"Work hard at living in peace with others."
- 1 Peter 3:11 NLT
If you have ever read my personal testimony, you know that when the Lord came into my life in a powerful way, my marriage was a mess. My husband, Joe, and I had already been married more than 17 years, and though we had gotten a lot of good counseling, our relationship was still in serious trouble. Once I began getting rooted and grounded in God and His Word, the Lord began dealing with me about the condition of my marriage. He basically told me that if I wanted Him to heal and restore my marriage, I was going to have to do my part by walking in forgiveness. I had done such a good job of hardening my heart against my husband all those years, that just the thought of forgiving him of all my past hurts made me cringe. Still, I was determined to do whatever I had to in order to obey the Lord--and it made all the difference.
When my husband began noticing the new me--the one that was becoming serious about my relationship with God--he wasn't too thrilled about it, and he let me know it. I can still recall one evening when Joe and I were out in public, and he began yelling at me about something trivial. At first, all I could do was stand there in stunned silence. Then the Holy Spirit reminded me of Proverbs 15:1 (NLT), which says: "A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare." And even though part of me wanted to haul off and slap my husband's face, I chose instead to obey God and answer him gently. Did it work? No. But that didn't deter me from continuing to do the right thing, even when the wrong thing was being done to me. And this is exactly how I eventually gained the victory.
I can honestly say that over the years, I had actually fallen out of love with my husband. If I wanted my marriage to survive, I knew that I was going to have to fall in love with him all over again. I didn't know if that was even possible, until the Lord showed me a verse in Scripture that gave me hope. The apostle Paul wrote, "Train the younger women to love their husbands and children." (Titus 2:4 NIV) God showed me that by relying on His Spirit's power, I could literally train myself to love my husband again. You see, God's kind of love is not an emotion or feeling-- it's a choice, a decision. We make the decision to love someone, and then the Holy Spirit releases His power to enable us to love them with the love of God. (Romans 5:5) Scripture describes the God-kind of love this way: "Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong." (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 TLB) If you and I are going to walk in this kind of love, we are going to have to walk in forgiveness.
One of the quickest ways to destroy a relationship is to hold a grudge against that person. Unforgiveness puts a welcome mat out for the devil to come in and "steal, kill and destroy". (John 10:10) Paul talks about this danger when he writes: "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity." (Ephesians 4:26-27 NASB) Becoming momentarily angry at someone for good reason is not a sin. But holding on to our anger, and refusing to forgive IS sinful. Do you want a valid reason to walk in forgiveness? Look at Paul's words in Colossians 3:13 (TLB): "Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." If you can't forgive others for their sake, then do it for the Lord.
The Bible talks about God's way of winning our loved ones over to Him, and it points to our own behavior as the key. First Peter 3:2 (TLB) says: "Your godly lives will speak to them better than any words." We can't argue people into the Kingdom of God, but we can set a Christlike example for them that will draw them to the Lord and His ways. That's the strategy that God had me use in the restoration of my marriage, and let me tell you that it works. My husband and I have been married for 34 years now, and we are happier together--and more in love with each other--than we've ever been. What relationships in YOUR life could use a touch from God today?
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for the times I've held grudges against others. Teach me how to walk in Your kind of love, and to forgive others "quickly and completely," the way that You do. (Colossians 3:13 MSG) Thank You that as I do my part, You will restore those relationships that are Your best for me!
- J. M. Farro