May 17, 2010
Catch the Little Foxes
"Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32 (NAS)
Holly has a hard time parking in the garage. It sits at a tricky angle, and she has run into the garage wall quite a few times. In fact, her van has plenty of scrapes and dents to prove it. Her husband Dan could choose many ways to respond—he could be angry every time, or he could berate her, but that's not his reaction. He has repeatedly chosen to forgive Holly. Their situation is an example of one of the "little foxes" mentioned in Song of Solomon 2:15: "Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming!" (NLT). Theirs is a situation that could have become divisive, but because of Dan's gracious response, this "little fox" did not ruin their "vineyard of love."
Do any "little foxes" come to mind when you think about your own marriage? Maybe your spouse was abrupt when speaking to you, didn't give you the attention you wanted, wasn't responsive to intimacy, forgot your anniversary, or got home late without calling recently. Everyday married life presents countless occasions to choose to be offended or to choose to forgive, as today's key verses instructs us.
Without forgiveness, we'll find ourselves becoming irritated, hard-hearted, bitter, and disconnected from our spouse. A friend taught me one way to make sure this doesn't happen: The moment I feel offended, I can choose to forgive. If my spouse says something that makes me mad or hurt, I need to begin praying at that very moment to forgive. Doing this allows God to begin softening our hearts immediately.
In addition to dealing with the little foxes of small offenses, we will sometimes need to forgive our spouses for big offenses. We might be betrayed by unfaithfulness, our trust might be rattled by secrets our spouses keep, or our feelings might be stomped on by spouses who do the same hurtful things over and over again. If one quality makes a Christian marriage stand out from the rest, it's our choice to forgive our spouse. We might feel as if we're ignoring the offense or giving our stamp of approval by choosing to forgive. Our pride and fear might rise up: What if the offense happens again and again? Will I be taken for a fool? What will others think?
Choosing to forgive is an act of obedience to God's commands. Forgiveness entails choosing, often over and over again, not to dwell on the offense because that would allow a root of bitterness to grow in our hearts. But let's be clear: If you're dealing with a sin issue in marriage, choose to forgive but still spend the needed time talking about the situation, praying separately and together, and seeking godly counsel.
Forgiveness is a one of the most essential attitudes for bringing unity and oneness to marriage, and it flows from our relationship with Christ.
Dear Lord, Cover our marriage with a spirit of forgiveness. I confess that sometimes I want to hold a grudge, to retaliate, or to be right, rather than forgive. Lord, I don't want the enemy to get a foothold in our marriage, so through the power of the Holy Spirit, I slam the door on Satan by choosing to forgive my spouse. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
For more about forgiveness, visit Lysa TerKeurst's blog, where Holly Good, Lysa's assistant, will be blogging today.
Adapted from What a Wife Needs from Her Husband by Melanie Chitwood
Visit Melanie's blog What Matters Most
What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood
Dwell on Christ's forgiveness of your offenses.
Say, "I forgive you" today.
Say, "I'm sorry" today.
Choose not to dwell on your spouse's hurtful words or actions.
Don't hold a grudge or seek revenge.
Choose your friends wisely. Take care around others who bad-mouth their spouses.
The moment you feel offended, begin to pray that the Holy Spirit will work through you to forgive your spouse.
What "little foxes" come to mind concerning your marriage?
Have you chosen to be offended and hurt? Or gracious and forgiving?
Have you been avoiding talking to your spouse about a big offense? Can you choose to today to take the first step in talking about this situation, praying about it, and perhaps seeing a godly counselor?
Colossians 3:12-13, "Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." (NLT)
© 2010 by Melanie Chitwood. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G, Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
Originally published Monday, 17 May 2010.