When our hands and hearts are full of resentment, we can’t embrace and hold onto God’s promise of restoration that He wants to bless our marriages with (1 Peter 5:10; Mark 11:24 ESV). When we’ve been hurt deeply, letting go of the pain, forgiving our spouse and walking in hope is one of the most difficult things we could ever do. Forgiveness, mercy, and restoration are usually not the first things that cross our minds. However, it is exactly what the Lord wants us to do. God’s Word is quite clear about us forgiving those who have hurt us. Our Heavenly Father has lavished us with His grace and He fully expects that we do the same for our spouses.
I was a resentment holder for more than fifteen years of the nineteen D and I have been married. D made a lot of mistakes in the early years of our relationship and I could not let them go (which was one of the many mistakes I made). Every single time there was an argument between D and me, somehow, I managed to find a way to insert every single thing he had ever done to hurt me. I drudged up the past and kept a long record of all his wrongs. I talked down to D and criticized him for everything he did or said. Sadly, I didn’t trust. or respect D and that was evident in every area of our marriage.
Shamefully, I was saved and called myself a Christian when all of this was happening. I looked down on D for all of his sins against me and the Lord and found myself constantly questioning whether he was truly a believer.
And then the Lord humbled me in such a profound way:
“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
1 John 4:19-21 ESV
“Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 AMPC
Viewing these two Scriptures side by side, there was no way I could claim love and devotion to my Savior and still be functioning out of resentment and bitterness toward D. The conviction the Holy Spirit brought upon my heart was real and He said to my heart, “If you love Me why do you show D so much hate? Forgive him just as I have forgiven you.”
Don’t get me wrong, I argued with the Holy Spirit about this for a long time, but He was not having any of it. There really is no opt-out clause in Jesus expecting us to forgive others without limitation (Matthew 18:21-22).
The Lord began leading me along the path of learning how to forgive D and start letting go of all this resentment that I held so that I could embrace His blessing of restoration for my marriage.
Lay it all at Jesus’s feet
This is where it all begins Sisters. It is here that Jesus begins the healing work of our wounds and restoring our hearts. Restoration must begin with our relationship with Jesus and our own hearts before it can begin in our marriages. I found that the more I “humbled myself under His mighty hand”, admitting my own sins, the more I was able to “cast my cares upon Him.” When I obediently admitted and repented of my pride and other sins, there was nothing I needed to hide anymore and Jesus met me right where I was with compassion and love.
It would be a good idea to get a notebook and begin writing down your prayers and what the Lord is saying to your heart. It is always through the time that I journal my prayers that the Lord begins to speak change into my own heart and that cloudly, self-righteous lens I was looking through, becomes much clearer.
Admit your wrongs and ask your husband for forgiveness
If you are like me, this isn’t going to be easy and relying on the Holy Spirit’s help to strengthen and guide you is essential. If we want to see restoration happen in our marriages, we have to be willing to take 100% responsibility for the role we play or have played in the break down of our marriages in the first place.
James 5:16 tells us: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
I can’t promise you that your husband will forgive you immediately. If he doesn’t, this is an opportunity for you to extend grace to him and give him the time and space he needs to come to a place with the Lord that he can forgive you.
Be intentional about focusing on the good
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Commit to the decision that you are going to start looking for all the wonderful things your husband does. This may require some work and a whole lot of commitment, but it will be extremely worth it.
It is here that we are able to show that we are sorry and we do not have ulterior motives.
I had spent so long focusing on the negative about D that finding anything honorable, commendable or excellent about him seemed impossible. I began keeping a list of all the wonderful things D had ever done for me and our children in my prayer journal. Then I intentionally found opportunities to bring those things up and thank him, encourage him and show him my appreciation. This eventually flowed into our current, everyday life together and soon it became so much easier to thank him, encourage him and show my appreciation to him every day.
Handle Conflict God’s Way
It is inevitable. Unless we choose to become completely isolated, we are going to face conflict in our marriages. We tend to enter conflict wanting to assert our own feelings, needs, wants and desires. We almost always come from a “me” center position. When our desires aren’t met or they are miscommunicated, tension can begin to come to the surface and we find ourselves frustrated and feeling like we’re not heard. Before we know it, we are raising our voices at one another and sometimes, we are all out screaming at each other. It is here that we say things we should not and put on attitudes and behaviors that only deepen the conflict and further divide us from our spouse.
During D’s and my time at Hope Restored, our counselor told us a story about a couple who when they argued they were always screaming at each other, talking over each other and neither of them was being heard. They started going to the library every time they needed to have a discussion about something so that they could keep themselves under control and treat one another with respect. We all giggled, but I know deep down, we all could connect with that situation.
We have a choice though, we always, always have a choice.
Proverbs 15:1 tells us: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” We may need to go to the library like the couple above until answering softly becomes natural for us. One of the books that Hope Restored gave to us that has been extremely helpful is Gary Smalley’s The DNA of Relationships. This book has been an amazing resource that the Lord has blessed D and me with. It is slow going, but we are getting better at communicating every day.
Lastly, I want to encourage you not to give up and do not feel condemnation if you slip up. We all do. Just get right back on track and start again. The enemy wants nothing more than to divide our households because a house divided against itself can not stand (Matthew 12:22-28). We need to learn to fight on our knees and let God do the rest for us.
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