Broken inside the Church
Broken marriages are far too common than we want to admit and the church cannot ignore the adulteries occurring among its members any longer. Married couples are sitting in church pews hiding in shame and experiencing anger, despair, fear, jealousy, guilt, relief and revenge. Restoration begins by placing hope in God and not in your circumstances and not in your partner (Psalm 46).
The following is a brief summary of Robert D. Jones, Restoring your Broken Marriage: Healing After Adultery (CCEF; New Growth Press, 2009).
Practical Strategies for Change (according to Jones)
What if I have hurt my spouse? The Offending Partner’s Path
Break the adulterous relationship immediately and completely.
Fully admit the facts by disclosing honestly. Come clean completely.
Confess to God, your spouse, and appropriate others about both the sexual sin of adultery and the deception/lies, and seek their forgiveness. Both are difficult to forgive.
Develop and implement a specific action plan for godly change.
Address specifically: 1) how you will change; 2) how you will handle temptation; 3) who you will invite into your life for accountability; 4) what disciplines you will incorporate; 5) how you will relate to your wife; and any other relevant situation-specific questions.
Believe the gospel and move forward, continuing this action plan. While your spouse is not guaranteed to forgive you, God is. Don’t be crippled by guilt, but trust Christ for forgiveness.
What if my spouse has hurt me? The Offended Partner’s Path
Find your security and identity in Jesus Christ and not in your spouse or marriage. Believe the gospel. Rise up and declare that your life is not built on anything or anyone other than your Lord Jesus (Psalm 27:10; 73:25-26).
Perceive this trial biblically by seeing God’s sovereign, wise, loving purposes to increase your Christ-likeness. It gives you opportunity to experience, although only in part, the suffering, loneliness, and betrayal our Lord Jesus experienced. Our Redeemer uses trials like this to expose our remaining sin to uncover blind spots and pockets of remnant ungodliness. God’s comfort to you in your trial will equip you to comfort others (2 Cor 1:3-4).
Forgive your spouse attitudinally and unconditionally, in light of the gospel. Release your adulterous spouse from your judgment and to God and empty your heart of bitterness. This can only be done as we mediate on the gospel and remember how God has forgiven us (Matt 18:21-35; Eph 4:32).
Forgive your spouse relationally and transactionally if the offending party repents.
Realize the process nature of these matters, and deal with bad memories when they arise. Pray and ask God to guard your mind from these memories. Rehearse the gospel promises. Renew your promises of forgiveness before God. Focus on key biblical truths about God and turn your energy to serving others, including your spouse.
The Four Promises of Forgiveness (from Ken Sande, The Peacemaker):
I will not dwell on your sin. I will not bring up your sin and use it against you. I will not talk to others about your sin. I will not allow your sin to stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.
Conclusion: Next Steps
When ready, recommit to the marriage covenant and prepare to explore the problems that existed before the adultery. Commit to long-term, Christ-centered counseling.
When considering what you will tell others about the adultery, the key principle is that you and your spouse must agree how much to say.
Moving forward, hold fast to the gospel and God’s promises.