You have a choice—you can go through the experience or grow through it.
Dealing with one’s own sin issues results in voluntary brokenness or a contrite heart. But when I dealt with the ramifications of my husband’s addiction to pornography, my heart was broken involuntarily. And I needed to choose whether I would live as a victim or live in victory.
I’m telling you, I know how to throw a rip-roaring pity party! Put on your favorite gray sweat suit, grab a quart of Ben & Jerry’s, and prepare to do the B.E.D. boogie—blame, excuses, and denial. There was a time when I could have been a party planner for other wives of porn addicts because I had it down to a science. The problem is that pity parties are not well attended by others. In fact, they are usually a party of one.
My pity parties came to a halt when I joined a secular support group. It’s not that I learned better coping skills, though they tried to teach such things. No, I looked around at the other participants, none of whom seemed to know Jesus, and I realized that many of them had earned lifetime memberships to the Pity Party Club. They had no hope. These women were toxic to one another. Like yeast poured into warm water, salt, and flour, they fed each other’s negativity. That’s where the metaphor breaks down, however, because unlike fresh baked bread, these people produced nothing worth savoring.
I remember coming home from the support group one night, dropping onto the couch, and asking aloud, “Lord, is that really what it looks like to get better? In my opinion, they all seem happy to wear name tags that say ‘Bitter.’ I want something more. I don’t want to go through all of this and end up bitter. I want to end up better than when I started.”
How about you? Have you ever known anyone who seems content to be a pit-dweller? Who is always blaming, making excuses, or in denial? Who emulates Eeyore with a low, hovering storm cloud that pours down bitterness and gloom? Who lives life as a victim? Does she bear any resemblance to the face that’s reflected in your bathroom mirror? I hope not.
No matter how your spouse broke your heart, you have the same choice that I did. You can either choose to go through this experience or you can grow through it.
In John 5:6 at the healing pool of Bethesda, Jesus asked the invalid who had been there 38 years, “Do you want to be healed?” He had a choice. So do you. Choose your role. Victor or victim? Better or bitter? Grow through it or go through it.
You can demonstrate a healthy, holy response and mature in your faith as a result of circumstances you would never have chosen. To grow through the experience and come out victorious on the other side, you need to make up your mind about a few things:
1. Make up your mind to seek time with God in solitude, because it will not seek you. Especially now, you need to let your knees buckle and give yourself over to God’s Word, His throne, His grace, and His glory. Accept His offer of solitude in the midst of tumult. This is a forging place where He will heat and reform your soul.
Solitude is where you are mindful about meeting Jesus. Just Jesus. Your heart, mind, and soul are fixed on Him alone, not on your present circumstances. Here you expose your fresh, open wounds to the healing balm of the Healer. You don’t deny the difficulties and pain, but you refuse to give in to their power. When you enter into solitude, you allow your thirsty soul to experience deep communion with the Living Water. He satisfies and fills you as only He can. Then He takes your malleable soul and shapes you into His image.
2. Make up your mind that God is the sole source of your identity and you belong to Him. When you have experienced involuntary heartbreak, it’s not uncommon to allow feelings of defeat to overcome you. If you aren’t careful, you can convince yourself that life will always be difficult and painful because God has abandoned you. This lie gives Satan the upper hand.
Our God is good. He offers you a firm place to stand. “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2). Choose to believe that He is protective of you. He is for you. He believes in you. He will not fail you. He will give you strength as well as rest. He loves you and longs for you to walk in victory with Him—not just for a little while, but forever. You are His witness to faith in the midst of your suffering and sacrifice. These are some of the things He wants you to know for certain.
Have you ever met someone who was cordial but clearly not open to a new friendship—leaving you just going through the motions of relating? You can do the same thing to God. You can go through the motions of meeting with Him, but not demonstrate a heart response or an openness to His work in your life.
If you are to grow through this experience, you must persevere through the pain until you find its purpose. There you will also find healing. You are His child, and nothing will ever separate you from His love.
3. Make up your mind to be thankful. Yes, thankful. Don’t worry, thankfulness does not minimize your pain; it magnifies the positive. Gratitude is a humble attitude of genuine faith.
Your pain is very real. You can be honest about that reality without letting it blot out the many blessings God gives you every single day.
4. Make up your mind not to look back with regret or guilt after repentance. Growing through this experience is a forward, upward movement. It is an ascent. Wherever you are right now is not where you will be when this is all over. Cling to the truth that you are just passing through, and commit yourself not to look back at past mistakes.
Remember what happened to Lot’s wife when she looked back (Genesis 19:16-26)? If God in His mercy has delivered you from past behaviors, choices, and attitudes, consider it your “Get out of Sodom free” card. Flee from the old life and don’t look back!
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
You have a choice to make. Go through it or grow through it?
Adapted from When Your Husband Is Addicted to Pornography ©2012 by Vicki Tiede.