It’s not a matter of asking, ‘What if forgiveness is tough?” because the answer will always be, “Yes.” Yes, forgiveness is tough because true forgiveness required a human a sacrifice, a self-willing human sacrifice, a death so gruesome and torturous that the man willing to die was almost unrecognizable. Scripture teaches us that it was because of this gruesome sacrifice, by those wounds, that we are healed.
I believe we can learn a lot about forgiveness in our marriages by looking at the Cross. Forgiveness in marriage can be extremely difficult at times when we feel deeply betrayed. Yet, if you are a confessing Christian, you follow someone who was despised and rejected by humanity. Isn’t that what betrayal looks like; being ultimately despised and rejected by your spouse? I’m talking deep, deep hurt that causes your soul to cry out in anger and anguish and heartache all the while asking how someone who confessed to loving you so much could hurt you so deeply. Do the words, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me” come to mind? Christ cried out in anguish while he was hurting, betrayed, and deeply wounded on the Cross.
Yet, Christ Chose to Forgive
Jesus Christ looked at the thief next to him and said, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus was telling the repentant thief, “Today, you will be in my ultimate presence in my garden of peace.” Christ teaches us that his choice to forgive leads us into his very presence. Christ chose forgiveness in the midst of his heartache and that means we too must strive to forgive when we’ve been deeply hurt in our marriages. Why?
Because We Have Been Forgiven
That same forgiveness that Jesus gave the thief he gives to us. 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Confession and repentance lead to salvation. What if our marriages, even in their darkest times, model a place where confession and repentance lead to the saving of a marriage. Again, we forgive in our marriages because have been forgiven.
We Must Remember that Forgiveness Is Tough
Jesus had to endure great heartache and pain to achieve salvation for mankind. If we are going to forgive our spouse after being deeply betrayed, we too will go through heartache and pain. I believe the Cross teaches us that there is no true redemptive forgiveness without intense pain. So, please know that if your spouse has deeply hurt you, forgiveness will not occur without much wrestling and crying out to God and even your spouse.
The Other Side of Forgiveness
Forgiving our spouse after a betrayal does not mean our marriages are always saved, especially after abuse has occurred. However, choosing to practice forgiveness the way Christ forgave on the Cross will ultimately stop the cycle of hate that would continue if you chose not to forgive. On the other side of forgiveness, there is freedom; freedom from the captivity of hate and hopelessness, freedom from the anger and disgust that might be eating you up from the inside-out, freedom that results in deep, soulful healing.
Forgiveness is tough because the Cross was tough. Yet, forgiveness is powerfully redemptive because the Cross is redemptive. When you are tempted to not forgive, may the Cross be an ever present reminder that we live as forgiven people. So, no matter how difficult choosing to forgive might be, may you find the same power that raised Jesus from the dead being the same power in you empowering you to forgive.
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Harrodsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.