Forgiveness is a necessary part of life, for the simple reason that “we all stumble in many things” (James 3:2).
When Jacob died, all of Joseph’s older brothers approached him with the plea to forgive their wicked treatment of him so many years before- even though Joseph had long forgiven them. They wanted to be sure.
In a similar way, without the cleansing power of forgiveness, at best marriage will be very hard duty. At worst it will be a disaster. No matter how hard two people try to love and please each other continuously, they will fail.
With failure comes hurt- and the ultimate relief for hurt is the soothing salve of forgiveness.
The key to maintaining an open, intimate, and happy marriage is to ask for and grant forgiveness quickly.
About the process of forgiveness, Jesus said,
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).
His instruction is clear: God insists that we are to be forgivers, and marriage- probably more than any other relationship- presents frequent opportunities to practice.
To forgive means to give up resentment against or relinquish the desire to punish. By an act of your will, you let the person off the hook.
As a Christian, you do not do this under duress, scratching and screaming in protest.
Rather, you do it with a gentle spirit and love, as Paul urged,
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).
The real test of your ability to forgive comes on the battlefield when you and your spouse are ticked off and angry with each other.
That is when you need the power of the Holy Spirit and must ask, “God, please help me here. I need to move to forgiveness, because You have commanded me to do so. Please empower me and enable me to give up the right I think I have to punish my spouse and to forgive”.
This takes practice. You need to learn how to keep your relationship healthy by not burning excessive emotional energy on resentment. Grant forgiveness and ask for it freely- even when you don’t feel like it.