Here I was, extending forgiveness with one hand while holding bitterness tightly behind my back with the other.
PART 1: Overcoming Her Sexual Past »
Now I was finally able to see things from a better perspective. A short time ago friends told me about their journey to the top of a building that looks over a city. Suddenly the city made sense to them in a whole new way. They could see how the attractions and landmarks related to one another and they could see how the neighborhoods flowed from one to the next. With a new perspective they gained a whole new understanding.
And in that way God, through the Bible, had allowed me to see the situation through His eyes. And how different it suddenly looked!
Now I saw God as sovereign, as the One who orchestrates all the events of life into one great Purpose that somehow brings Him glory. I saw God as the one who had been so gravely hurt and offended by my wife's sin. I saw God as the One who had been just as hurt by my own sin, not only in a lifetime's worth of lustful and ungodly thoughts but also in a decade of pride in my own supposed purity.
And now I saw God as the one who had forgiven my wife through the blood of his Son. The Bible told me that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). It told me that He had put away her sin and that He would never bring it up again, never even remember it again.
It told me that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). I suddenly saw my wife as cleansed from all her sin.
I thought of the phrase "white as snow" and searched for it in the Bible. There was God, the Ancient of Days, sitting in heaven. "His clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head was like pure wool." So holy was he, that He was clothed in the purest, brightest white. There was His angel whose "appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow." Only a holy angel, clothed in the same white of holiness, could come before the Lord.
And there was my wife who had cried, "wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." And there again was Christ, standing by my wife saying to her, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." She was pure and holy and beautiful and free from sin and impurity and defilement. She was my wife, beautiful and holy, cleansed from sin, with the past so far behind her that it would never be seen again.
And I tossed down my filthy rags and asked God to forgive me for ever seeing her as less than this — less than perfectly, fully, wholly clean.
What's the Real Question?
So all along, it seems that the question at the heart of all of my pain was one I could never have answered. At the heart of it all I wanted to know, "God, how could you do this to me? How could you take from me something so precious? Something that ought to have been mine?"
And God responded in His own gentle way, "Son, how could you do this to me?"
Like Job I had to say, "I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know" (Job 42:3). I had walked into the courtroom of God, looked the judge in the eye, and accused Him of injustice. And that judge, who could so easily have thrown me from His courtroom, had gently rebuked me and led me to the law where I saw that I was the criminal. I was the one who had done wrong. I was the one who needed forgiveness.
Cast It Off!
It was not until I reached the end of myself that God did His greatest work. The Bible tells you to "cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you" (Psalm 55:22). Having reached the end of myself, I cast myself on God, upon His mercy, and He was true to His word. He gave me hope and joy.
He did not answer my ultimate question, the big why? and I have learned that I have no right to demand an answer of Him. An answer can only be as good as the question it addresses and I soon learned that I had asked an inherently bad question. What I really needed was not to demand answers of God but to ask Him, as a Father, to teach me, to instruct me. And even though I asked the wrong question, He gave me the right answer: "The judge of all the earth shall do right" (Genesis 18:25).
If you can identify with that Real Question, if you cannot find freedom from your husband's or wife's sexual history, here is my encouragement for you: Cast your burden on the Lord. Read these words again, as if for the first time:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Do you want rest for your tired soul? Then cast your burden upon the Lord. He can bear it for you. He is gentle, but He is strong. Give it to Him. Then run back through this article, reading the Scriptures I refer to and asking God to show you if your own poor and self-centered theology has trapped you in an endless cycle of bitterness. He wants you to be free. He will make you free (John 8:36).
I have often wondered about the images and thoughts that would fill my head at my lowest moments. I've come to the conclusion that it must have been Satan putting those images in my head. I don't really know how such things work, how Satan or his minions go about their work, but the circumstances were just too suspicious to believe otherwise.
No sooner would I lose myself in a time of worship than those images would spontaneously appear in my mind. When a large decision was looming or when a time of great spiritual importance was drawing near, there would be the images again, and there I would find myself battling for joy as I recalled my wife's past. It seems clear to me that Satan knew my vulnerability and used it against me. He is no fool.
Yet I came to realize that he could only use against me what I allowed him to by virtue of my own bad theology. What he was using against me was a giant gap in my understanding of forgiveness and grace. He was only too pleased to push himself into this gap and to exploit it for my pain and his joy.
It worked well. But now when he returns, I have armed myself with what I know can defeat him every time: truths from the Word of God:
"Satan, you may see my wife as dirty and defiled, but Jesus Christ says that she is dressed in pure, white garments of holiness. She is beautiful to God and undefiled to me. God says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Are you now bringing a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Do you, then, dare to condemn? Just go away."
Copyright 2009 Zach Bradford. All rights reserved.