Anger, Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage

The Poison of Unforgiveness

I heard it once said that Christians are furthest away from the mind and heart of Christ when they are found to possess an unforgiving spirit. Given the message of the Gospel and the themes of reconciliation and forgiveness woven throughout Scripture, it’s easy to see how this mindset runs contrary to what should be at the heart of our identities as born again believers.

As I reflect on my own life experiences and the times I’ve withheld forgiveness because of pride, stubbornness and a host of other illegitimate reasons, there exists a deep sense of regret and sadness. Because of God’s grace and longsuffering, I know I have been forgiven, but that doesn’t erase the memory of my missteps and the damage done to my testimony. So much of my unforgiveness stemmed from the sense of power it gave me over those whom I perceived to have offended me. As long as I refused forgiveness over the supposed “offense”, then I had a reason to feel superior. My unforgiveness took many forms. Ignoring the individual completely, not responding to initiated communication efforts on their end, or speaking badly about the person behind his/her back were some of the most frequently used tactics in my arsenal of grievance weapons.

In the months that led to my marriage coming to a grinding halt, the most important person in my life had become myself. I was a master at defending my own actions, justifying my sin and finding ways to use petty infractions that existed only in my head as a way to belittle, disparage and marginalize my precious wife. I had become so easily offended by Amy that she found herself walking on eggshells most days in an effort to avoid incurring my wrath. “How dare my wife not live up to my expectations!”, I would think. I would punish her through deliberately spoken hurtful comments or by giving her the silent treatment so as to make her feel as though she didn’t exist. Sadly, my unloving words and deeds did far more damage than I could have anticipated. In time, Satan would use these actions as a means to construct the foundation of what would become the basis of our divorce… bitterness and unforgiveness. It wasn’t until I started walking through the pain of losing my wife that I began to understand how serious an offense unforgiveness was.

For years I had allowed the spirit of unforgiveness to reign in my heart. When it had finally run its course, I found myself on the receiving end of a decade’s worth of pent up wrath and hostility. On one hand, I couldn’t blame Amy for the path she decided to take. After all, I had created an environment that was ripe for this type of disaster. But the closer I grew to the Lord and the more I matured in my faith, the more I realized how contrary unforgiveness was to a heart that claimed to belong to Christ. While she denied this truth at the time, my covenant wife would eventually come to discern this as well.

At its very nature, unforgiveness is rebellion against God. It is a deliberate refusal to obey a direct order. When we choose to withhold forgiveness, it is the result of a complete disconnect with heart of the Gospel. How can we ever think our relationship with Jesus is where it needs to be if we have erected walls of division with one another, or have fortified our internal defenses so as to prevent our spouse from reconciling? It is so vitally important to understand that when we choose not to forgive, we are taking a dangerous risk. Matthew 6:15 states that if we do not forgive others of their sins, the Father will not forgive us of our sins. We don’t need a Bible commentary to understand what is plainly written here. The warning to believers is quite sobering. May this unholy spirit never find a place in our hearts.

Perhaps you have been so deeply hurt by your husband or wife that you cannot see a path forward to forgive. If this is your present condition, do not be dismayed. There was a point in my life shortly after our divorce that I questioned the capacity I had to forgive Amy. Thankfully, I came to realize that I didn’t need to rely on my own strength. The Lord had promised to never leave or forsake me and I knew I had access to His power. He had provided everything I needed to overcome this challenge of unforgiveness. It was all right there contained in His Holy Word.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

Forgiveness is absolutely possible, but only if you allow God to change your heart. You must first submit to His authority and acknowledge that your unwillingness to forgive is sin. Once again in His will and under His submission, allow the Lord to transform your heart and mind by feasting on His Word as well as going to Him daily in prayer. The more intimate your relationship with the Lord is, the easier you will find it to forgive. The spiritually mature believer who walks in close fellowship with Christ will acknowledge that as forgiven sinners, we have absolutely no right to withhold forgiveness from anyone, regardless of the offense. Remember this truth as you strive to live in accordance with the teachings and admonitions of Scripture.

Divorce, Marriage

Discerning the Truth

In this Purposed Marriage podcast episode, we discuss the role social media can play in shaping and influencing our thoughts and perspectives related to our own marriages. It’s a relevant and timely topic given the pervasive and powerful influence various online social platforms have over our opinions and worldview.

Divorce, Faith, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Marriage

A Letter to God

During the painful and lonely days of standing for my marriage, there were times when I felt I couldn’t go on another day. The heartache of knowing my wife had left the marriage and the strained relationship that now existed between my children and I were oftentimes too burdensome to bare. It was during these times I poured my energies into writing personal journal entries. As I reflect back on the writings, so much of it could be described as me simply voicing my thoughts and feelings to God. I would ask questions of the Lord and wondered if He was even hearing me. From the standpoint of being able to release the pain and vocalize the suffering I was experiencing inwardly, these writing exercises proved to be quite therapeutic and emotionally beneficial. The most comforting moments came when the Holy Spirit would remind me of His promises as He directed my heart back towards the Word and His eternal message of hope.

The following is from a journal entry of mine dated July 13, 2016. I submit it here to serve as an example of the hurt and emptiness I was experiencing that the Lord, in His faithfulness, eventually delivered me through.

It has been a week now since I’ve seen the boys and Amy. And while I did go to the house yesterday to drop off a meal, I didn’t see anyone. Since they returned, Amy hasn’t initiated any contact. I feel abandoned, isolated and completely forsaken. Lord, I call upon you now. Be my all in all. May I depend solely on You. Bring me to a deeper understanding of your love. Help me to know and love You more. All I have is in You. Hear my cries oh Lord. Do not cast me aside and forsake me. Father, I seek your will. To lead, love and serve like a Christian husband and father should. I overhear conversations from the lost world as they speak of divorce, visitation rights, and child support. It’s wicked. You do not will these things in our lives. How long will Amy hold onto anger and unforgiveness against me? Lord, touch her heart. Right now it is like stone. Only You can change this. Help me Lord. I hurt all day and night.

Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7

There were many times I did not feel cared for, valued or loved. When I found myself in those circumstances, it was usually the result of a negative interaction between my spouse and myself. Too often, instead of going to the Lord and spending time in His Word, I would dwell on the things that were said or done and retreat to a place that existed in my mind where the reality of my suffering took center stage. Thankfully, even in those moments, the Holy Spirit was there to constantly remind me of the 24/7 access to His promises and assurances ever present in His Holy Word. When I made the conscious decision to stop thinking about my circumstances and focus instead on the blessings I’d already been given, as well as the hope I had in Christ, the sooner my outlook, perspective and emotional mood changed.

As I began to regularly journal, the Lord would oftentimes guide me past the pain as the words would flow from my pen. The more I wrote and released the inner suffering, the more I sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit as I felt the weight of my burden being lightened as He took the yolk upon Himself. What a Savior we serve! Not only is He the Wonderful Counselor, but He is a real friend and encouragement when we need Him the most. Standers, as you suffer for the sake of Christ, remember that He is always right there beside you. He desires to hear and listen to you. Whether you reach out to Him through handwritten entries in your journal or speak to Him in times of prayer, I encourage you to fully give your burden over to Jesus. He is the only one able to sufficiently minister to your heart and mind during these times of trial and tribulation. In Him there is hope and rest!

In Christ,
Tommy Larson