The Power of Forgiveness in Marriage

My wife, Virginia, and I have been married for 62 years! And in that time, I’ve become convinced that marriage is perhaps our most important human institution, mirroring as it does the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:25-33, John 3:29). But marriage is also the place where sin and doubt can have the most profound consequences.

One sin certain to choke any marital or family relationship is being unforgiving. It’s difficult to comprehend the power of failing to forgive! Years, even decades, after a person was wronged, he or she can hold on to bitterness so tightly that it’s as if the offense happened yesterday.

The great writer Leo Tolstoy thought he was getting his marriage off on the right foot when he asked his fiancée, Sonya, to read his diaries, detailing all of his indiscretions. Instead, the author’s confession sowed the seeds for a marriage that would be held together by bitterness, not love. Sonya wrote in her diary, “When he kisses me I’m always thinking, ‘I’m not the first woman he has loved.’”

Some of what she read she could forgive, but not his affair with a woman who continued to work on the Tolstoy estate. Another diary entry notes, “She allures him just as powerfully now as she did all those years ago….” And Sonya wrote that when her rival was 80 years old! Certainly Tolstoy was wrong in his sin, but Sonya’s unforgiving emotions blinded her, destroying all love for her husband for half a century.

God calls us to a higher level of forgiveness, one that understands our own brokenness before Him – and forgives others because we were first forgiven. Instead of holding on to bitterness, we’re urged to let it go. Allow God to soften your heart and forgive others because you were first forgiven! As Jesus taught in Matthew 6:12,

 “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

In fact, I urge you to pray that God would reveal areas where forgiveness hasn’t been felt or expressed – and give you the strength you need to make it happen. Not just for the good of your marriage, but for all your relationships! 

May you be blessed by our Savior’s power of forgiveness – no matter what, and no matter to whom. He has forgiven His bride, and has given you the power of forgiveness within your own marriage or in any other relationship near and dear to your heart!