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I am finding it hard to forgive my alcoholic husband who has committed adultery. I am also finding it hard to forgive the women, some of whom I know. How can I forgive and move on with my life?
Thank you for sharing your deeply distressing situation and asking for advice about forgiveness.
Firstly it is my hope that you profess to be a Christian. By this we mean that you are following Christ and have yourself been forgiven by Jesus' saving death and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sin and the promise of new life. This is what it means to be a Christian: a child of God, forgiven, adopted into God's family, receiver of the Holy Spirit, heaven bound.
Secondly I am so sorry to hear of your situation with your husband. It sounds like a really horrible and distressing situation that must have caused you much grief. I pray that you will know God's comfort and peace in these difficult times.
It is encouraging to hear that you are wanting to forgive, even though this may be difficult. This is a sign that the Holy Spirit is convicting you and leading you into freedom.
In terms of forgiveness, the Bible commands that we should be:
Forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13)
Indeed Jesus taught us how to pray in the Lord's prayer that as we ask for forgiveness that we should also forgive others:
"and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil...
...For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses". (Matthew 6:12-15)
Jesus seems to say that if we do not forgive then God will not forgive us, or how we forgive others will be how God forgives us.
Jesus develops this idea later on in his teachings. Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone:
Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:21-22)
It is understood that at the time of Jesus it was acceptable to forgive someone a few times (2-3 times) but after that you did not have to forgive them and you could bear a grudge against them. Peter used the number seven to show that he was being generous, but Jesus said seventy times seven! Jesus would have used this term to describe an infinite amount, far in excess of what is expected. It would be like us today saying you need to forgive them a billion, trillion, gazillion, infinite number of times! Jesus then tells this parable:
"Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, 'Pay what you owe.' So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." (Matthew 18:23-35)
The key of this parable is to realise that we have done so much wrong against God. The Church has been called the bride of Christ but we also committed adultery against God with other false gods. Before I knew Christ I was guilty, as were you, of committing many sins and terrible things against God, and yet he forgives us freely of all of the past, present, and future sins that we commit. How then can we not forgive others, when they sin against God, when Jesus died to forgive us!
We need to realise the great sinners we are and how we were before Christ set us free. We need to show this forgiveness in the way we forgive others.
There is no easy way to do this. I think you need to pray for God's help to do so and it may take time. You need to be aware that the Bible also says you are fully forgiven for your sin if you confess them to God. You can be forgiven for not forgiving. You need to hold Jesus' teaching about forgiveness and not forgetting the rest of the Scriptures that Jesus will forgive us for anything we ask, as difficult as this may be. Consider these verses about Jesus forgiving us:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16)
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame."... For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:9-13)
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)
It is also important to note that forgiveness and reconciliation are different things. You may never have a good relationship after reconciliation with your husband or the women but that doesn’t mean you cannot forgive them and move on. They may not forgive you nor want to reconcile but you can forgive them. Keep on praying for the strength to forgive them. Keep on asking God to give you peace.
In summary, this will not be an easy road, but with God's grace I pray that you will know his peace. Be encouraged that you are aware of the un-forgiveness and that you want to get help in this area. It shows that God is working in you.
Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:
- Colossians 3:13
- Matthew 6:12-15
- Matthew 18:21-35
- 1 John 1:8-10
- Romans 10:9-13
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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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