Step 3: Move towards reconciliation through the gift of forgiveness
Hebrews 12:14 tells us to make an effort to live in peace with everyone. Reconciliation is the goal and that starts with forgiveness.
Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” For some, offering forgiveness is as easy as breathing. For others, this can feel like you’ve been asked to breathe underwater. But, we must take a moment when we have been sinned against and remember Jesus on the cross.
We must picture Him battered and beaten, ridiculed and spat upon. We must see Him hanging on the cross with a crown of thorns burrowed deep in His scalp, paying the penalty for a crime He didn’t commit. Did He yell back? Did He spit back or raise His hand? Did He defend Himself and demand to be heard? No, what did He do? He said, “Father, forgive them.” (Luke 23:34)
Being sinned against by our spouse is different than being sinned against in any other relationship. Perhaps this is because we are most vulnerable with our spouses, and there is an extra level of humiliation when being hurt by the one person who has vowed to love you through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. We feel violated.
We feel betrayed. And in some cases, betrayal is the only word to describe the offense. Yet, we are called to forgive.
Your next question might be, “Do I still say the words even if I don’t mean it?”
Perhaps your spouse hasn’t asked for forgiveness. Maybe you will suffer the consequences of their sin for a long time, so the pain is an eyesore in your life. Maybe they’ve shown no signs of real change. The list could go on and on. But, what does the Bible say about forgiveness?
Step 4: Replace your hurt and anger with kindness and compassion
Ephesians 4:31-32 sums it up well, telling us to, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
In other words, we aren’t supposed to sit in our anger. We aren’t supposed to be bitter towards our spouse or slander them to our friends. We are to get rid of those feelings and instead be kind, compassionate and extend forgiveness.
Just as we often need to picture Jesus on the cross being crucified, we also need to picture what else was going on at that moment. As Jesus hung on the cross, dying for you AND for your spouse, God was allowing this to happen as a means of extending grace and forgiveness to his children. When we sit in our anger and bitterness, when we slander our spouse to our friends because we’re hurt, we are ignoring the fact that we too have sinned against the Lord and that He has forgiven us, time and time again.
Sometimes we convince ourselves that we haven’t sinned as deeply as our spouse, and we justify withholding forgiveness. If this is the case for you, it’s time to go back to the Lord in prayer.
Father, my spouse has sinned against me again and, while I know your Word says to forgive, I don’t want to. I’m so angry and forgiving seems like I’m saying it’s okay to hurt me. Please remind me of my own sin. Remind me that this isn’t just about me, my spouse has sinned against You also. Help me to die to myself and not get consumed with my own feelings. Help me to have compassion for my spouse, and a desire to help them come to you with confession and repentance. Help me to put my spouse's spiritual health above my own feelings.
Another reason we need to keep our own feelings in check is because we need to remember James 1:2-4, which tells us to count it all joy when we face various trials. Isn’t it a trail when your spouse sins against you? Absolutely. I can honestly say that when my husband sins against me, counting it joy is NOT the first thing that comes to my mind! But it should be. Why? Because marriage is one avenue the Lord uses to sanctify us. In other words, God uses the strain and stress of marriage to conform us into something that looks more like Christ.
When our spouse sins against us, we have two choices. We can follow the lead of the world, respond out of anger, and sit in our bitterness. Or, we can go to the Lord, pray for peace, offer forgiveness, and ask the Lord to use the situation to make you and your spouse more like Christ.
Father God, marriage isn’t easy. But we know that it is a gift you have given us. Forgive us for distorting this gift and making it into something that often offends you, rather than bringing you glory. Help us to seek you first in the mists of marital storms. Help us to forgive each other the way you forgive us. Help us to live out Ephesians 4:22-24, to put off our old self, which belongs to our former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Beth Ann Baus is a wife and homeschooling mom of two boys. She is a freelance writer and author of the novel, Sister Sunday. In her writing, Beth often pulls from her own experiences of abuse, anxiety, depression and OCD. Beth has a heart for women’s ministry and is in the process of becoming a certified Biblical Counselor. She loves serving alongside her husband and pointing couples to the Word for strengthening their marriages and home life.You can find more from her at www.bethannbaus.com.
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