Marriage – Growing in Forgiveness
I never married because there was no need. I have 3 pets at home which answer the same purpose as a husband. I have a dog which growls every morning, a parrot which swears all afternoon and a cat that comes home late at night. (Marie Corelli)
This quote reminds us that there are many problems people can encounter in marriage: anger, in-laws, finances, conflict, poor communication, unrealistic expectations, etc. In the face of these obstacles and dire predictions ––we applaud your decision to marry! Many of us have experienced the joys of marriage and heartily support you!
As you look forward to becoming one in Christ with your beloved … I want to share two keys that I – after 37 years of marriage and 20 years of counseling couples- believe will help you greatly as you enter into this full-time ministry called marriage!
The first key is well-stated by Ruth Bell Graham. Ruth, the beloved and godly wife of Billy who just passed into the presence of Christ, wrote: “A good marriage is the union of two forgivers”. I completely concur!
Forgiveness is integral to love-to marriage. Love cannot survive without it. We as Christians know that to love someone means to accept them as Christ has accepted each of us. Forgiveness is the salve when disappointments come, conflicts arise and expectations aren’t met. AND BELIEVE ME, DISAPPOINTMENTS WILL COME, CONFLICTS WILL COME AND EXPECTATIONS WILL BE FAILED. Ruth Graham, from a Presbyterian background and Billy, from a Southern Baptist family entered marriage with very different expectations!
What is forgiveness and why do we need it so much? It cancels the debt that someone owes us – as Christ canceled all debts against us on the cross.
Forgiveness allows a marriage relationship to start over again and just like faith – forgiveness is an on-going process.
When we have an attitude of forgiveness – we have a certain expectation that people will fail us. That attitude prepares us to forgive just as Christ forgives us when we fail Him. But, forgiveness shouldn’t result in passiveness and keep us as wives from speaking up when we disagree with our husbands.
An LA times article about Ruth Graham’s life states –
“Ruth Graham once was driving and hit the accelerator instead of the brake, sending her car crashing through a fence. Nobody was hurt, but in a phone call from California, Billy Graham demanded that she surrender her driver’s license. Ruth argued with him, standing her ground.
After a long moment of silence, Billy Graham said, “I don’t recall reading in Scripture that Sarah ever talked to Abraham like this.” Ruth Graham retorted: “Well, I don’t recall reading in Scripture that Abraham ever tried to take Sarah’s camel away from her.” ”
Everyone wants their marriage to succeed. Secular research has demonstrated that successful marriages may have conflict patterns which are unhealthy but, this is off-set by a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative behaviors occurring in the relationship. John Gottman and Neil Jacobson write: “our research suggests that what really separates contented couples from those in deep marital misery is a healthy balance between their positive and negative feelings and actions toward each other. … volatile couples stick together by balancing their frequent arguments with a lot of love and passion.”
Of course, we understand that unhealthy conflict patterns are not the ideal and not being recommended here. Since this talk is not a marriage seminar covering all the steps in conflict management- what can we glean from this?
That marital conflicts need resolution and that resolution is found in forgiveness!
Forgiveness -though biblical- is probably the hardest work of marriage. I have met so many couples who don’t have a forgiveness process in their relationship. They haven’t learned to say “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” This is a phrase we should all memorize – put it in our pocket or purse, wallpaper on our computers, podcast for our ipods and MP3 players. We need to be ready to say it often, because we are all sinners in need of on-going forgiveness. When we understand how much we have been forgiven in Christ – there is incentive to live up to the biblical standard of forgiveness – 70 times 7!
Trusting In God With Your Marriage
What about faith? What will faith do for you when you are married? Faith will carry you through the tough times –– give you strength for the present and hope for the future. Faith will help you stand firm when things go wrong. .. when times are tough and your relationship is rocky. Faith will help you become the Christian woman you need to be for your husband – loving, respectful, hopeful, honest, virtuous, encouraging, responsible, Christ-like, kind, joyful, compassionate and courageous.
Faith will help you see your role as a wife as a calling. Faith will give you courage to speak up when your husband needs guidance as Ruth Graham did when – she dissuaded her husband from launching a campaign for the U.S. presidency: She told him she would leave him if he quit his ministry. The American public would not accept a divorced man as president, she warned. Faith in Christ will help you believe in your husband again after he lets you down. Any trust you have in your husband will actually be founded on your faith in God –– because God alone is 100% trustworthy. Faith will inspire you to pray for him –– to ask Christ to help him become the man of God and husband- God wants him to be – not just who you want him to be. Faith will motivate you to ask Christ to change you to be the wife He wants you to be. Faith as a couple will give you supernatural power to face any situation in your marriage and come out wiser and stronger.
Faith and forgiveness ARE INTERDEPENDENT AND EACH requires the other. The forgiveness you give will demonstrate just how much faith you have. Your faith in Christ will provide the humility you need to accept and grant forgiveness in the adventure of marriage.
Your marriage can be one of the success stories. Not because your husband doesn’t growl every morning, swear in the afternoon and come home late at night. Not because your relationship meets the statistical – 5:1 ratio of positive to negative behaviors . Not because you are the most excellent wife ever. Your marriage will succeed because everyday you chose to surrender your life to Christ to change you into- a woman of faith, a wife dedicated to minister to her husband, a woman ready to forgive.
This devotional is based on the following verses:
Phil. 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Col 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Ephes. 4:15, “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”
God bless you richly as you journey into the wonderful and holy institution of marriage!
Consider ordering the following books to help you prepare for your upcoming marriage:
Before You Say ‘I Do” by Norman Wright. It covers most of the topics and issues you need to discuss prior to marriage.
Once you have decided to marry –– then, go for premarital counseling. Take the Prepare-Enrich inventory
© 2007 Lynette Hoy, NCC, LCPC