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I remember sitting in front of my prayer journal on January 1st, asking God for a New Year’s word. Nothing. For three days I repeated the process, pen, and journal in hand, ready to hear from God. Nothing came. No word. No feeling. Only silence. Silence from God is often how I realize I have a sin problem. In this case, I soon learned it was forgiveness in my marriage that was standing between me and God. Ladies, the importance of forgiveness in marriage can not be overstated!
Understanding The Importance of Forgiveness in Marriage
How do you know there is something you have not forgiven in your marriage? I wish I could tell you that I know when I refuse to forgive, that I feel the tension between Bud and myself, but that’s rarely how it goes.
Years ago, God taught me the importance of forgiveness in marriage, while teaching me how to find hope and joy in my marriage! So I genuinely strive to forgive my husband, every single time there is an issue that comes up.
The problem is that there are some issues that come up over and over and over again. I say, “I forgive you,” but sometimes they are just words. Sometimes the forgiveness doesn’t go heart deep!
When I say, “I forgive you”, but in my heart, I am waiting for the situation to repeat, I didn’t actually forgive, ya’ know?
In my mind I know the importance of forgiveness in relationships, but why does it matter so much and how do we live it out?
Why is Forgiveness Important in Marriage?
“It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” Proverbs 25:24 NASB
Why does it matter if I forgive my husband every single time he messes up or hurts me?
Resentment builds up every time I refuse to forgive in marriage. Over time, resentment and bitterness tear away my ability to look at or speak to my husband in a loving respectful way.
And can we be honest, after you’ve been married a few years it’s easier to let resentment slide in and stay a spell?! My husband messes up a lot and it’s much easier to be angry with his mistakes than to forgive him.
But forgive him I must, not because he “deserves” to be forgiven, but because God said so. That is the real issue of the importance of forgiveness in marriage. God said to forgive.
What Is Forgiveness Why Is It So Important?
“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25 NASB
Forgiveness is not just letting the offender off the hook. No, forgiveness is giving the hook to God to deal with the offender how He feels is best.
Forgiveness gives God control, trusts God, and keeps that relationship right.
That is the real issue here. Forgiveness is not only important to save your marriage but to maintain a right relationship with God.
When you or I refuse to forgive in marriage, we choose to disobey God.
Ouch. It doesn’t feel like a faith issue, it feels like a marriage issue, but God said to forgive. To refuse to forgive is to sin.
When there is sin in my life, there is a wall between my prayers and God, hence the importance of forgiveness in marriage.
True Forgiveness – Our Story
Bud and I have been together for 18 years and most of those years have been hard years. Hard years filled with many mistakes on both of our parts.
In the beginning, I was of the mind that forgiving my husband meant letting him off the hook for hurting me. I refused to let him off the hook. He would learn from his mistakes and grow even if it killed me.
My plan to teach him to be better didn’t work and we all suffered for it. God gently shook me out of my self-righteous position and taught me that forgiveness was more about freeing me from bitterness than letting my husband off the hook.
So I learned the 7 steps to thrive through forgiveness in marriage and changed my ways. That changed our marriage for the better!
Forgiving Repeat Offenses
I say I learned the steps to forgive, but honestly, some things are easier to forgive than others!
It’s easy to forgive my husband for forgetful behaviors. He throws his wet towels on the hardwood floor – six inches from the basket. It annoys me, but I can forgive him, ya’ know?!?!
Then there are big things that he does repeatedly that are hard to forgive. I don’t know what those things are for you and your husband, but my husband struggles to keep consistent employment. He works for a while, finds something wrong with the job, then quits with no job to fall back on.
Before we had kids this drove me crazy, but I could buckle down, work more hours, and cover the bills. After kids, God prompted me to stay home, leaving Bud to be the primary breadwinner.
I needed to learn and practice the characteristics of a godly wife more then than ever before and forgiveness is among them!
In A Marriage, Do You Think There Are Unforgivable Things?
At first, he stayed at a job for a few years and I thought he had changed. Then one day without warning he quit and God and I wrestled with how to forgive that.
I felt this was unforgivable. To quit a job knowing you have a wife and kids at home depending on you to pay the bills. Unforgivable.
It felt like I had been abandoned. Like I was the only one working hard to save this marriage and family.
Can you relate?
I get the importance of forgiveness in marriage, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
Are There Unforgivable Things In Life?
I used to think there were unforgivable things in life.
- Child abuse.
- Spouse abuse.
- A lying spouse.
These all feel too big to forgive on our own. What’s funny is that I’ve lived through many of those things and have worked hard with God and a counselor to forgive them.
While this thing was big in my marriage, it didn’t fall into that unforgivable category for me. But it was still too big to forgive alone.
I tried to forgive. Tried to forget. I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening. Tried to space out and just ignore it.
Try as I did, every time I looked at his face I wanted to walk away. Every time.
Can you relate? Are there things that you struggle to forgive in marriage?
I Can’t Forgive My Husband
What do you do when you can’t forgive your husband? When what he has done hurts too much to give to God to fix…
It took months of pouring this question out at God’s feet to find peace. For our situation, God showed me several truths that helped reach my heart.
- God is the one who really provides for us.
- He has proved this one over and over again.
- My husband is human and prone to flaws.
- For all have sinned. Why is it hard to accept his flaws but not my own?
- There are only three reasons for divorce Biblically and this wasn’t one of them.
- Infidelity is clear cut in scripture.
- I believe abuse and abandonment fall into the category of ungodly behavior God speaks against as well.
- God intends marriage to make us more holy than happy.
- Ephesians 5 gives us this analogy that Marriage is like the relationship between God and the church where God is making us holy.
Accepting those things helped in the initial forgiveness. But my husband has not learned to keep a job. If I’m completely honest there are days I feel like I can’t forgive my husband.
If I’m not careful, that feeling becomes a behavior that affects more than just my marriage. Understanding the importance of forgiveness in marriage is critical to avoid that shift in behavior!
Blessings From Forgiving in Marriage
“‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12 NASB
I say I can’t forgive my husband, and that feels true, but forgiveness is a spiritual discipline that we have to practice to learn.
We all know Bible study and prayer are spiritual disciplines. Tithing and service are also disciplines. While I can’t quote a verse that says forgiveness is listed as a spiritual discipline, it is mentioned over 100 times so that tells it matters to God.
Just like prayer has to be practiced to become a normal part of our routine, forgiveness has to be practiced. A friend once listed the blessings of forgiveness and I found that quoting them back to myself helped me keep practicing when it was hard to forgive.
10 Benefits of Practicing Forgiveness:
- Nearness to God
- Answered prayers
- Ease in hearing God’s voice
- Open communication in marriage
- Intimacy in marriage
- Respect in marriage
- God stands over marriage to defend it
- Knowing I am right before God
Only a few of those are specific to marriage because forgiveness is more about my relationship with God than my relationship with my husband.
My favorite benefit of forgiveness and the biggest thing among the importance of forgiveness in marriage is number 10. When I choose to forgive my husband for hurting me I know I am right before God.
One day I will stand face to face before God and give an account of my life. When we get to the looonnnng chapter where my husband quits his jobs, leaves us financially insecure and God asks about it, I don’t want to have to defend why I held that grudge, rolled my eyes, or yelled at him. Instead, I want to stand spotless, having forgiven him as Christ forgave me.
My husband will also have to give an account of those times… I don’t want to add to what he faces by having made life harder during those times. Does that make sense?
It has been 10 years since God convinced me to forgive my husband for not keeping a job. He has had many jobs over the years as well as many seasons with no work at all. We have learned to cling to God to provide our every need.
It is hard to forgive when an offense is repeated. Sometimes I think I’ve forgiven him only to find myself sitting with God – being met with silence.
Silence from God is a red flag to me that sin has slipped into my heart unnoticed. I sat this January, frustrated, wracking my brain to find the sin.
When I feel the distance from God and I can’t figure out why, I set aside time to fast and pray. Fasting is a way to humble yourself before God, seeking direction, and guidance.
About a week into the fast God showed me a heart attitude I hadn’t noticed.
It doesn’t matter to me that God will provide for us. Nor does it matter that my husband is human and prone to mistakes. I expect him to learn this lesson and quit putting us in tough spots.
There it was. Unforgiveness in my marriage.
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Can A Marriage Survive Without Forgiveness?
Now, if I had been honest with myself I would have seen it months earlier. I didn’t want to be alone with him and sure didn’t want to have sex with him. When he talked to me I was annoyed, distracted on my phone, or dismissive to his feelings.
But we’ve been together a long time and this pattern has repeated often. I missed it, or I justified it.
Here’s the thing though, marriage can not survive without forgiveness. Bitterness and resentment chock out love and respect, slowly killing any marriage that allows them to go unchecked.
Thankfully, even though I had missed all the signs, God saw the lack of forgiveness in my heart. God cares about our marriage, God cares about us.
God knew that refusing forgiveness would hurt my marriage, but it would hurt me and my faith more.
If you think about it differently you will see that it’s beautiful when God withholds Himself from us when there is unforgiveness. The discipline of God shows that He cares too much about us to let us go on in sin and pain.
We’re back to that again. Withholding forgiveness is sin. A sin issue affects our human relationships, but more so our relationship with God.
What Does God Say About Forgiveness in Marriage?
Did it surprise you that refusing forgiveness in marriage is a sin to God? It was shocking to me initially as well. To override the shock let’s look at forgiveness in the Bible.
Bible Verses About Forgiveness
First, you will notice that there are not specific Scriptures about forgiveness in marriage. Why is that? Because marriage is a relationship and everything God says to us about living with people applies to marriage. So when we see Bible verses about forgiveness we can just apply those to marriage.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 ESV
“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13 ESV
“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22 ESV
Forgiveness in Marriage Bible Examples
Just because there are not any forgiveness in marriage Bible verses doesn’t mean there are no clear examples of forgiveness in marriage in scripture.
God’s word is littered with broken marriages that give us many examples to look to about forgiveness. Just start reading in Genesis and you will find a struggling marriage every few chapters. For our purposes, we will look at Abraham and Sarah.
Trouble in Sarah and Abraham’s Marriage
Abraham messed up in his marriage a lot. You can read about it in Genesis 12-25.
- He tried to pass Sarah off as his wife and she was nearly raped over it. If God hasn’t stepped in things would have turned tragic.
- The fact that he took her away from her family with only a faint hope of a land promised by a God she didn’t know was also hard.
- He slept with her maid, had a child, and then allowed the maid to torment her about her infertility.
- Once they finally had a son, he tried to kill that same son.
How Do We Know Sarah forgave?
Can we all agree, Sarah had to practice forgiveness in order to stay sane in her life? The Bible doesn’t tell me Sarah forgave her husband, but we see that she was right with God, which must have included forgiveness along the way.
“By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.” Hebrews 11:11 NASB
Is Forgiveness Always Possible?
We could look at many more Biblical examples of forgiveness in marriage, but I know there is a question on your mind.
Is it always possible to forgive?
To answer that question I think it’s important to note that forgiveness is a choice made by one person. I, as the offended person, have a choice. I can either hold onto resentment because my husband hurt me, or I can forgive him.
Knowing that God requires me to forgive helps, but there are some hurts that are hard to let go of. Can you relate?
Forgiveness is a choice you make, between you and God.
What I think we often forget, is that forgiveness does not always mean a relationship will be restored – which we call reconciliation.
I believe forgiveness is always possible, while reconciliation is not always wise.
Examples Where Reconciliation is Not Always Wise
What about forgiveness in a marriage where adultery took place?
Can we learn how to forgive a husband for leaving you?
How do I forgive my husband for betrayal?
Those and others are tough situations where trust is broken. Trust will have to be restored before reconciliation happens.
Yes, you can and must forgive, but it will take both of you working on rebuilding trust to reconcile. Make sense?
Hard as it may be to hear, there are times where separation is best for the marriage. There are times when an uninvolved 3rd party is necessary to counsel couples and establish healthy boundaries.
Does that mean marriages can’t survive some things? I’ve seen God work miracles to save marriages that seems long gone. I believe any marriage can be saved, but it takes time, patience, and hard work by both spouses.
Bible Study On Forgiveness in Marriage
Learning how to heal from hurt in marriage is not easy. I highly recommend some Bible studies and books that speak on the topic of forgiveness in marriage to help you if you find you are stuck here.
- Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud
- Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
- Marriage On The Rocks by Jimmy Evans
- When Godly People Do Ungodly Things & Breaking Free by Beth Moore
Each of these books helped teach me how to genuinely forgive others. Then I was able to apply forgiveness to my marriage. They are also where I counsel wives to start when trying to save a marriage.
Will You Consider The Importance of Forgiveness in Marriage Today?
It’s hard to work through the issue of forgiving in marriage. When the offense is big or repeated we feel it lets the offender off the hook to forgive. Yet, God tells us to forgive.
God doesn’t say forgive the easy things and hold onto the hard things. Nope, God says to forgive it all and let Him deal with revenge and teaching lessons.
Why then is it so hard to forgive?
- We don’t understand.
- Understanding the importance of forgiveness in marriage is critical to breaking the cycle of bitterness and resentment.
- We forget.
- Remember that forgiveness in marriage brings several benefits that lead to a thriving marriage that keeps our relationship healthy.
- We don’t ask for help.
- And if you get stuck and just can’t work up the strength to forgive, take that to God in prayer.
- Try a time of fasting to release the hurt.
God honors Wives Who Forgive
I started this by telling you about the brick wall my prayers were hitting in January. I spent time of fasting and prayer, trying to figure out what was standing between me and God.
God revealed the choice I had made sometime last year to withhold forgiveness from my husband about his last job. I had been walking around for months with a chip on my shoulder about how bad my husband was and how righteous I had been all these years.
A lack of forgiveness is often accompanied by resentment, self-righteousness, self-pity, and other sins.
- God and I got those things worked out.
- I apologized to my husband which was embarrassing.
- The thing was, he already knew.
- He had been living with me for months and seeing that something as bothering me.
My humility in confessing my sin to Bud opened up a conversation I’ve only ever dreamed about. Humility does that. Unlocks blessings.
God honors wives who forgive. I’ve seen it time and time again in our lives.
- God providing for us when I can’t see how or why He would.
- He has grown us both in amazing ways.
- And now, I see a shift in my husband’s attitude about his job.
- I’ve been praying for that for 10 years.
When you choose to forgive, it feels like you are letting the hurt go and nothing will ever change. The truth is that forgiveness releases the hurt to God who is the only One who can cause real lasting change. God honors wives who forgive. God changes hearts when we leave the changing up to Him.
I pray you will grasp the importance of forgiveness in marriage today and that you will take a step toward it even if it feels too hard.
Can I pray over you about this issue today? Drop a comment below and I will be lifting you up.
Biography of Guest Writer Tiffany Montgomery
Tiffany of Hope Joy in Christ inspires Christian Women to grow in faith, live out Biblical Marriage Principles and raise Godly Children. She is also author of A Beginners Guide to Fast and Pray: Taking Spiritual Warfare to the Next Level on Amazon. Join the Wives Only Facebook Group here or keep up with her through Pinterest.