Do you ever struggle with forgiveness? Even though you know it’s a command from God and essential to a healthy relationship, does it still feel almost impossible to let go of the anger? Does letting go feel like an admission of defeat or like you’re opening yourself up to be hurt again?
Forgiveness is essential; however, it is not something we give easily. It is a struggle. It works against our natural flesh, pride, and selfishness. We want those who have hurt us to pay. I’ve found that on my own, I am powerless to forgive. The only one who can grant me that grace to forgive is Christ.
Bible Study Refocusing
A few years ago, I remember sharing my struggle to forgive with my Bible study friends. I cannot remember who or what was making me angry, but one lady said something I’ll never forget. She said, roughly translated, “You have to look at people through the cross.” Wow.
When I get so angry I see red, I need to view that person through the grace of the cross. When I cannot believe the audacity of another human being, I have to look at him or her through the grace of the cross. When Eric does not treat me like a queen twenty-four hours a day, I have to look at him through the grace of the cross.
“The Grace of the Cross”… What Does That Even Mean?
Never in my thirty-two years have I been able to hold an offense against another person after I consider all the grace God has extended to me through the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God, hung so bloody and beaten that He was not even recognizable, to pay the debt for my sin – for our sin. When I consider the times I have lied, cheated, gossiped, lusted, coveted, complained, knowingly sinned, and questioned His goodness, I am too overwhelmed by His grace to hold onto my anger towards someone else.
That’s not to say the anger doesn’t creep back in when my eyes wander from the cross; but, as soon as I return my focus to Christ and what He did for me, my heart always softens.
Why Should We Keep the Cross at the Center of Our Relationship?
Though we don’t like to admit it, we often hurt the ones we love the most. There are phrases I’ve hurled at Eric that I would never dream of saying to my restaurant server or a stranger on the street. We gain a level of comfort with those closest to us; and since we are with them the most, it’s easy to get on each other’s nerves. Sooner or later, we are bound to hurt and be hurt by our significant others. Throw in personality and family of origin differences and the chances of offending each other make it a sure occurrence to happen!
Keeping the cross in the center of your romantic relationship is important for the following reasons:
- The cross reminds us to forgive. When we see how much Christ suffered in order to pay our sin debt, it’s virtually impossible to find a good reason not to forgive our sweetheart.
- The cross reminds us of the ultimate goal. We are on the same team. Fighting against our teammate is fighting against ourselves. What’s the point in that?
- The cross reminds us that we all have fallen short, and only One can be counted on at all times. Psalms 18:2 says, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”(ESV). We occasionally fall into the trap of expecting our sweetie or spouse to be the giver of everything we need, but it is an impossible expectation. We have all fallen short – only God is constant. We need to put our trust in Him and not in man. We will be far more content when we do.
- The cross reminds us that with God, all things are possible. I can’t change Eric and Eric can’t change me. If we could change each other, he’d be slightly less driven and more enthused by going outside to play, and I’d be far more driven and excited by new ideas and reading. But, alas, we can do nothing to cause lasting change in each other – but God can. He can chip away at the hardness around our hearts. He can ignite new passions. He can take two opposites and help us find our middle ground. “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, ESV).
- The cross reminds us that it’s not about us. When I’m focused on me, I seem very big – very important in the scheme of life. When I focus on the cross, I shrink considerably. This is good. Shrinking is good. ~smile~ Realizing how small we are and how big God is realigns a proper life orientation and helps us refocus our eyes on the ultimate goal – to know Him and to make Him known – to love Him and enjoy Him forever.
When you get married, place a symbolic cross in your home, somewhere you will see it daily. Whenever you look at it, remember that Christ gave His life so that you could be saved from God’s wrath and thank Him daily for this gift. If you are unsure if you have received the gift of salvation, check out this post: Love Your Future Spouse (Is God Really Your Lord?).
The more thankful you are, the less room you have for bitterness. Your future spouse will fail you. I am 100% confident of this. He may not cheat on you. She may not leave you for greener pastures. But, in some way, he or she will let you down; and, you will surely do the same. We’re flawed and deserving of Hell, which is what makes the news of Christ’s death and resurrection so good.
Through transgressing a holy God by sinning, we owed a debt we could not pay and Christ paid it before we ever even knew Him. He paid the debt knowing, in our frailness, we would even trample on it. He paid it in obedience to His Father who loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die in our place so that whoever believed in Him (and put their trust in Him for salvation) would have eternal life (John 3:16).
When God is at work in us, the trials don’t always seem good. Just as Christ’s suffering did not seem good as His followers watched Him die in agony, God knew that the greater good was coming as a result of this plan of redemption.
As you keep the cross at the center of your relationship, remember that the suffering God which allows us to endure leads to the greater good – that of our sanctification and ultimate glorification – just as Good Friday led to Christ’s resurrection.
To God be the Glory.
Have a blessed time of worship this Resurrection Sunday!
Have you and your sweetie received God’s gift of everlasting life?