Last week after my husband and I shared about my unfaithfulness in marriage, we began to receive hundreds of messages and comments from readers. They found my page or commented on the article through the social media pages of both Kirk Cameron and TheCourage.
One particular question from a woman needed a full answer, so Bobby responded. See the question and response below.
I read your post about committing adultery and appreciate you being willing to share your story to help others pursue Christ. I wanted to reach out to ask your husband a few questions. Two years ago, I found out my husband had committed adultery several times. I was so broken and hurt, but God was with me through it all. I came to a point where I truly felt like I could forgive my husband, and I told him that I did, but so often it all replays in my mind. I question if he’s cheating again, or worry that he is, but I try to ignore my thoughts. I feel like it’s Satan trying to attack and knock me down, but then there are times when I feel like maybe it’s a legitimate concern.
Has your husband gone through similar feelings? Perhaps I’m just not fully trusting in the Lord to take care of this. Or maybe I must forgive and let go daily? I would love to move on from these nagging doubts, but the insecurities seem overwhelming at times. Thanks for taking the time to listen. God bless!
First, I just want to thank you for sharing your heart with us because it is very brave to entrust your heart and feelings to strangers. I am also very appreciative that you were specific about certain struggles such as anger, trust, and ongoing forgiveness. All of these details certainly help me to understand more clearly what you are going through. I am grateful that I have this privilege to speak to you about your heart while being on the other side of the world. Thank you for your trust, and thank you for asking me to share my testimony concerning the process of healing that I went through.
When I first heard Vanessa’s confession, I was broken in many ways. I was extremely angry. I was hopeless concerning our relationship. I was filled with unceasing pain that drained my energy and stole my joy.
Vanessa’s first confession was not genuine repentance. I could see that she was still struggling with whether she wanted to be with me. This was evident to me because in her flesh, she was strongly desiring to leave me and be with the other guy. In the beginning, she only told me about the adultery because the guy didn’t want to be with her anymore.
So, you can imagine how I felt. This was her third adultery, and her initial confession was not one of repentance. I felt like this cycle of sin was never going to stop, and my kids and I were the ones who were suffering because of her sinful desires.
The single and most powerful thing that caused me to seek forgiveness is the gospel. I know that sounds like the Sunday school answer, but it is absolutely true. The gospel is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. I always need the power of the gospel to sustain me each and every day, and especially during the process of trying to forgive Vanessa.
But how does the gospel specifically help me in these circumstances?
In the gospel, God gives us the model of forgiveness and also the command to forgive. Ephesians 4:32, …”forgive one another as God in Christ Jesus forgave you.”
The Model of Forgiveness
Romans 5:1-11 (especially 6-9) tells us that we were enemies of God and we deserve God’s just wrath because of our sins. For me this was huge in taking those first steps. I have to believe that I don’t deserve God’s forgiveness. Instead, I actually deserve God’s holy wrath because of my sin. If I receive God’s love, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness, it’s because of God’s grace.
#1 “I only deserve God’s holy wrath.” This was important because I believed that I was entitled to a good and faithful wife. But in reality, I only deserve eternity in hell because of my sin. Having a good and faithful wife is a great desire. It is not sinful to want a good and faithful wife, but I cannot be in despair because I don’t have a good and faithful wife. In reality, I should be overwhelmed with gratefulness that God has not utterly destroyed me and sent me to hell. The pain of an unfaithful wife is nothing compared to the pains of hell.
#2 “I only deserve God’s holy wrath.” This truth also helps me to understand that I cannot judge her for her infidelity. Her sin is just as evil as any of my sins in the sight of God because we all of have fallen short of his glory. And we all are saved by grace, not by any works of righteousness that we have done. So, I needed to be humbled by this truth in order to see that she is also a broken sinner in need of grace just as I am. She is not my enemy. She is my sinful wife who needs God’s love and compassion.
#3 “It’s because of God’s grace.” I was an enemy of God and there was no worth in me that was great enough to require Jesus to come down from heaven and die for me. Before he stepped down from his throne in heaven, there were myriads and myriads, thousands and thousands of heavenly beings worshipping him. Their songs of praise are so powerful that they cause the ground to shake at the sound of their voices. And yet, Jesus obeyed the command of his Father to humble himself from that exalted place of worship and become a human. He took on flesh because as God, Jesus cannot die, and therefore he must be made like us in every way so that he could provide a sacrifice for sins by dying on the cross. He took my penalty and suffered the pain of God’s wrath on my behalf, and I didn’t deserve it. God extends forgiveness to his enemies by grace through Jesus Christ. So, I should also humble myself and extend forgiveness to others even if they don’t deserve it.
#4 The purpose of forgiving sinners is to reconcile them to God. In Romans 5:1, Paul tells us that we have peace with God because of the sacrifice of Jesus. This is huge! Don’t miss this. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, so that we could have reconciliation with God. Without Jesus’ sacrifice, we would not have peace with God or forgiveness of our sins. Therefore we would be required to endure the wrath of God in hell for all eternity because of our sins. How does this apply to me? I am supposed to forgive Vanessa with the purpose of reconciling our relationship because that is the purpose of God forgiving us through Jesus Christ.
The Command to Forgive
This verse in Ephesians 4:32 is a command to forgive others in the same way that God forgave us in Christ Jesus.
#1 “in the same way” If I was going to be faithful to God’s word, I had to forgive Vanessa even though she didn’t deserve it. Actually, in the beginning, she didn’t even want my forgiveness, and that made it all the more difficult to walk in obedience. I just couldn’t do it. I was filled with hatred and pain. And I am not God, so I couldn’t extend that forgiveness to her in the same way.
Within the first couple of weeks, Vanessa lied to me. She said that she needed to leave the house and get away so she could think about what had happened. I thought that she was going to stay in a nearby hotel for the night, but she actually rode her bike to that guy’s house. The next day, she texted me about what had happened, and she said that she was on her way home.
I remember walking into the bedroom filled with anger because of what she did and I began beating the bed with my fists. I was out of control, and my rage was causing me to be consumed with my pain. After a few minutes of pounding my fists into the bed, I realized what I was doing, and I knew that I was out of control. I fell onto the bed weeping because of my pain and anger. I confessed to God that I did not have the strength in me to forgive her or love her again. I just couldn’t do it.
And while I was laying there on the bed, a verse from 2 Corinthians 12 came to my mind, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” and “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” For the first time in my life, I felt like I truly understood those words. There I was laying on the bed, and I was completely incapable of forgiving Vanessa, but God said that when I am incapable, He is glorified through me by manifesting His power in me to accomplish His will. Of course! When I am incapable, and I draw near to God for what I need, only then am I truly strong because He gives me His strength! He gives me His wisdom! He gives me His love!
So that started the process of me actively walking in obedience to God’s command. I said the words, “I forgive you,” and each day I strived to rely on God for the strength to forgive her in my heart and mind.
#2 ”in the same way” There is a passage in Romans 4:7-8 which is a quotation from Psalm 32:1-2. It says, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered: blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
In these verses, it is clear that the Lord fully forgives. Meaning, He does not hold any record of wrongs against us. Actually in Colossians 2:14, Paul says that our record of sin is nailed to the cross and set aside. In the same way, I was required to set aside Vanessa’s adultery by nailing it to the cross. I could no longer harbor any anger, bitterness, resentment, or mistrust against her.
Again, this was impossible. I struggled for months with thoughts of the adultery. And those thoughts were the fuel for my anger manifesting itself in the form of bitterness, resentment, and strong desires that she would die.
Some people would say that my anger was justified because of the adultery, but I strongly disagree. My anger wasn’t righteous anger. I was angry because Vanessa hurt me, and I wanted justice. I felt like she should feel the same pain that I felt, and experience the grief of betrayal.
But, that isn’t nailing her record to the cross of Christ. That is taking justice into my own hands and requiring more punishment for her sin than the precious sacrifice of Christ Jesus himself. In reality, Jesus has already paid the penalty for that sin and God had extended forgiveness to her through the blood of Christ, and yet in my anger, I was demanding more. I wanted her to suffer with me through the pain that she caused. And I even wanted her to die for it.
My anger was not righteous. My heart was not pure. I was still struggling with true forgiveness, the same forgiveness that was extended to me through the cross. I needed help from the gospel to conquer my anger. My struggle with my anger was a long battle, and still I sometimes discover new ways that my heart is trying to hold onto the pain of the adultery and demand retribution for her sin. But there is hope! And that brings me to my next point about the power of the gospel.
I needed the power of the gospel to help me love my wife as Christ loved the church. This is explicitly stated in Ephesians 5:25 in regard to husbands loving their wives in the same way that Christ loves the church. This same requirement of love is extended to others outside of the marriage relationship in Ephesians 5:1-2, 1 John 3:16, and Romans 12:9-21. Therefore, we are commanded to love everyone as Christ loved us. But the marriage relationship is specifically designed by God to demonstrate to the world the particular love that God has for his church. He does this through the intimacy that the husband and wife share in their relationship.
#1 If I hate my brother, I cannot be a follower of Christ. 1 John 3:15 is bold and clear. John says, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
These words were like a sword piercing into my soul. They revealed the reality of my heart and the true nature of my anger. In Matthew 5:22, Jesus says that being angry with someone is really no different than murder in our hearts. I really needed to hear these words and believe them with all my heart because I was angry. Not only was I angry, but I also felt extremely justified in my anger.
This sin was so devastating to my relationship with Vanessa because it caused me to have a hardened heart towards her and prevented me from having any feelings of affection for her. When I say affection, I am talking about the bible’s clear command for me to be tenderhearted towards others. This means that I should have a natural disposition to show kindness, compassion, and love toward other people. But, I did not have any sort of natural disposition of tenderheartedness. I was struggling with hating her.
This verse really started hammering away at these evil feelings, because I want to be a follower of Christ. Jesus has given me a new identity, and I want to live my life as a new creation. I don’t want to be characterized as a man who is in slavery to his anger. That is not who I am in Christ.
#2 Anger is a misplaced love for an idol. But how did I begin the fight against anger? First, I had to identify what anger is, so that I could fight against it and truly love my wife. I was angry because I want Vanessa to be a good and faithful wife. That is a great desire as I have said before, but I wanted this desire so much, that I was willing to disobey God’s clear commands in order to protect it. This strong desire/ lust caused me to allow this good desire to become an idol that replaced God as my ultimate source of satisfaction.
What do I mean? I want Vanessa to be a good and faithful wife. Why? Because that will make me happy, and that will bring me joy. But if she does not live up to that expectation, then what? Where does my supply of happiness and joy come from? This is where my idolatry becomes so clear. I was angry at her continuously because she was falling short of living up to my expectations to be a good and faithful wife, and I wasn’t happy. I didn’t have joy. So I sought to protect that desire by punishing her through my anger. I was protecting my idol (what I truly loved) by hating her and clearly disobeying God’s command to love her and consider her more important than myself.
In order to love Vanessa, I had to first dismantle my idol and find my joy in Christ alone. Otherwise, Vanessa’s shortcomings would always lead me into further resentment and anger because I am relying on her for my source of joy. The truth is this, she can never supply me with the joy that I need to be satisfied. Only God can do that as Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me that path of life. In your presence there is the fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
#3 I must consider others more important than myself. This is one of the most difficult aspects of living out the call to love my wife. This command in Philippians 2:3 is clear and powerful. Paul says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
In my anger, I want a good and faithful wife, and I was even willing to divorce my wife in order to pursue that desire in another relationship. My desire for a good and faithful wife is not evil, but I was allowing it to become a selfish ambition. The fulfillment of that desire only satisfies and serves me. It doesn’t consider the damaging eternal effects of allowing Vanessa to pursue her sinful desires to be with the other man.
In order for me to truly consider Vanessa more significant than myself, I had to put aside my desire for her to be a good and faithful wife and accept her for who she is. She is a broken sinner who needs the transforming power of the gospel to be ministered into her life. As her husband, I was the best qualified to minister the gospel to her and display the love of Christ to her in spite of her sin.
Jesus also displayed this love for us! In Philippians 2:5-8, we see that Jesus did not fight for his right to be continually praised by the heavenly hosts. He did not fight for his right to sit on his glorious throne and receive unceasing songs of worship. Instead, he humbled himself and became a human. While he was on earth, he was ridiculed, beaten, slandered, and put to death on a cross. He did this because he considered our needs as more significant than his own entitlements. He did not seek selfish ambition. He gave up everything to save us from death.
Likewise, I had to lay aside all of my “rights” in order to pursue what was best for Vanessa. I had to give up the desire for her to be a good and faithful wife in order to bear with her sinfulness and walk with her in gentleness towards a Savior who can change her. If I would have pursued my desires, that would have inevitably led to divorce. But, I chose to continue to bear with her so that her life would be changed. I wanted her to see the love of God clearly displayed through my devotion to her joy in Christ.
By God’s grace, God used my obedience to the commands of scripture to help transform Vanessa’s heart and lead her on a road of true repentance. But for some, this might not be the case. God may allow you to continue going through hardships in order to refine your faith and display his glory through your weaknesses. If that is the case, I pray that you would abide in Christ so that you may receive from him every ounce of strength, power, wisdom, patience, kindness, love, mercy, gentleness, and self-control that you need to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.
We cannot change anyone’s heart, but God can. And we need to trust in His timing to change the hearts of people. But, we can offer our lives as a sacrifice before his throne, and he is faithful to refine our faith and supply all our needs in Jesus. I have been married to Vanessa for almost 9 years, and it hasn’t been until this last year, the year following the adultery that I have seen a zealousness for Christ. If you ask her, she will tell you that I have been the one who has discipled her over the last eight years, and what she knows about the Bible and the faith is due to my consistent devotion to her joy in Christ. I didn’t change her heart through my devotion to her. God changed her heart by the power of the Holy Spirit, and my devotion to her was a tool in God’s hands for manifesting the truths of the gospel in her life.
Strive for Righteousness
I would like to say one last thing concerning my fight against anger. You must train yourself in the ways of righteousness. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul says, “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
In order to have victory over my anger and find freedom from my pain, I had to train myself in righteousness so that I may be complete. During the process of fighting my anger, I noticed that I would continually fight thoughts about the adultery. The adultery took place in my town at places that I regularly go with my family, so when I went to those places, they would trigger thoughts about the adultery. This would also happen during conversations that I had with friends and coworkers whenever they would bring up something remotely related to the events of the adultery.
In the beginning stages of dealing with the adultery, I had developed habits of unrighteousness by meditating on those horrible events and allowing them to foster pain and anger in my heart. I didn’t realize that I was doing this, and I even thought that it was a good thing to think through the events in order to “deal” with them.
But in Philippians 4:8, Paul commands us to think about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything excellent or worthy of praise.” If we do that, then the God of peace will be with us. That is a promise of God’s word.
The adultery is obviously not something worthy of praise, and it isn’t honorable or excellent in any way. Therefore, I should not dwell or meditate on the events of the adultery. Because if I allow myself to fall into this habit, I am not pursuing God’s presence in my life. Instead, I am pursuing the retribution of my pain by seeking fault with my wife through her actions. This is not something that produces peace.
In order to train yourself in righteousness or develop habits of righteousness, you need actively pursue the truths that I have already explained in this document. You can do that in this way. Whenever you have a thought come in to your mind, immediately take that thought captive. Don’t dwell on it. Stop thinking about that event. Then, you should pray and ask God to help you to love your spouse. Express to God that you are deeply hurt by the events that have taken place, but you don’t want to hold those things against your spouse anymore. You want to fully forgive your spouse and develop a disposition of kindness, love, and compassion towards him.
Admit to God that you cannot change your own heart in order to display the kind of love that God commands you to have. Ask God to enable you to love as He has commanded you to love. Then dwell on the ways that you can actively be serving your spouse in order to be that tool in God’s hands for changing his life.
If you consistently do this every time a thought comes into your mind about the adultery, you will begin to have strong victory over your pain and anger. This has been one of the most powerful tools in fighting my sin, but it is built on the foundation of all the others truths that I have mentioned. If you in any way feel justified in your anger or you have little or no desire to follow through with obeying God’s commandment to lover your spouse, it will be very difficult to find freedom from your pain.
But there is hope in the gospel. Hold fast to these truths and strive towards Christ!
If you have any questions you would like to ask Bobby or Vanessa, please send a message to us via social media, comment below, or send an email to vanessa.jencks at gmail.com
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