In Matthew 18:21 Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother when he sins against him. Jesus’s answer, according to many Bible translations, is 70 times seven.
In reality, I have forgiven my ex-husband more than 490 times but I still have a long way to go. I still harbour anger against him for betraying me and breaking up our family.
It is easy to say ‘I forgive’, but it is so much harder to actually mean it.
In late November 2009 my husband announced out of the blue that he wanted to end our marriage of 17 years. I had not anticipated this as we had not been fighting and were in the process of building our dream house together.
It was even more of a shock when I discovered pictures of him and another woman on Facebook, and intercepted a mobile phone bill that contained hundreds of texts and calls to one particular number.
He denied having an affair to me, my sister and my mother. It was only at a marriage counselling session that he finally admitted that was the reason he wanted out of our relationship. He was only going through the motions of counselling – not to save our marriage but so ‘I would get over him better’.
He moved out and my life spiralled into a black hole of despair. Our pre-teen children were confused and scared by what was going on.
I couldn’t eat or sleep, cried constantly and contemplated ending my life. But God had other plans. A phone call to someone who had gone through a similar marriage breakdown made me realise I had a lot to live for – my children needed me. And they were going through their own grief, anger and pain.
God led me to three women who I now consider my best friends. My KYB (Know Your Bible) group prayed with and for me and shared their stories of forgiveness. I remember sitting in my bed praying for guidance.
I was flicking through my Bible and suddenly passages leapt off the pages. I wrote the verses down and even today they still resonate, particularly Proverbs 6:32 –
‘A man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself’. Because my ex-husband was not a Christian, 1 Corinthians 7:13,15 also spoke to me: ‘And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.’ There were uplifting texts, too, such as Philippians 4:13 – ‘I can do all this through him who gives me strength’.
These and other verses reminded me that I was not alone, that God was with me, and that ultimately he would deal with my ex-husband in his own way and time. My faith was something I clung to as I sought help to cope with my feelings of despair. Forgiveness was something both my pastor and counsellor talked to me about.
But how do you forgive someone who has broken what I believe is a sacred vow of marriage, who has lied to your face, told you they don’t love you, that they need a change and you now mean nothing to them?
The author’s name has been withheld, however this is a true account by a member of the LCA.