Whether our failures were moral, relational, or professional in nature, we all have regrets over decisions we’ve made and the consequences they brought into our lives. While we can’t undo our past, we can choose whether we let ourselves dwell on it. As a friend of mine regularly reminds me, “Be a windshield guy, not a rearview mirror guy.”
When Satan tries to remind you of your past guilt, speak the truth of the Scripture out loud: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. We are not perfect, but our hope is in the perfect track record of Jesus. As the old hymn says, we are “dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.”
How does wallowing in our past failures affect our marriages? For one thing, dwelling on past failures and allowing ourselves to drown in shame will impact our effectiveness in both horizontal and vertical relationships. We will remain self-focused rather than others-focused. We will stumble over our own insecurities and doubt rather than loving others boldly and freely. And if we are consumed with shame, we will (like Adam and Even in the garden) hide from God when we should run to Him. In our relationship with God, we’ll get suck in confession/repentance mode and fail to also give Him adoration and thanksgiving.
Secondly, it’s hard to convince someone that you’ve forgiven them if they haven’t forgiven themselves. The “guilty” party assumes that if they are still ashamed of themselves, then probably their spouse (and maybe God) is, too. But Psalm 103:11-12 tells us, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
Do you believe this great news? If so, it will free you from guilt over past failures and allow your marriage to move forward on a solid foundation of forgiveness.
No one escapes childhood — or any stage of life, for that matter — without some scrapes and bruises. And I’m not speaking of physical pain, but the kind that really hurts: emotional jabs and scars. We are hurt by friends, family, employers, and sometimes just by the circumstances of life.
A young man has a career-ending journey the first game of his senior football season in high school. First Blow. As if this isn’t bad enough, his father offhandedly says, “Well, I didn’t really think you were cut out for college ball anyway.” Second Blow. And to top it off, his “devoted” girlfriend dumps him for the guy that took his place on the football team. Third Blow.
A young woman is making great strides in pursuit of her dream of singing professionally. But during her sophomore year in college, another girl transfers in and edges her out of every solo performance from then on until graduation. First Blow. Then, her professor tells her she might want to consider another major. Second Blow. Just when she thinks she has her footing, her parents’ divorce causes her college fund to dry up overnight. Third Blow.
Bitterness over getting a “raw deal” or over the hurtful things that were said and done to use can create an immense burden on our souls. Most of us understand that difficult things will happen throughout our lives, but we find it harder to deal with and let go of the hurtful things that came at the hands (or mouths) of other people. I believe this is why Jesus told us, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” I believe Jesus told us to do this so that we would be released from the shackles of bitterness and victimhood.
[Important Note: Neither Grace Marriage nor Jesus is saying you should tolerate abuse or ongoing infidelity within your marriage. In the case of your abuse, your primary concern is getting to a safe place. A godly counselor can help you find healing in both of these painful instances.]
How does the the thief of Past Hurts rob our marriages in the present day? When we’re bitter toward someone, it will usually spill out on innocent bystanders. We put up protective walls around our heart to keep out the offender, but those same walls keep out the ones we love the most. Also, if we learn to forgive the hurts of the past, we stand a much better chance of forgiving our spouse in the present.
While some of us just seem to be natural-born worrywarts, all of us fall prey to the cycle of worry at one time or another. We worry about small things and big things:
Will I bomb my big presentation?
Will my 16-year-old be in an accident the first time I let him drive away on his own?
Will I ever be able to have children?
While it’s true that we will all face trouble to varying degrees during our lifetimes, most of the things we worry about never come to pass. We can end up unwittingly multiplying our suffering by agonizing (again and again) over various scenarios or hypotheticals — each of which will either play out once or not at all!
And while it’s very common for us to worry about things over which we have no control, sometimes the things over which we do have a measure of control are the scariest!
What will happen if I take that leap of faith and open my own business? Will we starve before I can get it off the ground?
What if I take some time off work to stay home with my kids? Won’t I lose all of my business sense and marketability?
What if I finally step foot in the counselor’s office? Will I find out once and for all that I’m a hopeless case?
Worries like these can affect our marriages more than we realize, especially when they remain unspoken. I encourage you to open up to your spouse about your concerns for the future, and to ask them about their own. This is where true intimacy begins — when you hear your mate’s deepest fears and worries, and you’re able to say, “We’ve got this! I’m on your team and I’m not going anywhere, no matter what!”
The future is inherently uncertain, but these things are certain:
God will never leave us nor forsake us – Hebrews 13:5.
Nothing will separate us from God’s love that is found in Christ Jesus – Romans 8:35-39.
He is with us always, to the end of the age – Matthew 28:20.
We will have trouble in this world, but Jesus has overcome. He brings us peace in the midst of our trouble – John 16:33.
With God before and behind us and our spouse at our side, we have great reason for confidence as we seek to battle the shame or pain of the past, and as we look to whatever the future may bring!