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Getting to the Root of the Problem

“I need to quit telling my husband what to do—can you please help me?!”

My friend was desperate for change, but really unsure of where to begin. I remember struggling for years with this same thing. I wanted so badly to be a godly woman, a loving wife, a respectful sister-in-Christ to my husband . . . but then he’d do something that I felt like I just had to step in and correct him! And the destruction of the Fierce Women/Fearful Men cycle just kept rolling on.

Yesterday I shared with you some thoughts on birthing repentance and today, I want us to see how to discover the root issues that keep tripping us up and repeating the same cycle of conflict in our marriages. I mentioned that when we move our focus from the speck in our husband’s eye, and go on a log hunt to see what might be blocking our vision . . . we’re beginning to  experience the labor pains of repentance.

The “log” is some kind of sinful response like: fuming if my husband tells me things have changed and we’ll have to cancel vacation plans, or berating him for not taking care of household chores, or giving the silent treatment to get my way.

My sinful responses serve as a signal that my “log” has some roots that run deep. If I want to discover the source, I need to start asking some hard questions.

Root Issue Questions:

  1. Why? Why am I fuming/crying/shouting (you fill in the blank) . . . ? What am I wanting that I’m not getting?
  2. Is what I’m wanting a legitimate need? A good desire? In line with God’s will for my life?
  3. If not, I need to reconsider what I’m wanting. If I said yes, to any of the above, has what I’m wanting moved beyond a good desire to something I’m demanding I must have?
  4. What is my heart motive?

My sinful reaction (the log in my eye) is an indicator that I’m caught by the lure of lust. I’m wanting something so much that I’m willing to sin to get it or I’m sinning because I can’t have what I’m wanting. James explains the process so well:

“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin . . .” (James 1:14–15)

When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin. That’s the log. That’s the plank that’s sticking out of my eye: the slamming of the door, the rolling of the eyes, the frustrated sighs, the harsh tone, the ugly sarcasm . . . it was given birth because of lust. And really my lust is always the problem. My lust is the root issue that needs to be dealt with.

Again, James helps us to understand what’s happening here:

“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:1–3)

When I determine what I’m lusting for, I’ve discovered an idol of my heart and that idol needs to be smashed. Smashing an idol isn’t easy, it starts with repentance, but an idol can be demolished once I look it square in the eye and determine I love God more than I love that measly idol.

The next time you have a conflict, before you focus on the other person, on how you feel, or on what you need to do to get things going your way, stop and ask some root issue questions. Find out where your heart is, and who or what you’re worshiping.