Is It Possible to Forgive?

Preaching on forgiveness creates memorable sermons. Living out forgiveness creates heart-changing character development.

Sometimes in scripture I love to see how the Holy Spirit has arranged the Word. In Matthew 18 Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” And Jesus answered, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. He then went on to share the parable of the servant who owed a huge debt to the king. When he couldn’t pay it, the king decided to sell him and his family to clear the debt. The servant begged the king to forgive him and the king did. He released him from all responsibility for the debt.

Then that same servant went out and demanded payment from someone who owed him money. When the man couldn’t pay, the wicked servant had him thrown into jail until the debt was paid. When the king heard of this, he was angry with the servant and turned him over to the torturers until he could pay his debt.

We all know the point of this story, God has forgiveness us everything and cleansed us with the blood of Jesus. Who are we then to hold the sin of another against that person? The point that really struck me, though, was that the next chapter, Matthew 19, begins with the Pharisees asking Jesus a question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” You think maybe there was a reason the Holy Spirit put that question right after a discussion on forgiving 70 X 7?

Marriage consistently affords us the opportunity to forgive. God designed marriage as a covenant relationship until death. That type of relationship is intended to afford covenant covering and safety so that we can grow together as one, honoring each other and forgiving each other when we fall short. Even the best of marriages is filled with both large and small moments of forgiveness potential. Forgiving and growing together go hand in hand.

The devil hates the unity that God gives us because he knows the power that God designed for the covenant of marriage. Our enemy realizes that couples who know who they are in Christ and who are united as one are unstoppable. So his one plan for marriage is to divide and conquer.

You have experienced his attack. His has brought division into your marriage. His plan is to have one spouse so wound the other that forgiveness seems impossible. If one spouse already has been convinced that healing is impossible, all the enemy can hope for is to convince the other spouse of the same thing. Unfortunately the Church supports this plan many times.

The three major A’s – adultery, abuse, and abandonment – are often accepted as reasons for divorce. All of these situations carry with them many consequences that I am not belittling, but I firmly believe that Jesus died to overcome them all. I also believe that the foundation to healing is forgiveness. If you try to build a house without a strong foundation, it will not stand.

I remember once at a meeting a woman came up for prayer afterward. She said she had been standing for 13 years. I asked her what had happened and she said, “Oh, that jerk never changed. I just gave up.” She left pretty upset with me after I told her that she had probably wasted a lot of time. If her heart was still that angry and cold toward her husband, she never understood true forgiveness. There is no place for judgment in our hearts when we are standing.

I don’t know what you have suffered. There are as many stories as there are marriages. I can only guess at the pain you have experienced. But really, it doesn’t matter if I can understand it or not. What matters is Jesus knows and He is the only one who can bring you healing. He knows betrayal in the name of love.

The night He was taken in the Garden, He was betrayed with a kiss. Judas made a public show of affection that was really betrayal of intimacy and was intended to destroy relationship. At a time when Jesus was crying out to the Father for strength, the enemy came in through one He loved. Yet, even knowing that Judas was going to betray Him, just hours earlier Jesus had honored him and blessed him as they ate together.

If you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, He lives in you and that same love is within you today. Draw on it in this hour. Our own hearts can justify a lot of things when we have been hurt. Only Jesus can bring His perspective and soften our hearts with His love. Talk to Him now, not with a laundry list of what has happened. He already knows it all. Just get close to Him and let Him love you. Let Him melt your heart with His compassion and tenderness. Forget what you should or shouldn’t do or not do right now. Just receive that wonderful, life-changing love!       Love, Marilyn 

“Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little”  Luke 7:47

“Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do”  Luke 23:34

Precious Moments When Standing

I remember the hard times, the loneliness, and the fear of standing for my marriage. There were no books then, no conventions, and no support groups. I didn’t know a single person who ever stood for their marriage, much less anyone whose marriage had been healed. All those around me thought I had gone off the deep end. My family was supportive but neutral. It was very hard for them not to take sides, but they worked hard not to.

I had one friend who believed in the power of the Word of God and had great faith. She would always caution me, though, not to get my hopes up. There were so many factors she would tell me and there was no guarantee that Michael would ever change his mind. One thing she did for me, though, was to always point me to the Word of God. She didn’t have any answers for me, but she sure knew Who did!

There were some very precious times during those days as well. The tender, sweet miracles of God that we only see in times of desperation were frequent in those days. After my heart was healed, I wept more in joy than I did in sorrow. I watched God perform so many wondrous things on my behalf.

I remember one day when Michael had been to our home and had said some really hard things to me. He was trying to get me to divorce him because his lawyer had told him it would be better if I initiated the divorce. In his efforts to drive me away, he had decided to cut off all financial support for me and our children. After he made the announcement and left, I sat down in my favorite kitchen chair and began talking to the Lord. I was terrified. I didn’t know how I would feed and clothe our children. I didn’t know how I would pay the bills. I cried out to Lord to help my faith because I was filled with doubt and unbelief that even He could overcome such a challenge to our family.

As I sat praying, a bird flew into the kitchen window and fell on our deck. I went out to see what shape it was in and I realized it was dead. I had never seen a bird like that before. We lived in the mountains and there were many birds in our area, but this one was new to me. Later in the day our neighbor identified the bird as a quail. I didn’t even know we had quail in Colorado.

That afternoon as I was talking with the Lord, He reminded me of the bird. “Don’t you think I can feed you and your children?” He asked me. I realized that day that He would indeed care for us even if it meant sending food flying into our window. He proved Himself faithful during the years that followed. We never lacked for food or clothing or other needs. He even worked on Michael’s heart and caused him to once again begin giving us money. That lesson still stands firm in my heart today. I know that no matter what tomorrow holds, God will be with us and will care for us. He will never leave us or forsake us.

Another wonderful miracle from that season in our life happened one spring. Our daughter needed a new pair of dress shoes. She loved black patten leather, but because she had such a narrow foot, we had to buy specialty shoes that cost over $30. I had $5.00 and a coupon for $2.00 off as we headed to the shoe store. I explained to her that this time we had to buy a different type of shoe because we could not afford the shoes she loved. By then our children were learning to stand in faith as well and she said to me, “No, Mommy, I asked Jesus for my shiny black shoes and He said I can have them.” I didn’t want to crush her faith, but I doubted we would ever find those shoes at a cheaper price. They were never on sale.

When we got to the store, she headed straight for the patten leather shoes and, as usual, her size was over $30. Then we headed to the sale rack to see what we could afford. On the lower rack was a pair of black patten leather shoes. I figured they weren’t narrow since they were on sale. Also, they were two sizes too small for her. As I looked for other shoes, she picked up the patten leathers and said, “Mommy, these are my shoes.” I tried to explain to her that they weren’t the right size, but she kept insisting they were hers. After I had showed her several other pairs that I could afford, she burst into tears. “Mommy, why won’t you let me try these on? They are mine!”

Finally, I gave in. I thought once she realized they were no where near her size, she would give up and let me find another pair. As I slipped them on her feet, I was astounded they fit her perfectly. They were her size and they were narrow. “I told you Jesus said He would have shoes for me,” she said, smiling through her tears. By then I was crying too. The price tag was $5.00 and with my coupon, they were $3.00. When we left the store, Cristine was carrying her prized shoes and I still had money in my pocket.

God truly loves us and has promised He will meet our needs! As you walk with Him and experience His tender care, rejoice in those sweet moments that only He can give you. Keep your eyes on Him, the Author and Finisher of your faith! Love, Marilyn

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” Philippians 4:12

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” 2 Corinthians 9:8

Making A Choice

When my husband told me that he was divorcing me to marry my best friend, the bottom dropped out of my world. His words tore my heart out and left me feeling worthless and insignificant. I never imagined that the person I love most on the face of this earth would reject me so violently and speak so many words of shame and anger toward me.

I just knew there had to be an answer somewhere, but our pastor reasoned with me that if Michael didn’t want the marriage, there was nothing I could do. The counselors I sought out confirmed his declaration and added that I must have pretty low self esteem to want a man who so obviously didn’t want me.

We had two children and a third on the way. I didn’t know what to do. I tried to pray, but words failed me. I had walked in relationship with Jesus for a little less than two years at that time and had never really faced a major crisis. I hurt too much to think beyond the moment and I wasn’t even sure what I should ask God to do. Finally I accepted the inevitable and began to prepare for divorce.

With a focus at last in mind, I asked the Lord what my next step should be. He led me to a scripture, “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife” 1 Corinthians 7:10,11.

That scripture astounded me. My pastor and the counselors had all given me many scriptures that assured me divorce was God’s plan for us. They had even told me God had a better husband waiting. Now the Lord was telling me to reconcile or remain single. How could He possibly say that knowing my circumstances? My husband was in adultery. That gave me scriptural grounds for divorce and freedom to remarry. I argued all these points in my heart as I sought to understand the scripture the Lord had showed me.

Again and again the Lord patiently led me back to 1 Corinthians 7:10 and 11. He made it clear to me that was His standard. He also made it clear to me that day that either one of those choices would bring me joy. If I chose to remain single, He would be my husband and father to my children. I knew He would care for me better than any earthly man ever could.

He also made it clear that if I chose to reconcile, He would be the one who would accomplish it. It was not up to me or my “perfection” to see it done. That was a relief to me since I already knew how futile my own efforts had been.

I didn’t really know which choice was better. I had been hurt so much by my husband’s actions and words and I didn’t know if reconciling with him was such a good idea. I also didn’t know if remaining single was really the desire of my heart. For a long time I just sat in the presence of the Lord, feeling His love and unconditional acceptance of me. I alternated between crying out from the depth of my pain and just breathing in His healing life.

Finally I asked Him, “Lord, if I choose to reconcile, how will that happen? My husband seems to hate me and wants nothing to do with me. How could our marriage ever be whole again?”

Have you ever felt the overwhelming power of God in your life? I felt it that day. At that moment I knew that God could do anything. I said, “Okay, Lord. I want to reconcile. Teach me what to do.”

How simple that prayer was and how vast was the answer that came over the next several years. I often think in steps (step 1, step 2, etc.) I was waiting for God to give me His three-step plan to reconciliation. I was sure that much of it had to do with fixing up Michael and I was eager to get started. The sooner he was in shape, the better. How little did I realize that day of what God had in mind. Love, Marilyn

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” Deuteronomy 30:19

What Should I Do?

If there is one question that I am asked most often, it is “What should I do?” In a variety of situations and circumstances, those who are standing for their marriage want to do the correct thing in light of what they are facing. The only problem with the question is that it puts the cart before the horse.

Knowing what to do comes from hearing the voice of the Lord. Doing what is right is simply obeying what He tells you to do. So, the first step must be developing a strong relationship with Jesus. The pain, the shame, the anger, the despair–the myriad of emotions that flood your life when your spouse makes it clear that he or she no longer wants the marriage can send you into an emotional tailspin that makes clear decision making almost impossible.

Some people react by wanting to do anything to make the marriage work. Others are in such pain that they can hardly function. Others react in anger and retaliation. Others begin to put impossible demands on themselves, placing the total responsibility for the healing of their marriage on their own actions and words.

In the early days of my stand for our marriage, one of my favorite scriptures was a prophecy that was spoken about Jesus in Isaiah and then repeated in Matthew, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory.” That scripture spoke to me of the gentleness of Jesus when it comes to the broken heart. He knew my heart and He loved me and wanted the best for me. Initially I went to Him and just cried out my pain. He was there and He was loving and accepting.

The wonderful thing about Jesus is that He can make it clear He understands our pain completely and yet He still makes it clear that He loves the one who hurt us as well. That balance helped me get past the early days of pain. Jesus wasn’t taking sides. His love for me was strong and steady but His love for my husband was equally strong. He bound up my wounds and began healing my heart. It was a slow process, not because of Jesus but because I fell back so easily into pain and sorrow. It took a long time for me to reach the point where I was able to move forward with the Lord. He was patient and He never crushed the bruised reed. His Word brought healing to my heart and mind.

As I began to heal, the Lord began to speak to me through His Word regarding what to do next. His Word needs to be a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Psalm 119:105). A lamp shines brightly in a small area. God’s Word will show you where to place your feet, where to go and what to do. His Word will give you clarity for the next steps to take. And His Word is a light to your path. That light shines farther and clarifies the long-term direction you need to take. Developing a close relationship with the Lord and spending time with Him in the Word will be key to your healing and the steps you need to take next.

Without that close relationship with Jesus, your decisions will be based on emotions and circumstances. You will feel pressured by time and will be tempted to set deadlines and give ultimatums. Your number one goal at this time must be to develop that relationship. Be honest with Him. Don’t go all holy and pretend that you are doing fine. Pour out your hurt, your anger, and your pain to Him. He’s not afraid of your emotions and being honest with Him will not “ruin” your chances for marriage healing. There were days when I would tell Him, “Lord, I really hate my husband right now but I know You love him with an everlasting love. Please love Him through me today because I have nothing to give.” He was faithful and He met me where I was.

These steps are critical. If you don’t get honest with the Lord, you won’t be honest with yourself. You won’t be open to the Lord speaking to those areas of your own heart where you need to change. If you don’t allow Him to heal the very depths of your heart, you will continue to react out of emotion and fear<

Standing for your marriage is not walking in perfection. It is not doing and saying all the right things. It is clearly hearing the voice of the Lord and being obedient to do what He speaks to you. Take this time to fall so deeply in love with Him that nothing else matters. Develop such a strong relationship with Him that He fills every area of your life. Don’t put your life on hold. Begin serving the Lord powerfully and minister into the lives of others with all that He pours into your life. Love,  Marilyn

“But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him”  1 John 2:5

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”  Philippians 4:6-8

What Is Standing?

What does it mean to stand for your marriage? Some say it is a tremendous act of faith. Others say it is foolishness. Still others say it is witchcraft. I say it is one of the most significant things a person can do in a lifetime.

When God began to lead me in the stand for our marriage, I thought I was all about my husband getting out of sin and returning home. I figured whatever it took to make that happen was worth it. I had no idea what God had in mind.

First of all, standing for your marriage has to come out of obedience to the Lord. It can’t be based on how much you love your spouse. Love can turn to hate very quickly. Feelings are very fickle. It can’t be based on loneliness or need. Only the Lord can fulfill us and meet all our needs. No human being should be expected to do that for us. It can’t be based on guilt or sorrow either. Regretting what has happened in the past is no foundation for the future. If any of these things are motivating you, release them all to the Lord right now.

When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, he wanted to join Him. Jesus gave him a word, “Come,” and Peter walked on the strength of that word. You are probably in a very grave storm right now and your marriage is in peril. There are many more storms to come and if you are going to walk on the water, if you are going to stand for your marriage, you must have a word from the Lord upon which to walk.

Someone else’s faith can’t do it for you. Someone else’s testimony can’t carry you through. Emotions and resolve won’t hold you up as the wind rises and the waves crash. You must know what the Lord has spoken to you and that is the word that will carry you. God has promised that His word will not return to Him void, without accomplishing that for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11). You need the strength of His word to carry you.

When David returned to Ziklag and discovered that his family had been taken from him (1 Samuel 30), he asked the Lord, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?” One might ask why David would ask God such a question when the answer seems pretty obvious. David asked God because he wanted the word of the Lord to go before him as he fought for his family. He wanted to know in the heat of battle that God had sent him in pursuit. God told him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.”

Another reason you need to hear what God says is that many other voices around you will be saying many things. Many will tell you what you are doing is foolish. Many will tell you that it will do no good. Many will ask you, as they did me, if you are really that desperate. They will tell you to get on with your life. If you don’t know what God has said, then all voices will carry the same weight. To obey the Lord, you must know what He has told you. Then other voices will not be as strong.

So, where are you today? Maybe you are just beginning to face a marital crisis or maybe you have stood for some time now. Either way, do you know what God has said to you. Have you taken time to seek Him and ask Him for His word? Has God answered your question? Has He given you specific directions? Do you have His word upon which to walk? If not, you need to begin there today. Learning to hear His voice is the key to a strong stand. Learning to hear His voice is also so life-changing that you will never be the same again.

To this day I walk in a sweet relationship with the Lord that developed during the time of my stand. No one can shake that from my life. I hear His voice clearly and I easily sense His presence. Walking with Him is sweet. You can either look upon this time of your life as the biggest tragedy you have ever experienced or you can embrace this time as the sweetest school of the Spirit you will ever attend. The choice is yours and it begins with asking Him and then waiting for His answer to you. Love, Marilyn

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand” Psalm 95:6,7. <

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” John 10:27.

There Is Hope

Almost daily we receive contacts from around the world from those whose marriage is under attack. They are looking for answers, looking for someone to say there is hope.

Too many voices today proclaim the inevitability of the destruction of the family and home. Too many voices that should be proclaiming the power of God are giving far greater credit to the enemy. Too many hearts have grown sick as their hope has been deferred by those who believe there is nothing that can be done when the enemy attacks a marriage and home.

Almost thirty years ago the enemy attacked our marriage and family. He declared that our relationship was irrevocably broken and that there was nothing that could be done about it. Our pastor and several counselors agreed with him. We were counseled to get a quick divorce so that my husband could marry his new love. Of course, he would have to wait for her divorce to also be final for that to happen.

I couldn’t find anyone who believed God could heal our marriage. There were no books to read or meetings to attend. All around me the voices seemed to shout defeat and loss, but within me One Voice spoke very clearly. Jesus assured me that it was not His desire for our marriage and family to be broken. His Word assured me that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world. He reminded me that He had come to destroy the works of the enemy. Why then should I believe the voice of the enemy? He is a defeated foe.

I then began a long journey with the Lord, one at first filled with much pain and sorrow but one that eventually brought me to a place of victory and joy.

I learned to enjoy His presence no matter what the circumstances. I learned to walk in the peace that passes all understanding. I learned that He is my provider and there is nothing that can separate me from His love. If your marriage is under attack today, it is time to look to Him also. The world has no answers and can offer no permanent hope. Those who have seen you hurt will probably want to help save you from such a painful relationship. Many may think that someone else who will treat you better is the perfect answer to your current dilemma.

But if you are willing to be totally honest with yourself and with the Lord, this can be your greatest hour. It can be a season in which you learn to walk with your Lord in such a powerful way. It can be a season of healing and strengthening and victory.

Today I know beyond a shadow of a doubt how much God loves me and how strong He is within me. I learned those lessons in the lonely, desperate hours of pain brought about by the enemy’s attack on our marriage. I am sure for all eternity the enemy is going to wish he had left us alone. Instead of destroying our marriage and family, we learned how to fight him and how to walk in victory. Then we learned how to take that same victory to others.

So this is your blog. This is where I pray you find some answers to the questions that haunt you in this hour. This is where I pray you find courage and hope. Don’t give up! God has a plan and the enemy is not stronger than it is. Love, Marilyn

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9