Forgiveness

Hello, dear and amazing friends. I hope you are doing well today – that you are finding life and joy in Christ and in your marriages. I know there are many of you who are on a journey of finding that life, and I want you to know I am praying for you right now. Praying peace over your hearts and health to the painful places in your soul. May God grant you grace, insight, and wholeness. May you find friendship, counsel, a shoulder to cry on and wisdom for the many decisions in front of you.

I have recently been pondering the subject of forgiveness, and thinking about how much we have to forgive our spouse in the journey of marriage. I think we should change our wedding vows to say something along the lines of “To have, hold and forgive from this day forward…” Because isn’t that so much more a part of marriage than you ever thought it would be?

I don’t know about you, but  I didn’t get a teaching on forgiveness in my pre-marital counseling, and I could have used it. Oh, I knew we would have petty disagreements, but that’s not what I am talking about here. I am talking about the heart-wrenching, completely devastating experiences in marriage that leave you spinning. I am talking about the wounds we cause each other with our words and actions that cut deep, and take time to heal. Forgiveness in that arena isn’t quite as easy as when my sweet little one spills their milk and quickly says “Sorry Mama!”

A few weeks ago I heard a description of forgiveness that floored me – and I wanted to share it with you, in hopes that it will paint a picture that will help you as it has me.

When your husband (or anyone) wrongs you, it creates a hurt inside of you. That offense tears into your heart, leaving a gap that must be filled in order for you to be whole. And its a gap that can’t be ignored, or we will find ourselves bitter and cynical. And the problem is we can’t just simply say “I forgive you”, and expect those words to magically fill that gap. As many of you know, they don’t.
The hard truth is that forgiveness is most often a choice, and very rarely a feeling. And we are commanded to forgive. So then, how do we do it in a way that carries truth and isn’t just rote words? As Christ-followers, when we say “I forgive you”, what we are saying (in reality) is this:

“You have created a gap in my heart with your words and actions. That gap must be filled in order for me to be whole, and I so desperately need and want to be whole. So I recognize that your sin leaves you in debt to me. You rightly owe me – you rightly must fill the gap you created. I also recognize, however, that this tear in my heart, this hole you created, can never be filled by you. You owe me a debt you cannot pay. And so when I say that I forgive you, I am telling you that I am taking that hole you created, that debt you so rightfully owe me, and I am giving it to Christ. I am choosing to release you of the responsibility for repairing my heart, and I am offering it up instead to the Healer of all wounds. My forgiving you doesn’t erase the hurt. It doesn’t magically fix the gap. My forgiving you doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the debt, it just means I am choosing not to hold that debt against you.”

That, my dear sisters, is powerful. That makes forgiveness so much richer and truer than merely pretending like everything is okay. You must acknowledge that the hurt your husband caused you is real. And you need to realize that it may take time for the gap to be filled. But forgiveness releases someone from the rightful requirement of repayment, and gives it to the one who died to pay all debts.

Please hear me in this – forgiveness does not make everything magically okay. There may still be a process of grieving and healing to be walked out. You may need counseling; you may need time; you may need many conversations to help heal the wound. But you aren’t holding your husband hostage to a debt that he was never going to be able to pay.
The process of regaining trust, or healing a marriage, is not the same as the act of forgiveness. We forgive because we have been forgiven. We forgive because it glorifies the God who forgave us. We forgive because we are commanded to. We forgive because we are truly loved and chosen.
Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that the gap in your heart doesn’t exist anymore. It doesn’t even mean that you necessarily will be reconciled to that person (there are many who need to forgive someone who has already passed away). It means that you have released them from the responsibility of paying back their debt.

Dear sisters, I urge you to forgive. I urge you to shame the enemy and reject the world by choosing to walk the narrow path. And I promise you, when you choose to forgive you will find that there is a Healer who can, indeed, work all things for the good of those that love Him and who are called according to His purpose.

Praying for you today. Praying you will recieve the courage to forgive, and the wisdom you need to walk out what the journey of healing looks like for you. It may be as simple as some time with your journal. Or it may take months of counseling, pastoral care and hard descisions.
Pray for me too. Pray today that I would also walk out true forgiveness for people in my life who have hurt me. I am convicted as I write these words that there are still some who I need to release from their debt, and I need the courage to do so.

I cherish being on this journey with you.
Annabel

10 thoughts on “Forgiveness

  1. That is a beautiful description of true forgiveness that many do not understand. I agree, that should have been in the vows!!

  2. I have struggled with a need to forgive someone for years worth of tears to my heart. I think what I have done in the past is really just said the words and tried to shove that torn part to a place that I couldn’t see/feel as much. The imagery you provide of forgiveness here is so challenging, but I can see freedom in it as well. Thank you.

  3. This is SO true. I have been married 45 years and forgiveness is a larger necessity than just about anything. Love can’t stay alive without forgiveness. One of my favorite Scriptures for those getting married is Eph 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” I have heard someone say they had “biblical” grounds for divorce…..isn’t there much more a Biblical ground for forgiveness?

  4. What a wonderful post, and such a timely one. Here we are at the end of the year, and looking forward to the next. I, for one, want to release all the “baggage” of 2012 and begin 2013 fresh. God has dealt with me time and again on forgiveness throughout my life with Him, and I have walked the path repeatedly. Bitterness is a thorn I need constantly to be reminded of, to be wary of it piercing my heart again. Thank you so much, and you’re right, it is a powerful word you shared today. It was one of the best I’ve heard on forgiveness. Lord, I choose forgive. I choose to give You all my hurts, all my holes, all my wounds. Thank you for the divine exchange; I receive Your beauty for my ashes and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

  5. I didn’t know which particular post to put this comment but I figured this was probably the closest. My husband and I have started with a new counsellor I had a gut feeling that this person was not right for us even before the first vist, but now I am absolutely sure.

    Any advice on what to do about counselling when you feel the counsellor is giving unhelpful and unbiblical advice and incorrect advice? especially when hubby adores the counsellor?

    I have grave concerns because there are three big problems we went to the counsellor about (there is actually a fourth problem but it falls into the other three in many ways).

    The first was hubby’s lack of interest in sex. Rarely initiating sex and rejecting me frequently. The counsellor told him the amount of sex hubby wants is the “average” for couples and that the amount I would be happy with is well above average – when in fact I’ve done my research, I trained in relationship psychology before giving up that career when I had my child in my first marriage, I know quite categorically that what my husband wants maximum is much less than average for christian married couples, and is extremely low for newly weds. That the amount I’d be happy with is actually the average for couples. And that when it coes to how much I’d like, the counsellor says it’s extremely high, when in reality it is quite normal for newlyweds (only slightly above average for newlyweds), and is nothing compared to what my first husband wanted even after a decade together.

    I left feeling like the counsellor convinced my husband I was a sex addict and his lack of interest was actually normal interest for a man. I understand that sexual interest is a bell curve (or a lopsided one anyway), but to say his interest was average for a couple, and particularly for a man I think has only damaged our sexual relationship further. He sees no need to initiate at all now, and is back to rejecting me even more because it has only cemented in his head that I’m some kind of deviant.

    That’s problem number one – that he now has it cemented that only a few times a month is normal and average and that he doesn’t need to look into why potentially he has a low sex drive, because he now even more firmly believes a couple of times a months is normal and healthy and that it’s ok to reject me the rest of the time. That’s the unhelpful advice (and some of the advice that is not factual).

    My second worry is the advice the counsellor gave that I believe is unbiblical. This is one that is open to interpretation, I understand, but I’m a firm believer that the conception of children is up to God. That unless there is a serious health reason or a serious issue of abuse or neglect, then it’s wrong to actively try to prevent having children in marriage. In “neglect” I include situations where families genuinely could not afford to literally feed another child. My husband is on a good income – in fact he earns three times what my first husband and I and our child lived on – so not being able to feed a child isn’t an issue. I am a firm believer that we’re legally and morally married, it is now up to God to decide about children. But counsellor has convinced hubby otherwise and that leads to the third worry.

    The information the counsellor gave us is inaccurate about having children. As you can guess, I’m quite “old” having been married for nearly a decade the first time. I know all too well as a healthcare professional (in addition to my psychology degree, I have degrees in two other healthcare related fields of the physical kind) and fertility starts to drop at 30, and drops dramatically at 35 (for women). But the counsellor told hubby very definitively that no, it doesn’t start to drop at all til you’re at least 40. Keep in mind, the counsellor is a counsellor not trained as a medical professional in any way. But hubby flat out believes her. I have been working as a healthcare professional for 8 years now but like all our other problems, hubby doesn’t listen to me but will listen to what anyone else says as if it were absolute truth. I’ve tried showing him medical articles that show it’s 30 not 40, but the counsellor said so, therefore it must be true according to him.

    And in addition to this, I have very serious multiple reproductive problems (five seperate issues which each alone are very serious and may have left me infertile and we won’t know until we start trying for children). But this was all dismissed ignored with my concerns swept aside with “fertility doesn’t decrease til age 40” and ignoring whether someone honestly believes it’s 30 or 40, that’s for a healthy woman and I am far from it. To recommend waiting a year to discuss the issue of whether to even try for children means it’s nearly totally guaranteed we will be unable to even if he considers starting trying then.

    I went into this marriage with him telling me he wanted a number of kids, and even though he wanted to wait 6-12 months, he was adamant it was 12 months maximum before we’d try, and even then, once I explained to him just how bad my fertility issues were, he agreed with the logic of we can’t afford to wait. And then he sprung it on me two weeks ago that he’s “changed his mind” and in 5-10 years he will think about IF he wants to try for children, knowing full well 5 years is guaranteed too late (or perhaps he doesn’t think it’s too late is the problem, he lives in a fantasy world when it comes to my health problems – he refuses to accept the severity of any of my health problems, even the many non gyno ones. A recent incident when I said I’m going to really struggle to find another job since losing my previous one because of “my issues”, his response was “it’s ok, we’ll just organise a counsellor for you to work through your issues” and I had to point out to him a counsellor won’t do the surgery I’m waiting on or fix the smashed bones and snapped ligaments in my body – he just is in total denial of my health problems even though I’ve told him in minute detail and taken him with me on some doctors visits, anything to do with health problems, he just thinks I’m referring to the PTSD I have suffered from even though I’ve pointed out it has never effected my ability to work, that it’s physical health ones that are the problem).

    I feel lied to. If he had told me he wasn’t ready to have kids yet, I’d have postponed the wedding 12 months (for reasons too long to list but very important ones) and if he had told me there was even a chance he wasn’t going to ever want kids, I would have postponed the marriage indefinitely until he was sure one way or another and I honestly don’t think I would have married him if he was against having kids. He knew how important kids were to me, and I feel tricked and trapped. In a marriage where I now can’t get work (long story, but getting married when we did and moving to follow his job meant giving up my dream job and I now basically can’t get any sort of work) so I don’t have a job to keep me occupied, I can’t do housework because of my health, I rarely get any sex so don’t feel any value as a wife, and I left behind all my friends and family other than my child who is nearly a teenager and basically doesn’t need or want me now.

    Without a job, without possibility of having children, without friends and family and being rejected as a wife, I am at a total loss what to do.

    And I feel like our counsellor has only made the situation worse – disagreeing biblically (although I’m willing to concede it’s not a definitive issue for all christians, there is a range of beliefs) but more importantly the incorrect and unhelpful information given. It’s just more rubbing in my face that hubby would choose to take the advice of a stranger, over what I say, even when I’m more educated and experienced than the stranger and I am his WIFE, not some random stranger he’s only met a few times. I’m the one with the qualifications and experience and I know the full situation, particularly with how bad my health is.

    I feel so lost. I never should have let hubby bully me into seeing this counsellor against my better judgment. We had agreed several months ago that we would not see this counsellor until we’d at least investigated other options (this counsellor was recommended by a friend but the price to see the counsellor is obscenely expensive and while hubby might have a decent income, his claim for not wanting kids is arguing over a particular financial issue – and for what this counsellor costs, we could easily solve the financial issue we’re arguing over) but he deliberately went behind my back and booked this counsellor and hid it from me til just a few days before. He’d told his parents, his mother had told my mother who told not only my dad, but my brothers and sister – his entire family and my entire family knew he’d booked this counsellor and I had no clue. When I got angry one night when he’d left me stranded in the middle of nowhere in the cold (accidentally stranded but he’d deliberately turned his phone off to hurt my feelings), I spoke to his mother to see if she could contact him another way, and when I got angry and said how he hadn’t even booked a counsellor, her response was “I’m sure that’s not true, he told me he’d taken care of it” and I said he hadn’t done a thing about counselling yet (because that’s what he had let me think) and his mother was more adamant that that wasn’t true. He still hasn’t set the record straight with his family how he booked the counsellor behind my back but everyone else knew except for me.

    I shouldn’t have let him bully me with “I’m just going to blow the money and go whether you come with me or not” even though we don’t have the money spare if we’re going to pay off more of his mortgage before he considers kids – I’m going without medical treatment to save money, and he just constantly wastes money on everything – especially expensive things when there are much cheaper options that are the same or better. But then again, I’m sure if I didn’t go, he’d have told his one sided not-quite-truthful version of things and things would be even worse.

    But what can one do when going to see a counsellor has only made things worse for the marriage but hubby thinks the counsellor is fantastic?

  6. Just hours ago, I asked God to show me how to forgive my husband for how deeply he has wounded me. (Long-term sexual refusal.) Just hours ago! Because I cried out to Him in repentance and realized I need to love my husband as Jesus loves me, but I didn’t know how to accept the pain while letting go of resentment. God used you today to give me direction in my journey. More than anything, I want to be holy before Him, to please my Savior. Thank you so, so much! I have felt the anguish of a gaping wound ever since the end of our honeymoon 6 1/2 years ago. When we’re on a roll, I can expect intimacy once every month or two. This last drought has lasted 7 months, and there’s no sign of a change. He won’t talk about it at all. I’ve been refused more times than I can count. Yet I love my husband more than I can express…. which is what makes it all so difficult. I needed this.

    • JB,

      Praying for your marriage, sister. Praying for life and grace for you. Praying for a miracle in your husband’s heart. Praying for all things to be exposed, and for that exposure to bring life. May you and your husband figure out where the brokenness lies.

      You are walking in truth, sweet sister. Keep walking. Keep warring on for your home and family.

      A

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