Forgiveness is complicated, both in serious situations and in the everyday circumstances that pester our married lives. Realizing that we are not perfect can help us have the grace to ask and give forgiveness. Both need to ask and both need to forgive, with the understanding that nurturing a forgiving marriage can prevent the bitterness of accumulated offenses that gradually harden hearts and build walls.
We know forgiveness is a cornerstone of the Christian faith. In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to forgive us the same way we forgive others. On the cross – Jesus forgave the people of their sins even as they mocked him and watched him die. But when we have been deeply hurt, the idea of forgiving may feel like we’re being asked to tear our hearts out and give them to the very people who trampled on them. So, either we offer an easy and empty, “I forgive you,” while still holding the bitterness in our hearts, or we harden ourselves and physically or emotionally walk away.
Even Joseph, one of scripture’s greatest examples of forgiveness (Genesis 50:15-21), allowed the full forgiveness of his brothers to marinate over time. When he first recognized his brothers in Egypt, he did not run out to them with extended arms. After his initial decision to forgive, he tested their hearts, giving them a chance to reflect on their sin. When he finally forgave them, his forgiveness was complete and glorious.
True forgiveness takes place when we release our hurt and let go of it, acknowledging that our spouse is a fallen human being, who is perhaps doing the best he or she can with the limited resources in their emotional, relational, and spiritual arsenal. When we anchor our hearts on the rock of God’s love, the forgiveness of our spouse enables us to release our pain into God’s healing hands. As grace shatters the threat of growing bitterness, it plants the seeds of a more intimate relationship. Husband and wife experience the refreshing rush of freedom and the ability to fully love.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you – Ephesians 4:32
Be Strong. Act Like Men