Chris cheated on me
In early 2002, my husband, Chris, our son, Noah, and I had the opportunity to move to Edmond, OK, so that my husband could join the staff of Life.Church. It was truly a dream come true. He was a worship leader and I led alongside him, and we had been doing so for nearly ten years. But a confession one devastating February morning brought about a crushed heart, a wrecked marriage, and a demolished ministry for us because of my husband’s infidelity and pornography addiction. My husband had barely been on the team for six weeks and could no longer live the lie he had been living for the previous few years. Within a minute, my heart went from joyful to devastated as I became keenly aware that the life I had lived with my husband was a lie. A big, fat lie.
As someone in a leadership position at a church, you have a high likelihood of encountering someone who has walked or will walk the destructive road that follows the act of infidelity. Since that fateful day in my own life, I’ve received many emails from women and men about their marriages. The culprit? Infidelity. In fact, when I receive emails or hear from friends about someone’s infidelity, I am no longer surprised. My guess is that you, a pastor, elder, deacon, or church leader, might feel the same.
I decided to stay in my marriage. However, many couples will end their marriage because of infidelity. And you can’t stop that. Some couples will stay married but live in a crippled state after an affair. You can’t change that. Then there are those couples who will survive infidelity and eventually thrive because of it and in spite of it. You can encourage this and be a part of redemption.
The painful questions of a betrayed spouse
Regardless of the outcome, there are numerous issues that the couple will face. After an affair, the offender has his or her own set of issues to wade through such as guilt, shame, embarrassment, humiliation, and hopefully remorse. The one who was offended will battle a crippling pain that will make him or her wish for death. This pain demands to be felt and will be followed by questions such as … Why did this happen? When did this happen? How will I ever trust again? How can I ever forgive? And the most common one, When will it stop hurting?
How can you help?
You may be wondering how to care for a couple or individual in this type of situation. Most people think that if they haven’t been through it, they can’t help someone. That’s simply untrue. As Christ followers, we have the Holy Spirit deposited within us, and He equips us for the tasks ahead of us. We don’t have what it takes alone, but we have Him, and He most definitely has what it takes. So, how do you care for those walking this road of infidelity?
- Step #1 – Show them you care. Display sympathy. Tell them you’re sorry this is happening to them. Listen to them. They will be irrational, fearful, and just plain devastated. They need to know you care before they even let you begin to speak into their lives. They are in deep pain and can’t tell up from down or right from wrong. Their pain has probably made them question who they are and if God even really loves them. Just be there as their spiritual leader.
- Step #2 – Know that you don’t know. If you haven’t walked the road of infidelity, then you don’t know how they feel. And thank God. I wouldn’t wish this unwanted journey on anyone. Even if you have been through a devastating circumstance in your own life, our stories are still unique. However, when the time is right during the conversation, open up about a painful experience from your own life. I have found that it’s unwise and uncaring to say “I know how you feel.” Instead say something like “I remember feeling the devastation, the pain, the feelings of my own personal situation when I experienced” and then you fill in the blank. When you share your own sorrows it helps them to know that while you may not know what their pain is like, you do know pain.
- Step #3 – Guide them in the present. One of the most common responses for those who have been cheated on is to make an immediate decision about their future. They feel they’ve wasted their life with this person, and they want to decide NOW to not waste any more time. The problem with this kind of decision-making is that it’s done when our emotions are frazzled and heightened. The best piece of advice I received when I was in my fretful state was, “You don’t have to decide the rest of your life today.” That brought so much peace and freedom. Guide them to seek God and truly pray for Him to show the way for them. They have to decide for themselves—no one can make the choice for them.
- Step #4 – Encourage them to grieve. They have experienced a death. The death of a dream, a commitment, a trusting marriage. They are in immense pain and, honestly, the last thing they want to do is feel the pain. But they must. In order to heal through the paralyzing agony they are living in, they must grieve. They must ache, weep, and lament. Tell them this is part of the journey. If they try to go around the pain and ignore it altogether, it will be waiting for them on the other side. This is not fun but absolutely necessary. And as they go through the pain, go back and do step #1.
- Step #5 – Hand out some hope. As their church leader, you have a unique role in their life. They came to you for a reason. Spend some time in prayer asking God to guide you to the right Scriptures to share with them. Some suggestions would be Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 34:18, Ephesians 4:26–27, Psalm 34:4, Philippians 4:19, Romans 12:18, and Romans 15:13. Also refer to the article “My husband is having online affairs. Help me, Pastor!”
This journey of marriage restoration is not for the faint of heart. It is grueling, tiring, and downright difficult. But, by the power of the Holy Spirit and willing individuals, redemption in marriage is possible. My husband and I are living proof.