Forgiveness, Grace, Hope, marriage, Pain and suffering, Surviving Adultery and Divorce

If I Were Anna Duggar

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.


12 thoughts on “If I Were Anna Duggar”

  1. I will tell you that even if you had sent the incriminating emails to the churches where he now pastors, they most likely wouldn’t care. That is the SAD state of things in our world. My ex who remarried three months after our divorce was final is a leader in his new church in another city and they lead youth. I actually did send a letter outlining what had he had been involved in (which included Ashley Madison among other things). They did not care. He professes Christ and is very charismatic and charming so when he tells people I was emotionally abusive and this is why it all happened but that he is very sorry and has turned over a new leaf, they just go on….. Our world is in a very sad state. Thank you, though, for your writings. I do get encouragement from your blog!!!

    1. Lots of truth in what you said. Charisma and speaking ability are plentiful in my ex-husband. The truth has been brought to light in the past, and church leaders turned a blind eye. It basically caused a church split. Very sad. I would hate to be held responsible for that.

      Thank you for your encouragement! God bless!

  2. Thanks, Dena, on behalf of Anna…and myself as well. This became my journey at the beginning of 2014, and is not an easy one.

    It takes a great deal of hard work, and trust in Abba…not easy when He seemed no more trustworthy than my spouse. That, of course, is a lie.

    The hardest part was people’s reactions. The men rallied around my hubby, full of encouragement, support, and hope. I lost all but one friend. Go figure.

    We’re still a work in progress. I found your advice to Anna very helpful, most especially since you’ve been down this path before me. Thanks for lighting the way. I’ve found help to be sparse and expensive. Bless you for freely giving what cost you dearly.

    Just wanted to let you know that your posts have been helpful. I haven’t said much on my blog out of respect for my husband. Sure wish he’d have been half as thoughtful. 😕


    1. I’m so sorry you are walking this path. I know God will see you through. It’s a tough journey, but as I look back I know that it is also a very blessed journey! God has great plans! I pray that he will continue to sustain you.



    1. God IS in the business of restoration! Praise him! Not everyone chooses to submit to his power, but when we do we have a future brighter than anything we could ever imagine. Lord willing, one day I can make it to Indonesia. He is doing above and beyond all I could ever ask or imagine.

  4. This truly blessed me, as I am currently dealing with my husband, an ordained deacon, having an affair and conceiving 2 children with the other woman. I had to have him leave our home, as he was not demonstrating a repentant heart. Yet I pray for him consistently to return to GOD, our daughter also prays for him to return to GOD and to us. Forgiveness is truly a decision, NOT a feeling. Having forgiven him, I am free of depression, anger, the desire for revenge. Through forgiveness, I am healed and have a peace that surpasses ALL understanding. Forgiveness, allows me to have the desire to intercede for his soul salvation. I have not filed for divorce, as I don’t feel this is what I need to do at this time. All I hear from GOD is simply PRAY. So that is what I am doing, until HE tells me, shows me otherwise. It does not make sense to me, however, I desire more than anything to be in GOD’s Will – not my own.

    1. And, as long as God says hang in there, hang in there! I firmly believe in a God of redemption, a God who changes the hardest of hearts. There’s no telling what he will do. In my case, he gave me freedom to leave. We are all on our own journeys. Only he knows the future. Trust him to lead you into his plans, one day at a time.

  5. To the women who walked the journey of affairs, lies, infidelity, and betrayal….it’s a journey. A journey you may not see when you’re caught right in the eye of the storm, when your world is literally falling apart, when you have other lives to consider (children caught in the mess too), when you’re trying to keep your head above water and when you have the unfaithful spouse blaming you for it all….oh my, it was overwhelming just to write that one sentence! Three years ago, I was on this path. 100% broken! And it was not easy. And sometimes it is still not easy. But if there is one thing that I can share with you today….know that your Heavenly Father loves you so much! Embrace His love and let Him walk with you through the journey. Like Dena said, hang on for the ride of your life. Because if you let Him in, trust me, He will amaze you. When He says “beauty for ashes” He meant it! Study the story of Joseph or Job to get you through this journey. God did an amazing work in me these last three years and He continues with me on the journey. Like I told my ex-husband not to long ago, I would not trade my life for where I’m at today. God will use your pain and brokenness if you let Him. And for the “not-so-thoughtful” ex-husband’s, know that it is their own anger, hurt and stupidity that they project onto you but to prideful to admit. Pray for God to heal their hearts!

    1. Amen, amen, and amen! My experience has been 100% the same. God is beyond good, beyond faithful. My life is far greater, far more exciting today, and I would NEVER trade it for anything! God bless!

  6. This was the most comprehensive and thorough article on infidelity that I have ever read! God has used your experience to teach and comfort others. Your article deals with a facet of cheating and the journey that one must take in order to heal. I wish that this article could be used as a template for teaching congregants about the repercussions of infidelity and the steps that can be taken in order to heal. This article could be the salve that would begin the healing process, as the article debunks some thoughts and actions that have been taught in churches. Thank you so much for this article. May God bless you for your wisdom.

    1. Wow! Thank you! Please feel free to share away! I’m in the process of writing a book with very practical steps on how to heal and move forward. What man meant for evil, God has used for good! God bless!

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