Spiritual crisis is one the topics that comes up a lot with betrayed wives/wives of sex addicts. Most of us (64% according to the 2015 Survey on Spiritual Crisis respondents) have walked that road at some point and to some degree. This is a topic that both Donna Dixon (co-author of the survey) and I find weighing on our hearts frequently.
One of the spiritual crisis questions I have not addressed much is “does my suffering show I lack faith?” I’ve heard this question (in various forms):
- Did this happen to me because I didn’t pray enough?
- I’ve been praying constantly and believing God for my husband’s recovery – why isn’t he getting better? What does God want from me?
- I spend a lot of time crying and grieving (or angry and yelling, or fearful and hiding). Obviously I lack faith in God.
You Will Have Trouble
In Western Christian culture we don’t do crisis well, or the emotions that go with it. Despite the thousands of years between us and Job, there still seems to be a prevailing idea that if we do good, we should get good. If we do bad… well, it’s our own fault. Obviously we either sinned, lacked faith… or something.
But Jesus, who loved to get in the midst of messy situations and bring peace and joy, said we WOULD have trouble. Not because we’re bad, have sinned or lack faith. We just will. And according to John 16, His job is to give us peace despite our circumstances. All He asks of us is that we “take heart.”
So is our husband’s sin due to our lack of faith? Not a chance.
Of course, we should pray for our husbands and their recovery.* We should pray with as much faith as we can muster. However, we are no more responsible for their choice to sin than God is. Paul tells us that each of us will have to give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14:10-12). You are not going to be held accountable for your husband’s porn addiction any more than I am… assuming you and I aren’t doing anything to cause him to stumble into this sin (Romans 14:15-16). I’m not talking about some addicts lame definition of “cause” here either – if you didn’t load his laptop with porn, invite the prostitute over, etc., you’re probably good.
Thus, we may pray with incredible faith, and our husbands may not change. However, we have to remember that prayer is not a magic formula to get what we want in life. Prayer is about relationship and connection with a Father who loves us. If our prayer life consists solely of “get me out of this painful situation” we will be disappointed (I’m speaking from experience here).
Fine… But I’m a Mess!
Sometimes we think our inability to cope with betrayal trauma and its messy emotions proves that we:
- lack faith
- are spiritually immature
- are out of favor with God, etc.
While most of us are not yet spiritual giants, I don’t believe our reactions to trauma indicate that we are spiritually lacking. This is true, even if we are having a harder time than normal, discerning His voice, concentrating while reading the bible, praying, etc.
Likewise, having negative emotions doesn’t prove that we are lacking spiritually. Jesus himself experienced big, negative emotions such as anger and grief.
Growing Through Pain
The big negative emotions have strengthened my faith. Seriously.
The fear and anger drove me into His arms. In time, those emotions mellowed into grief. That was a huge spiritual development for me.
And today, I am able to move through pain and grief much faster than I could originally. This doesn’t come from my own strength: it comes directly from my relationship with the God who has been with me through it all.
Even when our despair and pain are so great we
- can’t feel Him
- don’t know if we still believe and
- don’t know if we like Him
He’s still there, collecting our tears in a bottle and shedding his own for us.
This is relationship, and it’s transforming me. It’s made my faith so much greater than it was to begin with. Many women (in the spiritual crisis survey) have shared similar stories with me.
If you’re not there yet, please don’t worry. It is the work of years. For now just look to connect with Him when overwhelming pain brings on those emotions. Get out a pen and journal a prayer if you can't concentrate. Rest assured that what you’re experiencing is not an indication of your faith. However, as you heal, He will use this nightmare to grow you… and get you through and out the other side.
*As some of my friends on this journey know… I struggled to pray for my husband the first couple of years. I didn’t so much lack faith as I didn’t like my husband and praying for him felt too painful. Not ideal — but I know I'm not alone in this.