Great Marriage Means Lavish Forgiveness
About the Guest
It is impossible to experience marriage as God designed it without being liberal and lavish in forgiveness. In today's second installment of lessons he's learned throughout his 40 years of marriage, Dennis Rainey shares this and other principles with students at Southern Seminary.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
It is impossible to experience marriage as God designed it without being liberal and lavish in forgiveness. Dennis Rainey shares more lessons he’s learned in over 40 years of marriage.
Great Marriage Means Lavish Forgiveness
Bob: The wife of Billy Graham, Ruth Bell Graham, once said that a great marriage is the union of two great forgivers. Here’s Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: It is categorically impossible to experience marriage, as God designed it, without being liberal and lavish in your forgiveness of one another—Ephesians 4:32, “...forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, January 20th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. One of the lessons Dennis Rainey has learned over 40 years of marriage is a lesson about the importance of forgiveness. He’ll share about that with us today. Stay tuned.
Dennis: You know what I think we ought to do? I think we ought to get Barbara in here and see if she’s got 40 lessons.
Bob: Excuse me. Let me just say, welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition.
Dennis: I want it to be impromptu—I don’t want her to have time to prepare either.
Bob: This is the lesson you keep on learning throughout marriage; isn’t it?
Dennis: You know, this lesson here is one of the most important lessons about forgiveness—
Bob: Any recent examples you’d like to share with us?
Dennis: You know, you’ve just got to keep your closets clean. [Laughter] You know, as we started out, as broadcasters, Bob—I shared a story about some kind of tiff Barbara and I had between each other. You said, after the end of the broadcast—you turned to me and said, “Are you sure you want to share that on national radio?”
Bob: I said, “We can edit that back out,”—and this is the first week we’re on the air.
Dennis: And I said to Bob—I said, “Look, if I can’t share my humanity and our failures and show people how to apply the Bible to that, then, we don’t have a program—
Bob: We don’t have anything to say; do we?
Dennis: —because if I’ve always got to share how I did it perfectly, we’re going to run out of material real quickly.” [Laughter]
Bob: Well, what we are going to hear today is Part Two of a message that you presented when you got a chance to speak to students at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. They took a day at the beginning of the school year, and they brought the students together. They said, “Let’s spend a full day”—they put classes on hold for the day?
Dennis: I just have to say, “This is great leadership,”—not that they asked us to speak and us to be a part of it—but that they made marriage and family a priority at what is, I think, the largest seminary in the world. It is a phenomenal statement of priority; and something that has to occur, frankly, in more seminaries across the country and ought to happen in Christian colleges and universities and ought to happen in Christian schools.
We ought to take a day and celebrate marriage and family and talk about it from God’s perspective and talk about how we make it go the distance.
Bob: Yes, this was an equipping day because you spoke, Dr. Russell Moore spoke, Dr. Al Mohler spoke, C.J. Mahaney spoke. All of you were really pouring into the lives of these young men and women—many of them, in the first years of marriage, facing the challenges of seminary—trying to live on a budget while they parse their Greek vocabulary, and some of them raising kids in the middle of that.
You shared 40 lessons that you’ve learned from 40 years of marriage to Barbara. And I think we’ve gotten through the first 10 of them already this week. We’re going to pick up where we left off with another one of the principles that you’ve learned over four decades of marriage to Barbara.
Dennis: “What you remember is just as important as what you forget.” [Laughter]
I really like this one! This is fun. I’m talking about collecting stones—spiritual milestones. Why?—because we suffer from spiritual amnesia. When we forget what God has done, we forget who God is; and we forget to trust Him today.
I checked my spiritual milestone file in preparation for this message. I started this file in 1998. It has 920 spiritual milestones in it—to God be the glory. They are reminders of the little things, and the big things, that God has done so that—look at Psalm 106—you can see these principles in there.
Milestones remind us of three things. Number one: “What God has done;” secondly: “Who God is—the truth about God—that He provides, He cares, He delivers;” and third: “To trust God, to walk by faith, and to not wander into unbelief.” When we forget the deeds of God, we will ultimately forget to trust Him.
Number 12: “Marriage was designed by God to be missional.” There’s the Great Commission—Matthew 28:19 and 20, “Go and make disciples of all the earth.” There’s Acts 13:36—which I love—that describes David’s life. It says, “And after David had served the purposes of God in his generation, he slept.”
I want to be about the purposes of God, in my generation, with my wife. She is a partner in ministry.
We are not two individual people who are just successfully going our own way. We are two people who work at merging our life purpose and mission together so that we share it, increasingly, as we move toward the finish line.
The other evening, Barbara and I sat in our living room, in two chairs, that we bought in 1972 for $5 apiece. They’ve been reupholstered three times. We sat in those chairs, talking about, “Should we reupholster them, or go buy new ones?” I turned to her and I said: “You know what? We have not given our lives to stuff.”
Now, do we live in a nice home? Do we live better than we deserve? Absolutely!—but my wife and I, as imperfect as we are / as many struggles as we’ve had—we are headed toward the same mission—we are a part of the Great Commission. We want to be fulfilling the great commandment, together, as a couple.
My challenge to you is this: “As a couple, believe God for too much, rather than too little.” A.W. Tozer said this: “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity we plan to do the things we can only do by ourselves.” Why is this so important? Listen to me—because life can wear you down. It can wear you out! Disappointment chips away at faith. As a couple, you have to work on this to go to the finish line.
Number 13: “It’s okay to have one rookie season; but it’s not okay to repeat it, repeatedly.” It’s okay to have one rookie season in marriage; it’s not okay to repeat it, repeatedly.
I was an idiot in our first 12 months of marriage—repeatedly, ignoring the dignity of the woman that God had brought me. Those lessons have to be learned and applied. It’s not good to be repeating rookie errors in your 39th season of marriage.
Number 14: “Never use the d-word in your marriage.” Never! Never use the d-word in your marriage. Never let it cross your lips, ever! Instead, use the c-word—commitment/ covenant—covenant-keeping love that says, “I’d marry you all over again.”
I can still remember an argument my parents had when I was five years old, as a little boy, when divorce was not in vogue.
Your kids are highly sensitized to what your relationship is like and how you do your arguments and your disagreements. Let them hear of your commitment to one another.
Number 15—put a star by this one—it’s good enough. It’s in the Ten Commandments: “Honoring our parents brought life to our marriage,”—Exodus 20:12, the first commandment with a promise. We are a generation that has bashed and blamed our parents, ignoring this commandment. It is time for us to return back home to our parents with honor. A practical way you can do that is by writing them a tribute, and then, reading it to them.
Instead of giving them a dumb dust buster for Christmas, or a tie, or a pair of house slippers, give them something they can hang on the wall, for goodness’ sakes.
“But I might cry.” Good! They spent the first 18 to 20 years of their lives crying—I promise you! [Laughter] Barbara did this with her parents / I did it with mine. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a life-giver! I’ve got God’s Word on it—“That it may go well with you and you may live a long life in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”
Number 16: “Different isn’t wrong; it’s just different.” Different isn’t wrong; it’s just different. Your spouse’s differences are not wrong; they’re just different. We marry one another because we’re different, and we divorce each other because we’re different.
I’m going to tell you—we just moved into this empty-nest phase in the last half dozen years.
This is so true. Barbara and I are much more different than we ever imagined. Here’s the key—your spouse’s differences are new capacities that He has brought to your life to complete you.
I told Barbara, about six years ago—because she’s an artist—“Wherever you go, you make things beautiful.” I didn’t appreciate beauty. I had no idea how beauty reflected the glory of God. Your spouse is God’s added dimension to your life.
Number 17: “Talk about the gospel—my marriage and family are redemptive.” They have saved me from toxic self-absorption. The way to have a godly marriage and family is the same path as coming to faith in Christ—
—it is surrender—giving up your rights to Him first, and then, to your spouse—serving them.
I have a confession to make. I mistakenly thought that God gave Barbara and me six children so that we could raise them. I think He gave six children, at least to me, so He could finish the process of helping me grow up. Nothing has taught me more about self-sacrifice than having a family that is attempting—attempting—to follow this Book in loving and leading my children.
Number 18: “Your wife is your number one disciple.” Dr. Bill Bright, Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ—I bet he made that a thousand—made that statement a thousand times, as I worked for him.
Number 19: “Go near the orphan.”
Go near the orphan. The Father’s heart is with the orphan. When you go near the orphan, as a couple, you go near the Father’s heart.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn said: “There are two kinds of issues today. There are those issues that are far away—that we watch on TV or hear about in the newspaper or on the internet—and there are those issues that are right up close and personal.” He talked about going near the issue so that you can make a difference.
We have a global crisis with the orphan—150 million who are fatherless. The church is the only institution on the planet that can even begin to address that size of need.
Barbara and I went near the orphan, and we adopted. One of our six is adopted. We don’t know which one. [Laughter]
But I want to tell you something—someday, we’re going to be able to tell the whole story. I’ve learned more about the Father’s heart through adoption—of “choosing you and loving you.” This is pure and undefiled religion.
Number 20: “Make your home a storm shelter.” Make your home a storm shelter. I grew up in southwest Missouri and spent many a night in a cellar, down with the potatoes and green beans—musty smelling place—all kinds of things, creepy things that lived in there—trying to dodge a tornado that never hit. I didn’t realize it, but suffering is in the fine print of the marriage covenant.
Think about it for a moment—Matthew, Chapter 7, verse 24 through 27 is the summary of the Sermon on the Mount. It is Jesus Christ’s haymaker.
What does He say, and what does He compare all of His teachings to?—two builders of two homes—both in storms. We should get a clue from that—that we’re going to build our marriage, our family, our homes—in the midst of storm warnings, floods, wind, and rain.
Barbara nearly died, on four different occasions, with a heart rate of more than 300 beats a minute. I was wondering what I was going to do with two kids, the first time, under the age of two—then, four—then, six before we got it fixed.
There was a 13-year-old son—our athletic son—being stricken with a rare neurological disorder. He can no longer run. He is crippled. There was a prodigal. There was the day my dad died. There were short paychecks in ministry. There were challenges in my ministry—
—all kinds of issues with people.
Your marriage covenant is more than just saying, “I do,” for a lifetime. It is for better and for worse. Make your home a storm shelter—a safe place to go in the storm.
Number 21: “Suffering will either drive you apart, or it will be used by God to merge you together.” All of Scripture is teaching us that our response to God and His Word is the difference-maker in how we handle suffering. You and your spouse have to decide to suffer together rather than falling apart.
Number 22: “Men and women process suffering very differently.”
Sorrow shared is grief divided. It is a wise husband who gives his wife space and grace to process loss and suffering, as a woman, different from how he processes.
After Barbara nearly died—the year we started FamilyLife, 1976 and ‘77—and her heart raced over 300 beats a minute—I remember wanting her to just flip a switch and move on with life. Easy for me to say—I hadn’t been the one who was on that cart—that they took away in the ambulance, with her heart beating so fast that the bed was shaking. Give your spouse grace to process grief and suffering differently than you.
Twenty-three—put a star by this one—for most of you, this may be later in life. For others, it may be just around the corner. “Loss is a part of life and increases as we age.” Loss is a part of life and increases as we age. How you and your spouse process loss, by faith, will determine whether you grow old—blessing others / giving life to others—or whether you curse them and become a bitter, crotchety, gripey old person.
Think with me, for a moment, “How many old people do you know who still have a vision for life, as they move into their sunset years?” Loss is a part of life. Process it well.
Bob: Well, again, we’re going to have to interrupt.
We’re in the middle of a message, listening to Dennis Rainey share “Forty Lessons from Forty Years of Marriage,” to his wife Barbara.
I am noticing that, even without loss, I’m becoming kind of crotchety as I become older—[Laughter]—just a little more gripey. Mary Ann and I are nudging one another—“You’re kind of getting crotchety and gripey.”
Dennis: You know what, Bob? Let’s go back and visit another one because somebody, who is getting crotchety / somebody who is getting kind of gripey and—
Bob: Yes, you’ve got some help for me?
Dennis: —kind of focusing on self. Let’s go back to—what was it?—number 11/12 that was—“As a couple, we need to be missional.” I think, when you are focused outward, as a couple, instead of focused inward, it saves you from yourself. It’s why I love to challenge couples, “What are you two, as a couple, going to grow old for?”
These are days when a generation of marriages and families hang in the balance.
You know what it needs? It needs some people, who have been married 10 years—20,30,40, or longer—to step into the fray and say: “You know what? We want to make a difference in couples’ lives.”
Maybe, you’ve been married five years, and you feel like you’ve got a little something to share. Well, you know what? Step up / share it—grab a tool like what we’ve created, called The Art of Marriage®—host a small group for a handful of couples, or host an event, and make a difference in other peoples’ lives. But be on a mission together.
Bob: Obviously, people are going to have different passions; and so, they may aim their missional selves in a different direction than marriage and family. That’s fine. You’re really saying, “Ask God, ‘Where can we be pouring into the lives of other people?’”
Dennis: There ought to be some kind of mission that you, as a husband and a wife, are lock-step together, wanting to make a difference in the next generation.
Bob: And if that’s marriage and family, then, what we’ve tried to do here, at FamilyLife, is put together some tools—
—like The Art of Marriage event kit. We’ve had a lot of couples who have hosted Friday night and Saturday events at their church around The Art of Marriage. In fact, we heard of one church that had more than 900 people come out for their Art of Marriage event.
Dennis: That’s right. And we’ve had other couples who have hosted a small group—five or six couples. Here’s the thing—as a listener, you ought to know more than 600,000 people have now been through The Art of Marriage. And this has been translated into Spanish, Mandarin—and is available in China. I mean, we want to make a difference, globally, because family is an international language. It’s the place to start—here in America, I believe—if we are going to rebuild the spiritual and moral backbone of our nation.
Bob: Well, and the small group material is probably the easiest tool for couples to use because you can call four or five couples you know and say, “Why don’t you guys come over to the house?”—do a potluck or do a cookout or—
—I don’t know—invite them over for dessert. Say: “We’ve been thinking about going through this video series on marriage with anybody who is interested in going through it. We thought tonight we’d watch the first video and go through some of the questions. Then, if you are interested, we can do this again next week or do it again in a couple of weeks.”
It’s really simple. It’s a great way to build relationships with couples you’ve wanted to spend some time with and have some spiritual focus and a marriage focus to what you are doing. If you’d like to find out more about The Art of Marriage small group material, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll see The Art of Marriage button right there. You can click on it for more information about the resources that are available—The Art of Marriage small group material and the event kit that is available.
Again, find out more at FamilyLifeToday.com when you click the link in the upper left-hand corner that says, “GO DEEPER”; and then, click on the button for The Art of Marriage.
We hope this is something you and your spouse will talk about and consider doing this spring. We’d love to see tens of thousands of couples go through this material over the next several months.
Now, before we wrap up, we want to say a quick word of thanks to those of you who have made today’s program possible—and you know who you are. It’s those of you who support the ministry of FamilyLife Today financially. Your contributions make this ministry possible. We are listener-supported, and your donations help cover the cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program.
Right now, if you can help with a donation, we’d like to say a tangible “Thank you,” by sending you Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s daily devotional book for couples that’s called Moments with You. It’s our thank-you gift when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link in the upper right-hand corner that says, “I Care.” Make an online donation, and the book is yours. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Make your donation over the phone; and just ask for your copy of the book, Moments with You, when you do. Again, we’re happy to send it out to you; and we appreciate your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow when we will hear Part Three of Dennis Rainey’s message on some of the key lessons he’s learned about marriage and family over more than 40 years of being married. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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