Little did I know when I said “I do” twenty-four years ago, I really meant “I’ll do whatever I can to keep peace and please you, while choking my heart’s desires and pushing God aside.” Camouflaged in the fiber of my belief system was an unbiblical mentality on how to be a good wife and submit to my husband. I thought I had left behind dysfunctional family behavior.
Phrases like “hubby likes this” or “hubby doesn’t like that,” prefaced a large part of my vocabulary. Eventually, I shut out friends to please him, and when I shut out myself, I prayed for God to take me home, my eternal home. But He had other plans. People were ushered back into my life for resuscitation.
One person came after forty years as a Christian to test my faith. God allowed a charming young man’s approach with our daughter to send me into what I call a “faith coma.” Talk about fervent prayer! “Mama Bear” fought with ferocity and passion on her knees. Prayer nudged me awake and kept me awake through the nights for the best part of a year. This kind of prayer is stimulated by the Holy Spirit, not by me. Looking back, I am amazed how He enabled me to function on so little sleep, loss of appetite and concentration. In the most intense moment, I was given a choice. Would I trust God? Just Him, and nobody else? Would I make choices to please Him first? Would I stand my God-given ground and be fruitful as He planned for me?
Though the battle was exhausting physically, emotionally and spiritually, it was intended for my benefit. I learned to hone in on God’s gentle voice and decipher it from so many others. I fell in love with Him more than ever before.
For forty years as a Christian, I had pleaded to be happy in my faith, to joyfully serve the Lord. God has not only released me from the sinful bonds of people-pleasing, but in addition, He has freed me from wasted efforts at pleasing legalism’s harsh demands. Now, I am thankful, even cheerful, for God’s discipline through the painful, unpleasant test, because I am recovering. I am learning to walk in new ways with fresh steps of faith. I am soaring on wings as eagles with uplifted perspective. Faith wins over doubt more. Peace rules my heart. Insecurities are fading. The love I’ve always yearned to have for others is enlarged.
My dear husband has a new wife and is adjusting as best as he can. After all, he had a wife who sought for so long to only please him, but now she is focused on pleasing Him. Lesson learned; the more I try to please a person, the less I achieve that goal. In Hebrews 11:6, God tells me exactly how to please Him.
It's impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.
With firm faith in the God Who delivered me from suffocating bondage, I look for sweeter days with the man I have spoiled. I look for a new marriage, not a new man. Because of my loving Father’s continued discipline of me, I am becoming a healthier wife with the added bonus of becoming a better friend.
The God of my legalistic childhood was not good. Ironically, the young man sending Mama Bear to her knees was influential in opening my eyes to know God is good. Yes, He is sovereign, but that’s not enough. I must believe He’s good and that He works all things together for my good—even my former imprisonment to peoples’ opinions.
Do you scamper around straining to please others, feeling like a martyr or victim? You may feel as though you have lost your personal tastes and preferences. People pleasing robs you of your God-given identity. Maybe you have forgotten what you enjoy in life. I encourage you to submit those feelings to God, and continue submitting until you sense mind-blowing peace, until you can bravely state your case in love, and engage in fruitful deeds that enliven you. God will give you confidence in making choices pleasing to Him after you bow the knee in humble submission to His tender inspection. Have faith in God. Accept His permission to be free from slavery to others, and your people will be blessed and not spoiled.