The Rock-Solid Foundation of Forgiveness
by: Gordon Dasher
Having been married for almost forty-five years when Jan left this earth for her heavenly abode, I’ve thought a lot about what it takes to find peace in a marriage relationship. It cannot be that I would only be fulfilled in my relationship with my spouse when she finally becomes the woman I need. That’s an impossible burden, because my wife (along with myself) was a flawed and sinful person. As much as she loved God, and as much as I loved her, and as much as she loved me, we both entered into our relationship with a serious sinful nature.
No, Jan could have never been for me the person who “completes” me. Nor could I be that for her.
At some point it struck me that the problem in our relationship wasn’t her, but me. That’s not to say that she didn’t have her own part to play in whatever was dysfunctional about our relationship. But do you know how much “control” I had over her? What she thought? What she did? What she said?
The answer is “ZERO!” I never did figure out how to get her to be what I wanted. She was always coming up short, and truthfully, so was I.
So if this is true, are we just stuck in perpetual conflict and dysfunction?
The good news is that I can tell you with confidence that there is another way. And this other way involves rebuilding our marriages on a different and more secure foundation. The old foundation of unfulfilled expectations was Satan’s way of helping us to plan to be resentful and angry since it would never work putting my spouse in charge of my happiness.
Perhaps you recall the parable of the tax collector (the sinner) and the Pharisee from Luke 18. The short version is that that the tax collector stood off at a distance from the religious people, beat his breast, and pleaded with God, “Have mercy on me, for I am a sinner.” Meanwhile, the religious man stood proudly and thanked God that he was unlike the “sinner.” He was thankful for his righteousness.
Understanding what the religious guy’s problem was gives us a lot of insight into why putting your spouse in charge of your happiness will only bring profound unhappiness into your marriage (or any relationship). If I’m comparing myself to another flawed human being, then it’s possible to ignore the wretchedness of my own heart and walk away feeling justified (even though I think even then we know the truth about ourselves).
According to Jesus’ parable, God does not honor this kind of self-elevation. That’s because when we elevate ourselves, we are actually replacing God as the standard for holiness and righteousness. In other words, we become our own little gods. We are making ourselves the center of the universe. The tax-collector’s prayer was heard by God because he realized that compared with the Almighty God, he was a dirty and despicable creature. He admitted that he had nothing in himself that was worthy.
Ironically, it’s when we come before God empty-handed like this that he is able to transform us into what he created us to be in the first place. It restores fellowship with our Creator and with other human beings. It is an admission that we are powerless over our sins and addictions but that by being humble before God, all things are made new.
I don’t know you, but I know myself. And I know that when I am tempted to pass judgment on others, joy abandons me. And I can also say that when Jan and I began to embrace that neither of us was created or placed in our marriage relationship to make each other happy, God began to do amazing things in us for his glory.
Set aside a time today to read this passage in Luke 18 and reflect on your own attitudes toward your spouse and others. How do you see yourself in terms of goodness and righteousness? Do you elevate yourself over her? Over him?
My suggestion is that you pray the sinner’s prayer (from Luke 18) word for word — over and over again. God is faithful. He will deliver you from yourself and place you where you need to be — right before his throne and before the cross of Christ.
That’s where you find healing. It’s the only place!
“God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”