4 steps after adultery (Part 2)

In my last post, I suggested the first two (and most important) steps to recover from the damage that adultery does to a marriage—get real about the wreckage and get back to God’s grace.

What then? Here’s the next step I offer couples I am counseling:

3. Get others involved
This is the hardest step for most couples. The shame and embarrassment of certain sins keep most of us quiet, especially around close friends and church family. Worst-case assumptions flood our minds as the devil inserts lie after lie into our thoughts (John 8:44). “What would people at church think if they knew I cheated on my wife? What would my friends whisper about me if they heard I crossed a line? How would our Bible study friends react if they learned we are not as in love as we let on? What if she betrayed my trust? What if my boss/mom/son/all of Facebook found out?”

Maybe the pastor and the counselor (whose professions keep private confessions private) know the real story, but few others do. I get that reaction. In a broken world, there are no guarantees that people will be forgiving, humble, and trustworthy when they see the worst of us. 

However, experience has taught me that people are essential to progress. Even if I can meet weekly with a couple as their pastor, there are 160+ uncertain hours when we are apart filled with spiraling thoughts, fierce temptations, and the always-below-the-surface arguments. To save themselves from words they can’t take back and outright despair, both spouses need a tribe of trusted friends to talk them off the ledge in a late-night text, confront their craziest thoughts in a conversation over coffee, and remind them of Jesus’ presence and love after church is over.

This tribe can use the Word in the ways that Paul described to Timothy: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). After adultery, we sometimes need to be taught God’s love of reconciliation while other times we need to be rebuked for a vengeful attitude. We need to be corrected when our shame overwhelms us, and we need to be trained to cling to the hope of glory when we feel utterly hopeless The Word works, even when we feel so weak. A tribe of Word-wielding friends is a nonnegotiable in healing.

In particular, we need Christian friends who know us well. About once a month, I get an email from a total stranger who wants to confess some sexual sin to me. Often, they include some version of, “I can’t tell my pastor because he knows me too well.”

That idea always depresses me. Are pastors called to shepherd your soul so you can impress them? Or did God call them to know and bless the real you? I believe the latter (Titus 3:4,5). I pray you do too.

The church is not in the facade-keeping business. As pastors and fellow church members, we are called by God to be there for you. So, please don’t run to a bunch of strangers when you need personal guidance the most. Allow the church to be the church and “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).

So, if you’re trying to heal from the damage of adultery, pray for God to bring the right people to mind, people who are on “Team Marriage” and refuse to pick one spouse’s side. Pray for unity with your spouse and for the right people to ask for help. Then, take the humble and helpful step and ask. 

If adultery isn’t your story, perhaps you could somehow make it known among your family or your Bible study that healing is something you’d love to help with. Become known as a safe saint, someone who is ready to listen confidentially and pray passionately.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Something powerful and effective is what every hurting couple needs. So, take this third step in your pursuit of God’s healing. And don't forget there's a fourth step. Watch for my next post . . . 

Pastor Mike Novotny has served God’s people in full-time ministry since 2007 in Madison and, most recently, at The CORE in Appleton, Wisconsin. He also serves as the lead speaker for Time of Grace, where he shares the good news about Jesus through television, print, and online platforms. Mike loves seeing people grasp the depth of God’s amazing grace and unstoppable mercy. His wife continues to love him (despite plenty of reasons not to), and his two daughters open his eyes to the love of God for every Christian. When not talking about Jesus or dating his wife/girls, Mike loves playing soccer, running, and reading.

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