I am always amazed when I look back on trials and ponder what I call “God working His magic.” But even knowing that, I was not prepared for this new challenge. This one not only left me confused at the outcome, but also fearful that I really knew nothing about the mind of God. Perhaps that is right where He needed me to be.
When I was in college, I knew very little about God or the Bible, but tragedy in my teen years gave me a sense of need and a hunger and thirst for understanding. As God placed key people along my path, I began to grow in knowledge and truth, and I eventually came to an obedient faith in Christ. Someone shared the gospel with me and ever since then, my heart has yearned to study the Bible with the lost.
I married a Christian who was preparing for full-time ministry. I longed to help others, and I felt that being the wife of an evangelist would fulfill that dream. We had some good years, but soon the challenges and distractions of life took us in a completely different direction. He grew further from God, and my desire for him to be the spiritual leader in our marriage intensified.
Fast forward to twenty-three years of marriage, working a business, and farming with three children. My husband and I had grown apart—though I did not realize it at the time. I just assumed we were okay, as we rarely argued. I only understood later that this is not a good measure of marital health.
In my confidence that nothing could shatter a marriage devoted to God, I failed to consider the power of adultery’s allurement. I noticed a new aloofness in my husband. He became more distant from me, the Church, God, and his family. I just thought he was depressed due to some life circumstances which had left him angry and disappointed. I trusted God to get him through whatever was bothering him. I continued serving God through my family and my church.
Surprised by Infidelity, Fighting for Forgiveness
Then one day, I pressed the issue of his apparent unhappiness. He confessed that he had been having an affair for four months! He felt that he loved her, and he wanted to separate. Devastation, loss, fear, the pain when thinking of our children . . . it all swirled in my mind as a raging tornado destroying everything in its path. The next few months grew into two of the most challenging years of my lifetime. Anger and resentment toward the “other woman’’ would burn as my eight-year-old would cry and bury her head in my chest, asking what we could do to bring Daddy home.
The other woman (we will call her Laney) was married at the time, living with another woman’s husband as she was dating mine. I was told of her relentless pursuit of men, and I considered her a harlot in every sense of the word. I felt justified in my hatred of her. For some reason, it was easier to forgive my ex-husband over time, but when I thought of her, my anger was fueled.
I prayed often, begging God to help me forgive her. The torment going on inside my head was overwhelming at times. I could not understand why God was not answering my prayers. I just wanted to stop thinking about it, to stop thinking about her. I met with a Christian counselor who helped me very much. She challenged me from the Bible, and when I was most distraught, she asked how my time in the Word had been. Ah, I needed that challenge. I had been so weak; I had neglected myself.
I soon began feeding my soul with much needed time alone with God.
I prayer walked and ran in the park.
I leaned on Christian sisters for encouragement.
I listened to Christian music every day to keep positive words in my mind.
I attended worship with my church family, even though it was very hard to face everyone. God knew I needed the fellowship and sharing of the Word.
One day at a time, I asked God for strength to get through each day.
I believed that I could do all things through Christ (Phil. 4:13), but why was this thing taking so long?
Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you,” haunted me. Numerous other passages permeated my soul as I continued to pray, asking for help to forgive Laney.
- “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:13).
- “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14–15).
I had never hated anyone in my life, and the grief over that was taking a toll on my heart. But in other aspects of my journey, I was feeling stronger, regaining some confidence as the Lord grew me.
The divorce was final, my two older girls were in college, and I began to grow accustomed to being single. I finally told God that I was okay if it was His will for me to remain single. I had come to terms with my circumstances and was trusting Him more and more with my fears.
Extend Mercy to the “Other Woman”?
Then much to my surprise, three months later, I met a wonderful widower in his late forties named Dub Erisman. He taught Bible classes at his church. He loved young people like I did, and we hit it off immediately. Dub and I began to spend time together and soon became engaged. I shared with him some thoughts I had been having . . . of studying the Bible with Laney. The mere consideration made me angry, and I told God I was not the right person to do it, repeatedly pushing the thoughts aside.
My ex-husband and I managed to maintain an amicable relationship. We tried to do what was best for our children by not maligning each other and treated each other with kindness. The church we had fellowshipped with for over twenty years was extremely supportive and had reached out to him repeatedly, encouraging repentance and restoration. He expressed sorrow for his behavior but remained unwilling to leave his mistress. I chose to forgive him as I moved forward with my future.
On one occasion my ex-husband told me that Laney wanted to know God. He knew that I had always had a passion for teaching the Word to those seeking. I said that I would find someone to share with her. I felt it might be too hard for those in my congregation to meet with her, as they had been through so much heartache for me and our children. So, I left Laney’s name and contact phone at another church where I knew of a woman who also studied one on one with the lost. Two weeks went by, and no one called.
Meanwhile, the thoughts continued to pop up in my mind. I was indignant that God would expect me to do this. He continued to whisper in my ear . . . you know that nagging feeling when you know you are supposed to do something but you really do not want to do it? Extend mercy to the “other woman”? How could you ask me to do that, Lord?
Then I recalled those accounts of how they treated Jesus.
Matthew 27:28–30 tells us they stripped him, spit on him, and took a staff and struck him on the head again and again. You know the rest of the story.
And yet Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Meanwhile, I told Dub that I could not stop thinking about sharing God’s Word with Laney. He said, “Connie, if you think God is calling you to do this, then you need to do it!”
I called my ex-husband and told him that I would study with Laney, as no one had contacted her. We set the first meeting at the home that my ex-husband and I had built together years earlier. I was nauseated and wanted to turn the car around and drive the opposite direction. I told God with my teeth clenched that I was only doing this for Him!
I knocked on the door hoping she wouldn’t answer . . . but she did. We sat down at the kitchen table, and she said, “I can’t believe you are doing this.”
I took no credit, explaining that God was the reason I was there. I could help her understand the Bible and know God, but I would not discuss her and my ex-husband’s relationship. She agreed. At that first meeting, Laney expressed that she considered my willingness to study with her to be an action of a true Christian. She seemed so grateful, and she began to confess sins from her past prior to her affair with my ex-husband.
She began to weep and pour out her heart to me. She admitted her past failures and apologized for what she had done to me and my girls. My heart began to soften. She was so lost. She did not know Jesus, and she desperately needed to. I confessed my hatred toward her. Sitting across from each other, we were two sinners, both in need of forgiveness. At that moment, the bitter root was lifted from me. The hatred was gone. I felt amazing peace. I knew I was doing exactly what I was supposed to do—that I had so adamantly resisted! God had answered my pleas to be released from unforgiveness. I was set free!
Laney and I continued to meet weekly for Bible study, and a few months later she was baptized into Christ. In time, I understood God’s wisdom . . . facing my foe had set me free. Extending the hand of grace gave me peace.
The Secret to Freedom and Forgiveness Is Simple
Everyone’s journey will be different, and you may be called to forgive in a totally different manner. But please listen to the Spirit’s prodding. The anger that we harbor after being betrayed steals our joy. Bitterness robs us of peace. Let it go. Over and over and over again . . . until it is gone!
How? Stay in the Word. Stand on His promises. Praise Him in the storm. Allow others to encourage you. Pray, pray, and pray. Seek Christian counseling if you need it.
We are encouraged from Romans 8:25–28 to hope and wait patiently. Be patient with yourself. Even when we don’t know what to pray, the Spirit intercedes for us. And our God can and does use everything to work out His good and perfect will in our lives. Treasure the secrets of God found only in His Word.
There are many mysteries that people of the world, living apart from God, try to solve: the secrets to dealing with unrest, battling unforgiveness, conquering fear, overcoming low self-esteem, finding peace in the midst of trials. Yet all these secrets are revealed to us in His Word and hidden to those who would ignore it.
Then there are some secret things of God that we are not meant to understand. Those belong only to Him. In Deuteronomy 29:29, Moses reminded God’s people of this, but also that “the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of His law.”
He gives us numerous treasures throughout His Word that can sustain us during every trial on this earth. He has revealed all that we need to know. We only must choose to follow His directives. His Word is the key to finding treasure. We must trust the map and trust Him with all of the unknowns.
May we all desire to be treasure seekers! Freedom is ours for the taking!