Twelve years ago, the pain of adultery was overwhelming me. I couldn’t understand how my perfect life as pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom had come crashing down around me…especially in light of my years of faithfully serving God and proclaiming His goodness.
As the years have passed, I have seen the faithfulness of my Father as He restored everything I lost and more. I see how He has created beauty from the ashes (Isaiah 61:3). I see that He has given me a ministry far greater than anything I would have experienced as a pastor’s wife.
Even more importantly than all the things He has given me is the beauty of what He has done in me. He has faithfully walked me through the wilderness, caring for my every need. He has taken all the broken pieces of my heart and given me a new heart, one of compassion and passion. He allowed my faith to be tested through the fire, and it has been refined and made stronger and more pure than I ever expected.
He has done a mighty work in me and now is doing a mighty work through me.
In those early days, my then-husband’s adultery was the most awful thing that had ever happened to me. After all of these years, I am incredibly grateful that God allowed it to happen.
And here’s why:
God gave me a Biblical escape. Divorce was never an option in my mind. I was raised to believe divorce was only an option in the case of adultery. If there was no adultery, we as Christians were to stick it out no matter how dysfunctional. I made a vow to God and my husband, and I would never go back on my word.
Until he had an affair…
Having a Biblical reason for divorce was so important to me that I insisted it was in our papers, that the reason for our divorce was adultery. It’s right there as a matter of public record, a fact he never disputed in light of the reams of emails and chats I had as evidence. Adultery was the only reason I had to escape.
Today, as I look back on my 17-year marriage, I realize I was too busy trying to be loving, gentle, and submissive to see the abuse in my marriage. It wasn’t physical abuse. It wasn’t apparent to the outside world. It was subtle. It was control. It was extreme self-centeredness that caused a very one-sided marriage. It was verbal abuse that caused me to walk on eggshells, never knowing what would set off an obscenity-laced tirade. It was a victim mentality that meant I was blamed for everything—literally everything—that went wrong.
I no longer believe scripture teaches us that adultery is the only reason for divorce—that is a human (and therefore fallible) teaching of scripture that keeps good Christians in bondage to a marriage that is destroying them. Instead, I see that God intended marriage to be a portrait of His relationship with His bride (the Church). It was intended to be mutually satisfying and encouraging. It was intended to be a place of safety where we can be completely vulnerable. When one spouse repeatedly, consistently, and intentionally breaks the vows… When one spouse feels trapped and beat down… When one spouse feels he/she can’t be who God created him/her to be… When one spouse feels the life draining out of him/her… When the marriage is so dysfunctional, it is damaging one or both individuals (and the kids)… The marriage is not what God intended. Ultimately, God’s perfect will is for both individuals to submit to Him and restore the marriage…but it requires two willing hearts and only one hard heart to destroy it.
Ultimately, I would have never left my marriage without an affair—and I would have slowly watched the life drain from me. I am thankful for renewed life because of his affair.
My faith was tested. My first nearly 40 years were rather easy, uneventful. I could give lip service to my faith, but I had never been through the fiery furnace of suffering—until my husband had an affair.
Scripture speaks repeatedly about the work God does in the midst of our trials. In James, we are told that we are to count it all joy when we face trials because the testing of our faith develops perseverance (James 1:2-4). In Romans 8:18, we are told what we suffer on this earth is nothing compared to the glory He is working in us. Isaiah 48:10 tells us we are refined in the fire of suffering.
It’s great to read those scripture and mentally acknowledge the truth. It’s a totally different experience to walk through the fire and experience the faithfulness of God as He provides for your needs, gives you grace for each day, and shows up in the most unexpected ways. Despite my years of faithfulness, it wasn’t until my husband’s affair that my faith was tested.
And do you know what? Just as He promises in scripture, my faith was refined and purified. I experienced Him so intimately that it was if I had never known Him before (Job 42:5). The mere mention of the Father’s name caused a smile to sweep across my face and tears to well up in my eyes because He became so precious to me in those days.
I am thankful my husband had an affair so my faith could be tested.
I experienced His healing. A little over four years ago, I came across this amazing passage:
Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Hosea 6:1-2
I didn’t realize it at the time, but God was allowing my life to be torn to pieces so He could bandage my wounds. Without the pain of an affair, I might not have ever experienced the joy of seeing my Father restore my life, repay the years the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25). Without experiencing His healing, I would have never fully experienced the love of my Father.
Adultery caused great damage to my life, but my Father came along and lovingly restored it. For that reason, I am eternally grateful for my ex-husband’s adultery.
I met the Great I Am. I never fully understood what God meant when He referred to Himself as the Great I Am…until my ex-husband’s affair.
When I was in need, He was my Provider.
When I was falsely accused, He was my Defender.
When I was lonely, He was my friend.
When I was a single parent, He was the perfect Father.
When I was weak, He was strong.
Whatever I needed, He was.
At just the right time.
In just the right way.
He is everything…at the perfect moment…He is the Great I Am.
Without adultery hitting my life, I’m not sure I would have come to know the Great I Am, the One who is exactly what I need, exactly when I need it. I saw Him step in and take over in so many ways. He provided for our needs in ways only He can. He was our everything.
And for that, I am eternally grateful.
Yes, in those early days, adultery was the most awful thing that ever happened to me. Today, as I look back and see clearly, I know that adultery was an answer to prayer. God didn’t make my husband have an affair, but He allowed it—and in the process used it for my good and His glory.
And He will do the same for you. You simply need to cling to Him and allow Him to do His work in you.