4. Choose to forgive. After reading this heading you are probably thinking to yourself, I don’t know if I can forgive. Is it really possible? Yes it is! Take these steps:
(a) First, consider all the things that God has forgiven you for in your past. Then meditate on all the areas in which you are presently failing and consider the rich and free forgiveness that flows from the Father. By first looking at your own faults you are obeying the command given by Jesus in Matthew 7:5: “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Obedience to this command will greatly aid you in finding the willingness to forgive.
(b) Now ask God to give you the same tenderness of heart to forgive your spouse as God has demonstrated toward you. The Bible commands, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).
(c) Next, make the choice to forgive your spouse. Remember, forgiveness is a choice you make from your heart simply because it is a command. Everything in the Christian life hinges on the choice to obey God’s commands. For example, service to the Lord is a command, but you must choose to yield yourself to do it (Joshua 24:15). Faith is also a command that must be obeyed. “This is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another” (1 John 3:23). Forgiveness works the same way. You are commanded: “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26). The words “if you do not” specifically refer to your choice.
In addition, don’t think that you first have to feel like forgiving your spouse before you actually choose to do it. Forgiveness must first be granted from the heart before it will ever be felt in your emotions (Matt. 18:35). Simply choose to do what is pleasing to the Lord and the feelings of forgiveness will follow (Is. 56:4).
(d) Once you’ve chosen to forgive, you must now keep your promise. Understand that when you forgive you make a promise to erase the sin off the internal ledger in your mind and never bring it up again. This is exactly what God does when He forgives you. He declared: “I am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins” (Is. 43:25). The words rendered blots out mean to wipe clean or obliterate. The word remember means to mention or recall. Therefore, when you forgive you are promising to never mention or recall this sin as a weapon in the heat of an argument. You obviously can’t forget or erase the sin from your memory, but you can refuse to remember it against your mate. This is a decision you must make every day and sometimes every hour.
5. How did you get here? After you have forgiven one another you must now get to the business of rebuilding your marriage. How can you start this process? When any structure collapses, the first thing a safety engineer will do is go in and find out why the building failed. This is exactly what must be done in your marriage. Determining how your relationship got into such a weakened state is fundamental for knowing how to strengthen and resolve the issues that have divided you. You need understanding so this won’t happen again. Solomon declared that the lack of understanding was one of the fundamental causes of adultery: “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; he who does so destroys his own soul” (Prov. 6:32).
Here are some questions to ask yourself and discuss with your spouse to gain this valuable understanding. Was the adultery due to a shallow or complete lack of a personal relationship with Christ? Were there issues in your marriage such as: built up resentments, pride, lust problems, failure to communicate, or other issues? In other words, what are the underlying issues that must be addressed?
In addition, did you as the offended spouse have any responsibility in driving your mate away? Were you uninvolved in the relationship? Were you controlling and manipulating or aloof and uncommitted to your spouse? Were you a silent partner or was your communication style offensive in other ways? Were you overbearing sexually or constantly putting off intimacy with your spouse?
Wherever the responsibility rests, receive it. Don’t blame-shift! Take responsibility for your part, confess your fault to your mate and ask forgiveness. Whatever the problems were, you need to allow the Lord to personally transform your life.
COVENANT KEEPERS © 2014
If you would like more information on the marriage ministry of Pastor Steve Carr or his book Married and How To Stay That Way, please visit us on the Internet at www.covenantkeepers.org