Is healing possible after an affair?

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Divorce concept

“I don’t know if I can ever get past this . . . his affair with that b_____ is a deal breaker for me.”

“My trust has been demolished . . . there’s no way I’ll ever be able to forgive her.”

I’ve heard these statements, and many others, many times. They are the cries of a broken and betrayed heart. It seems impossible to get past our pain when our deepest bond and most solemn vows have been destroyed through an act of infidelity.

In fact, the only justifiable reason Jesus gave for divorce is sexual unfaithfulness (Matthew 5:31-33). God knows that when the covenant of marriage is broken through adultery, the marriage may be beyond human repair.

Many, too many, know this reality all too well. We can forgive just about anything but betrayal by our spouse.

So is healing even possible after unfaithfulness? Shouldn’t we just cut our losses and move on? Can a marriage ever be strong again after the destruction of its very foundation?

It depends.

There are no simple or pat answers here. I know how violently some may object to what I’m about to say, but say it I must. So let me venture into deep and dark waters with ten questions worth pondering:

•    Is God able to heal even the most broken of hearts?
•    Can we learn to forgive as we have been forgiven?
•    Are we willing to have the long view of life? (In other words, is it possible to get past the immediate turmoil and have hope for our future?)
•    Are we willing to work hard (perhaps harder than we ever have before) to re-establish what’s been lost?
•    Can we humbly admit that we’ve each committed adultery in our own hearts (which counts according to Jesus; see Matthew 5:28) and not be so quick to judge our spouse?
•    Do we believe that anything and any marriage fully surrendered to God can be redeemed, restored, and renewed?
•    If your spouse has truly confessed and repented, doesn’t that count for something?
•    If he or she has begged you for a second chance, don’t we serve a God of second chances?
•    If you’ve got years invested in your marriage, and kids who will live with the consequences of your decision to quit, isn’t the possibility of restoration worth the effort?
•    Isn’t God able to bring life out of death?

I can’t answer those questions for you, and you can do whatever you choose to do without blame. But I beg you to at least consider the potential for healing.

Years ago, a couple came to me on the brink of divorce. At first I thought it was too late for them. They waited too long to get help, and now they seemed beyond repair. He had committed adultery with her best friend. It was a double wound for this young woman and mother of three. You could see the shame in his eyes and the bitter hate in hers.

Honestly, I was a young pastor, and I didn’t know what to say. But then I had one of those moments when God seemed to write on the wall of my heart, and I asked them this question: “Is Jesus bigger than your pain? Can the One who was betrayed to death, bring resurrection life to your marriage?”

Everything in the room seemed to be frozen in time. The veil of darkness was thick. He stared at the carpet. She stared at me. And then something miraculous happened as they both began to weep and sob and shake. The veil was torn in two.

Somehow, in a way that only God can do, a seed of hope was planted in their damaged and broken hearts.

Broken Heart 3The road to recovery was long and hard for them. In some ways, it would have been much easier emotionally to dissolve their marriage. But they chose hope, and now over twenty years later, they are trophies of God’s epic grace. Truthfully, their marriage is stronger than it ever was before.

If it’s over, and you’re done; it’s done. And there is no condemnation from God or me. Adultery is a tragic and serious issue and one that cannot be brushed aside with ease.

But what if?

What if you gave your spouse a chance to start over?

What if you surrendered your right to quit and move on and found grace to move beyond instead?

What if Jesus could touch you in your deepest brokenness and bring something even better to your marriage—a trust not based only on your spouse—but a trust found only in Him?

May I pray for you?

“Father, for those who have been wounded by unfaithfulness, heal their hearts. For those who have quit and moved on, help them to forgive and trust again, and help them to know they can live free of condemnation. For those willing to try a second time, give them grace and strength they will need from You. And when it’s all said and done, whether the marriage survives or not, give us all hope for the future we can have in You. Amen.”

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4 Responses to Is healing possible after an affair?

  1. I was the one who stepped out in my marriage. It stopped and It was another seven years before I felt led to tell my husband. When I did, my husband modeled Jesus in a way I have never experienced before. Forgiveness and love cover a multitude of sin. Grace, when it flows, washes everything clean. The miracle is this: as God cleans us, he adds so much to us, strengthening us and making us new. Soon, I will celebrate twenty years of marriage. God is so good.

  2. I really enjoy what you write. I want to say, however, that going through my divorce (because of adultery) I was given tremendous counsel. I was reminded that forgiveness of the spouse is commanded by God. Reconciliation would be wonderful. But restoration may be impossible. That can be true even if the erring spouse is repentant. Trust is just no longer there In my case–the spouse was not repentant. But it all helped me to see that forgiveness does not equal restoration.

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