This is a difficult subject to discuss because of the sensitivity of what it involves to get to that place. But it is a necessary one because we all must deal with forgiveness. Throughout this message, we’re going to weave together various quotes and scriptures, praying it will minister to your life.
We also encourage you to read through the “Bitterness and Forgiveness” topic of this web site. It would be great if you “join the discussion” in the comment sections below the articles, if you feel led to do so.
Needing Forgiveness: We Are All Sinners
As author Dan Allendar says, “No matter how blissfully a marriage begins, all husbands and wives eventually fail each other. We are sinners saved by grace and we need grace not only from God but also from one another” —which is true.
“In this life it’s guaranteed you will make mistakes, disappoint one another and make some poor decisions. This is especially true in our marriages. The only way to keep any relationship growing in the midst of our humanity is to forgive. The apostle Paul gave us a staggering challenge in the area of forgiveness. He wrote, ‘Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you’ (Colossians 3:13).
“As beautiful as this sounds in Scripture, the concept of forgiveness gets rather complicated in every day life. When we are wronged, emotions run high. We may want to forgive, but feel incapable. Or we may think we have forgiven, only to catch ourselves stewing weeks or even years later. A few situations like this and we start to feel as though genuine forgiveness in marriage is an impossible feat” (Pam and Bill Farrell, from the Crosswalk.com article Give Your Spouse the Gift of Grace This Season).
In our humanness, we can often feel this way… but don’t give up.
Forgiveness Can Take Time
“Sometimes in trying to forgive we put an intense but unnecessary burden on ourselves. I thought I could completely forgive right away. But I discovered that forgiveness is not a one-time act. It’s a process. While it begins with the decision to forgive, it often takes time before the heart fully accepts what the will has set in motion. How long it takes may depend on the severity of the pain. Forgiveness takes time, and we must give ourselves the grace that our healing requires as we put forgiveness in motion” (Linda W Rooks, from the book, “Broken Heart on Hold“).
If more bitterness wells up within you, then give it to God. And keep repeating the process (even “77 times” as Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:21-35) until you’re able to experience peace.
Sometimes it’s like peeling the layers of an onion slowly (sometimes it takes years). There is more underneath that will bring discomfort and tears, but that is all part of the process. Tears are cleansing (there are various studies which prove this to be true). It’s when we bury that which needs to be released —THAT’S when there is real trouble. Bitterness turned inward is cancerous to our soul.
Also, keep in mind:
“When forgiveness is necessary, don’t wait too long. We must begin to forgive, because without forgiving, we choke off our own joy; we kill our own soul. People carrying hate and resentment can invest themselves so deeply in that resentment that they gradually define themselves in terms of it” (Lewis B Smedes, from book Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve).
Don’t you see this in people around you? I have, and it’s truly tragic!
“I have finally learned that one of the functions of marriage is for spouses to express God’s grace to each other. Our marriages become reflections of our own personal relationships with Christ. Has God forgiven you of much, and set your feet on solid ground? Then men, realize that God expects active sacrifice as head of the home. Wives, appreciate the fact that your humble submission to your husband directly honors God.
“Every one of us needs forgiveness because we all make mistakes. What do we do when your husband is insensitive or unkind? Do you expect him to recognize that he has made a mistake and then wait for him to ask for forgiveness? If you do you’ll find two problems with that approach. First, in speaking for most men, we will only recognize about 25 per cent of our mistakes, at best. So, you’ll spend a long time waiting for an apology, or you’ll be disappointed most of the time.
“Second, and most importantly, your approach is not biblical. Has God only forgiven those sins that you have brought to His attention? Once we are justified, as Romans 4:5-8 tells us, God not only forgives our sins, but He also ‘counts them against us no more.’ He uses the Greek word ‘logizomai’, which means ‘no record.’ In other words, the record of wrongs is shredded.
“That is exactly what we must do. We recognize the sin or injustice, but we choose not to save it to our archives for later use. We must develop a habit of thought that forgives the wrongs then deletes the memory of that wrong before a seed of bitterness can destroy many.
Magnifies the Injury
“Why is it so hard to develop an attitude of forgiveness? Satan preys on our sinful pride that manifests itself in the form of a reluctance and inability to readily forgive. He magnifies the injury and constantly reminds us of the injustice. This is done in an effort to encourage us to either seek vengeance or vindication.
“God, however, is responsible for dealing with both those issues. If we truly trust in God and don’t lean on our own understanding, we will know His perfect justice. We won’t need to keep a record of wrongs. We also won’t need to refer to our lists of rights as a means of preventing future injury.
“What is truly exciting is that God has not only given us motivation to forgive others, but He has also promised to provide a blessing which is in direct proportion to the severity of the hurt we have forgiven. Jesus told us that if we don’t forgive, we will not be forgiven, and He has promised that those who show mercy will receive mercy. I know I certainly want mercy, not His justice” (Stu Lindner from Crosswalk.com article Forgiveness)
How about you?
“When others (including our spouse) hurts us in ways we don’t deserve, at some point we will come to the crossroads of decision. We will have to look our pain square in the face and ask, ‘Am I going to hang on to my anger and do violence to myself, or am I going to forgive those who have wounded me? Am I going to allow bitterness to poison and putrefy my soul, or am I going to invite God to empower me to let the anger go?'” (Pam Vredevelt, from the book The Wounded Woman: Hope and Healing for Those Who Hurt)
But what if your spouse is not sorry for what he/she has done? Do you still need to work on forgiving him or her? Keep in mind, that God put forth the effort and reached out to forgive us for our sin (by the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for us), “while we were yet sinners.” It’s up to us to accept it, for forgiveness to have its full effect.
But that doesn’t minimize the fact that it was offered just the same —whether we accept it or not. Even while the soldiers, who were crucifying Jesus, were full of pride and were jeering and condemning Him, Jesus prayed for them and offered forgiveness, praying that God would “forgive them because they knew not what they were doing.” I’m not sure if they ever made the effort to receive what He offered, but the gift was available just the same.
And God wants us to do the same.
We are to release ourselves from the bitterness and do our part in the forgiveness equation. By doing that, we are reaching for freedom. It’s about agape love that we have received from God and agape love that we are to give out, which helps us to live a more abundant life. What your spouse does with the gift you are giving, is between him/her and God, once you take your hands off of the situation.
And if he/she spits forth words of scorn, then you are in good company. That is what happened to Jesus (and still happens over and over again to Him in this world).
We’ve also been asked another question many times. How do you trust your spouse again after being betrayed by him or her? As far as we can see, there is a difference between the action of forgiving a spouse because God tells us this is necessary (especially to release us from the prison of bitterness) and the action of trusting that spouse. Both are entirely different steps. Extending forgiveness is not to be dependent upon the actions of your spouse for you to release him or her in your heart and give him or her to God so HE alone is their judge. In doing that, you become free in your heart and emotions for God to help you to heal.
If your spouse doesn’t accept it or do anything to deserve it, that is something between him or her and God. But on your part, you are released from the additional future pain that comes with nursing, rehearsing, and allowing that pain to keep inflicting you as you hold onto it.
A possible second step is building trust once again. Trust is something that your spouse must participate in to help you to be able to embrace again, if it is to happen. It’s something you would benefit from if you participate with your spouse to allow it to rebuild IF your spouse is repentant and sincere and honest in working toward that goal. But please recognize that the Bible doesn’t tell you that you must trust your spouse again… just that you must not allow bitterness to take root. (See Hebrews 12:15.)
Unforgiveness robs you of peace and continues to steal from you in various ways. Don’t give the enemy of your faith that empowerment. Go with God on this. Release bitterness and forgive in your heart and actions. I’m not saying condone or enable… but free yourself from holding onto unforgiveness. It may be a long painful journey to get to that place… but it is worth every step. I hope you will (if you haven’t already). The freedom you can experience in your heart is empowering and truly a gift from God that keeps on giving.
Make it a Habit
“Make forgiveness a habit that you’re always willing to practice with God’s help. Forgive your mate not just for big issues, but also for small irritating behaviors that can drive a wedge between you. Take every thought captive by praying for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind and bring your thoughts into conformity with biblical truths. Remember how lavishly God has forgiven you. That is the way you should forgive your spouse —even for major issues —pale in comparison to what Christ has done for you. (Ed Young, from the article Follow the 10 Commandments of Marriage)
Ask God to help you with this mission. It’s a gift you give to God, which will benefit you in the long-run. Consider this:
“One man gave his wife a new watch with a note, ‘It’s ‘time’ that I tell you how sorry I am.’ A mother gave her prodigal child a broom with the verse, ‘I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist…‘ (Isaiah 44:22). I forgive you, and love you; I am so glad God gave you to be my child.’ Now it’s your turn. What gift of Grace can you bestow?” (Pam and Bill Farrel from Crosswalk.com article Give Your Spouse the Gift of Grace This Season)
Our love is with you as together we give each other the grace and forgiveness God has given us,
Cindy and Steve Wright
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20 responses to “Forgiveness in Marriage – MM #55”
(Bahamas) Thanks so much for this one. You need a part II to this article, because I do not believe that because you forgive you remain a fool to allow the same things to happen to you. I suffer abuse in my marriage -not physical abuse, but all the other types. I just found out that my husband has lied to me about everything and is cheating on me. Now this is not the first and I have forgiven him.
Time and again I have given him chance after chance. I have put myself of the line, as Moses did, for my husband. Now I do forgive him for this latest episode. I have forgiven him – not that he deserves it but just to free myself from all the anger. I forgive him just to help myself really, and because my Heavenly Father said so – that I can live for my kids. But I believe if I allow this marriage to continue, I am just facilitating him and endangering myself and our kids.
Please tell your readers that God truly forgives and we should forgive likewise. But there comes a time when if we continue to spurn God’s forgiveness, that time will run out and it will be too late to be restored. I believe the same is true for some marriages. Forgive, but move on, get out of it and stop playing hero!
(USA) Thanks, this is just what I needed to read this week. It is a daily act of our will, forgiveness, and I believe that the Holy Spirit helps us to see when we are harboring resentment towards our spouse. I like what you said about forgiveness and trust being separate.
Just because I’ve forgiven my husband doesn’t mean that I’m going to automatically trust him. No, he has to earn that trust. And sometimes it can take a long time and in some cases it might be irreparable damage, trust is never regained. That is a consequence of sin.
One of my dear mentor’s reminded me of the consequence of Moses not getting to go to the Promise Land when his people did. But she also pointed out that he did see it during the transfiguration with Jesus. So, God is merciful and will make a way. Nothing is impossible for Him.
(SOUTH AFRICA) I also have a question. Is it really forgiving if you find yourself praying for God to exert vengeance and vindication on the parties that have wronged you?
(BAHAMAS) God asks us to leave all vengeance to Him, He will repay. So, there is no need to pray that prayer. You truly forgive when you, like Jesus and Job can pray for your enemies. Why? Because they know what they did. Remember, Jesus instructed us to bless and curse not, to pray for those who despitefully use us and persecute us.
I went to the sea some nights ago and really cried out to God and He assured me that the sea cannot pass its boundary unless He allows it and likewise, my troubles will not overpower me. Then the Holy Spirit directed me to Isa. 43:1-10 to His promise that He will always be there in my waters and fires.
I was then impressed to pray for those who hurt me, that God would forgive them and bless their lives with more meaning, love and joy. I also prayed – no interceded, for my husband and what a cleansing I experienced! When I got home and tested my blood pressure, it was down more than 20/15 points, and I praised God even more because it was so high before.
Life is too short to keep anger, hurt and hate inside. The best place to leave them is at Jesus’ feet. I am free now – my husband asked for forgiveness – and I will forgive him everyday until I am truly cleansed for this hurt. But I will not be a fool again! I forgive him but right now, I cannot see myself going back to that situation.
Pray for strength, and you will be amazed what God can do if you allow Him. Just take it one day at a time. And remember, God does not keep you on a job longer than its expiration date. God bless you.
(USA) Hi Rufaro. We should forgive and FORGET. While it’s tempting to wait for our enemies to pay for the wrong they did to us, we should be careful because the devil tries to outsmart us in many ways by tricking us into hatred. The reason why we should never think of vengeance is that it diverts our attention from loving others. Wishing for vengeance may mean you haven’t truly forgiven and therefore can’t wait to get even somehow.
The vengeance of God is righteous. It may come in ways that we don’t understand or may never know so we should move on with our lives. Do you remember the story of Jonah who got angry at God for forgiving the people of Ninevah (Jonah Chapters 1-4)? At the end of the day God loves people and wants people to turn from their evil ways. That is why we were given the chance to repent and avoid the wrath of God. Even Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins so we should wish for our enemies to be forgiven too.
The Bible says you should bless those who wrong you. There are many verses which suggest repaying evil with good. You can’t love and wish for vengeance at the same time. So on your part, pray for the good of your enemies and leave everything to God. Once you start doing this, you slowly begin to love them and wish them well.
Let God be the judge of everything, he will punish people for their sins whether we pray for it or not. So don’t let your attention be diverted. Also read Proverbs 24:17-18.
(USA) There are consequences to actions and trust is a process that must be earned and re-earned in a relationship. It is fantasy, and not biblical, to think that there are no consequences for bad behavior. If the perpetrator of the action is repentant then there is a place to start. Forgiveness can begin to bring about a change of behavior and an increase in trust in the marriage. Unfortunately too often when one says, “forgive and FORGET” it is an excuse to allow bad behavior to continue. Be that bad behavior adultery, incest, domestic violence or other immoral/criminal activity. So in marriage we find that one should let God judge, but to forgive and forget is a different issue.
(PHILIPPINES) Cindy and Steve, this website is like an angel that saved me. This specific topic of forgiveness gave me great help in my marriage. Although I cannot do some of these right away -but my questions were all answered here, and that saved me. I am far from both my parents and is living here in the Philippines with my son and husband, which most of the time makes it difficult to seek a “motherly” advice.
This website is really great! I promised myself to become more trusting to our Lord Jesus Christ and to surrender all my hurts so I can peacefully forgive others. This is in fact difficult to achieve right now… and I know this isn’t easy to do. But I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will touch my heart. I also ask of you both to pray for me and in God’s time, for me to learn to forgive. I will be a fan to this website and surely will be sharing some thoughts as well – in this way, it will make my baggage less heavy :) Thank you and God Bless!!! Chona
Thank you Chona, You have touched our hearts! I’m so sorry that you are having to deal with such a difficult thing in your marriage. I’ve had a lot of difficult things to forgive from my past (and some on-going situations too), and I can tell you that forgiveness frees US –not as much the one who we’re forgiving, but us. Please read through the “Bitterness and Forgiveness” topic –praying, reading, and going through this journey with God. It’s a tough journey but SO worth it. Unforgiveness grabs at and chokes out all the good that is in us. We’re the victims and yet we become victimized all the more when we don’t find ways to release the toxicity of unforgiveness. I pray you are able to release that which you should and deal with that which you should, so that eventually you can release that to God, as well.
May you experience God’s grace and the freedom of being in the center of His will. And may you be strengthened to do that which you need to do. May you find His peace –even in the eye of whatever storm you find yourself in. “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ to whom be the glory for ever and ever.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)
“May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
Over the years my husband has gotten rid of any kitten I get, from time to time. Over half a dozen. Usually they are gifts from him, every one was his idea, in fact. When he gets annoyed with them, he’ll make them “disappear.” After tonight I asked him to never get me a cat again. I’m tired of falling in love with them, just to get my heart broken. It’s really hard to forgive him this time.
Thanks so much for the inspiring work of encouragement. Indeed to err is human but to forgive is divine. Forgiveness is part of our every day life. It’s just that the human race is not in notice of that because if it was not so, how many times we step each others toes.
I believe people deserve second changes. Some even need a third, to realize they’ve been wrong. But people can change. I’ve been married for 5 yrs and my beautiful wife came across some old emails that broke her heart. Even though I never physically cheated on her, I caused her pain she didn’t deserve. She has lost all trust in me and I don’t know if she will ever take me back. I love this woman with all my heart and I don’t know how to make it right.
I thank you for your words of healing wisdom. It is I that need forgiveness from my husband. I betrayed him and he is bitter and has fallen away from our Lord. This makes it harder because I see how much Satan has taken a hold of my husband. I do know and feel God’s forgiveness and have seen a couple beautiful miracles in the beginning. I only wish my husband could see them. There were two broken lamps on our backyard deck. They are solar lamps and haven’t lit up in the two years that we have been at this house. One night after the most incredible, God filled, love making with my husband, I climbed out of bed and noticed the lamp on my side was lit. I mentioned it to my husband, who saw it before I did and with tears in his eyes he told me “I asked God to let the lamp light up if I’m to forgive my wife.” What a true miracle. Never has the lamp lit up again.
But here is the issue, he asked God for the other lamp to shine. But the other lamp was outside his bedroom window and I wouldn’t have noticed it. So Satan deceived him and told my husband that it was the wrong lamp. I’m sorry for making this so long but we all need to hear about miracles. It’s been a year since my husband found out about my betrayal but his heart is hardening. He told me last night that he doesn’t love me and that eventually he wants a divorce. Here is the ironic thing. He told me that in the beginning of our marriage he thought he made a mistake marrying me and for two years saw his exgirlfriend on and off. For many years he would tell me that he could have an affair under my nose and I wouldn’t even know it.
Those early years I felt very intimidated and not good enough for him. He is a good man but put me down in front of his friends and flirted with other women in front of me. I’m not trying to justify what I did but these became cracks in my foundation that let Satan in. I’ve tried to tell my husband this but his heart is so closed off he won’t hear it. I don’t want to get a divorce and I enjoy being with my husband. I need him to get help and read this article. Please pray for our marriage to heal. For my husbands heart to heal. In Jesus’ name. Thank you
Hi Cynthia, you’ll have to comment and let me know the status of your situation. I just posted my story. Ours is similar. I will pray for you still even though I don’t know your circumstances now.
Please join me as I pray for both my husband and I to be quick to forgive. We are separated and he is having an affair. He is very bitter towards me. I want my marriage restored.
I just lifted you up in prayer…
My husband has been unfaithful. At this moment I find it impossible to forgive, it is the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last before I go to sleep. This consumes me most of the day no matter what I do to try to keep busy it’s on my mind. I want to forgive and ask God to give me the strength to not let this destroy me. I’m consumed with hate, anger and vengeance. I don’t know what to do. I found your message on line while searching for some comforting words and found some relief reading it. I will continue to try and heal my broken heart. Please pray for me, I’m in desperate need.
I just lifted you and your husband up in prayer…
How can I ask my wife for forgiveness, she doesn’t want to talk or want me around, I’m lost and I caused pain to the one I am supposed to be loving too.
I am praying every chance I can get. If you truly love your spouse, fight for her. Pray for the Holy Spirit to warm her heart and began to heal it. Pray with all of your heart and soul.
I’ve been married for 17 years. Years ago, both my spouse and I hurt each other deeply by getting involved with other people. When we separated 3 years ago for 3 months, we both realized that we did actually still love each other. I had prayed the entire time that if it was God’s Will that he would bring us back together because I did love him. And he came home. Unfortunately, my mistake wouldn’t leave us alone and began harassing my husband ever since. I didn’t disclose the length of mine due to the impact it had made on my husband. He hadn’t fully disclosed details of how far his mistake had gone either. Both of these recently were brought up and the hurt that it caused my husband took it’s toll on top of bitterness already being built in his heart from the constant harassing from the guy I made my mistake with. (Who happened to be my first love 30 years ago).
I had totally recommitted myself to my husband 3 years ago and I’m now totally devastated that my husband is so hurt, betrayed, and bitter because of my actions. I have forgiven him for his mistake now even though I don’t think he has forgiven himself. I changed 3 years ago when my prayers were answered. And I’m continually changing now as I grow in my relationship with our God and fighting for my marriage to be saved, again. For me, before when I had made my mistake, it was because I was lonely and felt unloved by my husband. The other person didn’t fill the emptiness that I longed from my husband. My husband was the only one who could and we were trying to rebuild our trust with each other. Except for the constant harassing from this guy.
I am truly, truly sorry for my actions and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will never cause my husband that kind of pain ever again. I pray that I, we, get another chance to get it right. I am trying to let go of my anger towards my ex and let God deal with him. It’s a struggle to not want to destroy his life with his new wife who he has been with for almost 3 years….while tormenting my husband and our life through social media.
I’m having to focus on getting myself right with God and praying that God will move within my husband so that he can begin to heal so that we may have that second chance. I feel that God is in the process because my husband has good days along with the bad ones. But the bad ones are really bad. I miss him so much and only want to comfort him and tell him how much I love him. It’s been 3 weeks but every day feels like eternity that he isn’t here. We have a son so I do have contact with him. It’s just not the same. I would be so grateful for anyone who would like to lift my husband and I up in prayer. Thank you!