If you have read this blog for any amount of time or know me personally, you know my story and the testimony of my marriage. The obstacles that we faced were big but our God was bigger. A little under three and a half years ago my husband, Joe, got sober and our life began to change.
I’ve shared before how sobriety didn’t fix everything. Honestly, it fixed nothing, it just allowed for things to be fixed. That was a shock and a letdown for me. I didn’t realize how much work still needed to be done; that the work had indeed just begun.
One of the obstacles, or giants, that we ran into was the giant of pornography. I will never forget when my newly sober husband, came to me and confessed that he had begun to struggle with a pornography addiction. I was so hurt and frustrated. I had fought so long for this man and for what? For this?! For him to go and look at someone that I could never be, a standard that I could never live up to? Didn’t it matter that I stayed? Didn’t it matter that I loved him through the darkest time of his life? Didn’t I matter?
My mind was flooded with pain and betrayal but his face was devastated with his own hurt. I could see the disappointment in himself, the shame and the guilt. My flesh wanted to yell and scream and make him hurt as deeply as I did. But God’s Spirit in me would not allow it. I was called to love him like Jesus did, even there, even in that.
That’s not to say that we didn’t have conversations about it and that I didn’t express my hurt but it wasn’t fueled by anger. They were from a place of love and concern for him, not myself.
I wish that I could say that after that first confession he was free and never struggled again. That’s not our story. There were a number of times that I received a call while he was out of town that he had stumbled again. Each time hurt more than the last but this wasn’t about me, it was about him getting set free. Each time was a chance to pray and speak truth and encourage, examine triggers and put safeguards in place. Each time was an opportunity to show grace, to be a safe haven.
This isn’t about getting a pat on the back or some sort of recognition, this is a picture of scripture in action. Had I done what I wanted to do, what I had every right to do (by the world’s standards) it would have gotten more and more difficult for him to be honest and the temptation to hide would have gotten stronger and stronger. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, not just by helping the needy or writing the check but by forgiving the way that He forgives, by being a safe place, a haven, a sanctuary.
“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
- Colossians 3:13 NLT
I have a short list of verses that I would rather have not been written. You know the type, the ones that cut deeper than the rest, the ones that you wish you never would have read because once you do you are responsible to act. This was one of those for me. God lead me to it in Joe’s addiction when quite frankly I didn’t want to forgive. Forgiving felt like him getting off the hook.
But when I read this verse I realized that it was God’s forgiveness that made all the difference for me. I didn’t deserve it. God knows I didn’t deserve it! Jesus took what I deserved. It was my body that should have been broken, my flesh that should have been stripped from my bones, my hands and feet that should have been nailed. Not His! He took it for me. He forgave me when I didn’t deserve it and that changed everything. So who was I to withhold forgiveness from another?
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
- James 5:16 NLT
This concept is a two-way street. The one who sinned has to humble themselves and confess but the one that hears must pray fervently, as the NKJV says. That’s a word we don’t hear often in our day-to-day lives: fervently. What does it look like to pray fervently? According to Merriam-Webster, fervent is exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling. Synonyms include impassioned and fiery.
How can you pray fervently if you are thinking about yourself—about your pain, your hurt, your cost? You can’t forgive if you are still thinking about you. We serve a God that forgives again and again and again and again. We serve a God that is our greatest cheerleader, our number one encourager. Our God rejoices every time that we get back up, every time that we try again. He casts our sins into the sea of forgetfulness and beckons us to approach his perfect and holy throne boldly to receive grace and mercy. That is the Kingdom that we are ambassadors for. That is the way in which we are to forgive.
We live in a world where cancel culture reigns supreme, where everyone is offended by everything that makes them feel a certain way. We are called to be different, Church! We are called to love and to forgive as God does. We are called to be a place of sanctuary for the weary and the tired and the lost. We are to look like our Daddy, even here, even when it hurts. Because that, my dear friends, is what will make all the difference.
Written by Amanda Strauser