Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: How much should you share with your husband about your past? Should you protect his emotions from that hurt? Here’s Judy Starr.

Judy Starr: It’s interesting that when we think we want to protect our husbands from what we’ve done in the past, I think what we really want to protect is ourselves; because we’ve already hurt our husband if we’ve been unfaithful or if there’s immorality in our past. So we really are protecting ourselves.

No marriage can have the intimacy that God desires it to have unless we have a basis of honesty and transparency within our lives.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, November 16.

You’ve joined us in a series called Seeking Him. Each week in the series, Nancy’s been presenting a characteristic of personal revival. This week’s focus is sexual purity, and the program might not be appropriate for younger children.

Yesterday we began to hear the story of Judy Starr. When we left off, she was torn between staying faithful to her husband, Stottler, or leaving him for a man she had gotten involved with emotionally.

Here’s Nancy to continue that conversation.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: There’s no question is there that we live in a fallen, messed up world; and we are sinners, desperately in need of the grace of God. But we do blow it. According to the book of James, we are all sinners. We all sin in many ways.

But I am so thankful, aren’t you, that God is a God of grace? That He is a redeeming God and that He has the power to bring hope into the most desperate and hopeless situations.

Judy Starr: Oh, I praise God every day for His grace over my life!

Nancy: Thank you, Judy, for sharing your story, not only here with our Revive Our Hearts listeners; you’ve also done a great job of sharing not only the story but the Word of God as it bears on this situation in a book that you’ve written called The Enticement of the Forbidden.

One of the life preservers God used in your life was our mutual friend Holly Elliff. Holly is here joining us in this conversation. Holly, thank you for being the kind of friend that every woman needs.

Holly Elliff: Well, and I have had women in my life who have done that as well.

Nancy: Every woman needs that. And you were the person Judy called. You had had a long-term accountability relationship with each other over the years. You had known Judy since she was a young believer.

When Judy got off the phone . . .  Just to backtrack a little bit, she was happily married. She was in full-time ministry. She had this attraction to a man who was not her husband. He was a captain of a boat.

You got off the phone with that captain, and you didn’t know whether you were going to stay with him on that boat in the Caribbean or go back home to California to your husband Stottler. You were one confused, deceived, messed up, foolish woman at that point, by your own story. Then you picked up the phone, as we shared in the last session, and you called your friend, Holly Elliff.

We’ve been talking about some of the dose of truth—the mega dose of truth—that Holly gave to you in that conversation. I’m struck by one of the most important things that she said to you, and that had to do with the importance of vows. Why did that have such an impact on you?

Judy: To me, my word is a bond. If I say something, I’m going to keep it. Because if my word can’t be trusted, I can’t be trusted. I had completely forgotten that I had made a promise to God and to my husband.

In the confusion and the hardness of my heart and pursuing this relationship, it was like it just didn’t even exist. My promise was, of course, to remain faithful to my husband and to the Lord the rest of my life and to be cherishing my husband above all else.

Holly: Actually, many years before, as a much younger woman, Judy, because she had struggled with immorality in her past, made a vow before God, wrote it out, dated it, signed it, and gave it to me. I put it in my files, and when Judy and I had this conversation on the phone, I was able to remind her, “Judy, do you remember the letter that I have in my files?”

The interesting thing was, Judy began to argue with me about that point, about whether or not that applied to her circumstance now.

Judy: That’s true. It’s amazing how deceived and hardened your heart can become when you get out of the Lord’s will. And as you said, Holly, black looks white and white looks black.

Holly: James 1:14 really begins that progression, where we give way to lust; lust gives birth to sin; and ultimately that sin, as it grows and is conceived, it consumes us and leads us to death. And Judy found herself caught in that progression.

Nancy: Yet it was that reminder of the earlier vow, Judy, and your marriage vow, that God used in your life to bring you to an important point of decision.

Judy: It did. That was the key that really turned the tide. When we hung up from that conversation, I knew that the decision had been made because I had already made it. As I wrote in the book, “It was a done deal.”

It had been sealed five-and-a-half years earlier when I had promised my life to Stottler; and, as Holly reminded me, even earlier, when I had made a vow to God never to pursue a relationship like that out of God’s will.

So I hung up, knowing that even though it felt as though my heart was going to be ripped in two, I had to follow through with what I had promised before the Lord and return home and leave the captain for good.

Holly: That’s such a critical thing, because I talk with women all the time, Judy, who are dealing with that point of decision and deciding whether or not to turn toward repentance or whether to stay with where their hearts are telling them to go.

What happened after you hung up the phone? What are some of the things that actually took you back down that road toward Stottler?

Judy: Well, remembering the vows was a key issue for me. But also I think in our conversation that you had reminded me of what Satan does in our lives, how Satan deceives us, and that he disguises himself as an angel of light, as the Bible tells us. Yet everything that he desires for us is to steal and kill and destroy our lives.

I began to think, “Why would I follow something that its end path is just to destroy my life?” His whole purpose is to destroy my life.

When I began to think about God’s purposes for my life, that even though they really hurt at the time and my emotions were not there—I didn’t want to leave; I didn’t want to leave the captain; I didn’t want to return to my husband—but God’s purposes always turn out the best, and everything He desires for me is for my good and for His glory.

So it was totally a decision of my will against my emotions to do what was right and what would end up right in my life.

Nancy: So you did get on a plane and head back to California, not with ecstasy in your heart, but with a heavy heart.

Judy: Oh, I felt like I was in a black cloud, and my heart felt like a lump of lead. I felt physically terrible, but I knew in my head and in my heart I was doing the right thing.

Nancy: I think that’s an important truth we need to remember whenever the pathway of obedience makes us go against what our emotions may be screaming to us to do: It is always possible—if you’re a child of God, you can choose to obey God regardless of what your emotions are saying. Because sometimes my emotions are saying, “You can’t do what’s right!”

But the fact is, the truth is—and the truth is what sets us free—we can choose to obey God. You did the right thing by heading home to your husband and, as you said, cutting off that relationship with the captain.

And I like the fact that you added those two words: for good.

Judy: That’s right.

Nancy: It was over. Done. Caput. Fine. No more. And then you turned your feet and your head and your body back toward home, trusting that God, in His time and in His way, would deal with your heart and your emotions.

Holly: And just as it had taken a progression to get Judy to the point of wanting to stay in that relationship, it was a process and a struggle to come back out of that.

Judy: Absolutely. When you get into a situation of infidelity, whether it’s emotional or physical, it’s a real process to come out of. It’s like getting rid of an addiction in your life, because when your heart is so tied to another individual, you will do anything it takes to be with them, regardless of how stupid and foolish your decisions become.

So I knew that I had to cut off all contact forever, completely, with the captain. Because to continue that would be to just feed that addiction.

Holly: I can remember Judy and I having conversations about whether email was contact, whether sending messages by snail mail was contact.

Nancy: And what’s the answer?

Holly: The answer is no; you can’t do that.

Nancy: You can’t go there.

Holly: That is stepping again over a line where God says, “Don’t pursue this path.”

Nancy: Stay as far away from it as you can.

Holly: To flee, which means you’re heading the other direction.

Nancy: And the other direction was home. Now you get back to California. Your husband has been pretty much oblivious to the fact that this was going on?

Judy: I called him from the Caribbean and told him that I was coming home and just a little bit of what had happened. When I got home, I revealed my heart to him and told him where I was emotionally because I knew I needed to establish honesty in our relationship. If there wasn’t honesty, there was no basis for our relationship.

Nancy: That had to be very painful for Stottler.

Judy: It was painful. He was very hurt and very surprised. We cried and prayed and cried some more. Yet I was committed to do whatever it took to rebuild that relationship.

One of the first things that meant was restoring my relationship with the Lord, because to make the right decisions about Stottler and our marriage, I had to once again have the power of the Holy Spirit working within a heart that was again softened to the Lord and to His Spirit.

Nancy: Judy, some people are going to say, and I know some well-meaning counselors and teachers would say, “It can be more damaging to tell the truth than to just let the past be the past.”

Judy: It’s interesting that when we think we want to protect our husbands from what we’ve done in the past, I think what we really want to protect is ourselves. We’ve already hurt our husband if we’ve been unfaithful or if there’s immorality in our past, so we really are protecting ourselves.

No marriage can have the intimacy that God desires it to have unless we have a basis of honesty and transparency within our lives. The other thing that what I call the “no secrets policy” does is: If I think that I’ve gotten away with something in the past, I’m far more likely to try it again in the future because no one knew about it in the past.

But once I revealed what I did to Stottler, he now knows of my predisposition toward this type of temptation. He’s very aware of it now. If I begin spending time with or seem attracted to another man, his antennae go up. And I appreciate that. I need that protection.

Nancy: Not just so he can be suspicious, but so he can pray for you and provide spiritual protection.

Judy: Absolutely.

Holly: One thing I love about Judy is that she is not content to live with dishonesty in her life; and because of her choice to be honest, Satan was defeated as he tried to come back to her in this area.

Nancy: Judy, as you look at where you were during the time you came back to your husband—you confessed your sin to him; you determined that honesty was the best policy; your husband was gracious; he was hurt, but he forgave you, and you began a process of rebuilding.

The emotions that you had felt toward that captain on the boat in the Caribbean, those emotions didn’t go right away, did they?

Judy: No, not at all. In fact, as it took time to develop those emotions, it also takes time to heal from them. So one of the first things I needed to do, which I did right away, was cut off all contact with him.

Nancy: And you mean all contact.

Judy: I mean all contact—emails, phone calls, letters, anything.

Nancy: That is a huge point because I’ve talked with people and heard stories of people saying, “We can just stay friends.” The answer is, “No, you can’t.” You’ve got to cut it off. Jesus said if your right hand offends you, cut it off (see Matthew 5:30). What He was saying is, “Deal ruthlessly, thoroughly, with determination, with anything that could be for you an avenue for sin.”

Holly: You know, if that guy is in the Caribbean, that’s one thing. But if he’s a work associate, cutting that off completely may require really drastic steps.

Judy: That’s right. We need to be willing to do whatever it takes to maintain our purity before the Lord and to keep our marriage the priority.

“Whatever it takes” may mean changing jobs. But my marriage must be the priority over my work, over anything that would hinder that marriage.

So I need to trust that God will honor my decision. If I’m in a position where it looks like I will never be able to deal with that relationship rightly, I will get out of that situation and either ask God to provide another job or keep me at home and provide financially another way.

Nancy: So in order to rebuild and reestablish trust in your marriage, you need to make sure that you’ve not left the door open to be in contact or communication with that person you had felt that connection to. That’s one absolutely essential key to rebuilding trust in your marriage.

Now, there are other safeguards that need to be put in place, whether your marriage trust has been violated or not. What are some of those safeguards that a woman can put into place to protect her marriage and her relationship with the Lord?

Judy: There’s one thing that I call building the invisible wall, where the way you respond to a man doesn’t ever give him the indication that the door is potentially open for something more.

That means I don’t share personal things with him. I don’t ever get in a situation where I’m alone with another man. Some people in the work situation might say, “Well, that’s impossible because I have to work individually with this man.”

We can be very creative in finding ways to sin, but we can also be really creative, if we’re really committed to being holy before the Lord, in finding alternative ways of dealing with those situations.

You can always call a co-worker in—the very thing I didn’t do with the captain. I could have always had someone there when we were working and talking. You can always have somebody come in with you. Situations like that are very important in guarding our marriage.

Nancy: We as women really have a way of either putting that invisible wall up or letting it down. There are so many ways we can signal availability without even saying a word.

Judy: Oh, it’s the truth. By our lingering looks, a wink, just the way that we maintain eye contact—all things signal to a man; and they can pick up on them very quickly. Not to mention the way we dress that can lure some man in. It’s amazing to me how many Christian women seem so totally unaware of the way that they dress being a way that attracts men.

Nancy: So we want to be sure to avoid potentially compromising situations. I’ll just tell you, as a woman working in ministry, I work with a lot of men. There are a lot of men on our team, and we have to go to all kinds of extra lengths and sometimes deal with challenging situations to avoid those compromising situations. It does take some creativity at times. Sometimes it costs more money.

Judy: The critical thing, Nancy, is that you need to decide beforehand, before those situations ever come up. Because once they come up, we’ll just stay in the situation if we haven’t predetermined how we’re going to handle those situations.

Nancy: Okay, what about the whole area of the Internet? This is something that I see just luring women in. They’re craving relationship, craving meaningful conversation. Do you see this happening with women in terms of the chat rooms or the use of email?

Judy: Oh, absolutely. In fact, I have two personal friends that met men just by going on a chat room, harmlessly thinking, “Oh, I just need someone to talk to,” and again began pouring out their hearts, pouring out personal information, receiving positive feedback—a man who cares about all their intimate struggles.

They both ended up leaving their husbands, and then the relationship didn’t work out. But at that point it was too late and the marriage was gone.

Nancy: The truth is, most of the time it won’t work out because what you’re seeing in that chat room is not like living with that person.

Judy: Oh, it’s a fantasy situation from the start because you only write your very best. You put on your best face, your superwoman persona that comes across the Internet. But that’s not who we are.

Holly: I think one thing that makes that so dangerous, again, is that we can do that in the privacy of our homes. So it gives us an avenue that is very low accountability.

It’s not like we’re stopping at an adult bookstore and going in to purchase a book where someone might see us, but we are in the privacy of our own home. Unless someone pulls up a history on our computer, they don’t know where we’re going.

Judy: The other thing that is equally as dangerous as chat rooms is the simple thing of email. As you said, Nancy, you work with men in the Christian work that you do. I do too, and it’s very easy to develop a relationship even just on emails, where you again become more personal, more friendly with men that you’re working with all the time.

Nancy: But you know, I’ve found it can be avoided if you put the hedge in place, the boundary in place. I have a policy—the men I work with know this—no personal exchanges on email. I do an average of probably 60 –100 emails a day, so they’re flying. There is a lot of email communication going on.

If there is something we’re going to be discussing that’s at all of a personal nature—and I don’t mean just sexual issues; I mean just family things—it’s very simple: Make sure the wife is being copied. So she’s reading the emails. Boy it just makes you—if I know that wife is going to be reading that email of what I’m writing, and I’ve established that as a boundary, it takes care of saying things that shouldn’t be said.

Judy: That’s right. I copy Stottler on any email that I send to another man. I also have found that if I sense in my spirit, when I’m writing something and I think, “Oh, I don’t really want Stottler to see this,” I go back and erase it because it shouldn’t ever be sent.

Holly: Judy has done such a good job. She has called me before and said, “I have to be in this business relationship with this man, but I am not comfortable with this level of interaction with him, and I just want you to know that. I want to be honest with Stottler. I want to be honest with you. I want you to pray for me in this area, that I’ll be wise.”

I think because of knowing her vulnerability in the past, she is now a wise woman in this area, as opposed to the Proverbs 7 woman who is foolish. She is wise in this area, so she has antennae up to alert her early to any potential dangers.

Nancy: The neat thing is that Judy didn’t use to have those antennae up. That’s how she got in this situation in the first place. But the neat part of the story is that you can develop the right habit patterns in your life whether you’ve blown it in the past or, even better yet, without having to go through what Judy went through.

So Paul says in the book of Ephesians, chapter 5, “Let there be not even a hint of immorality among you” (verse 3, paraphrase). Well, how do you avoid the hint? You put up the safeguards. You make the choices. You put the boundaries in place. I don’t know what your boundaries need to be. And you don’t need to determine yours based on mine or Holly’s or Judy’s.

You need to get before the Lord and say, “I want a walk with You that is above reproach, that is pure. I want to love my husband the way You want me to. I want our marriage to be protected. Lord, what do You want me to do? What do I need to put in place in the workplace, in email habits, in my computer habits?”

Does it mean we need to get rid of the television in our home? If that’s what it takes for you, then do it. Does it mean we have to get rid of the Internet in our home? If that’s what it takes for you, then do it.

But I want to tell you, it is worth any price, any step of action, to obtain and to maintain before the Lord and to maintain a heart that is pure and above reproach.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss is calling you to a biblical view of sexual purity. She and Holly Elliff have been talking with Judy Starr, who wrote a book called The Enticement of the Forbidden. In it Judy tells the story of her intense season of temptation and how she was reconciled with her husband. To get more information on that book, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Today’s program is part of a series called Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival. It’s a 12-week look at what it means to be revived. When God gets a hold of your heart, you’ll have a new passion for sexual purity, and that’s been our focus all this week.

It also will be the focus tomorrow, when Christian leaders connect by phone to pray for revival. During the 12 weeks this series is on the air, you’re invited to listen and pray along at Seeking Him: A National Prayer Meeting for Revival. Not only will Christian leaders connect by phone, but you can pray along when you listen online, and in some cities you can also listen on the radio.

These prayer meetings take place every Saturday morning. For more information visit our website.

Next week, hear about the power that will allow you to say no to temptation. We’ll continue with the Seeking Him series, focusing on the Spirit-filled life. Now Nancy’s back to pray.

Nancy: Lord, we do join our hearts together and thank You. I thank You for what You did for Judy, how You rescued her in that situation. I think back to some situations in my own life where You have rescued me from temptation when I cried out to You, and You have rescued Holly.

Lord, we have found Your grace to be so real, so abundant, just what we need and more when we need it. You never let us get into a situation where we’re tempted beyond what we can bear. But with the temptation you provide a way of escape.

Lord, I believe that this program and this series have been the life preserver that You have thrown out to some of our listeners. It’s a way of escape.

I pray right now for that listener, that woman who’s flirting with disaster right now—in an emotional affair, perhaps, or just her heart being drawn away; maybe it’s full-blown physical adultery—Lord, whatever the situation, I pray that she would humble herself.

I pray that she would be honest with You, committed to be honest with her mate; that she would receive Your grace; that she would resist the devil; that she would submit herself to You and draw near to You; that she would cleanse her hands and purify her heart; that as she mourns and weeps and grieves over her sin, You would restore to her the true joy, the real joy of obedience.

Thank You, Lord, that even at this moment You are restoring and redeeming broken lives. By faith we want to thank You for the marriages that will be claimed, for the children and grandchildren who will be able to reap blessing and have a godly legacy as a result of some women this day who have been willing to say, “Yes, Lord; whatever it takes, by Your grace I purpose in my heart to be true to You, true to my husband, and to glorify You with my life.” I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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