Life is full of difficult situations that are beyond our control. Many times we are faced with things we cannot fix, and at those times we often look for excuses, for reasons why, for someone other than ourselves to point a finger toward, to ease the pain of what we are having to go through.
But I have learned through experience that blaming someone else is not the answer. It doesn’t make the situation better; instead, it complicates it by creating a relational rift that dishonors God.
LORD, CHANGE ME I married my husband, Harry Salem, nearly 19 years ago. Before we met, neither of us had any intention of getting married. We both had resolved that we would “just stay single” to better serve God with our lives. Then we met each other, and everything changed.
Like most newlyweds, we entered into our relationship loving nearly everything about each other. But after the “new” had worn off, many issues began to surface.
For one thing, our personalities were completely different. Harry came from a Lebanese cultural background, and I came from the southern United States. Harry didn’t trust anybody, and I trusted everybody. Harry was guarded in his interaction with others, and I considered everybody my friend.
For another, we both brought our share of past issues into our marriage, and without any thought of how we would make the relationship work, we plunged in. We faced some very difficult times, and the end result was that each of us began working to change the other. We both were crying out to God, “Lord, please change my mate!”
Amazingly, God never seemed to hear these prayers. He did absolutely nothing about the other one’s problems.
But one day the Lord spoke to my heart. He said, “Cheryl, today I am going to teach you how to pray for your husband.”
I thought, Finally! Now things will change around here.
God said, “Pray this after Me.”
I said, “OK, God.”
The Lord then led me to repeat after Him, word by word, the phrase, “Lord, change me.” At first I hesitated.
But He explained: “Cheryl, you do not have the right to ask me to change another person….First of all, when you think you don’t need to change, you are the one who needs to change the most.
Second, when you truly say, “Lord, change me,” I will begin to change you, and because you and Harry are one in My sight, I will have legal access to your husband. I will begin to work in his life also.”
The light in my mind turned on and I got it. Of course, I had to change so that we could change. I prayed, “Lord, change me.”
When I stopped focusing on changing Harry and began to ask myself, “What can I do differently to make a change in our relationship?” the process began for eternal change in our marriage and family.
Two of the things the Lord taught me to do to help bring about transformation were to leave the past in the past and to forgive. These two things–along with learning to live in agreement with my husband–were the keys to helping me stop playing the blame game.
We all have things in our past that we drag along with us, bringing them into our current relationships. But the Bible says we are to “[forget] those things which are behind and [reach] forward to those things which are ahead” so that we may “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14, NKJV).
We cannot even look forward, let alone reach forward, until we do the one thing–forget those things that are behind. This is the first and biggest step toward our freedom from blame. Without this step there can be no other steps.
We must forget our pasts. We must let go of the hurtful thoughts we carry around like a badge of honor.
I had a hard time doing this at first because I had bought into a lie of the enemy that says, “By blaming my past, I excuse my present.” What a huge lie! There is nothing in my past that has any right to exist in my present life–or that can absolve me from my current responsibility of living according to God’s will. But in order to get free, I had to learn to walk in supernatural forgiveness.
Some people think that extending forgiveness to a person who has hurt them somehow releases the person to repeat the offense. This is not true. Holding on to unforgiveness does not prevent future victimization; rather, it binds the victim spiritually, mentally and emotionally and makes healing impossible.