“Be aware of Satan’s schemes—where wounds aren’t healed, the enemy comes in and causes more damage.” (Roger Barrier) This is especially true as it pertains to emotional baggage that we bring into our marriages.
Within marriage, conflict often arises. Any married couple would probably smirk at that notion as an obvious truth. However, the question is begging to be asked, where does conflict come from?
You have probably experienced within your marriage a time where your spouse said something completely normal to you. But it hit you the wrong way. It annoyed you, frustrated you, or even more, hurt you deeply. You couldn’t quite figure out why it hurt so much, but it did. And you reacted in such a way that would ensure that your spouse would never speak to you like that again. (Use your imagination, you’ve been married.)
And, because you cannot articulate what made you feel that way, your spouse is not quite sure what they actually did wrong. And now they will begin to tiptoe around you, nervous, feeling unsafe. They do not free to express themselves as they might.
Why does this happen in so beautiful a thing as marriage?
Opening Up Emotional Baggage
Well, the Bible gives an explanation of this in Genesis 3:13-15 when Eve ate from the fruit of the tree of good and evil.
“Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’ So the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this ‘Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.‘”
This curse has been plaguing our lives ever since. But let’s take a closer look at this passage. God is addressing the serpent, Satan. He tells him, in plain language, you will go after the woman’s offspring. He will ultimately destroy you, but you will wound him until then. Another way of looking at this is to say, satan will wound us but Christ will ultimately wound and destroy him. This is beautiful and good that satan will be destroyed. However, what do we do about the wounding that is happening and will happen until then?
In order to treat wounds, we need to understand where they come from. When God says, ”You will strike his heel” it seems as though God is terrible. He is allowing such pain to come upon us and pushing us out into the unprotected open.
Ah, but wait! This is not so. The heel is far below both the head and the heart. As Brown said in his commentary on Genesis:
“The part, which is most within the serpent’s reach, and on which, being bruised by it, the serpent is provoked to fix its venomous teeth, is but a part remote from the head and heart. And therefore wounds there, though painful, are yet not deadly nor dangerous, if they be observed in time.”
So, God does NOT give permission for Satan to attack our mind and our emotion. He gives him the ability to access what sin is already there. The heel is the most easily accessible place for a flat, dirt slithering snake to attack. This means Satan is given access to the easily accessible, dirty parts of our lives. If a wound is there, he can touch it. If it is healed, he has no access.
Now, it is no use trying to “not be bitten.” Wounds are already in our lives. And in our sinfulness, without Satan’s help, we will eventually wound each other, especially in marriage. But how do we stop the sting, the bitterness, the hurt, and the poison that creeps into our hearts as we see our spouse sin against us, time after time? Or, how can we stop fears from past wounds from causing us to distrust our spouse? How do we stop thinking they will be “just like the rest”? We must think of these wounds as snakebites.
That, Which Bites
A poisonous snake wants to attack to keep itself alive. And so it causes you to be wounded or die to ensure that. It knows that if you are wounded, you will not go after it. That is because you simply cannot. When a poisonous snake bites you, if help is not sought immediately, the poison will begin to travel through your body until it infiltrates your heart and your mind. But, if the correct steps are taken to treat the wound, it is very possible to prevent the poison from spreading to your heart and mind.
As Keil and Delitzch say:
“However pernicious may be the bite of a serpent in the heel when the poison circulates throughout the body, it is not immediately fatal and utterly incurable.”
An illustration is given in this “How to Treat a Snakebite” article from WebMD.com. I’m adding commentary in italics to illustrate steps to conflict resolution when wounds are present:
Protect the Person (Yourself)
While waiting for medical help:
- Move the person beyond striking distance of the snake. (If any situation is a place where you could still be wounded, remove yourself outside of the strike zone. That may mean separating to another location in extreme situations. Or it could mean simply going to another room for a quick timeout.)
- Have the person lie down with wound below the heart. (Rest for a minute, meditate, try to push away anxious thoughts or anger. Think objectively about what has happened to see if you can identify the root cause of this wound. Why did this specific bite hurt so much? Was it really your spouse? Or was it something someone else did to you that you are afraid your spouse will do to you? Is your spouse even aware that you have this wounding?)
- Keep the person still to keep venom from spreading. (If you try to run away from the situation forever, the poison will spread quickly to your heart and mind. It could leave bitterness, anger, resent, and other unresolved negative emotions that can ultimately cause the death of your spirit. You must stand firm and face this wound until it is fully healed. Do this even if doing so takes your entire lifetime.)
- Cover the wound with loose, sterile bandage. (If something slightly rubs against you, you will be less able to withstand the sensation and actual damage will occur. The same goes with the spiritual and emotional aspect. If something rubs you the wrong way, as they say, you will be much more prone to becoming deeply and genuinely hurt. That is why the quick fix “bandage” must come off sooner than later.)
- Cut a bite wound. (Don’t destroy yourself more for what has happened to you. Do not put yourself down or abuse yourself for what has happened. The toxicity of this situation has already entered into you. You must simply deal with it in as healthy of a way as you can so it will not cause damage in the future.)
- Attempt to suck out venom. (Sometimes when we work through problems on our own, in our attempt to extract we often ingest the toxicity, taking the poison to multiple areas of our being. Find a trusted friend, a counselor. Or find a mentor to help you process through this wound.)
- Apply tourniquet, ice, or water. (Do not try to cut off blood flow to the area, meaning do not stop seeking the Lord. Let Christ’s living blood be your biggest healing power, do not shut Him out because of what has happened. Do not try to merely numb [or ignore] the pain. Ignoring the situation will not cause the physical, emotional, or spiritual damages to go away.)
- Give the person alcohol or caffeinated drinks. (Do not dwell in depression or try to fake happiness. Allow yourself to experience the real emotions of what you feel. And take those to God. Share your feelings and emotions [even if anger is one of them] with a friend, mentor, or counselor.)
An array of articles on treating snakebites also suggest to not go after the snake. Do not try to kill it. It is common that even if a snake has had its head cut off, it will still have the ability to bite you with more venom. The same can be true of your painful emotional situation. Keep in mind that your main goal is to treat your wound. Your life is more important than the “snake” being dead.
If you treat the bite at home:
- Contact a healthcare provider. (You simply cannot deal with these wounds on your own. Find fellowship, find a friend, a counselor, or someone you trust that you can talk through these issues with. Find someone who will pray with you and for you as you go through trying to heal these wounds.)
At the hospital, treatment will depend on the type of snake.
- If the snake was venomous, the person will be given anti-venom treatment. (Anti often means “copy.” Antiojos in Spanish literally translates to “copy eyes” meaning glasses. So an anti venom means copycat venom. Sometimes in order to heal, you have to face what happened with literally facing what happened. This means you will have to work your way through painful memories. Process the emotions you felt, and give yourself permission to actually express how you felt to someone you trust.)
Healing of Emotional Baggage
Emotional healing for deep and bitter wounds is necessary for a healthy marriage. Simply put, you will not be fully functional until you have healed in the deepest parts of your heart.
Thank the Lord Jesus Christ that He is more than willing to hold your hand as you visit those dark recesses of your life and heart. Thank Him that He is absolutely willing to heal you where you never thought it was possible. “So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
He is not shocked by your sin. And He is deeply grieved by the sin that has been done to you. He is trustworthy, faithful, and He will bring to completion all the healing work He has begun in you. You will not feel the sting of this forever.
Ultimately, what we can learn from all of this, and the triumph we can gain, is in the truth that Christ’s heel was struck as He was on earth in humility. But His Head is far above the earth, ruling in heaven. And He will one day “crush the head of the serpent.” We shall all be risen up with Him into a jubilant and free eternity, no longer wounded. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
Tending To Our Emotional Baggage
Until that day, we must take care to tend to our wounds. We would not give access to Satan in our lives. Then, we will both be freer to love our spouses selflessly and to receive love more trustingly.
And when the day comes where your spouse says something to you and you are offended, the offense will not run so deep. You will be able to process it, and quickly find the root. You will be able to explain why it hurt you, forgive your spouse, and move on. No being held captive to these deep pains, no bitterness in your spirit towards your spouse. Freedom is yours. The question is, will you do what it takes to be healed?
Alia Merrill is a new blogger, helping us part-time here at Marriage Missions. She is married (for over a year now) to her sweetheart, Matt. Alia worships the Lord through her job as a High School Math Teacher, writing, and songwriting. The above issue is one that Alia has studied and has lived through herself. So she writes this blog from the vantage point of firsthand experience, living, learning, and passing it on.
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