I was recently contacted by someone looking for a little help with a sticky and potentially disastrous situation. I will give it to you in the form of a case study for your thoughts. As always, the case studies are a compilation of reality and fiction and do not represent one person living or dead. Any resemblance to an actual person or situation is purely coincidental.
The question on the table was, "Should I or should I not divulge my past adultery to my husband?" This woman had multiple affairs over a period of time a few years ago. She has since repented and says she has put it all behind her and she and her husband are ready to go on in ministry.
What would you tell her?
The desire on her part is to keep this terrible secret concealed from him.
Her thoughts are stated as, "I don't want to hurt him."
She believes she has put it in the past because she has confessed her sin to God and asked for His forgiveness.
Is she right or self-deceived?
A case like this demands much wisdom from a counselor because there is a whole lot at stake for this couple. The wife's desire to continue her secret is understandable, but is it biblical? I am sure she does not want to hurt her husband and telling him the truth of her infidelity will certainly hurt him! It is also true that confession of sin and receiving His forgiveness is a "must" and God has thrown her sin as far as the east is from the west.
The issue at hand is one of great importance on a number of levels. 1) When she married, she made a covenant before God with her husband to be faithful to him for the rest of her life. She no longer belonged to herself, but she became one with her husband. Adultery broke that covenant. This is why the penalty for adultery is the permission to divorce the unfaithful spouse (Matt. 19:9)
I suspect this may be a great reason to want to keep it secret, yes? Things have improved in her marriage over the last few years and she does not want the troubles of her past infidelity to ruin her future. There is a certain risk her husband might be very angry at not only the adultery, but also at her ability to keep this a secret from him for several years! He will realize the trust he has placed in her has been violated, and years ago at that! He may wonder what else she has kept secret from him and this may cause a cascade of problems for the couple.
Once the question of trust comes into play, especially over a number of years, there is really no limit to what disastrous results could come from this confession. He may demand an accounting of numerous areas of her past life, question many things about her behavior and actions, and worst of all, he may be so wounded by this revelation that he will not move forward. He has no reason to believe her now, every word is going to be suspect! She became so accomplished at deception that she was able to commit adultery several times and live with the results within her heart and mind.
2) Sexual immorality does not only affect her, it affects him too. Sexual immorality is sinning against your own body, and that of your spouse because you are one flesh. Look at what Paul said regarding this:
Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 (NASB)
3) The idea of "going on in ministry" with this secret hanging over her head (their head actually) is a ticking time bomb. While it is true that her sin has been forgiven there is still consequence to be suffered for sin. In the world of "what if" suppose one of the men she was involved with comes forth with the information about her adultery when their ministry is underway? What shame would be brought upon the Gospel and their ministry! More than one ministry has been brought to its knees due to some past sexual indiscretion.
I believe that it is vital that the woman confess her sin to her husband, even though it took place a few years ago. She broke the covenant she made to her husband before God. She has practiced deceit for a number of years in concealing the truth from her husband.
It is normal for her to desire to continue to hide her sin, because sin hates to be exposed! Our sinful and wicked hearts love to keep our sin under wraps because to have to admit or confess our wrongs is a huge blow to pride.