Six Truths to Share with Women Wounded by Adultery
Have you ever noticed that pain can dictate your life? I found this out when I tore a ligament in my knee a few years ago. Instead of hitting the floor running each morning, I planned my whole schedule around avoiding pain. It dictated how I got out of bed, the number of trips I took up the stairs each day, and how many tasks I could arrange in one place to avoid walking on a bad leg. Even fun family outings had to be weighed to see if they were worth the pain. Pain basically ran my life. Eventually I had surgery on my leg, the pain diminished, and I was free to live my life without pain.
Physical pain is not the only type of pain that can dictate life. Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Senator John Edwards, made this comment after learning of her husband’s infidelity: “After I cried and screamed, I went to the bathroom and threw up. . . . I felt that the ground underneath me had been pulled away. . . . I wanted to turn back time so we could avoid the woman, avoid the pain. . . . Everything I tried to do to allow me to go to some safe place turned out to be filled with the same pain.”
The pain of a broken marriage vow is just as real and intense as any physical injury, yet no surgery can fix it. This pain disrupts life, sleep, and everyday functions and leaves a woman’s world upside down. Since 22 percent of married men and 15 percent of married women admit to committing adultery, it is not surprising that some high-profile couples would feel its effect.
The saddest thing about the pain of immorality is that it is being played out in the homes of pastors, youth pastors, deacons, Sunday School teachers, and committed church members. On many occasions I have sat with a weeping wife who learned that the sins of her husband had changed her future forever. I have also counseled stubborn women who inflicted that same pain on their husbands and children. And as we know, both the guilty and the innocent suffer the repercussions of sin. Unfortunately, turning back the clock is not an option for these people, but the pain does need to be dealt with so they can recover and go on with life. Here are six principles that can help women who have been hurt by infidelity.
1. Sin brings pain and suffering. God forbids adultery, not merely because it offends His holiness and destroys His portrait of Christ and the church, but because it destroys humans by promising joy and happiness only to leave behind disappointment and destruction. Therefore, we each need to be warned about the danger of sin. We must forsake all sin, not just adultery, because it is like a dirty bomb that sends broken shards into innocent victims who will bear scars long after the outer wounds heal (Psalm 38:3; James 1:15).
2. Adultery is caused by a lack of obedience to God, not the failure of a spouse. Complaints of an unfaithful spouse can cause false guilt, making a woman believe that if she had been a better wife, her husband would have been faithful. God’s Word teaches that we can say no to ungodliness and worldly lust. Titus says that all of us were once enslaved to various lusts and pleasures but that God came to free us from that bondage (2:11, 12; 3:3–5).
3. Godly friends are necessary for support. I can almost guarantee that in your church are women walking on eggshells because they do not want to relive or rethink the pain. They need someone to listen, remind them of God’s love for them, and encourage them to face the painful situation. True friends will not simply endure an endless rehearsal of bad memories but will help the hurting woman to think on things that are pure, lovely, and praiseworthy. Godly friends will help her keep her eyes on God and not on her disappointments (Philippians 4:8; Proverbs 13:20).
4. Retaliation and anger never heal pain. No matter how devastated someone is by the sin of another, God asks each Christian to allow Him to discipline the wrongdoer. The tendency to repay evil for evil is not from God. Controlling ungodly thoughts and words is key to living a God-honoring life and experiencing God’s blessing (Romans 12:17–21; Matthew 5:44).
5. Christ desires to comfort those in pain. He alone can bandage the wounds that adultery inflicts and become a father to the fatherless and a husband to the hurting wife. Sin and its resulting pain must be carried by God. We are not equipped physically or mentally to carry the pain of disappointment, grief, loneliness, and heartache. God asks us repeatedly to cast our burdens on Him because He cares for us (Psalms 147:3; 107:20, 21).
6. Immorality might be fashionable, but it is still deplorable to God. Amid the backlash from high-profile extramarital affairs, some people try to make adultery acceptable and even accessible. A new website, for example, says it is designed to facilitate untraceable extramarital affairs. Society’s view of marital purity does not match God’s view. God will deal severely with those who break their marriage vows. Hebrews 13:4 declares, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” A hurting woman should understand that God takes this sin seriously.
Of course, just like with our bodies, prevention is the best remedy for pain. Marriages are under attack, and we need God’s help in encouraging strong, committed marriage relationships. Older women need to take very seriously their responsibility to teach the younger women to love their husbands and their children. As women’s ministries think about their curriculum and Bible study options, topics of marriage should be addressed. But when adultery does creep into the life of a woman in your church, she should have many loving arms waiting to help her through the pain.
Jeannie Vogel is a women’s ministries consultant and workshop leader for Regular Baptist Ministries.