We were praying for someone who was cheating on his wife. And I was struck by what one person said in his prayer: "Lord, work in his heart so that he will think less about the pleasure he is experiencing and more about the pain he is causing."
That seemed quite appropriate to me. A spouse who is caught up in adultery is living only for the moment, caught up in a fantasy of excitement and desire, and ignoring the very real consequences.
Recently a seminary paper came across my desk titled "100 Consequences of Adultery," written by Philip Jay, a student at Phoenix Seminary. The list provides a stark wake-up call about the ways infidelity can destroy a life and marriage. Here's a selection from Jay's list, presented with his permission:
If I committed adultery...
- My relationship with God would suffer from a break in fellowship.
- I would need to seek forgiveness from my Lord.
- I would suffer from the emotional consequences of guilt.
- I would spend countless hours replaying the failure.
- My wife would suffer the scars of this abuse more deeply than I could begin to describe.
- My wife would spend countless hours in counseling.
- My wife's recovery would be long and painful.
- Her pain would grieve me deeply and compound my own suffering and shame.
- Our relationship would suffer a break in trust, fellowship, and intimacy.
- We would be together, yet feel great loneliness.
- The reputation of my family would suffer loss.
- My sons would be deeply disappointed and bewildered.
- My grandchildren would not understand.
- My friends would be disappointed and would question my integrity.
- I would lose my job at church.
- My witness among neighbors would become worthless.
- My witness to my brother would be worthless.
- My testimony among my wife's family would be damaged.
- I might never be employed by a church again.
- I might never be in men's ministry leadership.
- I would suffer God's discipline.
- Satan would be thrilled at my failure.
- Satan would work overtime to be sure my shame never departed.
- My wife might divorce me.
- My children might never speak to me.
- Our mutual friends would shy away from us and break fellowship.
- I would bring emotional pain to the woman.
- I would bring reproach upon the woman.
- If the woman is married, her husband might attempt to bring harm.
- He might divorce her.
- An unwanted child could be produced.
- My part in conception might trigger an abortion, the killing of an innocent child.
- Disease might result.
- Some might conclude that all Christians are hypocrites.
- My business could fail because I couldn't be trusted.
- My leadership among those I have led in the past might also be diminished in impact.
- My zeal for ministry would suffer and possibly result in others not continuing in ministry.
- My health would suffer.
- I might have to start life over again.
- This same sin might be visited upon my family for four generations.
It's a pretty sobering list, isn't it? What's even more sobering is that many people will consider these consequences and still proceed in their sin. The fantasy is more important to them than the reality.
Also note that, though the list reflects a man's perspective, nearly all the consequences would also apply to a wife committing adultery. The biggest benefit of this list may be in helping all of us realize the need to set up strict safeguards to ensure that we are faithful in our marriage commitment. If I am convinced of what adultery would do to me and to my family, I will watch my wandering eyes, guard my thought life, and avoid any situations that could put me in harm's way.
The fantasy is just not worth it.
Copyright © 2010 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
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1. Read "Guarding Against Adultery," by Dennis Rainey.
2. Read Nancy Anderson's story of infidelity, forgiveness, and restoration in her book, Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome.
3. FamilyLife exists to help husbands and wives connect with each other around God’s best for their marriage and family. Articles like this are possible in part because of regular financial support of people like you. Will you help us help others with a gift today?