Peace like a river

Anger can ruin a relationship, but this huge debt was my husband’s fault, wasn’t it? Didn’t I deserve to be mad?

In 1997, my husband felt God calling him to organize a Gospel concert in our new hometown to raise money for youth missions. He wanted to take out a loan to fund the event, arguing that even in the worst case scenario, we would have money to pay it off because we’d just made the last payment on a business loan.

“I don’t know why, but I think God wants the concert to be really big,” Jeff told me. I wanted him to do what God was calling him to, but inside I was terrified. I remember praying as I sat on my staircase when God reassured me:

“I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand. Do not fear; I will help you.”

Two nationally known Christian musicians and a popular country music singer were the highlight of the event that late August day on the high school football field of our small, Wisconsin town.

My optimistic husband started the day in high spirits, even though advance tickets sales had not produced the numbers he envisioned. The day was unseasonably cold and cloudy; soon people were gathering their lawn chairs together and bundling themselves in blankets. In the end, the outdoor event attracted 700 people, not enough to cover the costs.

Jeff had been nervously pacing about most of the day. By the time the last act performed, he was slouched in his seat, defeat on his ill-looking face. By the end of the concert, the worst scenario was a reality: We were $35,000 in debt. It was debt we hoped to pay off slowly over the next five years.

I was genuinely supportive and encouraging to Jeff during the first few weeks following the concert. “You didn’t let your family down,” I assured him. “We still have everything we need. You did what God wanted you to do. You know a girl asked Jesus to be her Savior at the concert,” I told him. “Maybe God planned this just for her.”

Then one evening, I turned from being a supportive wife to a woman filled with fury. Before I was a Christian, anger had been a real problem for me. I had often felt possessed by that emotion, as if I had no power over it. That evening I had simply asked Jeff if he could put up a tether ball stand for our kids. When he told me that it might be too expensive, I lost control.

Suddenly flashing before me were all the concert items we were still paying for: porta potties, hotel rooms for band members, an after-concert party, a limo service, lunches. Like a river of fire, rage flooded every portion of my body.

I felt that old anger taking control of me again and started arguing with Jeff. He wisely went to bed and left me alone in the living room. My muscles were so tense with fierce emotions that my skin broke out in red, itchy hives. The old anger was back, but I was a Christian now. I realized that staying mad about this debt would destroy my marriage. I also knew this emotion was too strong for me to fight alone, so I got on my knees.

“I need you to help me God.” I prayed. “I can’t get rid of this anger by myself. Please take it away.”

Instantly, my muscles went limp and the hives disappeared. Peace like I’d never experienced flooded my soul. A soothing warmth replaced the river of rage. The anger was gone! It was like someone had flipped a switch. What a miracle that was to me! In the old days, I was able to fume for days. Now in an instant, God had completely erased that ugly emotion which used to have so much power over me. I was able to apologize to my husband with all my heart and sleep at his side.

Jesus provided the money to pay the concert debt in just two years instead of five. More important, I never again lost my temper over that $35,000 loan and it didn’t become an issue in our marriage. The peace Jesus had given me about the debt stayed with me, and I rarely ever thought about it.

God had kept the promise He made to me before the concert: Do not fear. I will help you.

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20

Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife. Proverbs 21:19

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