The Ashley Madison scandal has been heavy on my mind in recent days. It hits so close to home because I’ve been the spouse on the other side, the spouse horrified to discover her husband on an online dating site. I suppose we could at least point out that these spouses weren’t hiding the fact they were married as mine was. I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse.
Of course, the media has taken great delight to point out the hypocrisy of some high-profile Christians who have been caught red-handed. Among those who have been forced into the light is Josh Duggar.
To say it has been a rough year for the Duggar’s is an understatement. Let me say that I have never watched their reality show, and I know very little about the Duggar family. What I know is that they have a large (another understatement) family and have done their best to raise their clan as devout Christians. For that, I applaud them.
However, Josh Duggar has given the family a tremendous amount of bad press this year. From the sexual molestation scandal when he was a teenager to the discovery of his Ashley Madison account, he has forever tarnished the Duggar name.
Let me point out, however, that Josh Duggar is an adult who makes his own decisions. Those decisions are not a reflection on his parents. His parents—like all parents—have done their best to raise him with morals and to love God. Have they made mistakes? Absolutely…as we all have. But, Josh is an adult who must take responsibility for his own actions. I’m not going to cast judgment on how his parents handled anything because I don’t know what I would have done if placed in the same situation. I’ve not been there.
But, I have been in Anna Duggar’s shoes. I understand the hurt and pain and fear and devastation. I understand the conflicted feelings of love for this man she thought she knew and the hatred of the man she has discovered he is. I know the confusion of wondering how God could call me to marry this man knowing that he would betray me in the deepest most intimate way. I know the fear of letting my heart try to love and trust again and the fear of walking away. I know the shame and humiliation of having a spouse whose actions have given the world a reason to point to the hypocrisy of Christians, the fear that somehow others might think that I was somehow complicit in the behavior.
Since I have walked in Anna Duggar’s shoes, I feel that I can comment on what I would do if I were Anna Duggar. Some things I did well as I walked this path; some things I wish I could change.
If I were Anna Duggar…
I would be thankful for a public revelation. My husband resigned from the pastorate right before he was caught in his affair. Her husband called key members of the church, but we were no longer on staff. Out of respect for me, most of the church members refused to join in the gossip.
I was horrified, humiliated. How could this man that had served God with me humiliate the name of Christ? Did people somehow think that I was also to blame? The shame was overwhelming.
I chose to hide my husband’s sins. My goal was honorable: I wanted God to change him and then we could publicly proclaim God’s power over sin, his amazing redemption story.
But by allowing my husband to hide from his sin, I prevented him from getting help and healing.
James 5:16 tells us to Confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that we may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
The first step to healing requires confession. It requires bringing others into our lives, allowing them to ask us the tough questions. God created us to live in fellowship with one another and healing does not take place outside of the love and fellowship of other Christians.
I would forgive. Scripture teaches us repeatedly to forgive others as we have been forgiven. It teaches us to forgive as Christ has forgiven us—freely, lavishly, without strings attached.
But, forgiveness is not reconciliation. Forgiveness is not turning a blind eye to the pain and devastation. Forgiveness is not forgetting, pretending as if it never happened.
Forgiveness is simply the decision to not hold one’s sins over his/her head, making that person pay for the hurt and pain he/she has caused you. Forgiveness is a choice to let the anger and bitterness go rather than hanging onto it. Forgiveness is giving up your right to retaliation.
I have had many opportunities to get even—to send thousands of incriminating emails to churches where my ex-husband pastors/pastored since our divorce. I have chosen not to do so. I have had plenty of opportunities to hold onto the anger for all that my ex-husband has done to me and to my children. But I choose every single day to let go of that anger. I could choose to pray that my ex-husband would suffer and be punished; I instead choose to pray for God’s blessings on him.
Forgiveness has set me free from a prison of anger and bitterness. Forgiveness has given me my life back.
Try to save my marriage, but be willing to walk away. Anna Duggar should be willing to try to save her marriage. She made a commitment to this man. She has children with him. She should be willing to put forth every ounce of energy and work hard to save her marriage.
God is greater than any sin, any evil, any addiction. God has the ability to do an amazing, transforming work in Josh, especially now that his ever-growing sins have been brought into the light. Anna Duggar has an opportunity to have the best marriage possible with a brand-new husband—a Josh Duggar that has been through the fire, faced his demons, and been made new.
But not every cheater is willing to do the hard work to change. Not every cheater is willing to lay himself/herself on the altar and be cut open by the word of God. Not every cheater is willing to surrender, to change his/her way of thinking, to be made pure and whole by a God who is in the business of redemption.
And, if Josh Duggar isn’t willing to truly repent, to truly change, to truly surrender every aspect of his life to the One who can change him, then Anna Duggar should be willing to walk away.
I would not blame myself. Anna Duggar is a masterpiece, the apple of God’s eye, a royal priest, a chosen child of God. Just as the Duggar parents are not to blame for the actions of their son, Anna Duggar is not responsible for her husband’s actions. Anna must realize that her husband made choices, that when God’s sovereignty and man’s free will collide, a stubborn, sin-hardened heart will go against God.
But God’s sovereignty is not ended. When a hardened heart chooses to impose pain and sin on an innocent partner, God’s sovereignty steps in and takes over—giving the victimized spouse a future greater than his/her wildest imagination! God will not allow the innocent spouse to be destroyed because of the choices of a hard-hearted spouse.
If I were Anna Duggar, I would surrender to this journey. I would trust God to walk me through the wilderness, to transform me through being forced into total dependence on him. I would trust God to do an amazing work in me so he could do an amazing work through me. I would pour every ounce of my energy into getting to know him, to experiencing the Great I Am who will be exactly what she needs exactly when she needs it.
If I were Anna Duggar, I would hang on for the ride of my life. God will not allow this pain to be wasted.