It's no shock when I'm impatient with my husband. He's slow and methodical. He doesn't do anything in a hurry. He’s the opposite of me in this way and I love it about him. It's clear I needed to marry a man who measures my temperament with his steadiness. This characteristic of my husband is a means of grace from God to help me grow.
It also drives me nuts. My husband isn't perfect in his steadfastness; he still sins. When he does, God uses even that for my good. Sin is not good, but God is and he leverages all things to work for his purposes (Eph 1:11). His purposes always coincide with my good (Rom 8:28).
Here are 5 verses that knock my socks off when it comes to my spouse’s sin:
James 1:2 is true for spousal sin. “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds.” James tells me to have joy because God is up to something good. He's at work in my own heart when things get taxing—including other people's sin. When someone sins against me, the suffering and hardship involved create a trial. My spouse’s sin challenges my faith. When he sins, I can choose to trust and worship Jesus or not. My husband’s sin forces me to actively trust Jesus or deny Jesus. When I trust Jesus amidst affliction, it builds faithful endurance that I need.
Matthew 7:1-5 is hard, but an utter necessity. “First take the log out of your own eye.” Why is there always a log in my eye and always a speck in everyone else's? Regardless if 2% of a conflict is my fault and 98% is someone else's fault, that 2% is my log because it's closest to me. Someone else's log will always be a speck simply because it's not in mine to deal with. Even my 2% separates me from a perfect God. Seeking reconciliation in the middle of conflict isn’t to give sin a pass, it's because my main goal should be to please Christ and to address personal logs. If I don’t deal with my own log, my soul is at stake (James 1:21).
First Peter 2-3 gives me a perfect outline of how to do this—Jesus set an example so I could follow in his footsteps. When sinned against, Jesus entrusted himself to the one who judges justly (1 Pet 2:23). I don't have to make sure my husband knows how sinful he is; that's the Holy Spirit’s job. Instead, I get protection from a trustworthy deliverer (Ps 34:15-19). Just as God is in charge of my sanctification, so should I trust him for the sanctification of others (Phil 1:6).
First Corinthians 13 is required of me no matter what. I can say I love my spouse, but love isn't genuine if it doesn’t show up in my private thoughts and conversations. Love doesn’t constantly bring up another’s sin to remind him of what he's done. Love shows patient grace towards others while God transforms. Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things. And it has hope for one's spouse, not bitter resentment. Love isn’t arrogant; true love works on its own log.
James 4:1 reveals my heart. If I respond to another’s sin with sin, I am compounding a problem. The other person didn’t cause my sin—if I sin in response to what another person has done, it’s because I want something and I’m not getting it. Do I want a perfect husband or do I want my perfect God? Whatever I want most determines my response. This is hard. Even if I'm right in my assessment of his sin, even if he started it, even if he doesn't recognize it or take ownership of it, I’ll sinfully compound the problem if I'm wanting my way more than I’m wanting God’s way.
What should I learn to do instead? The Bible gives a number of options instead of sin. It says to be kind, tenderhearted (Eph 4:32), slow to speak, slow to anger, quick to hear (James 1:19), to bridle my tongue (James 1:26), count it as joy (James 1:2), seek to build up (Eph 4:29), count others as more important than myself (Phil 2:3), bear with and forgive (Col 3:13), entrust myself to God (1 Pet 2:23), be respectful and seek purity (1 Pet 3:2). Overwhelming? Absolutely. Possible? Only with Jesus’ help. Will I do it perfectly? No. Jesus doesn’t expect my perfection; he wants my devotion. The more I know Jesus, the more I love him. When I genuinely love him, overwhelming imperatives become the way of imperfect worship rather than daunting laws.
Conflict in marriage is hard. It’s personal and reveals our worst parts. But, it’s for our good as God prepares us for heaven. “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6). God is faithful, even amidst others' sin.
Rebekah Hannah is a biblical counselor at The Grace Center for Biblical Counseling in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Andrew and has three daughters.