Forgiveness is difficult when we think the person who sinned against us doesn’t understand what they’ve done to us. They don’t “get” it. They seem to continue on like nothing happened, or they don’t acknowledge or agree that it ever did happen. But we know, way down in our heart, that they sinned against us and it really hurts. And if we simply forgive them, they will “get away with it.” With this in mind, it can be really hard to forgive and love. But trying to live without forgiving, makes things worse, not better.
Paul Tripp talks about the fact that we trouble our trouble or suffer in our suffering. What he means by this is that life is hard, we suffer, people sin against us, we sin in response to their sin and suffer the consequences of our sin, and on and on. The Bible is full of suffering for a gazillion reasons. The God of the universe became a man and suffered. Everyone suffers. But when we suffer, if we react to the event in a sinful way, we make our suffering more difficult than it might otherwise have been.
Suppose before he was married, a man sinned grievously against his future wife by having sex with a woman he was not married to. Suppose he also sinned by having sex with his future wife before they were married. Then, he sinned against his wife by lying about the whole thing. “Oh, you’re my first, honey. You’re the greatest!” But then, years later, his wife found out that it was all a lie, even though there were many opportunities to come clean. All this was followed by a lifetime of repercussions and consequences.
The facts are true, and I could go on and on about it. I know people this has happened to and is happening to. When I tell the wife that she needs to forgive her husband, I am not dismissing the pain or the suffering. I am not trying to make less of the pain than is there. I’m not watering the sin down, or ignoring it, or pretending that it doesn’t matter or anything like that. This man’s wife is a schmo. But for all these years, while suffering the pain of his lying and infidelity, the wife has made his life worse than it needed to be. She has suffered in her suffering, troubled her trouble by becoming overly hurt, angry, bitter, resentful and nasty. She was sinned against. Horribly sinned against, but she has responded by sinning in huge ways herself.
She may think of herself as a bruised reed. She might say to herself, “I’ve been so hurt. I can’t forgive.” But in his reactions and responses to the knowledge of his wife’s sin, she really isn’t a bruised reed. At least not the bruised reed that is referred to in the Bible. That bruised reed (Mt. 12:20) was the same one who “did not quarrel or cry out” (Is. 42:2). “When reviled he did not revile in return, when he suffered did not threaten” (1 Pet. 2:23). That bruised reed was “despised and rejected by man, he was bruised, smitten, and despised” and he didn’t open his mouth in return (Is. 53) and he loved us by dying on the cross. As he was loving, by letting them crucify him, he was laying down his life (Jn 15:13) and said, “forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34). The bible says Jesus went to cross “with his eyes fixed on the joy set before him” (Heb 12:2) and through it all, “he entrusted himself to the one who judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23) and the Bible calls us to suffer like that. That’s the only way we won’t make our suffering worse, our trouble more trouble.
The wife might think, “I don’t think God asks me to forgive where he does not (when the person is proud, haughty heart, stiff-necked, self-justifying).” What does God call you to do? He does not call you to sin against your husband, does he? Isn’t your anger and bitterness sin? In sinning against your husband, you are really sinning against God. That can’t be. Maybe there’s something somewhere that says something different, but the only passage I know of that tells wives how to treat husbands who aren’t walking with God, proud, haughty, stiff-necked, etc., is 1 Peter 3:1-6
Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight. It was in this way long ago that the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by accepting the authority of their husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You have become her daughters as long as you do what is good and never let fears alarm you.
If you really want your husband to change, this verse tells you how to make that happen. Obey God. Give God glory by doing what he asks you to do in a really tough situation. Be pure, reverent, holy, and submissive in the face of God and toward your husband.
Here’s a thought experiment for people in this wife’s situation, take a look back over the past 25 years and tell me how doing it your way has been working out for you. In response to your wife, husband, child, friend’s sin, you have been angry, bitter, resentful, hurt, frustrated, indignant, outraged, and even hateful toward him. You have been treating him in ways that made sense to you and in ways that some around you may have been advising you. How has that worked out so far? Has your husband changed much? Has he changed in a positive direction or have things gotten worse over the years because of his responses to the tone you’ve set in the home? (it reminds me of the saying, If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. But when nobody’s happy, ain’t nobody happy) Are you any happier or less hurt? What would it hurt to try to do and be what and who God calls you to be?
One last note. Through all of this, the wife should pay attention to what is going on. It might just be that God is working in her husband’s life and he has realized that he was a schmo. He may have realized that he has sinned terribly, confessed his original sin (to both God and her, but because of her pain she missed it), and has also confessed that much of his current sin has been his reaction to his wife’s bitterness. God may be working in his life and he is changing. His wife needs to notice that he may be treating her like Christ treats the church. God does forgive people like this. And 2000 years ago, He sent Jesus to die to make it all happen. This is exactly who God does forgive. Who else could he forgive?
I think it would be great if the wife gave up her “rights” and surrendered to Jesus. She has suffered, I don’t know anyone who, hearing the story, wouldn’t agree, but she needs to get into Jesus’ lap and get on with her life. In joy, in peace, in happiness, in life, in glory, and in grace.
I hope this helps.