by Skeet Savage
In the last issue, we responded to a woman who confessed that she is giving over to lust by not keeping her thought life under the control of the Holy Spirit. In this issue we look at the fallout from such situations when lust has conceived and sin has given birth to evil deeds …
“I don’t know if you remember me but I need to talk to someone so I hope you don’t mind listening. I don’t know if there’s anything you can really say or do to help me but I know I need to do something or else I’m going to go crazy. First just let me tell you what has happened to me in the last year. In the past year, I’ve lost my mother to cancer. We were very close and I could talk about anything with her. I miss her so much but I am actually glad that she did not live to see what happened right after she left. The week after she died, our church had revival meetings and I found out my husband has been unfaithful to me. He confessed his sin to another man at the altar and the pastor had him tell the whole church. I still can‘t believe it. Although now it makes sense. I had no idea anything was going on. The worst thing about it was that it was with my best friend at church. We were always in each other's homes and our children grew up together. In fact, this started when I had my last baby and it took longer to recover than usual and I thought she was helping out with food and watching the children but that is when they were getting together. It seems like ever since I found out, this is the only thing I can think about. It’s like I don’t even see what is right in front of me. If I’m doing the dishes or making the beds, all I can think about is the two of them. How could they do this to me? I thought my husband loved me. I thought she was my friend. I thought I was a good wife and mother. Now everyone at church treats me funny. I am so embarrassed. Even my children have started to be smart-mouthed with me and don’t seem to respect me any more. He says he is sorry but I just can’t forgive him. He was being real nice to me right afterward but now he’s starting to get put out with me. I don’t even want him to touch me. Sometimes I think I should find someone to carry on with so he could know how it feels. I can’t believe him when he tells me things now. Whenever he is not here, I wonder what he is doing. Whenever he gets home, I wish I was somewhere else. She wrote me a long letter and apologized and asked if we can go back to how things were before. Our children are still friends and say, “Mom, why can’t you just drop it?” Our pastor says I should be glad he confessed and that at least he wasn’t with a prostitute. He set up a meeting between us two couples and said I needed to give her a hug and forgive her. I did it but I still can’t even look at her without feeling sick in my stomach. It hurts all the time. Nights are the worst. The minute I am awake, I start thinking about it and then there’s no more sleep. My housework is starting to slip, I’m not keeping very good track of the children, and I don’t care if I’m cleaned up and dressed neatly or not. I just wish everything and everyone would go away. But then sometimes I wish that I could just talk to someone who would understand what this is like. I miss my mom so much. Everyone else seems to be taking this in stride but I just can’t get it out of my head. My mind is just stuck on this. I know I need to forgive, and I’ve tried, but I just can’t. I feel like such a hypocrite. I never thought this would happen to me. All my dreams are shattered. I don’t cry anymore. I just hurt. I remember the testimony you shared with us, and all the things you went through, and thought maybe you can help me. You seem to have peace and I sure need it.” --Please Keep My Name Anonymous
Oh, dear Sister--I wish so much that I could give you a hug right now. What an awful burden you are trying to bear. There is much I would like to share with you but, for right now, let me just share a few thoughts that I hope will be a help and encouragement to you.
First of all, it is important that you recognize that, in the past year, you have been simultaneously hit with three of the most stress-inducing events that a human can experience--the death of a loved one, the infidelity of a spouse, and the betrayal of a friend.
Any one of those emotional injuries would be difficult to sustain, but to be subjected to all three at once would be challenging for even the most stalwart among us. You must realize the serious physical and emotional toll that such extreme pressure can take, and not be unreasonably hard on yourself when you feel physically or mentally exhausted and find yourself reeling emotionally.
The old saying, “These things take time” is certainly true in such cases. I do not mean to say that if you simply blank out and try not to think about it that, in time, your distress will just magically disappear.
Rather, circumstances such as these require that you be very purposeful in the days, weeks, and years that follow such experiences, to look to the LORD and apply the powerful truths of His Word that will protect your heart and mind and set you free from the great potential of being taken captive, mentally and emotionally, and carried down into defeat.
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Just as David observed when he exclaimed, “My sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3), the same thing is true when someone sins against us. It appears almost impossible to get away from the remembrance of the wrong--it seems to be there in front of us everywhere we turn.
Those who do not lay hold of the peace of God under such circumstances are at great risk of losing their minds (or “going crazy,” as you put it). God will help you in this, but you must do your part: You must discipline yourself to take “every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and not let your mind go over and over the wrongs that have been committed against you.
Everyone has different means of coping with stressful situations. Most likely, your children are struggling to comprehend all that has transpired and to grasp an understanding of how it could have happened. For some, rather than working through the issues in order to gain a right perspective and learn how to employ the tools that will enable them to see things through to a positive outcome, they seek an escape. Trying (in vain) to “just not think about it” and to return as quickly as possible to “the way things used to be” is the only way they know how to cope with relational trauma. Children usually do not possess the skills or the tools to handle such catastrophic events and, so, often turn to play or social outlets as a means of coping. Well-meaning friends and family members who urge you to “just get over it” are often in the same mode.
However, it is God’s intention not merely that you survive this ordeal, but that you actually be made stronger as a result of this trial. His gift to you for your patient endurance in the face of adversity is that He will not only give you the strength to bear it, but will equip you with an empathetic perspective and a compassion for those who will walk through similar trials somewhere down the road.
Another thought I would like to present to you is regarding how you have been viewing yourself. It is so easy for women to measure their worth in terms of their service to others rather than their service to God. So many of the women I know are completely wrapped up in their identities as so-and-so’s wife or this or that one’s mother. The trouble is: What if so-and-so dies? Or, leaves his wife for another woman? What if the children go off into rebellion against God and His Word? What if any other combination of dreadful circumstances beyond our control should take place? Does that automatically mean we have sinned somehow? Does that mean we have utterly failed?
On the other hand, if we, as servants of the LORD Jesus Christ, have faithfully executed our task and fulfilled our obligations as wives, mothers and daughters, then even if our spouses fail to reciprocate our love or perhaps choose to return evil for our good, or our children reject our standards and embrace lifestyles that are counter to what we have lived and taught, or our parents don’t appreciate what we have done for them--in such cases, our labor of love has not been for nothing. If we have done all that was required of us, as unto the LORD, He has received the work of our hands and our reward is still in tact.
You must make certain that your identity is centered in Christ alone and not in titles, relationships or positions. Then, when all that you do in word or deed is done for the glory of God, nothing will ever be able to shake your quiet confidence in His love, or steal your peace, or rob you of the joy of your salvation.
Does that mean that you will never feel pain or disappointment again? No. But when you have learned to “cast all your cares on Him” (1 Peter 5:7) and to lean on the One who has “born our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4), you will experience a peace that covers you from without and fills you from within--even when there is no reason for you to feel peaceful. That’s why it is known as “the peace that passes understanding.”
I am glad you understand the need to forgive and recognize the fact that you have not truly done so. Forgiveness is not optional. It is a command from our God with strong warnings of dire consequences if we fail to obey Him in this area.
Many who claim to have forgiven another person are only just fooling themselves as bitterness continues to gnaw silently away at the hidden recesses of their heart and life. In refusing to settle for anything less than genuine, absolute forgiveness, you make yourself open and vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks in every area of your life.
As you are experiencing first hand, when you refuse to obey God and forgive, it hurts YOU, first and foremost. Mentally and emotionally, it will make you absolutely miserable--and can even make you physically sick (ulcers, headaches, etc.)!
If you continue to walk in unforgiveness, then it begins to grow and spreads out to affect, or even hurt, others. When the love of God, which can cover a multitude of sins, is not allowed to flow from your heart and through your life, your relationship with God and with others will be negatively affected.
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:14-15).
Bitterness is born from the seeds of unforgiveness. When you fail to obey God and forgive those who trespass against you, then you have become a partaker with the sinners against whom you have chosen to hold your grudge--at which point, you become especially vulnerable to the attacks of satan (1 Corinthians 10:12).
No matter what the sin, our God always stands ready to forgive. As faithful servants we must do the same--for their sake, for our sake, and for the sake of the Kingdom. Those of us who have been forgiven much (and, really, that is ALL of us!) have been granted the privilege of being vessels of God’s mercy to carry His grace and forgiveness to others when they come to a place of repentance.
By walking in love and forgiveness rather than taking matters into your own hands and seeking revenge, you have chosen to remain positioned in such a way that can allow you to see the redeeming power of our God bring good out of what the devil meant for evil.
When Job suffered the loss of all things, he patiently trusted in his God, and history records that the end of his life was even better than it was at the first. There is no reason to believe that the same cannot be told of you when all is said and done. Anyone who has heard my testimony knows that the same God who blessed Job and redeemed his life from the pit is still doing such miracles in the lives of those who trust Him today!
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance” (Psalm 42:5).
In this issue, “Grandma’s” question was answered by Skeet Savage, Senior Editor of An Encouraging Word, the Home School Digest, and Brush Arbor Quarterly. Skeet is the founder of Wisdom’s Gate, and author of Homeschooling For Eternity. Questions in the column may be answered by any one of many “grandmas” who are qualified, by reason of age and lifestyle, to fill the shoes of the Titus 2:3-5 woman. If there are no “grandmas” in your life, from whom you are able to seek Biblical counsel, you may send your questions to “Grandma” c/o Wisdom’s Gate, P.O. Box 374, Covert, MI 49043.
This article was published in An Encouraging Word issue #63, and may not be reprinted or distributed in any form without express written consent from the publisher. All Rights Reserved.