Betrayal and Grieving

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18 (NLT)

Last night I finished my new book. It is written to and for those whose spouses have been involved in sexual sin and is intended to help the betrayed spouse navigate through a time that is heartbreaking and difficult. A large part of the process is dealing with the grief that comes with the knowledge of infidelity.

Many people are familiar with the Kubler-Ross approach to grief and suffering. It is described originally as a five-stage process that those facing death and dying go through and was later amended to include those experiencing any kind of major loss including loss of a job, a divorce, adultery, abandonment and so on.

Several years ago after my Mom passed away, I was contacted over a period of months by the Grief Counselor from the hospice organization we used and they assured me that everything I was feeling was normal and a part of "The Grieving Process."

I became very well acquainted with "The Grieving Process" in the first year and while the hard grief lessened in the second year I still grieved losses because I had moved and left everything I knew. I also was working outside the home in a non-ministry job for the first time in a decade. I grieved the loss of everything I was familiar and comfortable with. In fact, at that time I took a little quiz about stress and loss and my score was 510! The website suggested I contact a support group...

I did not find the Kubler-Ross stages to be particularly helpful through the process from the realization my Mom was dying to the end of the hard grief. None of those stages are biblical, and some of them are normal and simply human responses to tragic suffering.

I am also not sure a support group would be beneficial to going through grief for other reasons either. Yes, groups can be helpful when the focus is on the resources we have in Christ and not on replaying the tragedies in our lives over and over. I also think that support groups tend to foster the idea that no one else can understand my pain except those who are in my situation. Based on 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 that is not true.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NASB)

The Hebrew Old Testament uses more than 20 words for grief and grieve and we find examples in the narratives of the Old Testament in the stories of Job, Hagar (Gen 21:17-20), Hannah (1 Samuel 1), David (2 Sam. 18:9-33) and in the New Testament in the response of Jesus to the death of Lazarus (John 11).

Those whose spouse has abandoned them for another person or whose husband (or wife) has developed a lust for sexual pleasure through pornography or some other form of sexual sin are also in the midst of grief and sorrow. Shock, numbness, and a host of other emotions are an ever-present part of your day. You experience moments where you just burst into tears, or wish you could.

When sexual sinner is unrepentant their woes multiply and they are frightened and bewildered as their home goes away due to a divorce or their entire lifestyle changes. In cases where a sex crime has been committed, someone else’s sinful actions affect where they can go or who they can see as a couple.  This brings a whole new set of life circumstances. The loss is profound and you are expected to deal with all of this along with the normal things of life.

All of these things bring forms of grief. I do believe that we need to be prepared to serve and minister to those who are experiencing grief for a variety of reasons.  To say that Christians should not grieve is a ridiculous statement, yet I have been told it is said to those looking for help after experiencing loss of some kind. That is cruel and amounts to telling them to "get over it." Christ has come to comfort those who mourn.

David was very familiar with the feelings of abandonment in times of grief. Take a prayerful look at Psalm 88 and read the words of his soul. In those 18 verses David grasps what it feels like to be left alone in misery and sorrow.

An unfortunate by-product of grief is abandonment. Many people, as well meaning as they are, have no idea how to address a person who is grieving. When a death takes place those mourning gather together at the funeral or memorial to comfort the ones who have suffered the immediate loss; and to some degree get comfort for themselves. But once the funeral is over the comfort of others usually disappears and you are left alone after a week or two. The cards stop coming, the meals cease, the phone calls end. You are expected to resume your job duties after a mere three days! (I personally find that barbaric.)

There is not even a three day allowance for the death of hopes and dreams in a marriage; there is no funeral when a marriage dies. Few people are insightful enough to understand that empty, hollow, terrifying feeling that comes when you wonder every minute of the day what your spouse is doing in your absence.

When a marriage blows apart especially due to sexual sin, for everyone else life goes on as it did before. Perhaps there is a spot to be filled at the card table, or a seat to be filled at the ball game. But for the one who has lost someone they love and shared life with, life will never be the same.

The people on the fringes of life have no idea how to relate to the mourner after the truth comes out. Many are callous and crude and tell the person how lucky they are to be rid of the scum.  They may even suggest throwing yourself a party when the ink on the divorce is dry.

Others, because they fear that bringing up the loss will cause you to be sad and sorrowful all over again, will say nothing.  They fear causing you to cry, or hurt so they in many cases say nothing about your loss with the exception of asking you how you are doing.

You may appear to be doing well, have your "game face" on, but inside you are deeply, mortally wounded and to some degree people know that. Whether you realize it or not, this is one reason some people appear to be uncomfortable around you. No one wants to say the wrong thing, so they may appear to be insensitive hurrying you on through the grief process by suggesting you begin to date again or that you can somehow “pay back” your spouse for his/her treachery.

It is easy to become angry and bitter toward those who don't understand what you are going through. Can I remind you that they truly don't understand? With all of your emotional upheaval it is easy to become more upset over things that would not bother you.

Be merciful towards them in their ignorance and be aware that those who approach you from a purely business or functional standpoint most likely are not intending to be cruel. Pray for them and for their understanding, taking you cues from Job who prayed for his friends who were all of cruel, heartless and insensitive.

David received good comfort from the Lord in his times of distress; God gave him Jonathan who loved him as a brother and encouraged him. He also had the Lord to run to, as do we. God is ever merciful and kind and loving and His arms are big enough to hold the largest hurts.

He always hears our cries and our sorrows. He will hear you now. 

When I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me the strength I need. Psalm 138:3 (NLT)