December 1, 2013 by Stacy McDonald

Grace Widows: Hope and Healing for the Forsaken (Part 1)

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“The Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” (Malachi 2:14)

As she rolled away from the invading sunlight that announced morning, Shelly closed her eyes in protest. Out of habit, her hand stroked the spot where her husband, Carl, used to sleep. The sheets felt empty and cold. When would the new normal begin?

Her head was foggy from another sleepless night and her mind began to wander, reliving that awful morning three weeks ago when her husband’s confession had shot through her soul like a searing fire:

Shelly’s eyes burned and her throat felt like it was closing. This wasn’t happening. She leaned against the table to steady herself and finally found her voice, “What’s her name?”

“It doesn’t matter,” he muttered, avoiding her eyes. “I don’t love her. I…I don’t love anyone. I just want out of this marriage. I feel like I’m suffocating. You’re suffocating me.”

“At least you’re honest; you don’t love anyone but yourself,” she whispered.

How could God have let this happen? She had read all the books, attended the marriage seminars…albeit alone; but, that wasn’t her fault. She had listened to her pastor and tried to win her husband without a word by being submissive and loving—living out Christ before him.

Sure, she hadn’t always been perfect, but she had tried. She had worked harder for this marriage than she’d worked for anything in her life. She racked her brain trying to figure out what she had done wrong. Self deprecating thoughts invaded her mind.

Her worst nightmare was a reality. The warning signs had been there. The secretive behavior, the late nights, the anger, the coldness—she had known. But somehow hearing him say it still took her breath away.

Now, here she was, three weeks later, facing the certainty of divorce and feeling like a part of her was dying. Shelly shook her head and wished away the haunting images of his detailed confession. She was amazed by how raw her feelings still were. He didn’t want her. She tried to swallow the bitterness of that reality, imagining it would ease the throbbing in her soul.

The grieving wife found herself wishing her husband would call and beg her forgiveness. How was it possible to ache for his embrace, while loathing the very thought of his touch? Her head hurt.

Shelly glanced at the phone. What would she do if he did change his mind? Could she forgive such a despicable violation of his vows? Could she take him back after he had betrayed all that was sacred between them? How could she ever trust him again? Their marriage bed had been defiled. No one could change that fact. The forsaken wife wept bitterly into her pillow. Still, she knew that she could forgive him—she would forgive him…somehow. If only he wanted her forgiveness.

While I realize there are both husbands and wives who suffer the emotional pain of adultery and divorce, because I am writing to women, I will in this series generally focus on the offended/abandoned wife.


He Loves Me Not

Each year, thousands of men and women, even some who claim Christ, reject their covenant vows and give up what God intended to be a celebration of life-long, life-giving unity. Deceived by fleshly desires, they trade in the gift of God-glorifying oneness for a bloody trail of debt, loneliness, and broken children.

Those left behind suffer emotionally, financially, and sometimes spiritually. It has often been said that the death of a spouse is easier to endure than sexual infidelity and divorce. Death is clean. Unless some horrible sin is simultaneously involved, the pain is pure and wholesome. The grief flows freely to cleanse and heal the soul.

Adultery is unique in its cruelty. It is harshly personal. Its jagged blade violates the soul like a violent assault. Such a betrayal communicates rejection and treachery. It digs its claws into the heart, hoping to infect each wound with bitterness and hatred—even self hatred. The very one who has promised to love you until death, who has seen you at your most vulnerable moments, has forsaken his vows and embraced a stranger. What could be more cutting?

But, it happens all the time. And if we continue to minimize the tragedy of the defiled marriage bed, we can expect things to get worse. Adultery is not the only way the marriage bed is dishonored, but it is one of the most vicious ways—it is what leaves the permanent imprint of pain and sorrow on the heart. Even if the betrayal is forgiven and couples find healing, the tender battle scars remain.

While we can (and should) hope and pray for reconciliation between couples whose union has been devastated, we need to be prepared to minister as well to those who have been emotionally ravaged by the finality of divorce. Many times, the adulterous spouse is quite happy in the powerful delusion he has created for himself, and is bent on having his way. In fact, repentance may be the farthest thing from his mind. When this is the case, we need to be there for the abandoned one with answers, encouragement, and strength.

Continued in Part 2, Grace Widows: A Scarlet Letter

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19 Responses to “Grace Widows: Hope and Healing for the Forsaken (Part 1)”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Did you write that story, Stacy? If so, well-done.

  2. Stacy McDonald says:

    Yes, Jennifer. Thanks.

  3. christine says:

    When this happens, it is very hard to believe that anyone (friends, God, anyone) could love you because, as you said, the one who has known you the best has rejected you. If my own husband doesn’t love me, nobody could.
    A woman longs for the comfort that she has gotten from her husband in the past, but this time it is him who is causing the pain. Now, there are no arms to comfort her. Yes, Jesus is a comfort, but we long for a human shoulder to cry on, and yet we know that no one wants to hear about troubles.
    The abandoned wife hurts double: one for herself and more for her children’s future. Her children will not have a strong Godly man to lead them, unless other Godly men are willing to step up for the sake of these children.
    Just my thoughts….ct

  4. Mrs. T says:

    I have seen this happen SO many times. It is so tragic. ESPECIALLY when it happens in homes that claim the name of Christ & that have young children!
    Well written, Stacy.

  5. Denise says:

    I am thrilled to read this! As a “grace widow” myself, I have a special burden for those who have been through this pain. In fact, I am returning to school this fall to pursue a degree in marriage & family counseling so that I might be better equipped to minister to grace widows and their children. In the meantime, I am excited to be ministering to the children of a grace widower this summer, and hopefully to him as well. God can take all that an abandoned spouse experiences and use it to glorify Himself, but we as the Body need to be prepared to walk through the healing process with these hurting sisters and brothers. Thank you for addressing this important topic!

  6. Martha says:

    Well done…..

  7. margit says:

    Sometimes they blame the wife if she leaves and hasn’t told anyone about her husbands infidelity. I had a friend who did not get a confession from her alcoholic husband of either problem until long after the divorce. People in the church treated her like pariah and were mean and confrontational. Sooooo, soooo, sad. I still tell her this is why I disagreed with her leaving b/c she took the blame and he still has not come clean and is in youth ministry. If she had been open about everything with a group of elders in her church they could have called him to the mat….

  8. Alexxus says:

    I have seen this before – my mother was cheated on by my birth father. She was a single mom for 4 years with 4 little children (the youngest an 8 month old with lung and heart issues, and me, the oldest at 6), before she met my godly step-father (who I lovingly embrace as “daddy”) who was also cheated on by his wife. So many couples nowadays are straying from their marriage vows….sometimes it is both, sometimes it is only one. But it is still very sad, and very destructive. It appears that the “golden 50th anniversary” will grow seldom in the years to come….

  9. Tammy says:

    I have no problem embracing the victim of adultery, I was one myself. But, I have a hard time embracing the instigator of a divorce where no adultery occurred and even though the one filing for divorce tried very hard, was miserable and decided to get out. When they already know what God’s Word says, what do you do then?

  10. sara says:

    My husband cheated and lied for five solid years….and I staid with him. I can’t imagine ever really loving him anymore, but we have two children. I do love my children…with all my being. Anyway……..I actually feel like I hate my husband. I hate him for all the lies and adultery. …the thought that keeps going through my mind is, “What kind of man treats his wife this way?” I’m probably sinning because I’m so consumed with hurt and anger. Just don’t know how to “get over it”. He acted so badly that our pastor even came over to our home and told me, right in front of him, that I had the support of our church family if I chose divorce! However, the pastor then said he would be here to help us step by step if I was willing to pray for God’s healing in our marriage.

    My marriage feels empty….and I’m left with all the ghosts of all his lady friends…..all the lies, betrayals, hurts……all the memories….I desperately want to keep my family together for the sake of my children, but I feel dead inside because of how he treated me…..really….I just don’t know how to fix it.

  11. Trina Riepe says:

    Oh my dear Sara, I was a grace widow until days before our divorce was complete. My church lovingly followed Matthew 18 and pursued my husband for abandoning us and for moving in with another woman. They were loving and supportive to us, ministering to our spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. I was hurt and angry and dealt with him that way for the first several months. After being convicted that I was sinning, I prayed to be able to love him despite his sin. The main thought that consumned me was the state of his soul before God. I tried hard to focus on him as the man I loved, remembering what was good about our lives together, including the way we felt about eachother when we dated. This brought me to my knees in prayer for him throughout the day, every day! Yes, he was lost….caught hopelessly in sin that might convince him of his state before God. If this is possibly what God was allowing to expose the puss of a sinner’s heart, who was I to challenge Him? I had long held to Romans 8:28~30 as my life verses, I knew I only needed to hold tighter. God would use this for His glory and my good no matter what He chose as the outcome. During this time, He taught me to love the unloveable….just as He did for me! I began to understand with my heart what I had long believed with my head about Christ’s love for us while we were yet sinners. Only with Him can we love this way….and in this love He transforms us!!! Yes, the Holy Spirit convicted my well-churched but yet unsaved husband and brought him to full repentance before God. Our marriage was restored, as was his standing with the church who lovingly sought after him as shepherds. My husband even wrote a beautiful letter confessing to the body of Christ and asking their forgiveness! All of this was the work of God. With my new understanding of real love, I have been able to love my husband and be forgiving in a way I had never been throughout 20+ years as his wife. I’d been critical and bitter at his faults, angry when he made decisions that I knew were sinful. I did not take this to the Lord regularly unless I was feeling sorry for myself. My husband may have years of biblical training, but technically is a young Christian. My heart needs to stay soft, patient, and forgiving. This is really hard because I want to have him working to heal MY pain! But with God, all things are possible. An imperfect marriage, especially one that is unequally yoked, is a MISSIONFIELD! I truly do know that this can be an extrememly painful situation. This is why we have to apply scripture to our situation. Understanding that we are servants to the King and that He sometimes puts us in situations that are difficult and painful for His glory and our good is key! A right perspective can help us endure what is difficult….remember, He will not give us more than we can handle and if we are Christians, we can do ALL things through Christ Jesus! As the one who probably loves this man at least more than anyone else, you are in a unique position to pray fervently for his soul. What helped me most when I was treated the worst was to picture us both before God on Judgement Day. I knew my sin before God would count me worthy of Death, just the same as my husband’s sin would for him. Christ saved me, I would stand before God with His blood covering my sin. Not so for my husband. This softened my heart toward him so much! I pray that you too will be enabled by the Holy Spirit to love this man God Himself brought you as your husband. Yes, he’s a sinner. Yes, his sinful behavior is so painful to you and you are watching him self-destruct. But ultimately, this marriage is your calling just as some are called to preach, to be missionaries, etc. This is your missionfield, your reasonable service to God! Read through the story of Joseph for strength. He endured rejection by his own brothers, slavery, jail, and servanthood for more than two decades. He stayed faithful to God and desired to please God in these positions. He didn’t know what God had planned, but he would be able to save all of Egypt from famine! Better yet, Joseph became a picture of Christ Himself and forgave the unforgiveable, saving all of Israel from death! These stories give us perspective as to what are lives really are to be for God. In Christian marriages (even with just one Believer), we need to erase the cultural idea of ‘happiness’. Yes, we can be happy. But often that is a blessing from God, not something we ‘deserve’ in marriage. We can actually find happiness always in serving God, despite our circumstances. This means looking to scripture to find how we should respond. What are the principles He gives us for trials? For marriage? What is real, Christ-like love? Pray that He will strengthen you in whatever situation He has allowed that you will please Him! This life isn’t about us, it is about glorifying our Father. He gives us some difficult circumstances in which to do this and marriage is often the most sanctifying for us and best vehicle for glorifying Him. I will end with a quote by Oswald Chambers that helps me immensely to stay focused. “Continually restate to yourself the purpose of your life. It is not about health, or wealth, or happiness, but holiness.” I’ll be praying for you Sara!

  12. Stacy McDonald says:

    Dear Sara,

    You said that your pastor told you he would be there to help you step by step if you were willing to pray for God to heal your marriage. Is he doing that now? You need to make a decision on what you’re going to do. If you decide to stay in the marriage and forgive your husband, then you’ll need to walk in that decision. And you’ll need help. I know this is a painful, terrible trial, but you cannot let bitterness and anger destroy you and your family – and that is exactly what it will do. Praying for you for healing and for God’s guidance.

  13. Stacy McDonald says:

    Tammy – There are a lot of “it depends” in your comment. Is he repentant? Is he able to pursue a reconciliation with the wife he abandoned (has she already remarried?). Is he under church discipline? It also depends on what you mean by “embrace.”

    I get what you’re saying, and it can get really messy, but we also need to extend grace where Jesus does.

  14. amie says:

    i saw this series you did.
    it is speaks to practical issues as well as to emotions.
    but what about the words of Jesus on divorce and remarriage?

  15. Liz says:

    I had difficulty forgiving my husband once. I asked God to help me with this. He asked me, in essence, this question: “Knowing what you do, that My Son died for your husband’s sins, knowing that He gave His life so that your husband can be forgiven, do you insist that C carry his own sins and burn in hell for them?” There was no judgment no pressure- just a still question from Him while He gave me the space to answer it for myself. I mentally pictured my sinning husband stagger under the load of guilt and sin, after which he plunged over the edge into an abbyss of flames and eternal torment. Then I saw Christ on the cross- I loved him so much- I loved Him even more than I loved my husband. I could not stand the thought of my Lord suffering and dying in vain. I ached at the thought of it happening because of my unforgiveness. “Father I choose to forgive C, please let my feelings follow my choice” I prayed as I let all the hurt and resentment go. The key for me was to love my Lord more…

  16. Sharon says:

    Wow! It’s like you have followed me around for the last 13 years. I know in my life there has been nothing hurt me like my divorce did. I was married just two months shy of 28 years.

    I would rather he died than to obtain an unscriptural divorce. At least in death there is no rejection. It is a normal part of life. If he had died then that is something to give hope of us being in heaven. But a divorce is like being ripped apart with a little bit of each other still hanging on.

    To this very day I nor both of our children know why their dad divorced me. I was not perfect. But I kept my wedding vows. I asked my “ex” do you not fear God for what you’re about to do? He said nothing. I said, we have no problems that cannot be worked out. I still love you. No response as he walked out the front door. My daughter then was about 14 years old. She heard what I had said to her dad. She later told her brother how “cold” their dad’s lack of response was.

    The “ex” remarried which is fine. But he doesn’t realize that the first time he and his wife had sex he committed adultery against me. Even if their first time was after they married, it is still adultery. He met her a couple years after the divorce.

    He has custody of our daughter’s two little girls. We live at opposite ends of this country. I will never these girls and nor do they know I am their real grandmother not “her.”

    I am disabled, and live alone. God is my witness Malachi 2:14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth,

  17. Sharon says:

    To those here that are either just separated or considering the divorce. I believe there are a couple of reasons for divorce, Adultery, Abandonment, and Violence. I heard a preacher say this, to those that are divorced remember this: Divorced people are not “Second-hand citizens of the church and heaven.

    While I did not want a divorce you cannot save a marriage by yourself. You can not save a marriage even knowing the Lord. If the one that obtained an unscriptural is not interested in things of the Lord and even if they are saved they are just unwilling to seek help and I believe are running from the Lord.

    To you who have gone through a most painful, divorce and feel the waves of sorrow Jesus is there for us. Divorce is. When the house is just too quiet, Jesus is there with you. When you’re in a restaurant alone and watching other couples, remember you have an unseen gentleman with you and he is a King!

    Try to rest in His great love for you. I can’t hardly wait to see Him face to face. We have a extremely patient, loving and kind Bridegroom.

    Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

    Even so come Lord Jesus, but until you do we press on.

  18. Dawn E. Brown says:

    Can you equate a husband having a long term emotional affair as infidelity?What can you help me with on this issue?He is willing to change now that he has been found out.

  19. ChristinMom says:

    “…you cannot save a marriage by yourself. You can not save a marriage even knowing the Lord. ”

    That’s true. If he don’t repent, he cannot be forgiven.
    I speak out of personal experience.
    Not divorced (yet?), but seperated.

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