How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Day All By Yourself

A lot of things can ruin an otherwise perfecly good day. There are those small annoyances – heavy traffic, lost keys, hair that won’t cooperate, an acne break-out, out-of-whack hormones that make you feel like a crazy person, a favorite shoe that your dog thinks is a chew toy, jeans that won’t button, spilled coffee (that you paid over $4.00 for), an empty gas tank, and a less-than-encouraging conversation with your insurance company (who put you on hold for 45 minutes before vividly reminding you why you hate your insurance company).

There are also times when a day is derailed by something major – a car accident, a sick child, a miscarriage, a layoff, a foreclosure, a scary diagnosis, or a heart-wrenching breakup. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly life can change. In a matter of seconds, a good day can become your worst day. Though we like to pretend otherwise, life is incredibly unpredictable. Needless to say, I am deeply thankful that mine is in the tight grip of a sovereign, all-wise God who is never taken by surprise.

But if I’m honest, most of the bad days I have aren’t caused by those little annoyances, major trials, or anything in between. Most of my bad days are my own fault. Regrettably, I am quite good at ruining an otherwise fabulous day all by myself – no outside influences necessary. Here’s how to do it:

1)    Foster feelings of entitlement.

By feelings of entitlement, I mean that attitude that produces thoughts such as, “I’m better than this” . . . “He/She owes me” . . . “After all I do, this is the thanks I get?” . . . and the biggest one of all – “I DESERVE ________________.”

Such thoughts are usually easy to justify. I mean, I work hard to take care of my family. I do the stuff that nobody else wants to do. I work 14+ hour days, 365 days a year – no sick days. I spend most of my time playing little boy games and having little boy conversations. I wipe mouths, noses, bottoms, bathtubs, floors, and toilets. I make sure the bills are paid on time and that there is money left in the bank account afterwards. I brave the strange smells, bad lighting and dilapidated carts at Wal-mart instead of enjoying my beloved Publix in order to spend less of my hubby’s hard-earned dollars on food. (If that’s not sacrifice, I don’t know what is!) I could go on, but you get the idea. Not a day goes by that I don’t set aside my own interests and desires for the sake of my family. I know the same can be said of you!

I wish I could say that the sacrifices I make always produce an abundance of joy in my heart as I watch them bear fruit in the lives of those I love. But all-to-often, I play the “woe-is-me” card and allow them to produce a sense of entitlement that causes me to fixate on the praise I don’t receive, the privileges I don’t possess, and the personal ambitions I am unable to pursue.

“Don’t I deserve a big fat ‘thank you,’ and shouldn’t it come in the form of gorgeous flowers and my favorite chocolates? After all I do, don’t I have the right to splurge on a designer purse regardless of whether or not we can really afford it? In light of what I feel called, trained, and gifted to do, don’t I deserve several hours a week of uninterrupted time to write Bible studies while someone else cleans my house?” When my heart answers “yes” to such questions, it automatically says “no” to joy.

Joy simply cannot flourish in the life of someone who thinks she has the right to demand what her heart selfishly craves. That kind of woman is impossible to satisfy. I know because I’ve been that woman . . .way too often.

The only person who has ever had the right to act entitled is Jesus. Interestingly enough, he never did. In fact, He is the embodiment of humble and joyful self-sacrifice. Philippians 2:5-8 makes this ever so clear: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!”

If you ever want to suck all the joy out of your own heart, just foster feelings of entitlement. Instead of emptying yourself for the sake of others, demand that others fill you up. Whine and pout when they don’t. Post something depressing or nasty on Facebook about it. Make sure all the thankless, uncooperative people in your life know how you feel. Then, go buy yourself a new outfit, splurge on a spa pedicure, and treat yourself to a big slice of cheesecake. Just know that as you run hard after what you “deserve,” you are bound to ruin any chance of enjoying what you already have.

2)    Fixate on the “greener grass”.

Let me explain this one with a little story. There once was a wife who had an amazing, thoughtful, and generous husband. One Valentine’s Day, this husband planned to take her out to a fabulous restaurant, give her a beautiful necklace, write her a sweet love note, and spend the evening catching up on season 1 of Downton Abbey. The wife looked forward to her Valentine’s date for weeks. She got an overnight baby sitter. She picked out a great outfit. She even shaved her legs! The day started out great, but by the time the date actually started she was a dissatisfied, pouty, irritated woman. You see, all day she had been bombarded with pictures on Facebook of other wives’ flowers, chocolates, homemade breakfasts, and adorable lunch dates. As she looked at these pictures, she began to wonder, “Why didn’t I get my card this morning? Why don’t I have a box of chocolates to enjoy throughout the day? Why doesn’t my husband ever cook for me?” And when her husband was a little late picking her up, she convinced herself that it was because he didn’t care as much as she did, that he didn’t really want to take her out, and that all the women who were being treated to made-from-scratch romantic dinners at home were much better off. None of that was true, of course. But her eyes were so blinded by the highly edited, seemingly perfect “greener grass” of her friend’s lives that she was incapable of enjoying the beauty of her own.

I may or may not know that wife. But I can tell you that I have ruined so many days, weeks, and even months by fixating on what others have (or what I THINK they have) that I don’t. I once heard a Christian comedian say that the grass is greenest where it’s been pooped on. In other words, nobody’s life is as good as it looks on the surface. And even if it was, I shouldn’t be looking over there anyway. God has planted enough blessings on my own side of the fence to keep me occupied (and grateful!) for a lifetime. “Be content with what you have” (Heb. 13:5), “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18), and rest in knowing that “those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (Ps. 34:10). Otherwise, you might end up ruining a perfectly good Valentine’s Day. Not that I know anything about that . . .

3)    Cultivate unrealistic expectations.

I’ve already explored this one in another post, but it’s a big obstacle for me, so it bears mentioning again. I once heard that the gap between our expectations and our reality is our “misery factor.” We have a picture in our minds of what our lives – and the people in them – ought to look like and act like. When that doesn’t happen, things can get ugly. Days can be ruined.

Why is it that a husband coming home late from work, a toddler throwing a tantrum at the grocery store, or a coworker acting like a total jerk can send a perfectly good day spiraling downhill so quickly? Because our selfish hearts expect that husband to do whatever it takes –  short of getting fired or breaking any major laws – to get home when he said he would. That child is supposed to always reflect what an awesome, godly parent you are trying to be. And considering how many times you’ve covered for that coworker, you expect a little bit of respect!

Ninety percent of my bad days are rooted in my own unrealistic expectations of the people around me – expectations that are manufactured in the factory of my own selfish heart. They are naturally byproducts of how Aprile wants Aprile’s life to be – often with little regard for others or God’s will for my life. When people don’t measure up or things don’t work out like I had planned, I get frustrated, defensive, and even more self-focused. The result? Yet another good-day-gone-bad.

Having a bad day? Maybe it’s the disobedient kids, the inconsiderate boss, the troubled finances, the bad haircut, or the workaholic husband.

Or, maybe it’s your own heart.

You see, we don’t need any help ruining a perfectly good day. As sinners, we are quite capable of doing that all by ourselves.  Fortunately, God’s Spirit in us is quite capable of restoring the joy that we have allowed entitlement, discontentment, and selfish expectations to drain out of our lives (Gal. 5:22).

So go ahead and ask yourself that hard question: “Is my bad day my own fault?” If the answer is yes, take it to Jesus, confess your sin, receive His forgiveness, and seek to constantly weed out these subtle yet sinful attitudes.

Then, take a moment to bask in the sweet reality that tomorrow is a new day!

Where to “Marinate” When Your Marriage Gets Messy

I’ve read a lot of marriage books. I’ve been to a lot of marriage seminars. I’ve heard a lot of sermons about marriage.

I know how important it is to understand and seek to meet the needs of my husband. I am well aware of his love language and try to be intentional about “speaking” it (though I probably fail more times than I succeed). I try hard to make our home a refuge for him, be an encourager to him, and hit up Victoria’s Secret from time to time. I cook. I clean. I pay bills. I make sure our three year old doesn’t kill himself (among many other motherly duties). I calendar regular date nights. I work out, take care of myself, and try not to wear my comfy pajamas ALL the time (at least not any with holes or that I purchased last decade).

All that stuff is important. It really is.

But the longer I am married, the more convinced I am that a great marriage has a lot less to do with meeting needs and a lot more to do with forgiving faults; it has a lot less to do with filling love tanks and a lot more to do with emptying myself of pride.

When my marriage is struggling; when I am caught in the comparison game (“if only my marriage were more like so-and-so’s”); when my husband and I are like two ships passing in the night; when I’m flat-out ticked off that MY love language isn’t being spoken . . .

When I’m hurt; when I’m misunderstood; when I have no desire whatsoever to apologize or to overlook an offense; when  I’m tempted to turn into the “ice queen” and shut him out until he’s ready to “get with the program” (the program = whatever makes me happy) . . .

When the pressure cooker of busy schedules and sheer exhaustion produces an eruption of unchecked, unbridled emotion and things get really ugly . . .

When the plank in my own eye is all but lost on my pride-impaired vision and my own self-righteousness blinds me to how amazing my husband actually is . . .

There is one place I always go.

One passage of Scripture I always turn to.

One parable that never ceases to place the messy parts of my marriage – and my heart – at the foot of the cross and remind me that nothing, and I mean NOTHING my husband ever does (perceived or actual) even comes close to the horrifying mountain of offenses from which I have been graciously pardoned.

It’s the parable of the unforgiving servant recorded in Matthew 18:21-35. Here are a few facts you should know before you dive in:

  • Ten thousand talents (v. 24) = about 20 years wages for a common laborer
  • A hundred denarii  (v.28) = 100 days wages for a common laborer (pocket change in comparison to ten thousand talents)
  • The extreme difference is intentional!

21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 “When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 “But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 “So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, “Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 “And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, “Pay back what you owe.’ 29 “So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, “Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 “But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 “So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, “You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 “Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

This parable does for my marriage what no love language, lingerie, late night talk, or lavish date night can do. It confronts me with the one thing that has the power to transform my selfish heart. It confronts me with the gospel.

It turns whatever arrows I am pointing at my husband back on me.  It suffocates my self-righteousness and revives my desire to show grace . . .

. . . to forgive.

. . . to have mercy.

. . . to love.

. . . to really, truly love . . . as Christ loved me.

And, yes, I believe it can do the same thing for you.

So, when your husband doesn’t come home in time for dinner (again), when he prioritizes work over family, when he says something really stupid, when he makes a foolish purchase, when he comes home after having a few too many beers, when he “forgets” to help around the house or with the kids, when his hobby becomes way too important, when you catch him looking at porn, when he falls way short of your expectations . . .

Whenever he fails, however he fails, whatever he fails at doing . . .

Dare to linger in Matthew 18:21-35.

Dare to compare his offenses with the massive debt you’ve been forgiven.

Dare to compare your attitude toward him with the attitude of Jesus toward you.

Dare to allow God’s Word to be a full-length mirror . . . and look. Really, really look at what it reflects back to you.

Expose your heart – and your marriage – to gospel realities and refuse to walk away unchanged.

Don’t ignore what needs to be addressed. Don’t sweep sin under the rug. Don’t be naïve to the importance of confronting marriage problems head on.

But whatever you do, do it as a woman who’s been forgiven ten thousand talents.

When you don’t feel like it, when he doesn’t deserve it, and when you know it’s not going to make a whole lot of difference in the short run, choose hear your Savior say: “Should you not also have mercy on your [husband], in the same way that I had mercy on you?”

Then, choose grace.

Choose to forgive “just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).

 

 

 

 

Ten Ways to Prevent Your Husband from Becoming the Godly Man You’ve Always Wanted

First, let me set something straight – I assure you that I am NOT even remotely implying that it’s your fault if your husband is an unbeliever or lacks maturity in his faith. His relationship with Jesus is ultimately his responsibility. However, as wives we exert a powerful influence in our husbands’ lives, and we get to choose whether that influence encourages or discourages them in their pursuit of Jesus. How we treat them matters . . . a lot! We’re fooling ourselves (and ignoring a whole lot of Scripture!) if we think it doesn’t.

What your husband needs most is a humble helpmate, not another Holy Spirit; a gracious companion, not another preacher; a compassionate cheerleader, not another critic. I married an incredible man who loves the Lord, but it only took about 5 minutes of marriage to realize that my sinful tendency to control, manipulate, dominate, and criticize was not going to die easy. The latter part of Genesis 3:16* is alive and well in us, girls. Either we declare war on it, or it will declare war on us – and our marriages will be among the most heartbreaking casualties.

The following list is intended to expose some of the most ineffective and disrespectful tactics wives use to “fix” their husband’s relationship with the Lord. I have not done all of these, but I’d be lying if told you that the majority of them didn’t stem from first-hand experience. I have grown particularly good at #9 over the years, and the Lord and I have been working overtime to correct it. Aren’t you just over-the-top thankful that no habit is beyond God’s ability to change?!  Galatians 5:16-26!!!

So, here they are in no particular order: Ten Ways to Prevent Your Husband from Becoming the Godly Man You’ve Always Wanted . . .

1)      Subtly (or not so subtly) compare him with other “godlier” men. “Can you believe Jennifer’s husband prays with her every night before they go to bed?”

 

2)      Use your kids as tools to guilt him into godliness. “How is Johnny ever going to love Jesus if you don’t lead us in family devotions every day?”

 

3)      Talk a lot about Jesus, but refuse to sacrificially serve like Him. “Last time I checked I was your wife, not your maid!”

 

4)      Come home from church, Bible study, or a Christian conference in a bad mood. “The last thing I want to do after an intense morning at Bible study is come home and clean up after you! [Insert rant here].”

5)      Make physical intimacy dependent on spiritual intimacy. “I’d be more attracted to you/we’d have a better sex life if we were more spiritually connected.”

6)      Constantly nag him about reading his Bible, having a quiet time, etc. “So I guess sleeping and/or reading the newspaper is more important than reading GOD’S HOLY WORD?!”

7)      Make him feel like a spawn of Satan every time he suggests a movie, TV show, song, etc. that doesn’t jive with your personal convictions. “Are you kidding me?! I WILL NOT watch that TRASH! I CANNOT BELIEVE you would even suggest it!”

8)      Fill your free time with building your ministry instead of building your marriage. “Not now honey, I’m working on a blog post.” (This one is not at all an issue for me. Ha!)

 

9)      Use sarcasm to highlight his shortcomings.You’ll be glad to know I dusted your Bible today.”

 

10)   Refuse to value his opinions and/or submit to his decisions unless he’s really “prayed about it”. “I want to let you lead, but I just can’t until I know you’ve really prayed and searched the Scriptures.”

 

First Peter 3:1 and 2 (which follows the most stunning description of Christ’s humility and submission in the face of suffering) says, “Wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” Do you want your husband to have a saving relationship with Jesus and to grow in His faith? Do you want him to be the godly man you’ve always dreamed of? Here’s your role in that: Talk less, submit more, and show him the beauty of a life that reflects the humble, sacrificial, unconditional love of the Savior you long for him to know.

*”To the woman [God] said . . .your desire will be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Gen. 3:16b (desire = desire to rule/control, same word as in Gen. 4:7)

 

 

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