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My husband and I can be counted among that strange stock of people who like to make To Do Lists.

We get excited about action steps and dry erase boards. We ooh-ed and aah-ed over the organizational software we installed on our computers. One time we spent an entire evening cataloging our sloppy 12-page To Do List in our shiny, new computer program. It was exhilarating and very, very nerdy.

To Do Lists can be a beautiful thing. But sometimes things get ugly when you become a slave to your To Do List. What’s worse is trying to put shackles on your spouse and make the To Do List their master, too.

One way I try to share my To Do List chains is by nagging.

When I say nagging I am not talking about how I might lovingly mention to my husband that he probably shouldn’t eat that entire cheesecake in one sitting because I can hear his right subclavian artery crying for help.

When I say nagging I mean the stereotypical, habitual, manipulative complaining that we women often try to justify as “reminding.”

Digging Up Idols

Recently a friend of mine gained some serious traction in her struggle to stop nagging. This was deeply encouraging, and it made me take an honest look at my own nagging.

I made a few observations about her and what God is doing in her life . . .

She took her nagging seriously and called it what it is. Nagging is neither patient, nor kind, nor respectful. It’s impatient, rude, and demeaning. Nagging is not loving; it’s your garden-variety sin. My friend’s attitude toward nagging changed when she saw how her sin offends our holy God and denigrates people made in his image God.

She owned it. My friend decided not to blame her nagging on the people in her life or on her circumstances. She took responsibility for her sin and said, “It isn’t anyone else’s fault that I am a nag.”

She dug into the Word of God and let God dig through her heart. She also invited me and a few other friends to take up shovels alongside her. As she dug deeper into the motives of her heart, simultaneously sowing the seeds of the gospel of grace, she asked herself, “What is it that I am ultimately wanting more than I want God?” (What a great question to ask when you want to find out why you do the things you don’t want to do!)

While we were digging around and asking good questions, by God’s grace I realized that I have idols buried in my heart as well. How good of the Lord to let me walk this road with my friend!

My friend committed herself to the process of putting away her idols and putting on Christ instead. God used his Word to reveal two specific idols that needed to be dealt with:

  • The idol of control. If I don’t nag then I won’t get what I want or need.
  • The idol of self. If I don’t nag then I won’t get what I am entitled to.

The Old Nag Is Dead

God’s grace to us in Christ has the power to displace these idols. We can confess that being in charge is our favorite.

We can confess that we prefer ourselves above everyone else. Rejoicing as we repent, we can live in the reality of the gospel.

The old nag has died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God.

We can put off the manipulation, greediness, and selfish agendas. We can put on a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. We can bear with the people who don’t meet our every expectation—-even the most reasonable ones. We can forgive people when they fail us just like God forgave us when we failed to honor him in all things. “And above all put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:14).

Do you want to kill your nagging? Make war on your sin and starve your pride.

Listen to how Jesus gave my friend the power she needed to put a chokehold on her pride and serve her husband instead.

She had been nagging her husband about lots of things. Some of those things were chores that only he could do, but other things were chores that she could do. When she apprehended the power of the gospel to save her and energize her for holy living, she saw that she could serve her husband by God’s grace. She thought about the things on the list that she could do. She planned ahead, booked a babysitter, went to his office, “stole” their car, ran some errands, and got the car cleaned all while he was at work. Praise God!

So what happens the next time someone isn’t doing what you think they ought to be doing for you?

1. Rejoice in Jesus and his perfections. He is the eternal Word whose words give eternal life (John 6:68-69). Jesus laid aside the glory he was entitled to in order to become our Suffering Servant who died in our place. This Jesus is not just our example; he is our Savior who rose victoriously from the dead. He lives forever to empower us to serve him and others.

2. Instead of nagging, ask yourself if there is something you could do to serve someone for Jesus’ sake and serve with the strength that God supplies (1 Pet. 4:11).

3. Then open your mouth to give grace instead: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).

Well . . . 

I don’t want to have to nag you about this, but

What are you waiting for?

Yikes! Apparently I still have quite a bit of work ahead of me, too.

Praise God who will finish the work he has started in us—-and nobody ever has to nag him!