A few years ago I went on a missions trip to Rwanda. This was a few years after the Genocide that killed between 800,000 and 1 million people.
In our ten days of ministry we had the opportunity to do street evangelism. In one of those days, we met a gentleman who was eager to hear what we had to say – he was so patient as we talked through our Rwandan translator.
I remember his eyes and his stance – leaning forward, soaking in what we were saying. And our zeal to win him to the Lord.
As our conversation wore on, we could sense his hunger but there was something else – he seemed stuck and there was nothing we could do to ease it.
We were perplexed after he left. Not that we expected to win everyone to Christ that day. But he was sooo close! Our hearts ached.
I will never forget what our Rwandan translator told us after the gentleman left;
“You know, during the genocide, people did very bad things to one another. Some people have not forgiven themselves. It’s therefore very hard to accept forgiveness from God”
Accepting forgiveness from God
I was thinking about this gentleman last week and it stuck me how we do the same thing in marriage.
We fail to extend forgiveness to our spouse because we don’t have the right concept of forgiveness or we have areas in our own lives where we have not accepted God’s forgiveness.
It’s very hard to give someone what you do not have. It’s hard to export something you have not cultivated within.
When you are wracked with guilt and condemnation over your own failures and shortcomings, you will hold the same against your spouse.
You might be the hyper vigilant spouse who expects perfection from her husband. One small failure on his part and you throw him under the bus.
What you don’t realize is that you are projecting your own angst and insecurities.
Unless you allow Christ in to the broken places of your life, you cannot extend healing and pardon to your husband.
Working through forgiveness
A few years ago, someone hurt me badly.
I struggled for a while but eventually I made the conscious decision to forgive and let go. In fact after a while, I began to forget the details and feelings of hurt.
And then one day, out of the blues, I started to think about the issue again. It was an idle thought at first, but instead of dismissing it like I had always done, I parked.
I completely forgot how hard I fought to win the battle of the mind and heart. It wasn’t long before I was back into the situation again, fighting anger and indignation.
At one point I began to wonder if I truly forgave in the first place because I was so raw.
I did not realize it then but reason the event began to fade from memory was because I stopped giving it audience in my mind.
I wasn’t in denial about it..but I wasn’t dwelling there either. So its hold was broken.
Forgiveness does not equal amnesia
Here’s the thing when it comes to extending forgiveness to others – forgiveness does not equal amnesia. You are a human being with emotions and a memory. You will remember.
But what you need to remember more, is that you forgave. You might not forget everything that happened but you need to remember that you forgave.
When the strong feelings (or idle thought) flood, you need to say “I forgave.” And move on. i.e refuse to dwell on it.
You must put a mental distance between you and the hurt.
When we dwell on the old situation mentally, our emotions follow.
What if it’s an ongoing situation, you ask. “My husband has hurt me and continues to do so, what can I do?”
Well, forgiveness is your decision, not his.
Forgiveness is deciding “I am not going to carry your issues in my heart. I am going to take steps to bring health and healing to our marriage but those steps do not include carrying you”
Forgiveness is your choice and is not dependent on whether your spouse repents or asks for forgiveness.
So here’s 4 things to remember as you walk out forgiveness in marriage
1. Realize what Christ has accomplished for you.
You were once a sinner, deserving death.
Even after salvation, Christ continues to forgive you.
As you look at the hurt committed against you, think of it in light of the Cross.
Christ wants you to extend to others what He has extended to you.
2. Accept Christ’s love and remember He cares about you.
Allow God into the deep places of your hurt. Spousal hurt (or hurt from close family members) can be devastating.
And it’s easy think “If my own husband can treat me this way, how can I trust God?”
Psalm 147: 3 says
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
God loves you and wants to restore that which is utterly broken. He is a Master at the impossible.
But He cannot heal you or restore you unless you let Him.
It’s hard to understand why we go through what we go through. But to walk out forgiveness, we have to believe that God wants to heal us and He thinks good towards us.
3. Put a distance between yourself and the situation.
You can’t dwell on it mentally and experience complete healing. Get into the Word of God and renew your mind.
The only way to truly forgive and to find healing is to allow the Word of God to come alive in your heart. The word of God is “alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and will transform you as you meditate on it.
Forgiving someone does not mean putting yourself in harms way. This is an extreme example and is rarely the case for most wives, but if your husband is physically abusive, get out!
Not out of your marriage, because Christ heals abusers. But out of danger. Seek help, talk to your pastor, talk to someone.
But generally you don’t need to physically separate yourself from your spouse (all though you might need some”time out” to cool down and process)
What you need to do, by the grace of God, is create a mental distance between you and the hurt, by refusing to dwell on what he did or said and instead focus on who God says you are and what He expects from you.
4. Ask yourself, what is keeping me from accepting God’s forgiveness?
It’s very hard to extend forgiveness to others when you haven’t extended the same to yourself.
Like the gentleman we met that day, maybe you have convinced yourself that you cannot be fixed, or your hurt is too big (or too small).
Or maybe you have no idea you have your own issues.
To restore joy and hope in your marriage, you have to start with you. Get clean, be honest with God. Then, and only then, will you be free to extend forgiveness to your husband.
God ahead and ask God to reveal areas of brokenness. Sometimes our relationships feel odd and broken, our husbands failures are twice as aggravating and for the life of us, we can’t put a finger on why small problems feel so big.
Maybe we just need to look inward first, not outward.
Please go on and read these posts;
Question – Have you struggled with extending forgiveness in your marriage? How did you walk through it? Lets chat in Comments!
Last week I got to meet blogger and speaker Sheila Gregoire of Tolovehonorandvacuum.com during her Girl Talk tour in Baltimore. It was so much fun!
She and I have been online friends for years and it was awesome to finally meet in real life! I also got to sit in her talk, “Girl Talk – straight talk about marriage and intimacy” and it rocked!
If she’s ever in your city or a city near you, you don’t want to miss it! Your hubby and marriage will thank you! ??. You can check out her blog for tour dates.
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If forgiveness is an issue in your marriage, my book Blues to Bliss might help. In the book, I talk about how to take personal responsibility for our emotions and actions and how to draw biblical boundaries in chronic situations. Learn more about the book here.
Linking with Wedded Wednesday, Wifey Wednesday