Secret Service: the key to unlocking a bitter heart

(Last Updated On: June 30, 2017)

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which, in turn, saved our marriage.

We still really loved each other, but something was very broken. My husband was angry all the time. I was bitter. We could barely talk about anything without bickering, so we didn’t. I did my thing. He did his. We slept in the same bed, but we weren’t any kind of team.

(this site uses Affiliate links-purchases support our ministry through a small referral fee that never affects your cost.)

By the time we tried to communicate, we were boilers ready to explode, harboring so many hurts and slights.

My marriage was failing!

A year after he returned from his last deployment, I didn’t know if we were going to make it. I was trying so hard to be a “good” wife while he was such a selfish jerk.

He didn’t care about how his choices affected me at all. He used the last of the milk, broke my favorite dishes with his carelessness, and left me home with the stomach flu and toddler to go hunting. If I ever dared to complain, he would shut me out completely or explode with rage.

The train wreck of our marriage was hiding so many broken pieces, I didn’t know where to begin.

I wasn’t ready to leave, but I was heartbroken. I didn’t see how I could live the rest of my life with this awful person who hurt me at every turn. Guarding my heart from him, I walked on eggshells whenever we were together. Often, I went to bed aching with loneliness, wishing he would start being what I needed.

What a selfish creep .  .

I was.

Wait, what?

Yep, I’d been angry and bitter because I’d been expecting my husband to fill my heart in the places God should be. I was bitter from my selfish, unmet desires.

I began seeking God’s answers for my life. At first, when I read about letting God be my portion, it didn’t make sense, but I kept reading my bible and praying about it.

Lamentations 3:24 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Over time, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to my need for grace, and understanding God’s love for me. It unlocked my heart. A veil lifted.

I was able to see other people as loved creations of God struggling with their own sins and hurts.

I stopped seeing my husband as someone responsible for filling my heart, but as someone whose heart was so empty, he could barely function.

Then, I realized I’d been keeping score for a long time. I won’t do this for him because he didn’t do that for me. Each check mark against him cemented a brick in the wall between us.

Can Secret Service tear down the brick wall of bitterness?

Even when I had been doing the right things, I’d had the wrong heart. I would hold up my pretty list of all the wonderful chores I had done for him during the day and wait for his gratitude. Most of the time, I got nothing or a mumbled thanks, then I got hurt and more resentful.

But God really convicted me, “Are you truly doing things to serve or to get something from him?”

Even when I did the right things, I had the wrong heart. I wasn't serving. I was showing off. Click To Tweet

My motives weren’t pure. I wanted his love, recognition, respect.

A lesson from my Bible reading came to mind, about how we are to serve those in need.

Matthew 6:1-34 ESV
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Was my husband needy?

Maybe not in the traditional sense, but what if his poor attitude was because I was hurting him or not fulfilling his needs?

Through the lens of God’s grace, I suddenly saw my husband weighed down with pain, war, loss, frustration, disrespect, exhaustion.

As God’s word poured grace and forgiveness into my heart, I began to feel His love, and I started to fill up my husband’s cup out of the overflow of my heart.

When God poured grace into me, I began to fill up my husband's cup out of the overflow of mine.

When God poured grace into me, I began to fill up my husband's cup out of the overflow of mine. Click To Tweet

I began my secret service.

I finally felt loved enough to be able to love others. I could serve him secretly, not because I didn’t want him to know, but because I didn’t need him to. Our Father sees what we do in secret.

Quietly, I began doing things without his asking, like noticing his toiletries need replacing, making his lunch, preparing his coffeepot, and even suggesting he go hunting when his week has been frustrating.

My heart was more blessed doing quiet, secret service for him than it ever was by nagging him. Click To Tweet

One job I would never have considered before surrendering to Christ was picking up my husband’s dirty underwear off the bathroom floor.

Every morning – He walks past his closet (where his hamper is) to leave the house, but it never fails that his underwear are on the floor under the edge of the vanity. Previously, I would have ignored them, kicked them, but picked them up – ugh, no thank you.

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which in turn, saved our marriage.

But God was working on me. Before, I would have nagged him about being so lazy for leaving them there. My nagging would have become an infection between us.

Even several years ago, I would have kindly asked him to pick them up, but secretly resented those stupid underwear.

Then three years ago, I began to pick them up with a grateful attitude. “Thank you, Lord, my husband is not in Iraq.”

Today, I laugh. I even pray over those underwear.

“Lord, thank you for this opportunity to serve my husband, thank you for a marriage that is working, please remind me that all my service is for You ultimately, and is about humility and serving without drawing attention to myself.”

One secret of my service is remembering that my service is ultimately in HIS service. Click To Tweet

I pray over his day. I pray that his body will be enough to face the challenges of whatever he is called to do. Mostly, I pray that his heart will be open to see God in his day. And I pray for him to know I love him, to bring him home safely.

And I choose everyday to thank God for those stupid, blessed, dirty underwear. I’ve even been disappointed when he remembers to put them in the hamper.

My heart has been filled more in doing quiet, secret things for my husband than it ever was by nagging him into doing things for me.

When service filled my heart, I stopped being bitter. I started looking for the next thing I could do for him. My focus shifted. I started giving him real attention, listening to his needs. When his work day had been awful, I gave him some grace to find his peace so he could be the daddy and husband he wants to be.

If this is so secret, why am I writing about it?

It’s humbling and real. And every time I have shared this story with women whether 2 or 100, I’ve seen tears and nods. We all have our own dirty underwear mountain that we need to surrender.

So, I share in case another wife needs to hear my story. Nothing changed my marriage more than loving him and expecting nothing in return.

and Secret service is counter-cultural . . .

Our culture asks what’s in it for me? But I was never emptier than when I was counting the cost and measuring his gratitude.

I’ve never been more joyful than I’ve been picking up his sweaty, dirty, thrown up under the cobwebby vanity underwear because I see how God has moved in our marriage and in his heart through my tiny acts of obedience.

And sometimes we need reminding that we’re not supposed to blend in.

Besides, the underwear was just a start. Once joining the Secret Service, I found so many ways to quietly serve people. Those services are treasures I hold like sweet pearls, knowing I’m seen by my Heavenly Father from whom nothing is secret.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to get more encouragement for the modern Christian mom!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

60 Replies to “Secret Service: the key to unlocking a bitter heart”

  1. What a great post. In the last couple years I’ve also struggled with the same things. I began to put my focus on myself and God instead of my husband. I realized I had to be happy within myself and have a closer relationship with God to fully love. It’s then that I realized how my husband might feel too. It’s truly amazing What God can do for us. Thank you for sharing and what an inspiration!

  2. Same here my husband was devout born again but is backslidding, I will apply what you said i will no longer have resentment towards him, just do everything onto my husband as I onto the Lord and to give me servant heart with out nothing in return this story touched my I’m sure many other women.Thank you.

      1. If he doesn’t, you can pray over them when you do laundry and put them away!

        Great post and much needed! Thank you!

        1. I definitely find ways to pray over lots of little things – even when he picks up his underwear. Today I prayed over a cup of coffee remembering that I’m sitting down, having quiet time with coffee and God as he has been at work already for 7 hours and won’t be home until tomorrow. And I messaged him right then to tell him I love him.

  3. It is so easy, especially after many years of marriage to get caught up in the business of life and start expecting things from our husbands (or wives) that we never expected in the beginning. We start expecting service and we forget how to serve. Thank you for this humble reminder, Jennifer.

  4. This is a great post! I think a lot of people spend to much energy keeping emotional score with our spouses. It can be detrimental to a marriage and family. Just last year, our marriage went through a time like this. It was a very hurtful time for both of us. We did not communicate at all. I went to bed every night numb to my marriage. One day the Holy Spirit spoke to me and reminded my how much I loved the God in my husband. I began to frame my “actions and reactions” towards my husband as actions and reactions towards God in him. I was led to Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” I do not know if that makes sense the way I wrote it but it changed our marriage. I never thought of it as “Secret Service,” but your post sums it up great. It was “Secret Service.” A few months later, he came to me and apologized profusely for the for everything. He said he was convicted by the Holy Spirit about his “actions and reactions” towards me. From that point on everything has been great.

    Thank you so much for writing this post and sharing your story.

  5. The Lord convicted my heart a couple of years ago about this. I have started noticing how well my husband responds to me when I give him the praise and support he deserves instead of focusing on the bad. Also recommend “5 love languages” by Gary Chapman. It really helps you see what you are contributing to the marriage. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  6. I truly love this. I am working on this very thing of doing things without expecting in return. Sometimes just the blessing of knowing that he felt blessed is blessing enough! If that makes any sense…Good stuff!!

  7. What a beautiful testimony about the power that God can have in our lives. Thank you for your bold honesty and transparency that overflowed all over this post. You have certainly inspired me to be less concerned about recognition and more concerned about serving other because that is what Jesus calls me to do. I’m in with you!

  8. What a lovely and honest post! Love it! I’ve noticed the same thing–anytime my husband seems especially annoying, usually *I’M* the one with something to change!

  9. This was so good. About two years ago I had to go to our little house with my granddaughter because DHR got involved. My husband didn’t come. I was just tired of things and the way things was going on my home. Then God got a hold of me and I went home, It was the best thing I could have done. It was serving him for Christ.
    1

    1. I get tired of how things are going in my home all the time. I’m learning that I have to give it up to God. I have to cry to him and ask Him to intervene in my heart. He always does.

  10. Love, love , love this post! I was a stay-at-home homeschooling mom for 16 years. I wore that as my badge of pride and hard work. I had a tough time when my husband didn’t respect and thank me for my service to our family. Thankfully, God got ahold of my heart in this area and I have been serving in Secret Service for years!

    1. Sounds like you outrank me in time in service, but glad we’re on the same team. Serving others in secret is so powerful. Especially when we stop focusing on earthly thanks!

  11. Jen, have you ever read Love and Respect? I just finished it and it’s fantastic. This post reminded me a lot of it because one of the key elements in it is “Her respect regardless of his love. His love regardless of her respect.” My hubby leaves his underwear in the same spot and before I would roll my eyes and kick them out of my way but now I pick them up and say a prayer of thanks that he is here and I can do this for him. So I guess, I’m joining the Secret Service too. 🙂 Do we get cards? LOL.

    1. We are reading it now. We haven’t gotten very far, but our rule is that if we want to stop and discuss something we do. Just talking and being open has already done wonders.

  12. It’s so easy (too easy) to treat my husband as an idol sometimes. I notice when that happens he does something to “mess up”, and I am left seeing my sin.

  13. This is such a great post! I think we often times we hold our spouses responsible for our happiness, when that is something we must find ourselves. God bless!

  14. This is so good! It reminds me of my situation with my husband. We are at the beginning stages of holding onto that resentment and measuring the gratitude of the other. If we continue, I know things will be pretty bad down the road. We both recognize that we do it and have conversations about it from time to time, but we always need reminders of our own failures and our need for grace. I’m thankful that when we were (and still are) in need of grace that God didn’t give up on us. But instead He loved us so much that He sent His Son to serve us sacrificially. We should have no choice to but to serve Him and others selflessly in return! Thank you for this!

    1. I am glad you see the need for a shift before it gets too far down that road. If I could add one thing to this post, it would be to reach out physically to my husband more often. Hold his hand, hug him, smell his cologne. Touch softens our hearts so much. Praying you keep Christ at the center of your lives and marriage.

  15. I love the ‘secret’ serving of others…since serving is not about glorifying ourselves or getting any sort of attention from others, this is a great way to do it…especially in marriage where it is so easy to nag and start checklists on our minds of how the other is not measuring up….I actually just read a recent post titled ‘Stop Being a Butthole Wife’ (I know the title sounds weird but it was perspective changing…and now I read your post and I think I am in need of this message…thank you! Timely reminder for sure!

  16. Oh, how I love this post. Your testimony is amazing. I have found that we go through mountains and valleys in our marriages- and even if I am on a mountain right now, I can prepare my heart for the darker valleys (and spend much time being thankful for the view up here.).

    1. Right now my husband is serving me as I’m hospitalized and have a long recovery. It is nice to see how years of my service has affected him and his willingness to serve

    1. Humility has proven to be so much more healing and welcoming than false perfection ever was. I am just doing my best to be faithful daily to my God and his purpose for me

  17. This is such a hard lesson to learn and I praise God every day that He brought me through it. After my first husband walked out, I wasn’t really sure where to start but I knew it needed to be with God. I did exactly as you’re teaching in this post – I allowed God to be my portion. In doing so, I was ready to be the wife that my now husband needed. I have now been married for 11 years to the love of my life – God’s exact and perfect match for me. It is amazing to see what God can do in a marriage if he will only give it to Him. I praise God for your testimony.

  18. I love this post!! How true that you are ultimately serving Christ in those moments & He uses that to transform us. So blessed by this reminder because it is so easy to get frustrated & think only of ourselves. Thank you for your story!

  19. Thank you for sharing your story. Resentment can easily wind its way into relationships. Remembering that we all need grace and seeking God to meet our needs are the best ways to combat negative feelings. I too have been guilty of unrealistic expectations with my spouse (wanting him to fill holes in me only God is able to).

  20. I admit that I cried reading this. My husband and I seem to argue over everything these days. He constantly reminds me that I am too “submit” to him according to the Bible, which I find hard to do. But I must remind myself that I am not doing so for him or serving just him, but I am serving my father in Heaven who has commanded me to do so.

    1. Yes. Submit to Christ. As your husband should as well. If you both focus on Christ, it should draw you closer together. Praying for you and your marriage now. I also wrote a post about being submissive in a culture scared to submit that might really help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge