God has designed marriage to be the closest of all human relationships. A man is to leave his father and mother, the siblings of his childhood, and cleave to his wife.
In arranged marriages, couples may enter with very low expectations.They did not want to marry, or perhaps only one did, so there is so very little expected from the relationship. Watching the light go out in the eyes of a youth reveals a little of the deep heartache and despair they endure.
On contrast, marriages for love bring high expectations. A mutual attraction has developed. Finally the wedding day arrives. If a marriage for love goes sour and the light of love is replaced by the dull look of pain there is even deeper heartache.
A wedding day does not cure human nature. Often times the first offenses begin innocently. What is normal in one family is very different from what is normal in another family. After a while and after enough hurts, it is easy for couples to slip into a frustrated mode of reacting from a hurt with a hurt. When sharp words are said, sharp words are returned. Rebukes meet retorts. Anger may turn into wrath. Sometimes men learn their superior strength can be used to force their will on a weaker woman. The woman may learn how to push her man over the edge through a nagging tongue.
Is there any hope for a marriage that has jagged tears through its fabric? Some failures go deep causing lifetime consequences. Forgiveness means one chooses to be okay with broken dreams, the consequences of another’s sin and all the reaping they are forced to endure. This is impossible for human nature on its own.
God’s answer is for one to draw near to His loving presence and put on humbleness of mind. When just one spouse can draw from the wellspring of the love of God, there is hope that God can put the relationship back on track. The answer always begins with forgiveness; sending the pain away each time it returns, acknowledging it but refusing to re-feel it again. This lesson helps us explore the how of forgiveness.
Hurts and offenses are a normal part of earth life. Forgiveness is a divine gift for all those who know and experience Christ.
In the storybook ending the couple supposedly lives happily ever after. Some marriage partners come to engagement or marriage with those unrealistic expectations. They are sure they will never take each other for granted, or especially will never want to hurt the one they love so deeply.
When hurts come, newlyweds often are heartbroken. Often a marriage counselor who is hoping to help a couple find help for their marriage will discover a deep hurt or grudge that one of the spouses received in their early married life. This hurt was nursed and allowed to fester through the years.
We need to condition ourselves and our children about life. Disagreements are normal. People will express disregard for our feelings and not even realize they are hurting us.
Jesus came with a wonderful ingredient in the Gospel. We receive forgiveness for our sins. Likewise we have the power to forgive. Any sin. Any size. No matter how often it has been repeated. Period.
Simply let the matter go. In fact, the word for forgive is sometimes translated “divorce” or “send it away.” That means you plan no future with that hurt. We have that ability and we have that command.
Forgiving seventy times seven means we forgive without keeping score.
According to Rabbinic tradition, a man should forgive his brother three times. This was the number of times God had shared through Amos that He had forgiven Israel before punishing them. Peter no doubt reasoned that seven would be going the second mile. Seventy times seven is not even about numbers. Jesus’ teaching is that when we are hurt we don’t start to keep score.
Pain accumulates. Any person who needs to reach into a box of screws can tell you that. The first time you grab a handful, there is some pain. By the time quitting time comes and you’ve grabbed a million handfuls of screws, it is excruciating! When we keep a painful memory, it will add to the next incident. Eventually we can pass our threshold of tolerance.
The right thing is to take the pain to the cross every time we think of it. When we look up at Christ’s great suffering for us, and then down at the pain we may be stubbornly hanging on to, we see how we must let our hurts go. Then when the next hurt comes there is no pile to add it to.
Forgiveness means we don’t keep going over the offense, i.e. we do not bring the incident up in our minds but let it fade away.
Some people wonder if we remember an offense and still feel some of the pain if we really have forgiven. That is a vital question. We cannot experience forgivingness and resentment at the same time. The word resent comes from a Latin root “re+sentire.” That means choosing to feel the pain associated with the memory over again.
When we are hurt we feel pain. Many times emotional pain can hurt even deeper than physical pain. Forgiveness means letting the pain go, sending it away, refusing to feel it. Resentment means a person revives the feeling with the memory of the pain. When an incident is brought back from years ago, he becomes emotionally involved in how he felt in that painful experience. Forgiveness means we stop choosing to feel the pain each time we remember the event. We simply tell our feelings we won’t go there.
Human nature causes us to be blind to our own faults while exaggerating in our minds the faults of others.
One of the reasons we need to stress forgiveness in marriage is because our self judgment can be so twisted. As humans, we see another’s faults in vivid detail. But we can hardly see our own. This is true for marriage too. When a couple has entered the most intense phase of trying to make each other change, they may see and say things the spouse is totally blind to. The harder each tries to help the other see himself, the less likely either one will find their way through.
Fellow servants who are not emotionally involved in our situation can often identify our inconsistencies and will help us if we will but hearken to their rebukes.
The Proverb writer lets us in on a secret. (Proverbs 9:7-9) The way to discern between a wise man and a foolish man is to see how he receives correction.
Husband or wife, if we allow ourselves to become hurt when someone endeavors to correct us, we are foolish. If we can believe that others see us better than we see ourselves, if we can believe their corrections are for our benefit, if we can allow others to overstate themselves and not become offended by it, then we can grow.
The closer one walks with Christ, the better marriage partner he will be.
A careful study of the Gospels provides a simple but profound truth. Jesus has the answer for every type of problem every single time. We become accustomed to specialists, doctors who will consider only one type of problem. They may be able to help with a broken bone, but have no expertise for chronic heart problems. Our Lord Jesus promised to be the Living Water that springs up within and always satisfies. He is also the Bread of Life. He is the Light of the world. And so forth...
So what does this mean to the hurting marriage partner? It means there will always be a Lord to listen to your needs, to lead you in your decisions and to give you resources for life’s demands. Those who reach out to Christ will never be let down.
This closeness to Christ is accomplished through Bible reading and prayer. It is also met in continuing to fellowship with a Biblical church fellowship. When people are hurting, they may be tempted to pull off to the side and not want to face people. This is true especially when we have the feeling that church life is about spiritual elitism or competition to prove one is better than another. Find a spiritual church, one that truly represents Christ’s body on earth. A church that professes godliness but denies Christ’s power will not have the answer. Neither will one that ignores discipleship.
God knows we need chastisements in life and will allow us to experience hurts in order to help us grow in righteousness.
The key to making it through dark days is to always exercise faith. We must see that God is more interested in our refinement and eternal destiny than in our immediate comfort. He often uses the valley of pain to lead us to the lofty heights of fellowship.
The Hebrew writer compares an illegitimate child to one who does not receive chastisement from God. All receive chastisement. To some it is just fate, or bad luck. That child does not have a Father. Others see the good hand of God in their suffering. They look up and draw strength. They look around and see someone in greater need than themselves. They see the hand of God.
When we resent the person or the hurt of chastisement, we fail to see God’s hand in the matter and open ourselves to bitterness and its consequences.
Esau is an example of one who was misused by his family. He becomes a warning to someone who lives among those who profess to be godly, yet has expressions of selfishness. Esau chose to become bitter. That bitterness became an opening for Satan to tempt him with immorality. He also succumbed to a life void of spiritual interest (profane). Many times overwhelming temptations in either of these areas indicate an unforgiving spirit over some hurt from bygone days.
God has an unlimited supply of grace for His children, but God only gives this gift to the humble. The proud will not consider forgiving those who hurt them. They want revenge. God will resist the proud. Letting the hurt go is the choice of the humble. Choosing to love the offender is the path to God’s blessing in our lives.