Recently I’ve had a few people tell that if I’ve forgiven my husband I should be in a better place. From what I’ve heard I shouldn’t be angry at him again. The only problem with this idea is that I gotta deal with the man and he’s difficult so that’s gonna be real hard.
It isn’t so much how he treats me – honestly, whatever. But I do have a hard time with how he treats my kids. So being human, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have to forgive him repeatedly and sometimes I’m gonna even get angry before I forgive.
I think there is this thought that once you forgive you forget and live happily ever after. I wish that was the case. It’s really more like this:
Forgive…move forward…something unpleasant happens…forgive again…move forward again…something difficult happens…forgive again…repeat until heaven…
I think if you are to a place that you don’t have to repeatedly forgive an unrepentant person for their continued rotten actions – you rock! And I mean that! And I do truly wish I could be like you.
But I’m finding forgiveness to be a rather long and arduous process. But God in his infinite wisdom, grace, love and faithfulness has some instructions and some encouragement for me (and you if you are like me).
I guess the first thing is this
Forgiveness takes time, effort, intentionality and God.
I don’t have it in myself to be a completely forgiving person, but God is utterly and infinitely forgiving and I have Him so that makes all the difference.
God can enable me to forgive anyone, but He also allows this whole forgiveness thing to be part of my sanctifying. Do you remember how many times Jesus said you have to forgive? 70×7. (Matthew 18:21-22) His point was that we need to forgive a lot. Why would He say that we were gonna need to forgive so much if we weren’t gonna need to forgive so much?
I think that if Jesus was just talking about how much we forgive in general he wouldn’t have even needed to say 70×7. I can absolutely forgive one person one time…it’s having to repeatedly forgive the same person that’s tricky.
In my situation with my ex – forgiveness must be offered without request or repentance. In fact, I think we have been moving farther away from repentance rather than closer to it over these past few years. So forgiveness is challenging – and continually choosing to forgive is also challenging (sometimes almost as much as the first time).
In marriage we must continually offer forgiveness. It is the same in divorce. But I’m kinda getting the impression from people that it is not okay to have to repeatedly forgive my ex. That I should forgive and move on already. (I think that is a message I’m getting about a lot of things, but I will hit that in another post.)
When I forgave my husband’s adultery and then his abandonment I didn’t’ understand the nature of forgiveness…at least not totally. I kind of expected some warm fuzzies and some serious peace about things…a happily ever after of sorts. Although I did experience that peace which passes all understanding, it came with a cost. I had to and continue to have to lay aside my feelings in order to embrace the gospel as it relates to forgiveness. And boy does it!
God has modeled forgiveness for us…and to us.
Forgiveness requires sacrifice on the part of the forgiver.
God sacrificed His son and Jesus sacrificed His life so that we could be forgiven. God didn’t want to be separated from us so He made that sacrifice. So that he could have a relationship with us. That forgiveness offer is available to anyone who accepts it, but it only changes the nature of our relationship with Him when we accept it. If someone doesn’t accept it – the relationship is not restored…in fact, there is no relationship. And that sin still separates and grieves the Lord. In fact, my sin still grieves the Lord even though I can ask for forgiveness and receive reconciliation.
Forgiveness is offered over and over again.
God continues to forgive me even when I sin repeatedly. He accepts my repentance every single time. He never says, “Sorry that is the 70×8 time you’ve done that…we are done.” Oh my, I’m so thankful He doesn’t.
The difficulty we have…those of us who forgive because we are called to not because it was asked for by the offender…is that we must often deal with repeatedly being offended and continually having to offer forgiveness.
What has helped me immensely is understanding that I have truly been forgiven so very much and that, but for the grace of God, I could be that offender…that person who rebels. I could be rotten…well rottener. That gives me a measure of grace for my ex.
I see that often forgiveness is like love…it’s a choice I make, something I do even if I don’t feel it. I decide I’m going to be gracious and kind and I act that way. But that gracious kind way might have to come after a little bit of fussiness and anger.
But honestly, to think that the lousy things my ex-husband does are not gonna bug me? Really. (Please comment if you have no problem with that sort of thing and tell me how you do it!)
I love my kids and when they are hurting my mama bear comes out…can’t seem to help that.
And that brings me to my second point…
Anger isn’t bad.
It’s what we do with that anger that can be very bad. Feeling a justified emotion is not a sin, but acting bitterly, unkindly, rudely, and punitively is.
God doesn’t say, “Don’t get angry.” God says, “Don’t sin in your anger.”
It isn’t a bad emotion, it’s a valid emotion God gave us to signal that something is wrong…something needs to be dealt with.
God gets angry…and I am made in His image.
What about the Old Testament? God has some righteous anger at Israel…it’s justified and often acted upon but always with the purpose of drawing His people back to Him. Responding to my anger with the purpose of just simply punishing is wrong, but taking my anger to God and asking Him to give me wise ways to deal with it…that’s good.
I have read back through my blogs and I don’t see that I’m sinning in my anger at my ex-husband. I admit I have anger towards him at times…again, human. But I truly am trying to not sin in my anger.
The amazing thing is that God uses my anger to draw me closer to Him. He’s cool that way. He uses everything in our lives – if we will let Him – to draw us closer to Him. He sanctifies us in the most amazing ways.
So despite what some people say or think, I do think I’m in a good place. I’m forgiven and I’m learning to continually forgive…so far I think I’m on step 659… 🙂
Father, guard us against being prideful, bitter, and angry. Soften our hearts, “renew a right spirit” within us, and give us compassion for our ex-spouses (Psalm 51:10). Please help us be like Christ. It seems impossible at times, but You tell us that we “can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens” us (Philippians 4:13), and we ask that You would give us strength to forgive 70×7 times because forgiveness gives us the ability to move forward and enables us to be used by You. God, help us give our children the gift of a forgiving, loving parent. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Prayer adapted from When Happily Ever After Shatters: Seeing God in the Midst of Divorce and Single Parenting by me 🙂
Sue: you are right and WAY ahead of those who scoff that once forgiven always forgiven, that you haven’t forgiven if you occasionally re-experience anger!! that is like saying if you SIN you haven’t truly confessed and turned your life over to GOD?
Case in point: It has been 5 years since the affair between my ex and my best friend! After my Divorce and much, much therapy, I HAD fully forgiven….we were in such a good place that we actually have fun when visiting our kids on Birthdays, etc and even though he has not changed I have come to accept him for the man he IS not the man i WISH him to be! that has not gone unnoticed by our boys or him, for that matter. HE hasn’t changed….rather I have changed my way of thinking (not my job to change, convict, convert or correct) I now focus on what I can control, with God’s help….ME!!!
Then just the other day someone I thought to be my friend turned against me and rather than coming to me got her boss, mutual acquaintances and a whole series of others involved in some way or another….before I realized it had happened….I was thought of as “a stalker and someone just a tad off” only because I knew something was wrong but couldn’t get a response or explanation from HER!!! suddenly all those feelings of ultimate betrayal and pain at tremendous loss of trust came rushing back! this only made our mutual acquaintances even more convinced she was telling truth and question MY sanity!! Yes, I may have overreacted to the loss of a new casual friendship but for me it was about trying to get answers, apologize, make things right even if we could no longer be friends! This awakened old pain and anxiety and feelings of betrayal!! Suddenly I am ANGRY again, at my ex and my lost BF, ALL THOSE EMOTIONS swooped down so intensely I awoke at 2am shaking and sobbing (something I hadn’t done since discovering my ex and bf in throws of passion)!!
So what has this done to me? How has this affected all the work I have done over the past 5 years?? Am I a hopeless, unforgiving person? NOT at all!!! No this just means I have peeled yet another layer of dermis (skin). I have carefully, painfully carved another facet of my life as an ever improving on the diamond in the rough that my life represents!! The fire of this storm was hotter but, God be praised, I didn’t have to stay in the heat as long before finding my way out!!! I am stronger in Jesus, and with His help, have forgiven even deeper. For this time, I finally learned to completely let go of that which I cannot change, explain, or understand!! Also, learned a very crucial and much needed lesson about friendship!! As someone once stated: “he/she who stops making mistakes or feeling pain has either stopped growing or is dead!”
Hang in there…you are in MY prayers and if we do nit meet in here on this earth I definitely hope to sit a spell and chat face to face in the NW corner of heaven!!! ((((Hugs)))!
Thank you so very much for sharing your story. What a blessing to hear how God is working and enabling you to forgive even deeper. Healing certainly takes time. You are wise to accept your ex for who he is not who you wish him to be…good words for me too!
God bless you and your children,
I was not sure but did the kids and I did have to see my ex today. Trying to get the kids to see the other grandparents while they are near by and of course he was here also, just never contacted us about it. So your post today was great. I still do not really understand how to forgive him for the divorce or just even seeing him and having to talk is hard. I try to make it somewhat normal for the kids but it is still weird. But I do know that continual forgiving like you said might be easier than thinking the forgiving comes once and then it should be done. I am not sure that is possible being a human. I would like to know when it does get a little easier because over a year now that papers where filed and it still fustrates me. Thanks again for making my craziness I feel in my head, not feel so crazy!
Happy to share my craziness :)! I’m sorry that it is such a struggle. I will be praying that God gives you the strength to trust Him and forgive your ex knowing that it will be a continually act of trusting and forgiving. God knows and cares.
Before my husband and I divorced, my biggest question was, “Lord, how do I forgive when the bandage gets ripped off and the wound is reopened again and again?” Now I say, “Take it incident by incident.” I believe each time I forgive, a little more work gets done in my heart, and I die to the anger and hurt a little more. The Apostle Paul says, I die daily-and so do we. With every forgiveness session, I believe God’s peace has a little more room and goes deeper into my heart.
Thank you so much for sharing! Great words! What a blessed way to view forgiveness..I agree that each time we trust God and forgive we grow a little bit more. Thank you again!
People do not understand the concept of a “chronic offense” until they’ve been there. And it’s a chronic offense that cuts at the core of all that’s most precious to us spiritually, emotionally and personally.
This kind of offense requires repeated forgiveness, and can certainly be successful. … for today. This minute. This milestone. This memory and dream that’s dead and gone.
Thank you Sue, for helping us navigate this journey through Jesus.
Excellently said! Thank you for sharing.
This post was timely as I have been thinking “How long Lord must I keep doing this?”. Thank you for all you shared. I believe there is so much I still don’t understand in how to truly forgive from the heart, especially in light of repeated blatant sin of a wayward spouse.
Forgiveness is hard sometimes…most of the time. It seems to be layer upon layer of consciously trusting God with things. I’m still learning too!
Praying for you to be comforted and strengthened,
I would guess that the people who criticized have never found themselves in your position. I know it has been so hard for me to accept that I will have to deal with my ex – for the rest of my life. It would be so much easier if God would just remove him from my life – but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen! It is a constant work for me to keep my attitude right before God. I have to consciously choose to continue to forgive him on a regular basis for abandoning us – and for the continued wounds my children are dealt.
It is frustrating to face constant scrutiny over my attitude and actions from other Christians, while my ex does whatever he wants and gets away with it (for now). Your post is a reminder to check our actions through God’s word – not other’s perceptions. Thank you!
Beautifully said, Lisa!
Thank you so much for writing and sharing. You speak truth sweet sister. This is a difficult road to walk and even more so because of the criticism of others…especially when we are trying so desperately to honor God in our thoughts and actions. BUT He is our strength and comfort! So grateful!