The Fruit of Fretting

Most of you know, my husband is currently deployed. This article was written several months ago, but I find it again relevant–even to me, the author.

We recently talked  on LASTing Peace, about fear being idolatry. This article explains another way that fear, also known as fretting, can sabotage our Christian lives.

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He started it.

Yes, he snapped at me first, but you’d think I could’ve held my tongue and finished with a “win”. Especially after all my praying lately.

Just two days ago, I even sent my husband a text message telling him that I prayed to be a Proverbs 31 wife to him: “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

With all my heart I want to learn to control my tongue; to face temptation and make the right choice—not to sin. In that moment, just before I retaliated, I saw the choice, clear as an angel and a devil perched persuasively on my shoulders. I saw it, and in the split second that it takes to activate one’s vocal chords thoughtlessly, I snapped right back. And just as James says, I set a fire.

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James 3:6

After his harsh words, my husband apologized immediately. He came toward me to give me a hug. With self-righteous flare, I turned my back on him. “No, I don’t want it. You’re not sincere, you’re just trying to make me stop being angry.”

He dropped the fight. That’s one thing I simultaneously admire and hate about my man. He  can simply drop his arms, turn around and let the whole argument go. All the while, the heat of anger and bitterness simmers in my chest. He settled into the couch with his computer, but a fire had already broken loose in me.

Tearful, I huffed into the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed. “God, why? Why is he so heartless and uncaring? Why doesn’t he care about making up? Why doesn’t he notice that I’m really hurt?”

I don’t know who I was more angry with—myself or my husband. Yes, Patrick’s words were hurtful and the capstone to my mounting frustration as I played second fiddle to his computer games all weekend. But still, when the opportunity to express forgiveness, to respond with abundant joy that rests on Jesus and not on my husband’s behavior—when the opportunity to engage the Scripture I’ve been memorizing presented itself, I glanced away from the proverbial “angel” and bored full ahead into my husband with a devilish piety.

God says His Word never returns void. So true. Even as I sat there, sulking over my hurt and groveling in my shame, my newest memory verse came to mind. Psalm 37:8 says, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”

That morning, in my quiet time, I had examined a couple of those words in the Hebrew. Fret means “to be incensed, to get hot”—in American vernacular think of “smoldering anger” or “fuming”. The most poignant definition of the word evil is “to shatter”.

As the evening waned, I sat in the darkening corner of my bedroom and listened to my Heavenly Father. Gently, without accusation, He prodded my heart with the truth: I could choose to fret and be angry. But if I did, I was playing an active role in shattering my relationship with my husband, to say nothing of my own peace.

Often we are told that fretting or worrying is pointless. We are reminded that being angry or bitter hurts us more than the person at whom it is directed. But God’s Word takes it even further. To simmer, steam or be hot and angry tends only to shatter—relationships, peace of mind and communion with our Heavenly Father.

I wish I could say I came out of my room right away with a glowing countenance and words of restoration. No, I sat there a while longer and wrestled with God. In fact, it took me until the following morning to face my husband and humbly ask his forgiveness. When I did, I saw the fruit of God’s Word bloom. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”

The wonderful thing about knowing Jesus is that even when things are shattered, He is our healer. He can restore all things, even relationships and a peaceful heart.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Ps. 147:3

To Write or Not to Speak

I know I said I was taking a hiatus, but my heart keeps breathing thoughts that I have to write somewhere. I can no less write than sleep, eat, be. And I might as well finish out this week, right?

I have decided to step away from my keyboard simply because I believe I’ve gotten too casual with words. “Living” out loud here, publicly on a blog, it’s easy to forget the vastness of my audience. I take thoughts from my journal and burdens from the bottom of my heart and without even the mid-step of airing these dangerous words to a close friend, I publish them for the world to see.

The most shocking thing to me about my mistreatment of words, is that I just studied James – James, the quintessential herald of the tongue’s flaming potential. I have been told, “You don’t need to express every thought you have.”

My husband once told me that he would talk more if I let him get a word in edgewise.

My mother warned me that I confide too broadly, that I don’t need to share my secrets with every new or passing friend.

But I want to live raw and out there. I want to talk through my sloppy mess-ups. I want to share my pain and salve other’s scars by assuring them of empathy. Where do I find this balance? Where is the line between living vulnerably and being too guarded? What is the proper use of words?

One organ that does not require a regular workout, and will not improve your health in any way, is your mouth. Proverbs repeats the warning numerous times, “A wise man keeps his mouth shut.”

On the other hand, God spoke the world into existence and Jesus is called the Word. The entire cannon of Scripture is God’s written, love letter to us. And often he wrote words we don’t want to hear. And He did bear the very essence of His heart on those pages.

I think the caution must be taken like medicine. There will be different doses for varying illnesses. Someone who struggles to share their heart and closets their secrets, will one day discover that those secrets decay and leave a mass of rotten bitterness.

However, I fall in the other category. One who is quick to speak is often slow to listen. Where there is an abundance of words, folly abounds. I think a prudent woman (I’m reading about this character trait) measures, weighs and considers her words before she speaks (or writes) them.

I like being impetuous. I like being colorful with my language and unhindered in sharing. But I have a heavy responsibility to use those qualities wisely – especially in the context of my words.

I’m Only Joking!

Sarcasm is a modern hobby.  It is, “Just the way I am.”

I have recently been using Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s devotional book He Restores My Soul.  I honestly was not expecting today’s chapter to discuss the potency of words.  I really didn’t want to discuss the potency of words.  Recently, I have been extremely aware of how my words can hurt my husband.

I really do try to guard my tongue.  I hate it that quite often my unsolicited, godly advice comes out as reasonable words couched in self-righteousness.  The worst part is that even when I am right, this tone negates anything valuable in my comment.  I see slivers of his soul come lose and I wonder if they can ever be retrieved.

Sarcasm has practically become an accent, a dialect, a recognizable, definable way of speaking.  The lie is that it’s OK.  Right?  It’s just the way I am!  I’m only kidding!

Nope.

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Prov. 12:18

“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Prov. 15:4

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Prov. 18: 21

“Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death is the man who deceives his

neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!'” Prov. 26:18-19

Has sarcasm or wit ever gotten you in trouble?  If you’re really honest, was there a legitimate sting in your remarks?