In the months leading up to his cry for help, their relationship had been difficult. They fought. They argued. It seemed that everything he said or did only provoked more hurtful words. She became sullen and withdrawn. He began to suspect that something wasn’t right, so one day he decided to follow her. That was when he saw them together.
His world fell apart in that moment. She had said that she loved him. They had pledged their lives to one another in marriage. They had a child. She was the one who had brought him to church where he had given his life to the Lord. How could she betray him like this?
He was a broken man. Where could he turn? He knew he needed help, but didn’t know whom to trust. He wasn’t sure he would ever be able trust again. But the pain was too overwhelming to bear alone. He thought of a missionary who had spoken at his church. He picked up the phone.
“Hello? Pastor? I don’t know if you remember me, but you spoke at my church a few times. I…ummm…well, I was wondering if maybe we could talk.”
There, he’d done it. He’d asked for help. The answer surprised him.
“Yes, I remember you. You want to talk to me? May I ask what it is about?”
“Well, ahh…it’s sort of hard. I need, well, to talk to someone about, umm, a problem.”
“Can you tell me what kind of problem?”
He hesitated. This was really hard. “It has to do with…Well, you see…I think my wi….It’s about my marriage.” There. He’d said it.
“Your marriage? What kind of problem are we looking at?”
Oh, was he going to have to spell it out over the phone? This was too hard. He felt the tears welling up. He knew it was now or never. He was going to have to say it clearly. “Pastor, I saw my wife with another man. I don’t know what to do.” It took superhuman strength to contain his emotions at that point.
“And you want to talk to me about this? Don’t misunderstand me; I would like to help you if I can. But I need to ask you why you aren’t going to your own pastor.”
Then the sobs came. “Please….I can’t. It’s just that…he’s the problem,” he managed to explain.
They agreed to meet. The missionary listened to the man’s story of double betrayal. The woman he loved and the man who had been their spiritual leader had hurt him more deeply than he thought possible. How could he ever get through this pain? How could he confront her? He still loved her, but did she still love him? Had she ever loved him? And how could he go back to that church and sit under the teaching of that pastor?
“Are you sure?” the missionary asked. “Are you one hundred percent sure that you have interpreted this correctly? Is there any other possible explanation for why the two of them could have been together?”
The man was sure. But he agreed to ask his wife instead of accusing her. She didn’t deny it. She told him that she didn’t love him any more, but for the sake of their son she would stay. They were living a nightmare.
The man and the missionary met several times. Each time the missionary listened to his story, heard his pain, and encouraged him to obey. “You can’t make her do anything. The only thing you can control is what YOU do. You can decide to do what is right despite your pain. What does God want you to do?” And he agreed to continue to love her unconditionally, trusting God to heal his unbearable pain.
During this time, their home was a war zone. Sometimes there were missiles flying from one side to the other; at other times there was a tense, silent cease-fire. But all the time he was praying – praying for her and for himself. He prayed that she would repent and choose to love him again, and he prayed that he would be able to forgive. And that the pain would end.
Then it happened. She stopped talking to him. After several days of icy silence, he had to know what she was thinking. He waited until their son was asleep and then asked her what was going on. The dam broke. Her words spewed out at him like a flood. They had been too young when they got married, she said. She had never really loved him. She never should have married him. She only did because she was pregnant. And now they were stuck.
He couldn’t hide the shock and hurt that those words caused him. He felt as if the ground was falling out from under him. His world was spinning out of control. He thought he might faint. He gripped the table and silently prayed, “Lord, help me.” Then he said to her quietly, “I love you and I want our marriage to work. I want you to stay, but not like this.” He gave her all the money he had in his wallet. “If you want to leave, then go, but our son stays here with me. You’re welcome back whenever you want to come, but you have to want to be here.” She threw some clothes into a bag and went out into the darkness.
He didn’t know where she was going. Would she ever come back? What would he tell their son in the morning when he asked where his mom was? Could this really be what God wanted? The pain in his heart, which had been unbearable before, got even worse. Could God really help him through this? And he cried himself to sleep.
She called in the morning to tell her son that she had to go away for a little while. She didn’t say when she would be home. She didn’t say that she would come home at all, but he still hoped.
The next couple of weeks were a blur. What was happening? Would she ever come home, or would she keep calling to tell their son that she had to stay away a little longer? The pain was so intense at times that he thought he would be physically sick. He tried to maintain some semblance of normalcy for their son, but his strength was failing. His life was crumbling.
Just when he was about to give up hope, the phone rang. She was calling to talk to him this time, not their son. She had been doing a lot of thinking. She knew that what she had done was selfish and wrong, and that she had hurt him deeply. She realized what she was throwing away. She really did love him and their son. To say she was sorry didn’t seem to be enough, but if there were any way that he could forgive her, she would like to come home.
He didn’t respond. He couldn’t. She could hear him crying on the other end of the phone. She waited, desperate to hear his answer, but terrified of what he would say. Finally he managed to speak one word. “Come.”
Now she was the one who was broken. There was no excuse for what she had done. She had no defense, no reason to expect his forgiveness. But he gave it. He loved her in spite of her betrayal, and she loved him even more because of that. She knew she didn’t deserve his love, and the fact that he offered it anyway made her cherish it so much more. The healing had begun.
This couple, whose marriage was nearly torn apart, are now leaders. It didn’t happen over night, but through many months of counsel they committed to forgive one another, to obey God’s word, to humbly overlook faults, and to love each other unconditionally. They know the deepest hurt that can come into a marriage, but through obedience and God’s grace, they have been healed of their pain and are stronger now than before. They teach and disciple other couples and serve as a role model for many people in the church. They are not perfect. Their marriage is not perfect. But they know that there is nothing that they can’t get through together, as long as they trust and obey God and are willing to forgive.
-Written by Susan Querfeld, TEAM missionary in Peru
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