Couples Devotional: Reactions Speak Louder Than Words

And why worry about the speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, “Let me get rid of the speck in your eye,” when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see clear enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. —Matthew 7:3-5, NLT

Becky decided to leave her husband. She had had enough. She packed her bags along with her fourteen-month-old son and left home. With tears in her eyes, she walked into her mother’s house and announced her decision.

Her mother hugged her and said, “Before you leave Bill, I have one more task for you to complete.” Her mom then took out a pen and paper. She drew a vertical line down the middle of the paper. She told Becky to make a list of all the things that made Bill impossible to live with. That was easy for Becky to do. The list filled the page. She listed his bad habits and what he didn’t do for her, like bring her nice presents or help much with the housework.

Becky assumed her mom would then ask her to write down his good traits on the other side of the paper. Her mom told Becky that she already knew her good qualities. Instead, she wanted her daughter to write out next to every bad trait, how she responded to each. “What do you do when he does something you don’t like?” “What is your reaction?”

This took Becky by surprise, but she began to write, noting things like “I pout and cry and get angry” and “I give him the silent treatment.” When Becky finished the page, her mother took the pater and cut it in half. She handed only the column of Becky’s responses back to her. She suggested that Becky go home and think about things. Her mom would watch the baby. “Pray about them, Becky. If you still want to leave Bill, Dad and I will will do all we can to help you.”

Becky drove back to her house. That day she focused on how she responded to Bill, how petty and negative her reactions could be. She spent the next several hours asking God for forgiveness. She asked for strength, guidance, and wisdom. She realized that she was honestly blessed with a good man—not a perfect man, but a good one. She remembered her vow to Bill five years earlier in the presence of family, friends, and God to love and honor him in good times and bad times. She jumped back in her car and drove to her parents’ house. She picked up her baby and drove home in time to meet her husband after work.

Becky knew the difference in their marriage would come from within. From that day forward she would try to be mindful not only of her actions but her reactions as well.

• How would you finish this sentence? “After reading this story, I believe by reactions are often __________________.”
(Fill in a word that best describes how you react.)

• What keeps us from having better reactions when we have trouble?

• What do you think I can do to be a more effective reactor to our issues?

Separately list five to ten things that at times annoy or bug you about your spouse. Draw a line down the middle and on the other side, write out your reactions. Now talk about your responses. Pray together as a couple as you give your reactions to God.

(Excerpted from Closer: 52 Devotionals to Draw Couples Together by Jim and Cathy Burns; Bethany House, 2009.)

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Jim and Cathy Burns

Jim Burns is President of HomeWord. Jim speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has over 1.5 million resources in print in over 25 languages. Some of his recent books include: Finding Joy in the Empty Nest; Doing Life with Your Adult Children, and Have Serious Fun. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California. Cathy Burns is the co-author of Closer: 52 Devotions to Draw Couples Together. Along with being a mom, wife and Bible study leader, she recently retired from her job as a teacher in a school for “kids who learn differently” in order to help care for her three grandchildren. Cathy and Jim met the first day in college and married one week after she graduated.

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