Forgiveness is one of the most difficult lessons couples have to walk through. It’s a topic that many get hung up on. The victimized spouse will often have a really difficult time getting to a place where they feel they can forgive their spouse. They may feel that their spouse doesn’t deserve to be forgiven. For the victim, forgiveness can be scary and frustrating. On the other hand, the offending spouse will often struggle to actually practice and live out biblical confession and asking for their spouse’s forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness will also be frightening and intimidating.
For the offending spouse, pride and the temptation to manage how we appear to others usually impacts our decision-making. Selfishly, we prefer to hide our sin and lead a double life. However, when we do this, we inevitably feel as if we are wasting away (Psalm 32:3-4).
That is why it is so important to share regularly with your spouse and others about your sin and the areas where you struggle. Although, even when we have accountability in trusted friends, we often make confession just vague enough to not get in too much trouble. We share only enough to check a box. We give half-hearted confessions that don’t actually produce repentance. This behavior only leads to more hurt and deception.
For the victim, it can be all too easy to respond without remembering God’s grace. Rather than responding to confession how we should, we are instead prone to bursts of anger or retreat into ourselves. The cycle of distrust and fear this can create often results in even more hurt. Sometimes the victim will respond by attempting to take control of their spouse and their spiritual life completely.
Regardless of who hurt who, we can forget that marriage should be a safe place for failure. Learning to practice biblical confession and forgiveness doesn’t just benefit your marriage. Forgiveness will have ripple effects that benefit your whole family.
If you are wondering what in your life requires confession, it can be helpful to ask yourself “What is the area of my life where I am not experiencing the fullness of what God would have for me?” Or, put another way, “What is keeping you from living free from guilt and shame?” Answering questions like these helps to identify what the Lord would have us confess.
Spend time in prayer and self-reflection. List out the ways you’ve sinned against your spouse and what you need to ask forgiveness for. Ask the Lord to reveal your transgressions to you (Proverbs 139:23-24).
Nothing is hidden from him and he loves us still (1 John 1:9). Feel the immense freedom to lay your sins and burdens on the Lord knowing how much he cares for you.
It is by confessing our sin to one another that we can be healed (James 5:16). In addition to confessing to your spouse, you should also confess to a trusted believer or someone in your small group. This person can help hold your accountable for telling your spouse the whole truth.
When we are obedient to confess, God promises to show up. Place your treasure in God’s truth and your heart will come back around even if it isn’t there immediately (Matthew 6:21). Remember that confession and forgiveness is not something that comes naturally to us. It is a learned skill.
Here are 4 tips for confessing sin to your spouse:
When we ask for forgiveness, we come to them in humility and ask them if they’d be willing to release the debt owed to them. We place our imperfections in their hands. When you ask for forgiveness, avoid only saying, “I’m sorry.”
Remember that even the victim of an offense has an active role in the forgiveness process.
Here are 3 tips for granting forgiveness to your spouse:
Lastly, know that there is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness can be granted immediately. Reconciliation requires trust to be rebuilt and this trust is rebuilt over time. It needs to be done slowly and purposefully. But it will also be worth it.
Marriage and the forgiveness process are not going to be easy. In fact, it will often be incredibly hard. However, even in the darkest moment, we serve a God that makes dead things come alive again. There is always hope and healing to be found in Jesus.