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 can pray for our husband and his recovery. We can pray with as much faith as we can muster. However, we are no more responsible for his choice to sin, or walk in freedom, than God is. Paul tells us that each of us will have to give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14:10-12). We are not going to be held accountable for our husband’s porn addiction… assuming we aren’t doing anything to cause him to stumble into this sin (Romans 14:15-16). I’m not talking about some addicts' definition of “cause” here – if we didn’t load his laptop with porn, etc., we're probably good.
Thus, we may pray with incredible faith, and our husband may not change. Then again 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 predominantly 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. It proves we are human. Jesus himself experienced big, negative emotions such as anger and grief.
So then why do we feel our faith has taken a hit then after betrayal? Author Dave Peterson offers an explanation:
“Human suffering is one of the two or three greatest obstacles to faith. The subject is usually framed in this way, ‘How can a loving God allow so much suffering in the world?’ ... Though we wish God would simply put an end to suffering, at least for the time being God’s approach to suffering is not to end it, but to enter it. Like it or not, our best hope in this often-broken world is to find refuge in God’s presence and to trust in two great assurances we find in Psalm 34.
1. Despite present appearances, in the end goodness will triumph and evil will self-destruct.
2. Until that day, God’s presence is enough.”
Growing through pain
Believing God is with us in the suffering and the resulting negative emotions can lead, in time, to strengthened faith. For myself I have found that 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 practicing (again and again) not defending against my negative emotions and sitting with Him in them.
Of course that's not easy to do 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
I get that... and found He was still there, speaking truth to counter the devastating lies, collecting my tears in a bottle and shedding his own for me.
If you’re not at a place where this sounds comforting yet, please don’t worry. It's not uncommon for the movement into this type of relational connection to be the work of years. For now just look up when overwhelming pain brings on those devastating emotions. Get out a pen and journal a prayer if you can't concentrate (or try Immanuel Journalling). You can hold on to the truth that betrayal often tests our faith. However, the journey to healing, most often brings growth as well, including growth in our relationship with Him and others.
Thanks to GH for passing along this song... may it help each of you brave sisters hold on to His truth in the midst of this storm.