“My husband wants me to stop bringing up his affair because he has ‘repented.’ What about me? He acts like nothing has happened, but I walk with anger. I cry out to God every day, but the hurt is still fresh.”
When I read these words, written by a woman I’ve never met, my mind and heart are jerked back to the most difficult season of my life. I want to somehow give this woman hope … to reach out and hug her through the written word … to let her know there is a calm for anyone walking through a storm in marriage.
And that calm is Jesus. He will never let us down. I know from experience.
Brad* and I had only been married for 15 months when he told me that he was no longer happy and wanted out of our marriage. I was devastated … but not totally surprised. I suspected that he had been seeing another woman.
Although Brad and I continued living under one roof, our hearts were not united. Our daughter had just turned one, and I wondered if our life as a family was over.
Handling the news
A godly older woman, Lucy, began mentoring me. “Do not seek out what is going on right now,” she said. “God knows. Just try to allow God to give you as much information as He knows you can handle.”
Lucy helped me search the Scriptures and find what God says about divorce. I studied verses like Malachi 2:16: “For I hate divorce says the Lord, the God of Israel.” And Matthew 19:6: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
She also helped me understand that instead of trying to change Brad, I needed to allow God to do some changing in me. I began praying, and the Lord showed me that through Christ, I could win Brad over with purity and reverence for God (1 Peter 3:1-6). The best part about it was that I could do this without a word, which was a good thing since Brad and I had pretty much stopped communicating.
Staying in the Word
The Lord also taught me that I needed to renew my mind daily (Romans 12:2) and that I had to make a conscious effort to think about things that were pure, right, true, lovely, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). He reminded me that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18) and that it would take perfect love to win Brad over.
I stopped praying that Brad would fall back in love with me. Instead, I started praying that he would fall in love with God. And I started praying for myself—that I would have hope. I quoted verses such as “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
When Brad left the house every morning, I didn’t know who or what he was walking toward. But I wanted to be sure that he returned to a home with peace, love, joy, happiness, and hope of all good things to come. I resisted daily the temptation to find Brad out. And, as Lucy had advised, I trusted that God would prepare me for learning the truth when I would be strong enough to handle it.
I stayed in the Word and daily asked the Lord to speak comfort and encouragement into my heart. I waited and prayed. I cried and fasted.
On Sunday, Brad left a note for me while I was at church. He said that he was moving out for good. Where was God? I wondered.
Less than 24 hours later, Brad came home broken, weeping, and contrite. He confessed that he had been having an adulterous affair for about a year. He had intended on marrying the woman but said he just couldn’t go through with it.
And then he said he wanted his family back.
A time to forgive
Although it wasn’t easy, God enabled me to forgive Brad the very day he confessed the affair. I knew that Brad needed the Lord’s forgiveness and mine, and I trusted God to put our marriage back together.
I didn’t need time to forgive because God says, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). But I did need time to allow the Lord to make new what was old and broken.
I can remember thinking, God, is that all? Does Brad just get to come home and that’s it? And I admit to having a conversation that went something like this:
Me: God, it’s not fair.
God: You’re right.
Me: He deserves punishment.
God: Yes, he does.
Me: In the Old Testament you had adulterers put to death.
God: Yes I did.
Me: Brad deserves to die.
God: Yes, he does and I put my only Son on the cross to die in his place. It was good enough for Me and now you need to decide if it is good enough for you.
I think it’s natural to want a spouse to suffer for hurting us so deeply. Maybe that’s why some husbands and wives walk away from an unfaithful spouse; in a small way, it’s making the other person suffer. But the sin has already been taken care of by Jesus Christ.
Over time I learned what a huge amount of courage it took for Brad to turn away from his sin and confess it face to face with me. Had I not waited on God, I would have missed out on the blessing of seeing my husband’s godly sorrow lead him to full repentance.
A new marriage
When Brad confessed his affair, I thought that I’d never stop thinking about it—that I’d remember it over and over again for the rest of my life. But that hasn’t been my experience. It’s as though the affair never happened.
You may wonder if this is too good to be true. Some people have even said to me, “Once a cheater always a cheater.” But the fact is: God changed our marriage!
Now the transformation didn’t happen overnight. It took a long time for my heart to heal and it all began at a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. (I tell more about this in the article “I Wanted Him to Die.”)
In the last 12 years, Brad and I have worked through a lot of stuff. It’s not like you just forgive and are instantly healed. Forgiveness and healing are two different things. Like a lot of pastors say, forgiveness is a decision in the beginning. Making that decision allows one to heal and to rebuild trust.
Over the years I’ve watched God reconcile Brad to Himself and turn his heart and affections back to me. I’ve seen Brad grow into this huge spiritual giant of a man. God brought teachers and men who wrapped their lives around him to mentor and teach him.
Brad and I are amazed at what God has done for our family. We now have five beautiful children and are missionaries in Africa. Even though we are thousands of miles from friends and family, we still have the opportunity to share with them how God transformed our marriage.
A couple of years ago we received a call from a dear couple living in the States. He was bawling as he said that his wife had just confessed an affair. I was shocked; to me they had been such a great example of what a marriage should be like.
I asked God to give me the words to encourage him. And when I later talked with her she said, “The only thing I am holding onto is that I see you and Brad and can’t imagine that Brad’s affair ever happened.”
That couple is still married today and doing well. God is using our past hurts to help others.
Would I trade my marriage for having to never walk through the storm of Brad’s affair? You couldn’t pay me enough money to do that!
Now instead of asking, “Why me?” I ask, “Why not me?”
*Brad is not his real name.
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