Coming to Terms With the Past
“I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.”
A pastor friend told the story of a couple who had come to him for counseling. The couple had been married 40 or so years, and they were both plagued with guilt. They hadn’t become Christians until their later years, and, prior to that, they had both lived sexually immoral lives. Although they had been faithful to each other during their marriage, their past dips into immorality were now making them feel guilty for enjoying sex with each other.
The pastor thought for a moment, then asked the couple to name their favorite hymn. They both said at the same time, “It Is Well With My Soul.” So the pastor told them to go home and either listen to or sing the hymn every night before they went to bed.
A week later the couple returned to the pastor’s office. They told him that they had felt foolish at first, but they had sung their favorite hymn together each night. The wife blushed and the husband got teary-eyed as he told the pastor, “When we got to the part that says, ‘My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O, my soul!’ well… after all these years we feel fresh and squeaky clean and new all over again.”
Throughout the Bible, God’s relationship with Israel was tested over and over by Israel’s sin. The book of Jeremiah talks about the horrible result of that sin. When the prophet received the prophecy recorded in chapter 33, Jerusalem was under siege from the invading Babylonians. Soon God would allow his people to be carried away from their land into captivity and their land to be destroyed. Like the couple who wrestled with memories of past sins, the Israelites would live with heartrending images of how their unfaithfulness to God had resulted in the burning and pillaging of their land. Their city would be filled with dead bodies.
But the story doesn’t end there. The prophet went on to say that because of God’s immense love, God would heal Israel’s pain, cleanse the people from their sin, and restore them to abundant peace and security. “Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it,” God said (Jeremiah 33:9).
Likewise, God does not want us to be forever burdened with our past sins. “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” says Romans 6:18. And Romans 6:4 promises, “We were therefore buried with him . . . in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
So too is the promise for our marriages, which so often bend under the load of sins, both past, and present. We must be honest with ourselves, with the Lord and with each other about memories or habits or activities that may be eroding our relationship and then deal with them. But we can do so in the joy of knowing that in Christ we can find forgiveness, restoration, and a new start.
- What are some things from the past that each of us is still struggling with?
- How are they affecting our marriage?
- How can we talk about those struggles in a way that builds up our marriage?