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I Thought I Would Never Forgive

Written By Deborah Lee, Singapore

When I got married and moved in with my husband’s family, there were many conflicts. I was immature and hot-tempered, and exchanged many harsh words with my in-laws. I continued to anger my in-laws for days after heated quarrels, and eventually my mother-in-law called me a “nobody’s child,” emphasizing how unwanted, unloved, and unwelcome I was.

After a year of this—my husband often siding with his parents—I left the house on a bad note. My departure supposedly marked an end to the verbal abuse I had suffered. However, I carried with me a lot of anger and hurt. These had been accumulating since the day I got married and left my parents’ home to stay with my in-laws, all the way to the day I was called a “nobody’s child.” The insults left a deep wound in my heart. In my darkest moments, I even wished misfortune upon my husband’s family.

During this time, I stayed with a church friend. My pastor and mentor continued to follow up with me concerning my family struggles, and they constantly urged me to bring them before God. In the quiet home where I now was, I began searching through God’s Word. The more I searched, the more I was captivated by God’s promises for us during bad times, He was constantly reminding me of how He keeps track of my tears (Psalm 56:8) and how His plans for me are good. In those times of desperation where I felt extremely vulnerable, God’s assurance of my future held me close to Him. Through His Word, God continually led me to a place of repentance and surrender.

But I still struggled internally. Even though I was no longer staying with my husband’s family, phone calls with my husband triggered memories and anger again. My husband continued to side with his parents and insisted that I owed them an apology. It felt like everyone accused me of being the problem.

 

God Is My Defender

Through all this, I wrestled with God. I kept telling Him, “It’s not fair that I have to go through all this. I did not marry to be bullied. Everyone has a defender except for me. Who will hear me? Why can’t I just escape it all?” I wished that I had a different battle, something I could either manage or escape. But so often in life, we cannot choose our battles.

As I wrestled with God, I was reminded of Romans 8:31-32. If God is for me, who can be against me? He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for me—how will He not also graciously give me all things? As I read those words in the Bible, I felt as if it were God speaking to me, assuring me that He is with me, and would give me the strength I needed to overcome this situation. As I continued reading in verses 34-35, I was reminded that there is no condemnation in Christ, and nothing can separate us from God’s love.

I began to see that God was not being unfair. I began to sense that He was indeed with me. Even if everyone in the world were to condemn me, because of Christ’s sacrifice, God does not condemn me. Nothing can separate me from God’s love. As I leaned into the words in Romans 8, I began to see my situation in a different light. I began to see the purpose in my hurt. Through my hurt, I experienced God’s assurance and comfort. Even if I was condemned by people around me, I found hope in God.

God had allowed these events for me to see His love for me. If I had not been failed by men, I would not have turned to God. God in His faithfulness had used events in my life to draw me back to Him and show me His blessings. I could not deny God’s sovereignty throughout these events.

 

My Struggle to Forgive

While Romans 8 comforted me, Matthew 7:3-5 convicted me. In this passage, Jesus reminds us to get rid of the plank in our own eye before accusing others of the speck in their eyes. These verses spoke to the heart of my situation. If I were to say that I was not at fault, I would obviously be lying to myself. I shouted at my in-laws instead of showing them respect. I was rude to them, and that was not pleasing to God either. These verses reminded me that, all along, I had been pointing fingers at others without paying attention to the plank in my own eye. I owed my husband’s family an apology.

I knew I needed to repent. But truth be told, it was hard for me to do so when neither my husband nor his family showed any remorse for their actions against me. They continued to insist that they were not at fault. Surely, it wouldn’t be fair if I pretended like nothing had happened and allowed them to continue to bully me.

 

Enabled by God’s Love to Forgive

Over time, God encouraged me and renewed my mind. As I continued reading the Bible, I increasingly realized that I was God’s precious child, not a defenceless “nobody’s child.” In my broken moments, I learned to anchor myself in God. I no longer needed to walk in the brokenness of unfairness, anger, and despair. Instead, I could see my situation through God’s eyes—filled with hope and purpose. I was determined not to fall back into my old self, enslaved to self-pity and hopelessness.

When I first tried apologizing to my in-laws, they remained aloof and continued to hurl words of insult and condemnation. But I held on to the promises that God had given me and persevered. And through a long period of endurance and patience, my husband and family eventually softened their hearts and accepted me as family once again.

This process involved a lot of self-denial, heartache, and pain, but God showed me that we should overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). The famous words of Martin Luther King, Jr. resonate with me. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The only way to experience forgiveness and be able to forgive is to first experience the love of God for ourselves and show others His love.

Our reconciliation eventually moved my husband to purchase a new home with me, and we had the blessing of my in-laws to live as a married couple. But more important to me than even this reconciliation, is realizing that having God in my life is the greatest good, especially in the face of conflicts or trials. None of this would have been possible if not for God’s love for me, compelling me to live a life worthy of Him and radiate His love to others. Nothing surpasses the worth of knowing God. As I see the goodness of God working in my life to redeem me from the darkness, forgiveness is made easier.

I Almost Got a Divorce

Written by Agnes Lee, Singapore

When I was younger, I used to think that I could overcome anything as long as my husband loved me. But after getting married, my husband’s poor health, among other things, almost led me to give up on my marriage.

My husband has a history of epilepsy. He experiences seizures about two to three times a year and has been hospitalized on a number of occasions. Because of his poor health, he is only able to handle simple tasks and is unable to get a job with decent pay. So on top of having to care for him physically, I also have to support him financially.

One day at work a few months after we got married, I was informed by my husband’s colleague that my husband had experienced another seizure and was waiting for the ambulance to take him to the hospital.

Although I felt anxious about his condition, I was frustrated at the inconvenience his seizure had caused me. My mind even drifted to the idea of a divorce. Nevertheless, I decided that I would hide my unhappiness. I took urgent time off from work and rushed to the hospital to attend to him.

My frustration with my husband continued to grow as we entered our second year of marriage. Not only was he not providing for our increasing finances, he wasn’t helping out at home or meeting my needs. As his wife, he demanded total submission from me; I was very stressed about not being able to live up to his expectations. And while I wanted him to be involved in housework and caring for the baby, he felt that this was not the role of husbands.

Seeing the financial and emotional burden I had to bear, well-meaning relatives encouraged me to file for a divorce. I seriously contemplated this option. But in the midst of this, my Christian mentor pointed me to Jesus. Her words changed my perspective about marriage and taught me the following three lessons:

 

  1. His Word should transform my perspective of my marriage

Submission to my husband was difficult because I felt that he was never understanding towards me. But one of the key things my mentor reminded me of was that God is the head of my household (Colossians 2:10).

When I shifted my focus from pleasing my husband to pleasing God, I realized that submitting to my husband, was in itself, an act that pleased God (Ephesians 5:22). My mentor also reminded me to press on in marriage because God had brought the both of us together (Mark 10:9) and that divorce did not please God.

Instead, I was instructed to go to God whenever I was weary (Matthew 11:28). Whenever I felt like giving up, I would cry out to God and beg Him to either deliver me from the marriage or to strengthen me. God would always comfort me, reminding me that His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect in my human weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

  1. Earthly marriage mirrors the ultimate marriage

Although there were moments I felt as though I had made a mistake in marrying my husband, God reminded me that He made no mistake when He allowed this marriage to take place.

In fact, God made earthly marriages to remind us of the upcoming eternal and perfect marriage supper of the Lamb, and to mimic His love for the church (Ephesians 5:21-30) and to be a display of God’s glory. When God designed man and woman to become one flesh in a marriage (Genesis 2:23-24, Matthew 19:4-6, Mark 10:6-9), He wanted to show how Christ and the church are one.

As I began to understand that, I started to see submission to my husband as a form of reverence for God. It became a form of worship to God. That’s when the burden of submitting to my husband became lighter. With the new perspective of how the Church—as the Bride—is to submit to God, I find it easier to submit to my earthly husband.

 

  1. God holds our future

I often feel helpless about my husband’s seizures. I’m always afraid that his condition might cause him to suffer serious permanent injury or even death. When that happens, I would have to raise my child singlehandedly.

After each attack, I would feel listless for a few days, worrying about the future. What if my husband became bedridden one day? What if his medical expenses escalated beyond our means? What if my son had to grow up without his dad by his side? What if I could not cope on my own as a single mum?

Sometimes, I wish I had married a healthy man and not him. But over time, I learned to surrender my fears to Him, allowing God to change me with His Word and for Him to take over our relationship. Through such trials, God has taught me to accept my husband for who he is—in sickness or in health—and trust that He is in charge of our welfare.

Today, we still struggle with the day to day challenges as a family and my husband still suffers from seizures occasionally. In fact, he had another attack again last month. However, the both of us have seen and experienced God’s grace in our marriage and my husband has also seen how God had changed my heart to be more yielding to him. Now, he has become more understanding towards me and no longer demands as much without sparing a thought for my feelings.

The both of us have also learned to appreciate things that are eternal and not to focus on those that are temporal. By the grace of God, my imperfect marriage has drawn us nearer to our perfect God who blesses us with unshakable hope and joy to weather through difficulties.

If Not for Her, My Life Would Have Fallen Apart

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

Whenever I recall the good things Christ has done for me, I always think of Maureen Ong, a godly woman God used to bring me into His presence. Had it not been for her, I might still be in darkness. Today, I acknowledge her as Godma.

The year was 2013. I was in my second year of marriage and staying with my in-laws. Coming from a family where I had the freedom to make my own decisions, I had a hard time adjusting to my new environment. Unlike my parents, my in-laws were involved in every decision, regardless of how big or small. Though they tried their best to treat me as part of the family, I felt like an outsider and frequently wondered if my feelings mattered. It didn’t help that my husband didn’t see anything wrong and couldn’t understand where I was coming from.

Things took a turn for the worse when my son was born. All matters pertaining to the family were handled by my parents-in-law and every time I tried to express my own ideas, I would be deemed “disrespectful”. As a result, I got into frequent quarrels with my husband and my in-laws.

One day, while having a heated argument with my husband inside our room, I voiced out that we should seek marriage counselling. My father-in-law heard me and immediately arranged for his cousin, Maureen, and her husband, a pastor, to meet us. Though my husband was not keen to undergo counselling, Maureen reached out to me. She encouraged me to share my feelings with her and was willing to guide me. We began to meet to study the Bible and I felt her genuine concern for me.

Knowing how broken I was, she was sensitive to my feelings and never reproached me harshly. Instead, she corrected me gently while showing me the value of mercy and grace. However, this angered my in-laws, who thought that she was siding with me. They would not listen to what she had to say and blamed her because they felt she was sparing me from correction. Looking back, I can see that I was at fault as well. I did not respect my in-laws and often shouted at them whenever I did not agree with their ideas.

I did not expect things to turn out the way they did. Because of me, Maureen’s good relationship with my in-laws was shattered and I felt very sad about it. However, she took the burden of this broken relationship upon herself and did not blame me for causing it. She kept affirming me of God’s truth and assured me that everything would be fine.

Initially, the hurts I had accumulated over the period of my stay with my in-laws made it hard for me to forgive them. But with Maureen’s constant encouragement from the Scriptures, healing began to take place in my heart. She showed me love and counselled me with the Word of God.

Among the passages she quoted was Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” What had happened in my life was all part of God’s plan; he had allowed it to happen to bring me to himself so that I would be complete and lacking nothing.

The other passage that impacted me was Romans 8:31-32: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” I realized that if God loved me so much that He did not spare His own Son, He would surely give me all the things that I needed to grow, and the faith to overcome all things.

Knowing that God was sovereign and in charge helped me to see things from His kingdom’s perspective. I no longer felt that my in-laws were at fault. It helped me to forgive them and move on, knowing that what had happened was part of God’s plan to set me free, and for me to know Him more and experience His presence with me.

I am glad Maureen had persisted in showing me concern and counselling me from the Word of God, which is the truth that gives life. Had I been counselled by someone who did not know God, I might not have been set free by the eternal Word of God.

Recently, in my quiet time, I came across Hebrews 10:32-36. The author wrote about how the saints had stood firm in their faith despite sufferings, insults, and persecution. They stood by the side of those who were persecuted, sympathized with those who were in chains, and joyfully accepted suffering knowing that their reward in heaven was greater.

I thought of Godma. She anchored her faith upon the Lord, did the will of God at the expense of her earthly relationship with her cousin, and allowed herself to be accused. She accepted the pain of a broken relationship without a word of complaint, having confidence in the better and more abiding relationship with God. Because she stood by me, I knew my soul was precious. Because she showed me such great confidence in God, I was assured that our heavenly Father was a greater possession than anything that we have on earth.  She assured me that God will make everything right in His time.

Today, because of Godma, I have a new perspective and identity in Christ. Now, I am less self-centered and focused on my own problems. My husband, who used to be uncaring to me, has also become more understanding. The love of God has changed the both of us. If not for God’s intervention and a mentor who walked me through the darkest moments of my life, we would have gotten a divorce. I believe, in due time, my in-laws will see the light of Jesus and reconcile with Godma.

Godma has lived up to the standards of the “older women” as described in Titus 2:3-5, and has trained me to be become a better woman at home.  She taught me how to love and respect my husband and his family.

Now, I pray that God will prepare, train, and equip me to walk with another distressed younger woman whom I might meet one day. I pray that I will endure whatever it takes, just like Godma, so that another precious soul can be saved and transformed to see the light of Jesus.

ODJ: shouting to silence

August 15, 2013 

READ: Acts 6:8-15, 7:51-60 

Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting (7:57).

Last year, during a well publicised political debate, one man repeatedly shouted his responses, talked over the other candidate’s responses and laughed as his opponent stated his case. Why did he do it? He was striving to silence the other candidate with his noise.
Stephen could relate. As the fledgling New Testament church was just taking flight, the “man full of God’s grace and power” flew straight into harm’s way as he proclaimed God’s truth to a group of religious leaders (Acts 6:8-9). None of his opponents “could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke” (v.10).

So what did they do? Much like what the religious leaders did to Jesus, they falsely accused Stephen and had him arrested (vv.11-12; Matthew 26:3-4,59-66).

Stephen, instead of trying to defend himself, simply testified about God’s work of redemption through time—culminating in Jesus (Acts 7:52). What happened next is a sad but often repeated way that some people try to resist God’s truth. The religious leaders “put their hands over their ears and began shouting” (v.57). The truth Stephen declared cut to their hearts, and so, being “heathen at heart and deaf to the truth,” they chose to silence him by stoning him (vv.51,58).

Even as he was dying, Stephen once again imitated Jesus by praying, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” (v.60; Luke 23:34). He displayed with both words and actions the power of Jesus within him.

As you proclaim the gospel you might hear angry noises from those who want to muffle your message. But Jesus says, “Tell them about Me” and “I will give you the right words” (Luke 21:13,15). Truth will ultimately trump the shouts of disbelief. —Tom Felten

MORE
Read Acts 7:58 and 13:1-9. How does it encourage you to read of the transformation of Paul and his view of what’s true?  
NEXT
What can you do to proclaim God’s truth engagingly when people try to drown you out? Why is it important that we aren’t obnoxious as we witness for Jesus? 

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