The Power of Forgiveness in Marriage
- Dr. Gary Smalley Smalley Relationship Center
- 2007 1 Feb
Laura was fed up with her husband and with all the upheaval in their lives. He often traveled out of town, and when he was home, he drank and made life miserable for her.
In her frustration, Laura came within an eyelash of throwing in the towel and filing for divorce, but her good friend Gayle talked her into going to see her pastor who she felt might be able to help. Even though Laura was reluctant at first, she was at the end of her rope. Against her better judgment, she made an appointment and went to see him.
For nearly forty minutes this wise pastor simply listened to her story. After Laura had shared her nonstop description of every one of her husband's faults, she finally sat back with a loud "Humph." Smugly she waited to hear an "Amen" from the pastor or at least a hearty confirmation that hers was the worst husband he had ever heard about.
At first the pastor didn't say a word. Deeply engrossed in thought, he literally waited several minutes before he spoke. Finally he sat up, looked her in the eye, and said gently, "Laura, have you ever forgiven your husband for all his many faults?"
You could have heard a pin drop. Laura had not expected to receive this kind of advice. (No wonder his counseling is free, she thought.) Of course she had not forgiven her husband! He had never asked her to, and she wasn't about to bring it up. He had caused her to suffer, and she wasn't going to let him off the hook that easily.
"Laura, would you think about what I've said today, and would you promise to come back and see me next week?" As she grabbed her purse and headed for the door, she heard herself mutter something like "That would be fine, Pastor," but she never thought she would be seeing him again. Yet something happened that week that began to change Laura's perspective on her marriage. Something drew her back to this man's office the next week.
In spite of telling herself repeatedly that she should forget what he said, Laura did a great deal of thinking. While it didn't all make sense, it began to dawn on her that it wasn't her husband who was on the hook — she was! He didn't lose any sleep about his behavior; she was the one getting ulcers.
Laura was still confused and had a great many questions for the pastor the next time they met. However, God had already begun to do some miraculous things in Laura's life. That afternoon, in the quietness of the pastor's study, she surrendered her life to Christ. She also decided to give up her need for revenge, to forgive her husband for all he had done, and to learn to love him unconditionally.
Laura's husband was a truck driver, and almost a week went by before he returned home. When he came into the house, he could have sworn he was at the wrong address. He couldn't believe how peaceful things were. Just a week ago everything he did made his wife mad; now she was going out of her way to do things for him.
When this rowdy truck driver found out Laura's change of heart had something to do with religion, he tossed her behavior aside as though it were another diet his wife had discovered. While it made things a lot nicer in the short run, soon her willpower would fade and they would be back at each other's throats.
After five months, Laura's husband made an appointment to see the same pastor she had seen. "You've got to tell me about what happened to Laura," the truck driver said. "She's changed so much. It's made me realize what a rotten husband I've been these past years. Pastor, I have a drinking problem, and I need help with it."
What made all the difference for this couple was that Laura, in spite of the fact that her husband didn't "deserve" it, decided to keep her battery charged with the never-depleted source of God's love and to take personal responsibility for her thoughts, feelings, and actions -- and she chose to forgive her husband. For years she had made just the opposite decision. She had devalued him and cursed him to his face. She hated his occupation that took him out of town and filled his clothes with the smell of diesel fuel.
When Laura's life was changed by God's love, she was able, out of the overflow of His love, to attach high value to her husband and love him. Instead of riding him about getting another job, she found ways to build him up and encourage him. When once she had gone days without speaking to him when she was angry, now she told him her feelings, but without anger and hate. As a result, miraculous changes were able to take place in her husband and in her marriage.
No two marriages are exactly alike, but know that God's call to forgiveness can free you and your spouse to take the next step towards a fulfilling and God-honoring marriage.
© Copyright 2005 Smalley Relationship Center.