I have been deeply offended because my spouse has been mistreated by a trusted friend and I can't seem to get past it. How do I find it in my heart to drop the offense and honestly forgive them?
A Wounded Wife
Dear "Wounded Wife."
I am so sorry for the pain you are experiencing. It is incredibly hard to watch someone you love get hurt. The closer the relationship is, the more deeply you love someone, the more offended you become and the more wounds penetrate, crippling the relationship you have with the offender. So how do you get past the offense?
Mark Marikos is an eloquent writer on our Preach It, Teach It staff. I want you to read his answer:
Have you noticed that it is much harder to forgive offenses against those you love, than those against you? Bill Gothard explained why in his “Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts” seminar.
Gothard said that when I am offended, God gives me the grace to deal with the offense, and if I appropriate that grace, I am able to forgive and move beyond the offense. However, when someone else is offended, I am not given the grace they are given to deal with the offense. It is between that person, the offender and God. It is not “my business”. Therefore, when I take up an offense for someone else, I am basically on my own!
Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own. Proverbs 26:17 (NIV)
Like the dog in Proverbs 26:17, some things are easier to take hold of, than to let go.
In “The Horse and His Boy”, one of C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia”, There is a scene where Aravis had been wounded by Aslan as a “stripe-for-stripe” chastisement regarding her mistreatment of a slave girl and the subsequent punishment the girl received. Feeling remorse, the young Tarkheena asks Aslan if further harm will come to the slave girl because of her own actions. Alsan responds, “I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.” Virtually the same answer is given Shasta, in an earlier scene, when he asks Aslan why He wounded Aravis.
But too often, because I forget that God’s grace is sufficient for a loved one, I take up a part in their story, a part I was not meant to play. Instead of recognizing the sufficiency of God’s grace to heal and avenge, I take it upon myself to be the avenger. My actions may be limited to mere simmering anger, or I might take a more aggressive role in “repaying” the offense on the loved one’s behalf. In either case, I am placing myself outside of God’s will.
That is a dangerous place for me, and my anger does nothing to help the loved one heal from the offense, much less to redeem the relationship between the loved one and the offender. At the same time, I move further from God, and risk falling into bitterness. My bitterness may hinder the loved one’s ability to appropriate God’s grace, forgive and move forward. It may degrade my relationship with the loved one, as they see me “making too big a deal” about something they are already over.
Does that mean it is never appropriate to become angry over someone else’s mistreatment. I don’t think so – it’s almost an automatic response to seeing a loved one wounded. But I need to be very careful how I handle my anger; it must first provoke me to prayer, and I must resolve it quickly, not allowing myself to “sleep on it.”.
"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry..." Ephesians 4:26 (NIV)
My prayers should include at least the following:
· Pray comfort for the offended.
· Pray repentance for the offender.
· Pray to appropriate the grace to deal with my own sense of hurt at seeing the loved one hurt.
The third one is an important step, but an easy one to overlook. My anger arises because I hurt when someone I love has been hurt. While I am not given the grace to deal with their hurt, God guarantees me the grace to deal with my own sense of hurt.
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
Praying those three things acknowledges God’s concern, as well as His ability and desire to restore the offended, the offender, and myself. It also places me in the proper frame of mind to minister comfort and restoration in the situation rather than just “fanning the flames.” It clears my head so that I am in a position to be used by God in the situation, rather than being used by the enemy. And it places me in the “box seats” to watch the drama unfold as God does His glorious work of redemption and restoration.