The other night in my support group we discussed forgiveness and came to the conclusion that we all need to work on it. We aren’t “there” yet. Even some of our veterans who have been in the healing process for years have been harboring unforgiveness and breeding bitterness within our hearts. We’ve all worked toward forgiving, and most days we do. But recalling that first day where our lives were completely shattered still brings very real pain. We’re thrust right back into that dark place where our heart is broken. A new friend of mine wrote a blog about this very notion, http://chellesnotes.blogspot.com/2011/08/broken-heart.html. It’s a battle to forgive. It’s been a battle for a long time. And sometimes we just wish the war would end. But I’m not convinced the battle will ever be completely finished until we’re face-to-face with the Lord Jesus Christ because our hearts are so frail. So easily manipulated by the enemy. In our finite minds we try to understand genuine forgiveness and apply it in our own lives, but it’s not that simple. It’s something we have to wake up and choose to do every day. It’s not something we can just will ourselves to do because our will is incomplete, imperfect. Only through the remarkable power of Jesus Christ is it even possible to fully forgive. <?
My friend explained forgiveness in this way… “If I stepped on your toe, and said ‘ I'm sorry about that,’ and you said ‘oh it’s no big deal,’ that would not really be forgiveness.” The initial response is just a minor piece to the forgiveness puzzle. Your toe still hurts! It may even be broken. Forgiving someone “is not excusing or saying the pain doesn’t matter” because it does. It’s something you have to live with, some pains only last for a short time, some pains last for the rest of your life. “And every time you think of the pain, it will create that same sort of feeling the initial pain brought, so you must [choose] to forgive each and every time it is brought up. In every remembrance of it, you forgive” (M. Hendrickson).
The Bible is chock full of commands for us to forgive. Forgive your enemies. Forgive those who persecute you. Forgive your debtors. Forgive others their transgressions. Forgive seventy times seven times. Forgive a repentant brother. Forgive each other. Forgive! Forgive! Forgive! We can clearly see in Scripture that God wants us to have a forgiving heart just as He does. But how do we do that? Especially women who have been betrayed by a husband in sexual sin? What would that look like?
My husband and I are reading through Jeremiah, and I came across one of the most beautiful and mind-boggling examples of forgiveness I have ever read in Scripture. For those of you who don’t know, Jeremiah was a prophet of God who was sent to the people of Judah to proclaim a message of consequences vs. repentance. Judah had turned their backs on God. Actually that might be the understatement of the year. God compares Judah’s behavior to that of adultery. And God pleads with them to repent. He begins by declaring, “’I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal. When you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holiness to the Lord, the first fruits of His increase. All that devour him will offend; disaster will come upon their land,’ says the Lord” (Jer. 2: 2-3). Judah was once God’s bride. The bride that longed to meet her husband in the wilderness and chased after him. The bride who was filled with love, kindness, and holiness. God would have done anything to protect His bride. Then something happened. Judah abandoned the Lord God. They exchanged God’s love for that of idols. They worshipped rocks and stones and mocked Him, adoring the created instead of the Creator. “’Has a nation changed its gods, which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory for what does not profit. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid… They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters and hewn themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:11-13). “For of old I have broken your yoke and burst your bonds, and you said ‘I will not transgress.’ When on every high hill and under every green tree you lay down, playing the harlot. Yet I have planted you a noble vine, a seed of highest quality. How then have you turned before Me into the degenerate plant of an alien vine? For though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, yet your iniquity is marked before me,’ says the Lord God” (Jer. 2:20-22). The people of Judah exchanged the pure and undefiled love of God for something that could not satisfy. They gave up the affection and security of the One Who would never leave them, for the fleeting pleasures of the world. They had been given so much, had been rescued so many times, yet they chose to commit adultery against the Lord God. And no matter how much they tried to hide their sin, the stench of their unfaithfulness was overwhelming. Sound familiar? Let’s continue.
God is not just simply disappointed by sin. He is heartbroken. And he uses the analogy of adultery to describe the depth of His pain because it is one of the most painful forms of betrayal there is. It brings about utter sorrow, confusion, insecurity, doubt, anger, and hatred. The tears flow like rivers that never run dry. The heart feels desolate and there seems to be no hope. God understands our pain, more than we know. But we can’t stop there. God didn’t stop there. God offers Judah His heart once more. “’Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the Lord, ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the Lord, ‘I will not remain angry forever.’ (Jer. 3:12). “’Return… for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.’” (Jer. 3:14-15). Ok, what was that? God just spent two chapters describing the most horrifying thing a person can do to their spouse, and now he’s saying He won’t be angry forever? Did I miss something? It can’t be that easy! If Judah returns to God and repents of their sins (which sadly they did not), then God would just take them back with open arms!? And not only that, but He would bless them abundantly on top of that! As if just forgiving them wasn’t enough of a blessing. I am flabbergasted by God’s mercy! And yet we are told in the first chapter of the Bible that we are created in God’s image. That’s not just physical appearance, but also in spirit, emotions, and to an extent, ability. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him (Jesus Christ) who called us to His own glory and excellence...” (2 Peter 1:3).
God has given us an astonishing example of forgiveness, even of the worse pain we’ve ever experienced. But through Christ, we have the ability to not only forgive, but to pursue an abundantly blessed marriage with our spouse. This is my goal. It’s something worth fighting for. I cannot do it on my own, but there is hope. And I can forgive. So can you. Some of us still need to work on completely forgiving our husband. To, like Debra Laaser says in her book Shattered Vows, “refuse to punish our husband.” To seek to pour blessings over him and pursue a marriage that is a resemblance of God’s love for Judah. And most of us need to work on forgiving the “other” person(s) involved in our husband’s betrayal; whether that means forgiving someone who participated in his infidelity, or even forgiving the men and women of pornography. In her book Tramp for the Lord, Corrie ten Boom gives a shocking example of what unforgiveness can do to a person. “I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.” God has so much in store for us. But as long as we remain tangled in the bondage of unforgiveness, we can never fully be the women God created us to be.
Walking in Freedom,
Tags: forgiveness jeremiah bitterness ""shattered vows"" ""tramp for the lord"" ""2 peter 1:3""
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