual progress. 
    Let’s keep in mind that mother’s milk is something that has first been formed within the mother herself. We don’t give our children “spiritual canned goods.” Instead, we want to give them what has become important to us and that we are happy to practice ourselves. We do not give the food meant for them to another, having carefully provided the right amount, adjusted to the child’s age and appetite.
  2. Hannah weaned her son (1:23). Important as nourishing children with their mother’s milk may be, it is equally vital that the time come when they are weaned from it. Children must learn to eat by themselves. Applying this practically we must pay attention that our children not only learn to do their daily tasks by themselves, but they must learn as early as possible to establish their own relationship with the Lord Jesus. It is good for us to help them pray and read the Bible for themselves as soon as possible. Even if they have not yet been saved, this is ever to be desired. Weaning the child should not be done abruptly, but it should be a process over a period of time.
  3. Hannah accompanied her son (v.24). The day came for Samuel to leave his parents’ home to stand on his own two feet, but Hannah went with him. As parents we know such moments in our natural lives. We remember our children’s first school days, first workdays and their wedding days. The time comes when we must let go bit by bit. This is not always easy, but in this way we help our children to become independent. 
    It should not be different in their spiritual life. The moment when children receive the Savior and want to serve Him, the time has come in which they start to lead their own spiritual lives and make their own experiences with the Lord. Let us encourage them in this and attentively walk with them. Going along with them on the one hand consists of giving counsel and support, and on the other hand of praying for them. We find something similar in the lives of Moses’ parents. They committed their son to the protection of the little basket – a picture of the Lord Jesus who alone can take care of our children – but at the same time they did not neglect to keep a watchful eye on it (Ex. 2:1-10).
  4. Hannah let go of her son (1 Sam. 1:28). We can easily imagine how difficult it must have been for Hannah to leave her son behind at Shiloh as she had promised God. Children are not given to us as an end in itself. They are a wonderful gift of God – but only for a time! We cannot keep them for ourselves. Therefore let us gladly give them to Him, even if it is difficult for us. When Samuel no longer was living at home, Hannah did not forget her far away son. She regularly looked in on him, bringing a new garment year by year (2:19). When he was still little, she had nursed him and had provided for his inner growth; now she was mindful of the testimony that he bore outwardly. May we let go of our children when they get older, yet at the same time continue to care for their well-being.

After we read of Samuel’s beginning his service before God and for God, Hannah eventually disappears fully from our view. In 1 Samuel 2, besides her annually making a robe for Samuel, only two things are mentioned about Hannah: her profound prayer (vv.1-10) and the fact that God gave her five additional children (v.21). The Lord did not let this faithful woman’s faith go unrewarded. Then we read no more about her. We should not lose contact with our grown children, nevertheless we should step back and fully let them go when the time has come that they are leading their own independent spiritual lives.

To Sum Up 
What Hannah did she did out of love. She had a clear perspective with regard to her son, and what she had promised God she kept. Her love for her son was expressed in carefulness, wisdom and self-denial.

God identifies Himself with this God-fearing woman and His actions give us direction. May He still grant us as parents and youth workers this perspective as we consider the children and young people He has placed in our care!

Resolving Family Conflicts

By Emmanuel V. John

Having considered various points related to family conflicts, let’s now consider some simple, powerful techniques to aid in resolving them. Using the word “RELATIONSHIP” in an acrostic manner, every letter becomes a tool to work through conflicts. 

RRespect the person, recognize the conflict and draw resources from God.
EEvaluate the situation and establish new principles for marital and family relationships.
LLet go of resentment, initiate love and clarify roles.
AApproach the situation with a positive attitude and be accessible to one another.
TTackle the problems and put on virtues.
IImprove communication skills.
OOvercome criticism and negativism by intellectual and spiritual intervention.
NName the problem and nurture the family relationships.
SStart again to build the relationship.
HHelp each other in a humble manner.
IIntervene early in the conflict to begin positive changes.
PPromote problem solving skills.

Respect The Person, Recognize The Conflict And Draw Resources From God 
It is vital to respect the person with whom one has conflict and to begin where the conflict is in order to recognize and define it. First, one has to be willing to break the denial, which is the biggest roadblock to solving the problem. The vision of those involved in conflicts is often so distorted that they cannot see the destructiveness of their own behavior. Many families have good intentions and want to display love, but when under pressure they deny God and the family relationships. Peter thought he would never deny Christ, but when confronted with a difficult situation he denied the Lord with cursing and swearing. However, with the Lord’s help he recognized and broke the denial, returning to Him (Mt. 26:69-75; Mk. 14:66-72; Lk. 22:54-62).

It is important to recognize the conflicts and break the denial, but often one feels powerless and inadequate to deal with the issues. Thankfully a person can draw added resources from Christ, who is the Competent Counselor for every crisis. “His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6 NKJV), and in Him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). When conflicts originated in the garden of Eden through Eve’s lack of trust in God, which resulted in her succumbing to the serpent’s lies, she and her husband Adam were in denial: They hid themselves from God. But when God called them, they broke the denial and returned to Him, who lovingly provided the necessary “coats of skins [from a slain animal, picturing the sacrificial death of Christ], and clothed them” so the broken relationship could be restored (Gen. 3:8-21).

As one recognizes the conflicts, he or she should be aware of the consequences if they are left unresolved. Hence, it is needful to personally admit or to lovingly point out the present conflict in the family system to those who are involved so the necessary changes can be made. At the point of awareness and admission of the conflict, one doesn’t need to feel overwhelmed and hopeless.

Preferably, a single issue or causal factor should be dealt with at a time. The one involved should decide to seek additional help as needed and, by faith, develop a closer relationship with God. By respecting the other person or persons, recognizing the problem and deciding to take the necessary actions, the first steps in conflict resolution have been taken. Always remember that God is greater than you and your situations. He loves and cares for you when no one seems to, and is available to you in any place, at any time, for any crisis.

Evaluate The Situation And Establish New Principles For Marital And Family Relationships 
The next step is to evaluate the situation, accumulate information and assess the best approach to resolve the conflict. One should avoid making judgments and conclusions based on assumptions. It is vital to examine how the family dealt with conflicts in the past, whether openly or by covering up and pretending that all was well until there was an “explosion.” Families usually set up their own standards, but these are often faulty and inadequate.

Sometimes families ask for the best reference book for conflict resolution, which also contains guidelines for healthy and happy relationships. The best advice is to use the Master Manual, the Bible. This Book contains all the necessary guidelines and principles for conflict resolution and the maintenance of a happy home, built on the solid foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are many verses relating to the family, but at this point let’s simply consider Psalm 127. In this psalm there are four major principles which need to be established in every heart and home.

1. The home is constructed by God. God has a divine plan and He is the Master Builder. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (v.1). This indicates that Jehovah is the source of every blessing, and without Him all of man’s efforts are in vain. The home is built by the Lord, rather than by human wisdom or ingenuity. Hence, the family should constantly seek God’s help in building family relationships with positive verbal reinforcements and love.

2. The home is preserved, or kept, by God. The Lord who builds the home is the One who keeps the home. “Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (v.1). A city is made up of homes, and the home needs protection against various evils, dangers and violence. Thus, the family should seek God’s help in keeping it together.

3. The home should be a place of contentment and rest. Many families suffer loss of relationships because of discontentment centered on materialism. The material gains, prestige, power and popularity from mothers entering the work force along with their husbands is not worth the family loss that results from burning the candle at both ends. “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep” (v.2). Many working mothers are overcome with guilt and self-reproach for being at work, but, of course, there are circumstances where mothers have to work to provide the necessities for their families.

After the birth of our daughter, my wife was given four months maternity leave from her job. On resuming work, our daughter was cared for by a baby-sitter who was a friend and committed Christian. However, looking back we realize there is no substitute for a mother caring for her child. When we moved, our daughter, then 11, needed support to help her adjust to her new environment. We agreed that my wife would be available at home for our daughter. So I know what it’s like for both parents to be working and caring for a child. I also know the difference when a mother is at home. The benefits are so great that I now encourage mothers to be at home with their child or children if at all possible.

Materialism is emphasized in our society today. Nothing is wrong with having money, and the lack of it can be a significant inconvenience. But the “love of money” (1 Tim. 3:3, 6:10) and the obsession of having more money is a serious problem. Real contentment is found in knowing God as seen by the fact that “He gives His beloved sleep” (Ps. 127:2). Many families are so worried about what they do not have, that they are not even enjoying what they do have. We are reminded, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).

4. The home is where education begins for the children. Children are blessings, not burdens. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is His reward” (Ps. 127:3). Many mothers have been persuaded that children are barriers to success and career orientation, but God says they are blessings. He pronounces the man who has a quiver full of them as “happy” (v.5).

Children may cause difficulty, diminish income, demand sacrifices and even cause some heartaches, but they are worth it all. Mothers should try to raise their children instead of leaving them to be cared for by others. Children need parental structure and training. “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth” (v.4). An arrow is a pointed weapon which can be directed at a target while still in a person’s hand. We see then that it is vital for children to be trained by their parents so they can be propelled through life with realistic goals and in the right direction.

Thus, it is very important to carefully evaluate the causes for conflicts and examine faulty patterns of dealing with them. Also, there should be an evaluation of the construction (how the people fit together), conservation and contentment of the home, as well as of the children’s respect, responsibility and relationship with the parents. Properly functioning parents can have such a positive modeling effect that the children won’t want to let down the dad and mom who have so carefully and lovingly raised them.

Let Go Of Resentment, Initiate Love And Clarify Roles 
When there have been years of unresolved conflicts, the baggage of anger and resentment can seriously impede progress toward a happy relationship. It is important to let go of the baggage, for then one can proceed on the marital journey.

It is very painful to be rejected by the person one loves. Real, lasting and genuine love is the heart cry of every individual. Love is the lever that lifts the heavy load of guilt and is the key to unlock unresolved conflicts and pent-up feelings of anger, resentment and hurts. If you follow a worldly philosophy regarding relationships, there is still hope for you. Be honest with yourself, your spouse and God. Confess and surrender to God any addiction you may have. You will then experience His love and forgiveness (1 Jn. 1:9).

When writing the word “LOVE” in my early school days I had to write a capital “L” by starting from the top and going to the bottom with a straight stroke, then continue across the bottom with another straight stroke. As I recalled this I realized there is a deeper lesson to be learned: For families to experience love, we must all begin at the top with God and allow His divine love to flow down in and through us to others. This can produce a life of victory. When His love flows through us we have life with meaning and purpose. Relationships fail miserably unless divine love is experienced and demonstrated, as this love looks beyond faults and recognizes the needs. “Love will cover a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).

“Husbands, love your wives” is the instruction given by the Holy Spirit through Paul in Ephesians 5:25. Many husbands love their wives but have difficulty demonstrating it. Therefore they ask how to love their wives. Meanwhile, many wives ask how should they submit to their husbands. When these questions are unanswered there is role confusion in the family. To provide an answer, I refer to the Master Manual, the Bible, where love-in-action is seen and role clarification is clearly defined. How should husbands love their wives? Consider seven suggestions:

1. Husbands should love their wives for who they are. This means that acceptance is not based on performance. They see the inner beauty of their wives. Christ loves the Church as it is, and He does not abandon it because of its many weaknesses. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it” (v.25). Jesus Christ expressed His love fully.

2. Husbands should love their wives by thinking pleasant thoughts and communicating those thoughts to them. It is healthy for husbands to think pleasant thoughts of God, their wives and themselves. The mind is powerful, and our thoughts influence our actions and reactions to each other. The apostle Paul concluded, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8). Hence, genuine compliments given to our wives daily will improve the relationship.

3. Husbands should love their wives by embracing them daily. It is a good manifestation of love, an evident display, for husbands to begin the day by holding their wives’ hands and praying together. A goodbye kiss in the morning and a kiss and embrace when returning home will develop intimacy and feelings of belonging, being needed and being loved. Thus when husbands think love, they will verbalize love and embrace their wives in love.

4. Husbands should be willing to make sacrifices for their wives. “Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). He died for the Church, and husbands need to die to pride and selfish ambition. Some husbands do not verbalize their love for their wives, others verbalize but don’t demonstrate love, and too many take their wives for granted. In Scripture, love is followed by action. For example:

  • “God so loved … that He gave His only begotten Son” (Jn. 3:16),
  • “Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25), and
  • “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

5. Husbands should love their wives in a sincere manner. “Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies” (Eph. 5:28). They should nourish and cherish their wives. Husbands who pay much attention to their own bodies should show the same attention toward their wives. Men value and care for their bodies and likewise should value and care for their wives. Married men should love their wives in such a way as if they are part of themselves – not as a possession. When a man’s body is tired, he rests it; when it is hungry, he feeds it; when it is thirsty, he satisfies it with drink. He should love and care for his wife in the same way and always value her presence. Roger P. Daniel concluded in his biblically based book, Man+Woman: God’s Design, that “in really loving his wife, the husband promotes himself because he and his wife are one flesh – one family unit, glued together … If he hurts her, he hurts himself. A loving husband likely will get love in return.”

6. Husbands should love their wives above all other women or family ties. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (v.31). Our wives should come before our business, our friends and even our own personal pleasures or hobbies. Many marriages without Christ are regarded as 1+1=2, which means that each person has his or her own individual interests and is mainly concerned about his or her own way. But for the Christ-centered marital relationship, the equation reads 1×1=1, meaning the husband and wife are equally important, recognize their differences, but are in unity – yes, “one flesh.”

7. Husbands should love their wives steadfastly. As husbands we should be loyal and faithful to our wives throughout the entire marital relationship. We should be good providers by giving spiritual, economic, social and emotional support to them. “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).

There may be differences of opinion and even conflicts at times in marriages, but love for our wives should never be diminished. We should promote her feelings of security, reassurance and love. We must never take our wives for granted or treat them as if they are our employees, property or baby-sitters. Instead, we should continually keep the marriage fresh and vibrant by spending quality time together, praying together and for each other, giving pleasant surprises, going on trips, taking evening walks, giving positive verbal reinforcements and much more. The wise man Solomon concluded, “Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it” (Song 8:7).

“Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22) is an admonishment from God to the wife. Wives have a responsibility, but this submission does not mean inferiority to her husband. In this context it is simply one who is equally significant, putting herself under another to please the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus submitted to His Father, although He is not inferior to the Father, but equal. “Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God” (Phil. 2:5-6). Jesus Christ declared, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9), and “I and My Father are one” (10:30). Hence, a wife’s submission to her husband does not imply inferiority. Rather, it demonstrates love and reverence to him, even as to the Lord.

The reason for submission is that God has an order for the earthly family. “The husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the Church” (Eph. 5:23). The divinely-given role of the husband is to be the head of the wife. But this does not mean that the head is superior and that he is to simply give orders or demand submission from his wife. The wife is to submit because she believes it is God’s order and her divinely-given role. True submission does not inhibit liberty, it promotes freedom. When we submit our lives to Christ, He gives us liberty, not bondage. Husbands therefore must provide loving leadership even as Christ displayed love for the Church.*

One of the techniques in conflict resolution is to work through the negative emotions and let go of past painful experiences. This can be accomplished by using unconditional love. To prevent constant friction the husband needs to know how to really love his wife, and the wife needs to know what godly submission to a husband implies. Remember, a body without any head is dead, a body with two heads is confusing, but a body with one head in which the leadership role is rightly executed resolves conflict and maintains a mature marital relationship.

We will continue with our “RELATIONSHIP” points in next month’s article.

Resolving Family Conflicts / Part Eight

God established the family, and the home is the place where the family’s deepest needs are to be met. Therefore every home should be built on the Rock, the Lord Jesus Christ. The family should have priority above business, pleasure and friends. It should be highly valued and loved, and not treated like a restaurant or gas station where one fills up and leaves. As conflicts emerge, every effort should be made to resolve each one on the same day that it occurs so no one goes to bed angry. The apostle Paul declared, “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Eph. 4:26 NKJV). Knowing the Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the key to unlock and resolve conflicts.

Three Marital Relationships 
Scholars have presented different concepts of the family, including “open and closed families,” “functional and dysfunctional families” and “normal and abnormal families.” However, based on my own experiences and listening to Christian ministry, I find three:

1. The immature marital relationship. By “immature” I mean the relationship is laden with conflicts, discomfort, distress, resentment, anger and shame because of child-like behavior and apparent lack of a sense of responsibility by one or both spouses. For example, although the husband, wife and children are living in the same house, there is no display of headship. The husband fails to take his God-given role as head of the family (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23), and the wife doesn’t assist him with his leadership role. The importance of this is seen in nature: any organism without a head is dead. As a result, each one in the family does that which is right in his or her own eyes, ignoring the needs of the others.

2. The mediocre marital relationship. In this relationship a moderate value is placed on the family system and some conflicts are resolved, but there is confusion about the roles in the relationship. This relationship has two heads, so there is a constant power struggle between husband and wife as to the leadership role. Any organism with two heads leads to confusion. While it is often stated that “two heads are better than one,” that is only true if they are functioning together in unity. In the mediocre family relationship the husband and the wife both assume the role as head, and sometimes the oldest child will do the same over the other siblings. Hence, the leadership in the family is confusing and conflicting. This results in significant problems and a tendency to ignore or cover them up.

3. The matured marital relationship. Here we see each partner lavishing genuine love on the other. There is structure with open and honest communication. Peace and joy exist within the home, and when conflicts surface they are recognized and resolved in a loving and healing manner. The husband is the head of the family, and as head he leads in a humble way – providing, protecting and pursuing realistic family goals. He does not think he is superior and his wife is inferior, but he simply accepts his role from God – that “the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the Church” (Eph. 5:23). Therefore he loves and cherishes his wife who in turn recognizes his role and submits to him in love. The harmony displayed in the marital relationship becomes a model for the children, whose needs are also met within the family system. For this family, “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). Real happiness does not depend on having much to live on, but having much for which to live.

The Families’ Desire 
There is a heart cry for more “mature” family relationships in which peace, joy, contentment and love govern expressions and actions. Many families desire a happier family life and a closer relationship with God.

Resolving Family Conflicts / Part 7

By Emmanuel V. John

Abuses In Relationships
How sad it is that in the family, where love and peace should prevail, there is increasing violence. As frustrations become more intense and hostilities increase, spouses sometimes lose control of their emotions, and conflicts are escalated. Families need to turn to Jesus Christ to gain victory over their destructive reactions to conflict.

When one exhibits a low frustration tolerance, a simple conflict may cause an outburst. The husband or wife may go through phases of repressing anger, building tension and then exploding over an insignificant issue.

Many women are being abused by their husbands in reaction to family conflicts, and the probability of being abused is increasing rapidly. Chances for marital violence are heightened when the wife is alone with her husband, partly because of her vulnerability. Wrongly, some men perceive their spouses as their property and feel free to batter them when they feel threatened.

Along with physical abuse, there is often emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is defined as mistreating and controlling the other person, and it may include ridiculing, insulting, giving orders, demeaning, ignoring, controlling, threatening, and withholding privileges. It is internal, and the damaged emotions are often repressed. These feelings may later be displayed in the form of decreased self-esteem and in a perception of helplessness or hopelessness.

A person brought up in a dysfunctional family system, full of stress, conflict and abuse, does not necessarily become abusive in a relationship, but there is a high probability that he or she will be abusive because of the exposure to and tolerance of abuse. Since early exposure to violence plays a significant role in developing tolerance toward using violence, it is paramount for the sake of the children that conflicts in family relationships be resolved!

Men In An Abusive Relationship 
Men from abusive families often have power struggles in relationships, feelings of insecurity, fear of rejection and frequent overreaction to unresolved conflicts. Other personality characteristics of abusive men include an inability to manage anger, poor impulse control, low frustration tolerance and weak coping mechanisms. Sometimes these men have difficulty identifying and expressing their emotions. As a result they tend to act out their feelings in a violent manner. Even though they may seem tough and strong, they are craving for acceptance, security, nurturing, comfort and constant reassurance.

Because of their low self-esteem and lack of assertiveness, these men may overreact to criticism and display jealousy, depression and sensitivity to rejection. They often have unrealistic expectations for their wives. Many of these men turn to substance abuse to avoid the responsibility for their own behavior.1

Women In An Abusive Relationship 
Battered women may seek to repress their feelings of terror and turmoil by attempting to display tranquility. Their husbands’ verbal and physical abuse is often tolerated because of the women’s dependency on them for support and the wives’ own feelings of inadequacy – often a result of their being frequently criticized by their husbands.2

A wife may remain in an abusive relationship without any serious attempt to resolve conflicts. She is often paralyzed by the fear of being in more danger if she leaves because of her husband’s threats to find her wherever she goes. Hence, the abused spouse remains in the relationship because of fear rather than love. Other reasons that spouses remain in abusive relationships are cultural traditions, religious convictions, family structure and fear of abandonment. Sometimes the wife perceives her traditional role as being a wife and mother who should be submissive and forgiving of her husband’s painful actions.3 Thus, the abused wife often experiences love-hate episodes.

Negative Coping Patterns 
Infidelity. A growing number of spouses are committing adultery. People today call it being “unfaithful” or “having extra-marital affairs.” As a result of unresolved conflicts in the marriage relationship, the spouse sometimes copes negatively by adulterous relationships and then attempts to justify his or her involvement as the need to feel loved and to release tension. But, instead of releasing tension, they often feel greater tension, hostility, guilt and anger.

Child Abuse. Parents frequently displace their feelings of anger and abuse on their children. Sometimes parents attack their children directly by degrading them with labels such as stupid, worthless, good for nothing, lazy and ugly – even stating their wish that the children were dead. They also may attack their children indirectly by teasing and belittling them.

Children in such a family system suffer significantly. However, there is hope for the restoration of joy in the relationship if sins are confessed and forsaken, and lives are committed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Surely there is no wound that He cannot heal.

Many abused spouses, because of their own frustrations, high anxiety level and unhappiness, tend to overreact to their children’s behavior. Children certainly can test the extreme limits of their parents’ self-control, but children are to be loved, not abused.

Many abusive parents were themselves battered children. They tend to transmit the same violent patterns to their next family system. Hence, abusive parents need to experience God’s unconditional love, which can result in healing damaged emotions. This process is not simply surrendering one’s will to a “Higher Power” or to a “Higher Self,” but rather to the “Highest Power” – the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son, the Savior of all who will confess Him as Lord (Rom. 10:9-10).

We reiterate that family violence, infidelity and abuse affect the parents and the children, who often become the victims for the displacement of the parental anger. Sometimes a child switches from a son or daughter relationship to that of an adult nature. The more intense the conflict is between the spouses, the more the children are at risk; and the related scars can last for a lifetime. In spite of all the abuses, there is real and full healing and hope in Jesus Christ. Many children are crying for help. But to whom can they turn? Since there are biblical answers for all displays of conflict, true Christian counseling can play a vital role in working with the parents and children to obtain healing and resolution.

Alcohol And Drugs. Instead of working through the conflicts in their family, many individuals turn to alcohol as a means of coping with a high stress level. Alcohol abuse can contribute to conflicts since it alters mood and behavior. It also can be a negative coping mechanism used to attempt to drown out or forget problems for the moment. However, instead of alcohol helping to reduce tension, it often escalates destructive behavior, resulting in more conflicts.

As the husband, wife or child continues to abuse alcohol, a dependency develops, and the continued drinking may lead to the abuse of drugs. In reaction to unresolved conflict, some parents perceive alcohol as a soothing and controlling agent for their feelings of anger. Later, they discover they were deceived: Alcohol was only an avoidance tactic that leads to terrifying and humiliating consequences. “Wine is a mocker, intoxicating drink arouses brawling, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1 NKJV).

Drinking alcohol is frequently accepted by the children because it is the norm for their parents. The availability and accessibility to alcohol is a growing temptation. The product is advertised and displayed in many stores as something pleasurable and desirable. It is like Satan who always shows the immediate gratification and the “fun” side of things, but never the consequences. Hence, many children who join their parents in drinking alcohol for seeming pleasure only discover later its sting and pain. Solomon concluded concerning alcohol, “At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper” (23:32).

Adolescents, having tried alcohol and drugs as an experiment, often become dependent on them. Some begin using these substances with the false confidence that they can quit at any time. However, they discover over a period of time that their tolerance for alcohol or drugs has increased and they are becoming progressively dependent on them. They then experience feelings of low self-esteem, isolation, rejection, insecurity, guilt, dependency and loss of control. Hence, there is no doubt that experimentation can lead to life-threatening addiction.

Many families are discovering that instead of substance abuse being a way out of their problems, it is a way down into more problems. The heart cry of many is not for a new bottle but for a new beginning. Thank God there is hope, there is deliverance through the Lord Jesus Christ. “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God; through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:24-25).

Compulsive Eating. It is not unusual for a spouse to internalize feelings of hurt. In order to cope with the high stress level, some resort to binge eating. Recently a woman told me that she felt psychologically divorced from her husband and used food to compensate for her feelings of loss. She added that the more anger she felt towards her husband, the more food she ate, which resulted in excessive weight gain. Her health, self-image and productivity all were affected.

Depression. In most cases of clinical depression there is a high level of pent-up anger in reaction to unresolved conflicts within the family relationship. Many families who have experienced violence and abuse in a relationship experience multiple symptoms of depression, including sleep disturbances, decreased concentration, decreased energy level, feelings of anger, guilt, nervousness, sadness, inadequacy, helplessness, worthlessness and hopelessness. A spouse may simply give up trying to work through the conflicts.

A depressed person experiences a weight of guilt or anger that keeps him or her down. Thank God, there is hope for guilt and depression in Jesus Christ. How comforting to know that when Christ died for our sins and was buried, the weight of the great stone placed at the door of the tomb could not shut Him in or keep Him down. The women who came to the sepulcher saw “the stone had been rolled away … Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here” (Mk. 16:4,6). There is no need for one to remain depressed because the Lord Jesus Christ, the mighty Conqueror over demons, disease, death and hell, can be trusted in every circumstance. In the darkest hour or the most difficult situation, His words to us are, “Do not be afraid; only believe” (5:36). Do you believe the Son of God?

Suicide. I want to emphasize that if help is not sought, depression can lead to suicide. How sad that so many people perceive suicide as an escape or exit. Animals experience high stress level, but they do not deliberately kill themselves. Hence, even animals seem to recognize that suicide is not a solution. When human beings use suicide as “a way out,” they discover too late – on the other side of death, where they stand before an all-righteous God – that suicide by no means resolves conflicts or is a solution to anything.

Children become depressed when they blame themselves for the unresolved conflicts in the family system. Many young people become so angry with their parents that they refuse to listen to them, and then they seek out love, acceptance and security in the wrong places and from the wrong crowd. They sometimes turn to bars, nightclubs and lonely streets. Many of them become involved in drugs, alcohol and sexual promiscuity. Teenagers have a deep need for love and acceptance, but they are vulnerable.

Attempted suicide should be taken seriously, and it is often a cry for help. It is not a solution! We must recognize that the Lord gives life and takes life (Job 1:21). But both parents and children often become preoccupied with the giant problems rather than with God. In themselves they find no hope, and they don’t realize their problem can be solved. Remember, parents have a modeling effect on their children, who are likely to follow in their footsteps.

Separation. By separating, a family avoids dealing with the conflicts by not communicating or discussing the issues, or seeking help from a Christian counselor who gives biblical help. Even extremely minor conflicts can trigger major negative reactions leading to separation.

When husband and wife are angry with each other, one may abandon the family instead of confronting an issue. Then after a period of time, that one may return home, but with all the conflicts covered up rather than resolved. In the presence of others the couple often masks their emotions, but deep down in their hearts they are enraged and resentful of each other and retain feelings of separation, loneliness, rejection and aloofness. The home environment becomes full of stress, anxiety and emotional coldness. The family may recognize the need for help to work through these conflicts, but not seek it. Sadly, the peace which they once enjoyed is replaced with panic, and the love is turned into hate.

Divorce. Today’s response to unresolved conflicts is seen in the increased divorce rate. Some families perceive marriage as simply a contract. Hence, if the relationship does not remain healthy or fully satisfying the spouses simply quit, often with little effort to work through conflicts. Divorcing over simple problems seems to be the trend.

Divorce will likely continue to increase in our society, but the question is why do so many spouses give up and abandon the family instead of facing the problems in the relationship and seeking help? It is evident that there is a hunger for real, lasting love. But many abandon one relationship for another thinking the grass is greener on the other side, not realizing that he/she still has to mow the lawn. In other words, another marriage is not a cure for the unresolved conflicts in the previous one.

Many spouses are occupied with self-love. People should feel loved and have self-worth, but not become so selfish and self-absorbed that they are unable to demonstrate love for another. The deeper need is for genuine agape love which is divine, unconditional love. Love is the lever that lifts the loads of conflicts, opens the door to truthfulness and respect for each other, pockets pride, turns barriers into bridges, and heals and holds the marriage together. Divine love, when experienced in family relationships, will close the door of the divorce courts.

From man’s view there are multiple reasons for divorce, but it was never God’s design and desire. Divorce is never the result of genuine love and commitment. “What God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mt. 19:6). However, when love is lacking and God is left out of the relationship, the door to divorce is always open as an option. But before the relationship reaches a desire for divorce, the couple should seek out counseling to work through their conflicts.

In exploring some of the reactions to unresolved conflicts in relationships we see that people are prone to avoid the pain of working through the problems in the family system. In these families the emotional, psychological and physical needs are not met because of a lack of love that lasts – unconditional love which comes only from a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan is a home wrecker, for he has come “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” But Jesus Christ is a homebuilder and has “come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10).

1. Grant L. Martin, Counseling for Family Violence and Abuse, (Dallas: Word, 1987), 35-36. 
2. Grant L. Martin, 38-39. 
3. Ginny Ni Carthy and Sue Davidson, You Can Be Free, (Washington: Seal, 1989), 16-17.

Resolving Family Conflicts

Part – 6

By Emmanuel V. John

Breakup Of Family Relationships
Reactions to unresolved conflicts lead to serious problems in relationships. Sometimes these conflicts are so painful that the immediate reaction is denial – a common defense mechanism during times of conflict and high stress level. The tendency is to blame the victim in order to avoid taking responsibility for the overreaction to a situation. As Dr. Narramore points out, denial over a period of time can lead to serious mental illness. Denial is often supported by projection and fantasy. He states that “the conclusive cure for denial is confession.”1

Denial is a barrier to a better family relationship. It shows up in many ways, making it easier to avoid responsibility for solving the conflict. I believe that denial stems from the fall of man and can be traced back to Adam and Eve. When they sinned they were bound by fear of being found out. They made aprons from fig leaves and attempted to hide themselves from the presence of God (Gen. 3:7-10). Hence, because of our sinful Adamic nature, denial is often displayed, even by children, in reaction to stress, confusion, conflict, change, abuse and violence – especially in the home. From our early years on we tend to rely on denial to provide immediate protection from having to face the reality of a situation.

In many marital relationships with unresolved conflicts, denial can manifest itself in various reactions including:

  • Simple Denial – pretending the conflict doesn’t exist when it really does.
  • Minimizing – the husband or wife, or both, recognize the conflicts in the relationship but deny the intensity of the conflict despite its present impact.
  • Excusing – while recognizing the conflict, one rationalizes the other partner’s unacceptable behavior, effectively making him or her not responsible for the conflict.
  • Generalizing – mentioning the conflict but avoiding the specific problem, thus refusing the needed emotional involvement to resolve it.
  • Dodging – the couple recognizes the conflict and even speaks about it occasionally, but often changes the topic to avoid emotional disturbances.
  • Attacking – the husband and wife become irritable and even enraged with each other when reference is made to the existing conflict.2 At this point there is usually a high level of resentment between husband and wife, even though they try to remain in denial.

Sometimes resentment increases when one spouse blows up while the other clams up. Resentment usually results from hiding the repressed feelings of bitter hurts that have developed over a period of time. Also, resentment evokes anger, frustration and fear, and can lead to severe consequences. The wife often fears to honestly and appropriately express her emotions, and therefore internalizes her anger. The longer a person represses his or her damaged emotions, the more he or she will be consumed by anger, fear, resentment and rejection.

The husband or wife may respond to the unresolved conflict by refusing to communicate or by communicating in a disruptive and/or highly emotional manner. Either spouse may even threaten to harm self or others to gain attention or to release frustration, or at least display a bad temper without any apparent provocation. This “acting-out behavior” may result from repressed feelings of anger and unforgiveness. One couple, who were experiencing intense conflicts, only communicated by leaving messages on the refrigerator. The wife said she was afraid of exploding if they had face-to-face communication.

The wife or husband may be bound by fear and be in torment in the midst of the family conflict. Fear magnifies difficulties and minimizes solutions. Hence, fear can affect the individual in various ways and cripple a relationship – or even destroy the individuals. Also, it brings bondage as seen in Adam when he hid from God because he was afraid. The apostle Paul declared that “you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear” (Rom. 8:15 NKJV).

Christian families in particular should not be afraid or overly anxious about anything because our heavenly Father will take care of us. Fear is uncharacteristic of our faith in God who is able to supply our needs. Certainly, it is unwise to worry about our future (Mt. 6:25-34). Trusting God is the antidote for fear.

In many marital relationships, fear affects the process of resolving conflicts because the husband or wife worries about reliving past painful experiences, about the unbalancing effect of those experiences on the relationship, and about the possibility of being rejected. Fear significantly affects the strength of love, limiting freedom and bringing feelings of weakness. It also brings in disturbing thoughts. Dr. Tim LaHaye concluded, “The more fear one manifests, the greater the anger of the other [spouse], thus compounding the problem.”3

Internalizing excessive fear and anger often leads to depression. Or, the anger can be externalized and displaced in a destructive manner on others in the relationship. The husband can become isolated from, or agitated toward his wife for not being perfect. He may project his own feelings of failure on his wife, blame and criticize her, or even lose control and become destructive. This is a reaction to the feeling of loss within the relationship. Hence, the problem is not simply feeling angry, but it is remaining in a state of anger rather than accepting responsibility and working through the conflicts, forgiving one another and self. Instead, the husband and wife choose to be “weighed down with guilt, holding a grudge against self and others as well as punishing self through self-critical thoughts.”4 If the husband or wife remains in such an angry state, he or she is close to danger. Remember, anger is only one letter short of danger (D-anger)!

1. Clyde M. Narramore, The Psychology of Counseling, (Michigan: Zondervan, 1978), 278. 
2. [Friends in Recovery], The Twelve Steps–A Spiritual Journey, (California: Recovery, 1988), 34-35. 
3. Tim LaHaye, I Love You, But Why Are We So Different? (Oregon: Harvest, 1991), 155. 
4. Frank B. Minirth and Paul D. Meier, Happiness is a Choice, (Michigan: Baker, 1978), 36-37.