When a baby elephant is being trained, it is chained to a post and soon learns that its efforts to escape are futile. Later, as a mature adult, it is tied to a post by a rope. Though the elephant now has the strength to break free, it no longer tries because of what happened in the past.
That’s not unlike what Satan tries to do with our past. He does all he can to keep us chained to our former identity. We experience shame, guilt, and regret. And the Enemy will use our past to wreak havoc in the kind of spouses we are and the way we respond to each other.
Satan wants to tie you and your marriage down to your past. But Jesus has set you FREE to rise above your past. Negative experiences from the past can impact how we think of ourselves or how we think of our spouse. Subtly, it can shape our expectations, assumptions, and actions. (Some past trauma is so intense it needs a licensed Christian counselor to work through it toward healing. You are worth the investment and so is your marriage!)
But Jesus has come to set us free from the past and give us a new identity and a new future! He said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). The apostle Paul reminds us that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). We aren’t the same people we once were. Instead, we are reminded that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). These truths are for every follower of Jesus Christ regardless of your past or how you may feel.
So how do we rise above our past and experience the freedom Jesus has for us…and for our marriage? Here are four truths we learn from the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1:12-17. We recommend taking a moment to read the passage.
1. Everybody HAS a past.
Paul writes that he was once a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent man. If you imagine the venom and brutality of ISIS or other persecutors of Christians, that was Paul. He had Christians beaten, tortured and killed. He profaned the name of Jesus. As he puts it, he was “the worst of sinners.”
Satan wants you to think that your past was the worst. That you are forever destined to live in shame and guilt. He wants you chained to the idea that not only can God never use you, you are hopelessly doomed to fall short as a spouse as well.
But thankfully, your past is not who you are nor is it your future, because…
2. Jesus’ mercy and grace trumps your past.
Paul continued his letter to Timothy writing, “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”
PAUL’s experience of Jesus’ mercy and patience is an example to YOU (and to us) that our past is forgiven and we are free from its shame and guilt through faith in Jesus. If God isn’t condemning you then you need to stop condemning yourself as well.
Whenever you feel the Enemy attacking you with shame and guilt, resist him (James 4:7) in the authority you have through Jesus. You might declare something like this out loud:
“Satan, I am cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Shame is not from God. I am forgiven. I am a child of God. I command you to leave me in the name, power, authority, and blood of my resurrected Savior Jesus Christ. I command you to go where Jesus sends you.”
You may have to pray that multiple times a day at first. He is relentless. But through Jesus you already have the victory!
3. Your past points people to Jesus.
Paul’s story is not one he embellishes or dwells on. He allows God to use his story to point people to Jesus. Yours is the same. Maybe someone is struggling with their past as well. Or they feel inadequate as a husband or wife. You are able to come alongside them with the hope and comfort you have received (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Always point people to the hope they have in Christ.
4. God’s glory is the goal.
Paul finishes his story about the grace and mercy he has received with these words: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” The entire focus of his life is a response to what God has done for him through Jesus. It impacted every aspect of his relationships and activity.
In the same way, as a response to what Jesus has done for you, your life as a Christ-follower, a spouse, and in all your other relationships and activity is to be lived for God’s glory as well.
As you walk in the freedom and newness of who you are in Jesus, an increasingly transformed you will be brought to bear as you build your marriage.