What would you do if you were asked to forgive what some would say is unforgiveable? Do you have your own hidden sin that feels unforgiveable? Mike and Amanda Smith know just what it’s like to feel out of answers – and the hope and strength God provides in our most difficult moments.
How did you come to know Christ?
Amanda: “I became a believer around sixth grade. A friend took me to her church, and I begged my parents to take me because I wanted to go with my family. We were doing a lesson on hell in my Sunday school class, and I knew that wasn’t where I wanted to go when I died. My relationship with the Lord from then until recently was very fear-based. I lost two close family members when I was a teenager, and the elders at my church responded to that loss with blame. They said my family and I must’ve done something wrong to punish our family. It was very ill-informed theology, but it had a long-lasting impact on my relationship with God. I am still constantly fighting the lie that God is spiteful, mean, and vindictive.”
Mike: “I grew up in a Christian home, but we really only talked about Jesus on Sundays. I learned around five or six that I was unable to earn my way to heaven. I knew Jesus was the Lord of my eternity, but I didn’t act like He was the Lord of my day-to-day life. I sought validation in many different ways, because I was not getting validation at home. I felt like I experienced performance-based acceptance in our family, and that informed what I thought about God. I viewed the Lord through the lens my parents established for me. If I did good enough for long enough, then I’d get love and validation.”
How have the disciplines of confession and forgiveness impacted your marriage?
Mike: “We got married in 2009, in a time when we were not part of a church. Our first year of marriage was terrible. We lived in the same house, but we didn’t like each other at all. My reaction to this unhappiness resulted in an extramarital affair with a woman from my past. I didn’t tell Amanda or anyone else.
“In 2016, Rob Barry, a speaker at Watermark, preached Psalm 32 and encouraged confessing the sin you thought you’d take to the grave. God used that message to wreck the walls of pride I built up over decades, and I knew He wouldn’t let me go until I confessed.
“It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I had the opportunity to sit my wife down and tell her what happened. I had fears of losing Amanda and my kids, but I drew the circle around myself and didn’t assign blame. I completely owned my sin and asked for her forgiveness.”
Amanda: “Before Mike’s confession, I was going through re:generation, Watermark’s biblical recovery ministry and Equipped Disciple classes, so I could learn and memorize Scripture. I fell in love with God’s Word! When Mike confessed, his actions broke a lot of trust. But because the Lord had previously rebuilt my foundation, I knew my only response to Mike was to forgive him. I didn’t want to; I wanted to be sarcastic and hold it over his head. But as a new creation in Christ, there was no other option than forgiveness.
“I remember reading James 1:12 at the time, ‘Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.’ I thought, ‘I don’t want that joy or the perfection of faith. I’m over it. I’m done.’ But our community group rallied around me, sent me Scripture, and prayed over me. They were God’s provision to me when I wanted to walk away from my faith. I knew I had to choose to forgive Mike. I woke up every day for a year saying, ‘I don’t want to forgive him. Lord will you work through me?’ And God was faithful to answer.”
Mike: “I called my community group guys, and they came running. They prayed for us, they lovingly admonished me and reminded me who I was. They walked with us over those next months as I went through re:generation. That ministry pointed me to Jesus, who ripped up the old foundation and put a new foundation in my life. My sin struggles are still the core struggles of pride, selfishness, and insecurity, but I now have the tools to repent and run away from my sin.”
How has God shown His faithfulness through your struggles in marriage?
Amanda: “The Mike that I married in August 2009 is not the same man I’m married to now. There is not enough time to explain how God has made a new creation in him. Mike is doing an amazing job of leading our family and saying, ‘Will you please forgive me?’ Our kids hear their dad’s humility more than anything. If I did not forgive Mike, I would’ve missed out on a strong, healthy father for my children. I can confidently say, ‘Follow him as he follows Christ.’ I would do it all over again to have the man that I married now.”
Mike: “Amanda’s not the same person I married. She models Christ’s forgiveness – I didn’t understand what forgiveness really meant. I saw the forgiveness that God offers for the first time in 3D through Amanda – then and now. She seeks His approval instead of others’. She went from cursing God’s name to being marked by trusting in Him only. Fear still creeps in, but she knows right where to turn to be reassured of God’s promises. I’ve played the ‘what if’ game, and I stopped playing it four years ago, because I wouldn’t change those steps if it led me to what I have now. If I did not confess, I would’ve missed out on oneness with my wife and the freedom that comes from not having hidden sin.”