Whoa, Bessie. I know what you’re thinking, and I need you to calm it down and get your head out of the gutter. I’m not going down that road; no one wants that.
What I am going to do is hit you with some major truth, both of the big and little “t” variety. Shall we begin?
“Be angry, and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” Ephesians 4:26 NKJV
Well that seems rather straightforward, doesn’t it? Done and done. Game, set, match. Marriage = won.
Never go to bed angry. I’ve heard that piece of advice thrown around countless times. It can’t be that hard, can it?
Until it is. Because suddenly you realize that you’re living a real life, in a real world, with real problems, with a real partner. And sometimes you get angry and act like a complete and utter loon (or maybe that’s just me…).
In the midst of all the “real,” you recall the wisdom of those who have forged the road to marital bliss ahead of you. You already possess the key to success: just keep fighting! Right?
It’s three hours past your nine o’clock bedtime (woot woot, party animals), you’re both exhausted and already dreading the long day ahead after being up so stinking late arguing…
But sorry, Charlie. Can’t go to bed angry, remember? If you do, it’s likely that your bed will spontaneously combust. Or a meteor will land on your house. Maybe it’ll be one of those massive sinkholes you’ve heard about on the news.
Now, what if I told you that we’ve had it all wrong this entire time? What if I told you that you could be free? That if you go to bed without having fully resolved that issue, you will live to see another day? Well, here goes…
We’ve had it all wrong. You can be free. You can go to bed without having fully resolved the issue, and you will live to see another day.
And here’s the real kicker: your marriage, like mine, just might end up all the better for it.
Randy and I very rarely argue, and when we do, it’s even more rarely done in anger. As in it’s only happened a handful of times in the over five years that we’ve been married. But guess what? We’ve gone to bed angry. And guess what else? We’re alive and well – thriving, in fact. Gasp! How can it be?
As we argued one particular evening, we both grew very tired. Overly so. Which meant our tongues, already well-sharpened daggers by this point, became even more cutting. Uh oh.
But instead of falling prey to the trap that we were required to resolve things that very moment, receiving and offering forgiveness before resting our heads on our pillows, we quieted ourselves. We pressed pause. We decided that there just had to be a better time for this discussion than the wee hours of the night.
The next day, after both having had time away from one another to consider, ponder, and pray, we came together still feeling a bit broken, yet rested, hopeful, and humbled. The issue didn’t magically work itself out, but I can tell you that God did do a good work. His pleading with us to set our pride aside became the catalyst to authentic reconciliation.
Because, in pressing pause, we allowed Him time. Time to restore and reveal, quieting our hearts, which would have otherwise been lost in the noise.
“But the verse!” you cry whilst reading along. What about Paul’s command to the Ephesians?
As tends to happen with the Bible, we messy humans get involved and screw everything up, stripping verses from the passages in which they were purposely embedded. Because the verse sounds nicer on its own, rather than in its true context, so let’s just wrap it up in a pretty package, throw some ribbon on top, and call it a day.
This verse is actually a direct reference to – and thus a paraphrasing of – David’s words in Psalm 4:4, which states, “Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.” (NKJV)
Both verses begin with the same words: be angry, and do not sin. Anger, unless righteous, is not of God.
We know this, but even as I write those words to you, I still recognize the many times I’ve become trapped by sinful, unrighteous anger. And that is when, if I haven’t yet pressed pause, I tend to lash out. I ready my dagger, and I use words that lacerate.
We see that David asks us to “be still” in the second part of the verse. For your relationship, this may not mean going to bed angry. Instead, it may mean simply taking a quick moment to pray and seek His wisdom in the midst of a heated conversation, ensuring your anger is not causing you to sin.
Using his own words in Ephesians, Paul reminds us not to let the “sun go down on your wrath.” In this command, he is pointing to how issues can fester if we suppress them, certainly giving Satan the victory. It is a mandate to reach peace without burying a problem and allowing resentment to set in – not necessarily a direct, daily timeline, as age-old adages may have brought us to believe.
I do hold that there is absolutely no magic to the concept of reconciling before going to sleep. In fact, I have found myself hurrying forgiveness when my heart was not yet ready in an attempt to do so. Instead, we should seek genuine resolution, focusing on the authenticity behind our forgiveness rather than the time of day at which it was given and received.
I also believe that the enemy has taken our ignorance when it comes to this “sage wisdom” and run with it. Sprinted, really. Because there would have been nothing more satisfying to Satan than for Randy and I to continue arguing all night long, slinging insults like there’s no tomorrow (because if we went to bed angry there really would be no tomorrow, right?).
Here’s the deal: maybe it actually is best for you and your spouse to take the time to reach a place of peace and resolution before you hit the hay. Only you know your relationship, so you do you. But here’s what I do know…
Be mindful of the truths that you receive, and especially of those that you give. Because they just might not be Truth at all.
Also, I like to go to bed angry. So there’s that.