I’ve always struggled to let go of offenses and forgive my husband from the heart. In the moment it feels like God needs my help to point out my spouse’s sin or at least to stop it from happening again.
When I give in to that thinking it mushrooms. I feel like I need to protect my heart from any ongoing or future damage my husband might cause me. Without this protection, I just know my heart will grow more and more bitter in marriage. I sure don’t want that!
So I continue to ruminate over and over on all the ways he has failed me. After all, if I don’t take this internal inventory of his heart, he may never change his ways. I need to do this until he comes to me in sackcloth and ashes and begs for my forgiveness! Then and only then can I let it go.
Sound a bit dramatic? A little out of balance? Codependent, perhaps?
Well, I guess that’s because his sin has hurt me! It’s enough to bring the drama queen out of any self-respecting wife, right? 😉
What I don’t often realize in the moment—or avoid admitting—is that by taking this approach, I am hurting him right back. Worse still, I join him in sinning against God! Sadly, that’s the worst possible outcome!
So I’d like to go back through this cascade of sins to share with you the lessons God has taught—and continues to teach—me about forgiveness in marriage.
1. God doesn’t need my help to keep my husband in line.
This might be the hardest lesson I’ve learned over the years. I like to say this is “taking on the role of the Holy Spirit” in my spouse’s life. It involves pointing out, as well as convicting him of his sin, because I somehow believe God can’t or won’t.
How offensive is that to my righteous God who gave His life for my sin?!
Jesus made it very clear where He stands on this issue in Matthew 7:3-5 …
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Yep! That’s me … Mrs. Hypocrite!
Truth is, when I point out my mate’s “speck,” I actually cause more damage in his life, rather than righting some wrong. I get in the way of the conviction that only the Spirit (not I!) can rightly bring to his heart and mind. It distracts my husband and tempts him to run to the security of his pride. Then I am not only sinning out of my lack of faith and self-righteousness, but I’m causing my husband to sin too.
[bctt tweet=”We must focus first on our own part in any conflict in marriage or we run the risk of being a hypocrite! #theJesuschallenge #inspectyourselffirst” username=””]
2. God is fully capable of protecting my heart.
This one stems from my lack of faith too. It must break the heart of God whenever I think He can’t protect my heart. It’s like I’m saying, “You can cleanse me. You can even forgive my dark and sinful heart, Jesus! But You cannot protect my heart! That’s where Your power is, well … powerless.” 😦
But I’ve learned that, even though this logic feels right, it is a lie straight from the Enemy. You and I must cling instead to this truth …
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” —Psalm 34:18
3. I’m responsible for the bitterness in my heart—not my spouse’s heart!
No matter how many times my husband may hurt me, sin against me, and/or betray me, I’m ultimately responsible for how I deal with it. If I ruminate on the ways my husband has hurt me, then I am defiling my heart—not cleaning up his.
Instead, I need to focus not on blaming him, but on taking responsibility for what I can control—my part in the conflict. Sadly, there’s almost always some part that I play in any conflict.
What does that look like?
It involves …
- Taking my hurts to Jesus before I ever voice them to my husband.
- Finding comfort in the arms of my Savior and loving Bridegroom.
- Asking God to give me insight into my sinful contribution in the conflict.
- Confessing and apologizing for my part to God, and then doing the same with my husband.
- Humbly discussing with my spouse how we can resolve the issue moving forward—continuing to focus on my responsibility as much as possible.
None of these are dependent on my husband—with the exception of him being willing to discuss the matter. But my spouse has never turned me down when I’ve first approached him apologetically and humbly. I bet yours won’t either, if you remain humble and focus on your part of the problem.
4. Ruminating on my spouse’s sin leaves me deceived not relieved.
It feels really safe and satisfying to keep an internal inventory—a sin checklist, if you will—of my husband’s offenses. I feel more in control … vindicated … even morally superior! This might relieve me for a brief moment, but it leads to a bitter heart overtaken by self-deception in the end.
5. True forgiveness is not dependent on my mate admitting his guilt.
This is where it’s easy to confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. I need my mate’s cooperation and humble repentance to achieve reconciliation. But thankfully God releases, empowers and, most of all, expects me to forgive my mate, just like He has forgiven me, whether my husband owns up to his part or not.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” —Ephesians 4:32
This means I have a greater obligation to forgive my spouse BECAUSE I—a resentful sinner—have been forgiven by a perfect, holy and merciful God.
But what’s even better about this is that I don’t have to remain trapped as a victim of my husband’s choices. When I choose to forgive my spouse, I’m the one God sets free.
[bctt tweet=”When you choose to forgive your spouse, guess who God sets free? #fromvictimtovictor #lessonslearnedinmarriage #forgive” username=””]
6. When I forgive my mate, my faith and connection with God deepens.
This is probably the most powerful lesson God has taught me about forgiveness. Whether or not my husband changes for the better, my act of obedience grows, refines and strengthens me.
Would I trade in that spiritual maturity and connection for less conflict or messes in marriage? Not a chance!
Check out this quote from Dave Harvey of When Sinners Say I Do …
“Your spouse was a strategic choice made by a wise and loving God. Selected by him, for you, from the beginning of the world, your spouse is an essential part of God’s rescue mission for your life.”
Maybe that’s what learning to forgive is all about—letting my mate share in God’s mission to rescue my heart from the destructiveness of bitterness. When I frame it that way, it makes all the difference in how I view conflict and hurts done against me in marriage.
[bctt tweet=”Discover 6 truths about forgiveness that can motivate you to forgive your mate, no matter how your mate responds to you. #forgiveness #lessonslearnedinmarriage” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
How about you?!
Which of the 6 lessons do you need to focus on the most in your marriage?
How do these “lessons” change the way you currently view your mate’s sins and offensive behavior?
I’d love it if you’d hop over to Melanie Redd’s blog where I’m sharing this guest post, “How to Love Your Man Even When He Doesn’t Listen to You.” Whether you’re a man or woman, this will at least give you some food for thought on how to navigate that issue and might even challenge you to up your game! At least, that’s my hope!
Also, you can click on Lessons Learned in Marriage to read more posts in this series. And the graphic below reveals all of the other bloggers who are guest posting in this series. Next week Stacey Pardoe will be joining me to share some of the lessons she’s learned from the parenting conflicts she’s had in marriage. It’s one you won’t want to miss!
Here are some lovely linkups I join – Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Mondays, Tea and Word Tuesday, Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story, Recharge Wednesday, Porch Stories Linkup, Break Through Homeschooling Linkup, Coffee for Your Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies Wednesday, Encouraging Word Wednesday, Sitting Among Friends, Destination Inspiration, Grace Moments Linkup, Imparting Grace, Tune in Thursday, Heart Encouragement, Moments of Hope, Grace and Truth, Faith and Friends, Blogger Voices Network, Faith on Fire Friday, Fresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday
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