Love is hard to offend and quick to forgive. How easily do you get irritated and offended? Some people have the motto, “Never pass up an opportunity to get upset with your spouse.” When something goes wrong, they quickly take full advantage of it by expressing how hurt or frustrated they are. But this is the opposite reaction to love.
To be irritable means “to be near the point of a knife.” Not far from being poked. People are irritated are locked, loaded, and ready to overact.
When under pressure, love doesn’t turn sour. Minor problems don’t yield major reactions. The truth is, love does not get angry or hurt unless there is a legitimate and just reason in the sight of God. A loving husband will remain calm and patient, showing mercy and restraining his temper. Rage and violence are out of the question. A loving wife is not overly sensitive or cranky but exercise emotional self-control. She chooses to be a flower among the thorns and respond pleasantly during prickly situations.
If you are walking under the influence of love, you will be a joy, not a jerk. Ask yourself, “Am I a calming breeze, or a storm waiting to happen?”
Why do people become irritable? There are at least two key reasons that contribute to it:
Stress: Stress weighs you down, drains your energy, weakens your health, and invites you to be cranky. It can be brought on by the relational causes: arguing, division, and the bitterness. There are excessive causes: overworking, overplaying, and overspending. And there are deficiencies: not get enough rest, nutrition, or exercise. Oftentimes we inflict these daggers on ourselves, and this sets us up to be irritable.
Life is a marathon, not a sprint. This means you must balance, prioritize, and pace yourself. Too often we throw caution to the wind and run full steam ahead, doing what feels right at the moment. Soon we are gasping for air, wound up in knots, and ready to snap. The increasing pressure can wear away at our patience and our relationship.
The Bible can help you avoid unhealthy stress. It teaches you to let love guide your relationships to so you aren’t caught up in unnecessary arguments (Colossians 3:12-14). To pray through your anxieties instead of tackling them on your own (Philippians 4:6-7). To delegate when you are overworked (Exodus 18:17-23). To avoid overindulgence (Proverbs 23:16)
It also exhorts you to take a “Sabbath” vacation day every week for worship and rest. This strategically allows you time to recharge, refocus, and add breathing room or margin to your weekly schedule. Establishing these kinds of extra spaces will place cushions between you and the pressures around you, reducing stress that keeps you on edge around your mate. But there is a deeper reason why you can become irritable.
Selfishness: When you’re irritable, the heart of the problem is primarily a problem of the heart. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34 NKJV). Some people are like lemons: when life squeezes them, they pour out a sour response. Some are more like peaches: when the pressure is on, the result is still sweet.
Being easily angered is an indicator that a hidden area of selfishness or insecurity is present where love is supposed to rule. But selfishness also wears many other masks:
Lust, for example, is the result of being ungrateful for what you have and choosing to covet or burn with passion for something that is forbidden. When your heart is lustful, it will become easily frustrated and angered (James 4:1-3). Bitterness takes root when he is provoked (Ephesians 4:31). Greed for more money and possessions will frustrate you with unfulfilled desires (1 Timothy 6:9-10). These strong cravings coupled with dissatisfaction lead you to lash out at anyone who stands in your way. Prideleads you to act harshly in order to protect your ego and reputation.
These motivations can never be satisfied. But when love enters your heart, it calms you down and inspires you to quit focusing on yourself. It loosens your grasp and helps you let go of unnecessary things.
Love will lead you to forgive instead of holding a grudge. To be grateful instead of greedy. To be content rather than rushing into more debt. Love encourages you to be happy when someone else succeeds rather than lying wake at night in envy. Love says “share the inheritance” rather than “fight with your relatives.” It reminds you to prioritize your family rather than sacrifice them for a promotion at work. In each decision, love ultimately lowers your stress and helps you release the venom that can build up inside. It then sets up your heart to respond to your spouse with patience and encouragement rather than anger and exasperation.
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.
Choose today to react to tough circumstances in your marriage in loving ways instead of with irritation. Begin by making a list of areas where you need to add margin to your schedule. Then list any wrong motivations that you need to release from your life.
Things to ponder:
Where do you need to add margin to your life? When have you recently overreacted? What was your real motivation behind it?