“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold…Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32, NIV).
I’ve often been amazed just how fast a seemingly insignificant issue in a marriage can become extremely volatile, especially when the couple violates biblical principles like the wisdom found in Ephesians 4. One night of anger turns into two, then three, then 30, then 300 and with each click of the light switch the relationship is becoming more and more damaged and the tiny pin prick the Devil had been trying to access that marriage through is is now a gaping hole and this marriage has now become his playground.
Our Scripture reveals that it is possible to be upset and angry about an issue without yielding to or accelerating the situation to the level of sin (but most of us know what’s it like to be angry and sin and we’re rather good at it). What does make the issue sin is when the couple does not process the situation and fails to collaborate together for a godly, peaceful solution. Instead, they decide to let the anger seethe and simmer without resolution day after day and night after night. This destructive process I call “heart stacking” has the amazing power to turn something minor into something that can threaten the very fabric of the marriage. As time goes by, the issue becomes more and more difficult to resolve and often the marriage partners stop remembering what the original issue was in the first place. How sad to let an issue that we cannot even remember destroy the intimacy and quality of the marriage.
You might think that I am overstating the damage of unresolved issues and anger in marriage but that would be to forget the aggressive and deceptive activity of the enemy in the midst of ongoing strife in the marriage. Remember that the Devil’s most powerful weapon is the power of suggestion. When we fail to biblically address and put down issues in marriage we open our hearts and minds to unscriptural thinking and meditation. Once that seed is planted by the enemy all he needs is another night, another week, another month and he can make that seed grow into an intractable situation.The Word indicates that we literally give the enemy a foothold in our marriage when we do not heed the admonition to “not let the sun go down on our anger.” A “foothold” is a secure position or a firm basis for further progress, activity, advancement, or development. No married couple sees the ultimate damage that can be caused by giving the Devil the right to advance strife in our lives through unresolved anger but he is a legalist and if you open that door, he will take that license.
The correct response to anger and strife in marriage is found in Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4:31-32. If anyone deserves to be given the grace of God it should be our covenant partner. I’ve been amazed and perplexed at times to watch men or women show great mercy to family members coworkers, even strangers, but have no mercy, grace, or patience for the person they married. Focus on doing a daily dump of all anger and feelings of resentment you might have toward your husband or wife. We are told to “get rid” of all manifestations of anger and choose to be kind and compassionate towards one another. Surely “one another” applies to our spouses. We are challenged to forgive as God forgave us in Christ. Let’s avoid the trap of treating our spouses with such familiarity that we deny them the basic kindness and compassion commanded by the Apostle.