Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Ephesians 3:20 ESV
My husband, Mike, and I believe in marriage counseling. It has helped us immensely in our seventeen years of marriage. We’ve gone to counseling when things were good because they can always be better. We want us to be the best us. And we’ve gone when things weren’t good because let’s be honest, marriage can be really hard, no matter how crazy about each other you are.
In one of the seasons when things were hard, Mike and I went to see our marriage counselor. We weren’t walking through anything that is out of the ordinary for two people who love each other deeply, but we had let the business of life and raising lots of humans (five boys, to be exact) get in the way of making us a priority. We were disconnected and I was bitter and blaming him.
As we sat on the counselor’s couch, and I listened to Mike share how he was feeling, I began to feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. (Maybe we should pause here to remember that conviction is different than condemnation, which comes from the enemy and leads to shame. Conviction is the Spirit’s gift of love, leading us to repentance, reconciliation, and refreshment.)
The Spirit convicted me by bringing to mind what Paul wrote in Eph 4:30: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” ESV
I knew what grieves the Holy Spirit because Paul tells us in the next verse: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Eph 4:31 ESV).
Isn’t it fascinating that the specific sins that grieve the Holy Spirit all relate to how we treat one another? There is a relational theme in the list Paul lays out, beginning with bitterness.
When we force the Holy Spirit to coexist with bitterness and other behaviors that relate to how we treat one another—such as rage, anger, harsh words, and slander—we cause Him sorrow, and our intimacy with the Trinity diminishes.
Did I grieve the Holy Spirit?
That day, in the counseling room, the Spirit’s conviction reminded me what when I hold onto bitterness in our marriage—over even the smallest things—I don’t just grieve Mike, I grieve the Spirit. I don’t just lose emotional intimacy with my husband, I lose intimacy with God the Father.
In that moment, I saw Mike as more than my husband. I saw Him as someone who also had the living Holy Spirit inside him. And it was only by the power of the Holy Spirit that all the bitterness and self-righteousness I was harboring as I walked into that counseling room dissipated. The Holy Spirit freed me to forgive and to seek forgiveness.
I assure you I haven’t mastered releasing bitterness and offering forgiveness since that day. But, I’m not who I was. This is what the Spirit does. He gradually grows us in righteousness as we welcome His conviction in our lives.
Welcoming this work of the Spirit requires sensitivity to His presence and a posture of humility with our spouse. If we don’t want to see our flaws, and we are even more hesitant to confess them, we impede the Spirit’s work in our lives.
So then how are we to strengthen our connection with the Spirit and nourish our relationship with our husband? Paul instructs, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 ESV). All of which can be accomplished through the Holy Spirit’s empowerment.
In His Word
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (Ephesians 4:31 ESV)
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 ESV)
In Your Life
When have you experienced the Holy Spirit’s loving conviction in your marriage? Is it possible you are harboring bitterness that the Spirit wants to free you from? How does remembering the way God forgives you free you to forgive your spouse?
“Don’t Miss Out: Daring To Believe Life Is Better with the Holy Spirit” by Jeannie Cunnion