I received an amazing e-mail from a reader, a husband, last week. His wife has engaged in adultery, and he stands ready and willing to forgive her. He didn’t blame himself for her actions, but he did point out areas, weaknesses, in their marriage that led to the dangerous path that they now walk. For whatever reason, hearing this expressed by a man was overwhelmingly powerful to me.
Toward the end of his letter he wrote how “nice” it was to be able to open up to someone who had gone through the “same thing,” and then he added, “albeit for different reasons”. Those words hit me with blunt force because everyone who is cheated on needs to know the reason why, just as everyone who cheats (and then desires repentance) needs to identify the root of his or her sin. And there are a million different “reasons” for adultery that I believe fall into three main categories: addiction, discontentment, and revenge. But as I read and reread that line, I became freshly aware of the one real reason.
Men and women cheat because they are not satisfied in their marriages.
Does it sound like I’m backtracking…undoing everything I’ve been saying for over a year? Well, I’m not; so please stay with me. No one who cheats does so while receiving satisfaction from their spouse. But, although there might be serious problems in the marriage, that does not make the adultery the fault of the betrayed spouse. The fault lies in a lie…that one ever could or should receive satisfaction and fulfillment from another person.
Papa Bear and I know a little something about this.
He wrote about his root issues here, but suffice it to say that my husband’s desire to cheat had nothing to do with me or my actions as a wife. In fact, when he fell in love with me he thought he had found a way out of the madness. His intense love for me would save him, he thought. And when I fell short (and I will always fall short), he became quickly disillusioned.
We’re not unusual in this regard. We’re just an extreme version of an everyday story that is playing out in homes across the world. If you are expecting your spouse to save you, if you need his love to make you whole, you cannot promise to not go searching. Our spouses can never satisfy us, because our hearts’ cry is not for them.
Do you believe this? If so, I have only one question to ask you this morning…
Who satisfies you?
And in this case, there is only One right answer.
I’m judging. Oh, how those words make my skin crawl, but still, I’m doing it. I’m judging a friend for her sin…testing her fruit and finding it hollowed by worms (and not necessarily facing my findings with kindness). You see, she is deeply involved in a sin that I find especially painful (though it is not personally affecting me). She is haphazardly and selfishly laying lives to ruin. And, though we’ve known each other for years, the very thought of her life today makes me angry. Or, it did, until I had a talk with my Father this week.
He said only three words, but the emotion they carried washed over me like an early morning deep dive into a cold pool. “She feels hopeless,” He said, and His words woke me.
As if my soul were lifted from my body and thrown down in another time, I saw myself, vividly, on the floor. I watched as I wept, bitterly, and crawled across the tear-stained carpet because I was too weak to walk or to stand.
The pain of infidelity is overwhelming, it is poured thickly over its victims, and it changes them as it dries. But watching myself writhe in pain, in memories as vivid as movies, I knew it wasn’t the pain of my husband’s betrayal that had pinned me to the floor. The ritualistic pain I felt in those moments was caused solely by hopelessness. Tomorrow would surely be worse than yesterday, and I could think of no good reason to hope.
As I sit here tonight, I can thinking of many, many triggers for hopelessness: the loss of a child or a spouse, debt or financial ruin, reputation destroying gossip, infertility…the list could go on and on. But tonight, if you feel hopeless, may I kindly remind you that there is hope?
Watching myself in memories, I felt very little pity (though I was reminded of and starkly humbled by the pain). What I was overwhelmed by was the desire to reach down and to slap myself, to rebuke my embarrassing lack of faith. The person that I am three years later knows that had my marriage crumbled, as it very nearly did, there would have been hope in tomorrow. And the person that I am three years later knows that forgiveness and redemption are real.
I read your stories and, quite frankly, I am often tempted to hopelessness on your behalf. This world is not our home; Heaven helps us. But then I watch in awe as you heal. The master painter dips His creative brush into cooled ashes, and using your heart as a canvas, He creates masterpieces so beautiful I could cry. I do cry, and I marvel as you piece together shattered pottery and tirelessly squeeze lemons for lemonade.
It is my hope (and it is my hope) that my redemption does the same for you. Because hopelessness leads to the unspeakable…
…May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.