God and I had a good conversation today. When is the last time you talked to God?
We talked about the avenues of forgiveness concept, where I need to extend and receive forgiveness, some fears (am I doing what He wants me to do?), I thanked him for his created beauty, and prayed for others. I spent most of my walk talking out loud to God, not once trying to process internally. When cars drove past, I waved. At one point, I got a little self-conscious about talking out loud—what would people think about this crazy person?
My longest prayer was for you.
- What do you need to encourage you today?
- How can you get unstuck?
- Do you believe you have the worth and value to change your negative situation?
- I know you do, but do you believe it?
- Can you forgive your husband for looking at porn?
- Should you?
- When you look in the mirror, what do you say to the person you see?
And . . .
How do you forgive your husband?
Let’s look at three avenues of forgiveness, which help you get your happiness back.
So many clients ask, “how do I forgive him?” I did too. In Ephesians 4, God doesn’t mince words, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Do you find reading these words hard? I do.
I think it’s hard to process these words because there are different kinds of forgiveness. And even different stages of forgiveness. I read an article by author Beth K. Vogt about this concept. Beth, an abuse survivor, relates how her counselor helped her understand her struggle to forgive. The counselor suggested Beth view forgiveness from both a horizontal and vertical avenue. This concept intrigued me.
Set aside the pain (as much as possible) to clear your mind to explore these avenues of forgiveness. You can choose where you’d like to begin.
The vertical forgiveness relates to our reconciliation and relationship with God. Because Jesus died on the cross to forgive all sin—before we asked—He rescued us from eternal death and punishment. God provided the means to reconcile with us. Through Jesus’ death, God forgives our sin. We must recognize and admit our sin and then accept this free salvation gift. We have to act on God’s extended offer. “Reconciliation that happens between God and every individual on earth is a heavenly transaction that takes place at the cross of Jesus.”
Horizontal forgiveness relates to how we interact with our friends, family, co-workers, spouses, children, and every person on earth. That person horizontally across from you on this planet. And this is where we struggle most.
Just this morning, I realized that I spend a lot of time trying not to offend others. While that sounds like a noble goal, it isn’t.
You and I cannot control whether another person chooses to take offense at something we do or say. Also, loving and desiring another’s best means we don’t intentionally choose to wound them. Two sides to the same issue. But believing that I have the power never to offend another person is false. I don’t have that control. This false belief creates a broken, unsustainable boundary for me. It’s unhealthy and detrimental thinking.
This horizontal avenue of forgiveness results when I give up my right to exact revenge from you or to expect you to behave according to my standards.
Forgiving you means I do the hard work necessary to resolve the wounds in me. Whether you choose to complete the forgiveness process is up to you.
As Beth relates in her article, “. . . you stay at the foot of the cross and keep your heart right with God. You want to stay ready to forgive when and if . . . .” Did you catch that? You do the hard work with God to truly forgive the wrong done to you.
In Beth’s case, it was abuse. The forgiveness process completes when the other person involved in the process requests forgiveness from you. And that’s what you can’t control. Thus, the struggle within horizontal forgiveness. We do our part and wait for the other person.
When this forgiveness issue exists between you and your husband, there is no easy answer. You control your forgiveness and healing. He controls his. When he refuses to accept the pain he’s inflicted, you still have choices. You can:
- Stay and trust that God will bring about complete forgiveness and healing.
- Keep your heart soft because you trust God to hold you close while He works in your husband as well.
- Choose to become angry and bitter, lashing out at your husband at every opportunity.
- Ask God whether you should stay or leave. He’ll tell you plainly by revealing the truth of your situation.
(Note: if you or your children are in danger of harm, you need to seek safety.)
Whatever you choose to do, if you bathe it in prayer, seeking forgiveness with God, you will receive an answer. Throughout this forgiveness process, I know that God works in you to become more like Jesus.
I do not take offense as easily these days because I understand better my responsibilities versus God’s. Horizontal forgiveness continues daily. It’s not a one-and-done event. You and I wound each other repeatedly, mostly without malice. It’s not preconceived in every case, but simply being human.
I love this concept of vertical and horizontal forgiveness. However, I think there is one more level of forgiveness we need to discuss.
As I worked through my depression and the pain from my husband’s porn addiction, I had to forgive myself. I had to understand that vertical forgiveness—the miracle of God’s unconditional love and reconciliation—also meant I had to accept that forgiveness. To do that, I had to forgive myself for being human. Otherwise, I didn’t really understand and grasp the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross.
Every time I abuse myself with harsh words—“idiot,” “stupid,” “failure,” and others—I say that Jesus’ death on the cross was not sufficient to pay for my sins. I get the crazy notion that I need to do penance of some sort to complete the atonement. Nowhere do we find this in the Bible.
Romans 6:6-10 says (Emphasis mine):
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
Once for all. A definitive statement of fact. Therefore, no penance I do completes the payment for my sin. Yes, there are consequences for all actions. But, either my sin is completely forgiven through Jesus’ death on the cross, or it isn’t.
My failure to forgive myself and instead wallow in self-flagellation is more about my pride and belief system than anything else.
Do I believe God’s Word? Or not.
Inward forgiveness also requires daily choices to believe, accept, and walk in God’s complete vertical forgiveness. It’s not a one-and-done event either. The enemy of our souls would love to keep us stuck in the self-flagellation cycle. It’s where he does his best work.
What do you believe about these avenues of forgiveness?
Where do you struggle with forgiveness? What choices do you have?
It’s easy to think, “Choice?! What choice do I have in all of this!?” It may be hard to see. But you have a choice in all avenues of forgiveness. Finding it hard to see?