Forgiveness doesn’t mean your spouse was right if they hurt you, but it does make you free.
Karen and I haven’t always had a lot of money. God has blessed us, but there were some scary times after we first got married. One thing I never wanted to see was our account to dip to zero or even below. What if I told you God wants your account to get to zero in your marriage? I don’t mean your bank account; I mean your offense account.
The devil loves accessing our negative emotions. He will work with fear, jealousy, and anger. He would love nothing more than for you to have a marriage filled with offense and unforgiveness. If he can gain that ground in your marriage, he knows you will never be the people God wants you to be. Unforgiveness is like an invisible umbilical cord that lashes us to the pain of our past.
Your spouse may have genuinely done something wrong to you. Maybe the offense happened ten years ago, or it could have been yesterday. For some marriages, it happened thirty years ago. In every case, you must deal with it so you can be healed personally and so can your marriage.
I want to be as clear as possible: forgiveness is not an option. God commanded us to forgive. One day, Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive someone who offends us. Peter asked, “Lord, how many times do we forgive? Seven?” And Jesus said, “No, 70 times seven.” And then Jesus told Peter a parable about a man who was forgiven a hefty sum of money by his master—as much as a million dollars. Still, the man refused to forgive his fellow servant for an amount that was about a thousand dollars. The hypocrisy of the servant was clear to all of Jesus’ listeners. Then Jesus closed the trap; He was teaching about how God forgives us, but how we often think we don’t have to forgive other people (Matthew 18:21–35, my paraphrase).
Jesus was telling His followers that God has forgiven them more than they can even imagine. God expects us to forgive others, including our spouses, when they have offended us. Forgiveness is about writing off debts and returning the balance to zero, telling your spouse they no longer owe you anything and you no longer hold an offense against them. It is required whether your spouse apologizes or not. It is saying, “I’m forgiving you and turning the matter over to God. He may require more of you, but our account is settled.”
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Many times, we want forgiveness from God, but we refuse to extend it to others. Jesus plainly says it doesn’t work that way. In the parable He told, Jesus said the master sent the unforgiving servant to prison to be tormented until he repaid every cent of the original debt. Do you see the connection? Unforgiveness is a prison of torment. It gives the devil an opening to come into our lives and allows him to oppress us through bitterness, unforgiveness, unresolved anger, and grudges. The devil makes himself at home in our minds and tells us more lies about our spouses when they have hurt us. He wants to keep us upset and in turmoil because it changes the way we relate to each other.
I want to lead you through a process of forgiving your spouse.
If you have harbored long-term anger or bitterness toward your spouse, then repent to God for the sin of unforgiveness.
Unforgiveness isn’t merely a problem to be solved; it is a sin against God.
Release your “right” to judge your spouse and turn the matter over to God.
When you forgive, it means you’re entrusting God with your spouse, even when they have offended you. Trust God that His judgments are correct. Then, it is up to God to deal with your spouse. Harboring unforgiveness is the same as telling God you don’t trust Him.
Release your spouse to God and give them grace.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help uncover any lies the devil has spoken to you about your spouse. Ask God to help you see your spouse through His eyes. While you may be justifiably angry, your spouse is still God’s child, and He sees the good in them. If you want to be healed of unforgiveness, then you will have to learn to see your spouse the way God sees them and not as your enemy to be destroyed.
Begin a daily practice of blessing your spouse and praying for them by name until your emotions have been healed and changed.
The essence of blessing your spouse is to pray for them that which you would want to receive yourself. Pray for forgiveness, grace, favor, health, prosperity, promotion, and blessing upon them. You will find this part of the process challenging. You might want them to be punished, and you will want justice. Even so, God gave you grace, and He wants you to be willing to give away. As you give grace, God will heal you and give you the grace you need.
Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you how to respond differently to your spouse.
Pray and prepare to relate to them differently
Examine your emotions on a regular basis.
The primary emotion that will tell you how you are really doing is peace. When you are at peace, you are living in the state God designed for you to live.
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Forgiveness doesn’t mean your spouse was right if they hurt you, but it does make you free. When you forgive your spouse, it doesn’t mean you excuse them or that their actions don’t matter. Forgiveness simply means you have decided to forgive in the way that God forgave you, and you are not going to hold this offense against your spouse or harbor wrong emotions. You’re going to bring your offense account to zero.