By guest authors Dianne Doty and Nancy Patterson
As homeschool moms, it can be tough to balance our marriages with the ever-increasing pressures of homeschooling and parenting. How can we keep our marriages strong? How can we utilize the power of forgiveness? We pray this series, taken from an out-of-print booklet entitled Encouragement for Vow-Keepers by the Center for Family Ministries, will encourage and equip you in your journey. Read Part 1 of this series here and Part 2 here.
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:14-15, NIV.
You have had a hard day. Everything has gone wrong. You can’t wait to get home where you can feel loved and be secure. But upon arriving home you find multiple chores to do, dinner to fix, and the laundry piled up. Then in walks your husband. He opens the door, closes it, puts down his things on the table for you to move later, sits in his chair, picks up the newspaper, opens it and peaks over the top to say the only words you will probably hear from him all evening. “What’s for dinner and when is it?” He is not mean or harsh — just inconsiderate. He takes you for granted. Of course, he surmises subconsciously you will take care of his needs for the evening with no thought or appreciation, kindness, or interest on his part. You feel unloved.
God knows your heart and your situation. This is real — this feeling of being married but unloved. Scripture speaks to this woman in Proverbs 30:21-23 “Under three things the earth trembles … an unloved woman who is married” (NIV). Your scenario may be worse; you may have a mean, surly husband who doesn’t love you. Whatever your circumstances, God understands the pain in your heart. He also understands the unique temptations you face.
The temptation to bitterness in this type of situation is strong. The enemy is seeking to destroy all marriages, and he delights to do it. The wounded heart is easily turned this direction, particularly when you are facing this type of situation day after day, year after year. When bitterness takes root in our hearts, we are not the only ones affected. Many are defiled … children, extended family, neighbors, church friends, etc.
The following story illustrates that we often refuse to forgive when we are focused on ourselves and our own comfort; but when we do choose to respond in a forgiving way, we are blessed. This is not always easy, yet brings peace to our hearts and homes.
Dr. Michael Wells in his book, Sidetracked in the Wilderness, tells about his experience as the Lord began to teach him these truths. He was in Bible College and returned home one day to study Ephesians 5. As he passed through the kitchen his wife made a remark that he considered terribly rude. At that time he felt that the best way to punish her was not to talk to her, so he stomped past her and went to his study. As he came to Ephesians 5:25 in his study, “Husbands love your wives,” his response was, “No Lord, not until she apologizes.”
At that moment the Lord impressed upon him, “Go and hug your wife, and tell her you love her.” His response again was, “No, Lord, not until she apologizes.” He shared, “The Lord would not let me continue my study; I was stuck on verse 25, ‘Lord, she does not deserve it, and if I apologize now I will only encourage that kind of behavior in the future.'”
But the Lord said again, “Go and hug your wife and tell her you love her. How do you want Me to treat you when you have offended Me, Mike?”
He said, “Oh Lord, I want you to come to me and hug me and tell me You love me, but this different!” Mike goes on to say, “Finally, after much struggle, I submitted to my Lord and decided to make the journey to the kitchen where I could hear my wife working … at last I approached her, spun her around, gave her a hug, and said, “Betty, I love you.” Her response was incredible: “Well, I’m glad you finally came to your senses.”
He thought, “What was I to do?” His worst fears were realized! He had only encouraged the behavior he hated so much. Then the Lord prompted him again. “Hug your wife and tell her you love her.” After the second hug, she simply turned around and went back to work, not saying a word.
Mike commented, “Nothing spectacular happened to her, but I was not the same. The only way I can describe it is that it was like a branch breaking deep within me. I was losing my self-life. The cross had applied a deathblow, and I never felt more alive in my life. The lesson was not orchestrated for her, but for me! I had died that she might live.
He goes on to ask, “How many Christian marriages suffer from shallow self-protectionism? How many suffer from refusing to die and keeping lists of every loss suffered at the hands of the other, watching for every word that might offend or for an encroachment on precious self? After all, “me” is all I have, so I must do all I can to protect it. Don’t disagree with me, don’t neglect me, be careful not to offend me, remember to always treat me with the greatest respect … Is there any contentment in demanding that every one in the family structure life around me?”
As always, with Christ, there is hope. How can we overcome bitterness of spirit? We can only do this through forgiveness. Forgiveness is possible through Christ. Matthew 6:14-15 and Ephesians 4:23 tell us to forgive others as He has forgiven us. When we begin to “see” our spouse from God’s perspective, forgiveness is possible.
We need forgiveness for our sins … can we not forgive our husbands for theirs? We need to be careful not to harbor a spirit of price in thinking that “we” would never be like that or do that … “How can they possibly be this way” (Matthew 7:4)? We are to remove the log from our own eye before we condemn somebody for the splinter in his or her eye. If we look closely, we will find things in our own lives for which we need forgiveness.
This trial of living with a man who does not love you brings opportunity for many character lessons such as:
- Learning to love the unlovable
- Learning to love without love being returned
- Learning to love unconditionally and understanding how Christ loves us
- Learning to serve … without reward, without thanks, and understanding how Christ serves us
- Learning to accept unconditionally, one who in our eyes, is undeserving
- Learning to trust God to meet all our needs and not expecting anyone else but Him to fulfill us
As we learn to have an eternal perspective, we can have a forgiving heart towards the one who does not love us. Trials and tribulations in this life always point us to Jesus Who has also suffered. We partake of His sufferings when we also suffer. He was not loved by the very people He came to save. He died for the ungrateful as well as the grateful.
Father, I give You praise for Your forgiveness — a gift I did not deserve. Thank You for Your words that encourage me to “Forgive as you have been forgiven” (Matthew 6:14). I praise You for Your life in me that enables me to forgive others.
– Dianne and Nancy