When I attend conferences and public events I am frequently approached by women who want to speak with me about a situation they are dealing with in their lives. These are issues of sin that their husbands are struggling with, and due to a pastoral position or some other position of leadership in the church they believe there is no one in their circle of influence they can talk to.
Very often this is true as church members and attenders tend to look upon leaders as people who have their spiritual and familial acts together. Many people cannot bear the realization that Pastor struggles with anger, or Pastor’s wife is depressed. They think church leaders are above the trials that “normal” people experience. When a leader reaches out for help within their peer group there is often shock and disappointment. Even more tragic, there is judgment and ridicule and reaching out for help becomes a weapon in the hands of the church.
It should not be this way, but it is. I have heard this story time and time again; and so while at a recent conference I was not surprised to hear of another woman whose Pastor-husband has a pornography problem. She lives with his secret sin every day of her marriage.
Another woman lives with the knowledge her husband -who serves in their church- has quietly committed adultery. While he has repented and returned to her, she bears his sin daily in her heart. She cannot share what has happened to her as a result of his infidelity, and so she lives in a silent world of pain.
Both of the women outlined in these examples live with the pain and misery of bearing their husband’s sinful actions. They love their husbands, they want to honor God, and they want to protect him and their family from scandal. They understand that sin has far-reaching consequences, spilling over into the lives of innocent people who never thought they would be hurt in such a way by the man they love.
This two-part blog will address his secret sin. Today we will look at women whose husbands have ongoing secret sin. These women have no alternative other than the process outlined in Matthew 18 that begins with private biblical confrontation (Matt 18:15). A wife is to urge her husband to repent for Christ’s sake and the sake of His church. If he refuses to repent after a reasonable number of attempts and confrontations, she brings in one or two other men who would urge him to repent and forsake his sin. If after a reasonable number of attempts and confrontations he still refuses to repent, should offer to go with him to the other leaders of the church and confess (Matt.18:16-17). If he still refuses she must inform him that she has no choice but to go with the other men to the leadership of the church and tell them of his unrepentant sin. She should of course offer to go with him and stand by his side in support. However, if he refuses she must warn him and then go herself and tell the truth.
A wife cannot condone her husband’s sin, especially if he is in a position of leadership in God’s church. She can stand next to him and urge him to repent, she can walk with him through repentance and be his loving helpmate. She must rebuke him and she must correct him (2 Tim 3:16) and hold him accountable. And as hard as it may be, she must be willing to go to the church leaders alone and elicit their help for her unrepentant and sinning husband.
This does not make her unsubmissive, for a wife cannot obey her husband if he asks her to sin. God’s commands supersede her husband’s orders or requests for silence. At this point his sin is no longer secret and the couple should be surrounded with the love and compassion of the church. The ideal scenario is both people will enter into biblical counseling and accountability will be in place for the husband.
I wish I could say this is how things usually work out, but I can’t. All to often the husband makes a false repentance or denies his sin altogether. Without evidence nothing can really be done to confront him; suspicion is not enough for an accusation to stick. The wife has to learn how to live with him the way he is until such a time he is exposed in his sin or he is proven to be repentant.
The wife should seek biblical counseling to help her to deal biblically with her responses to his sin. Very often a wife is tempted toward anger and bitterness toward him and toward God for allowing this to take place in her life.
If you find yourself in such a place today I recommend you go to our website and download the free pamphlet entitled, “The Victims Heart.” It will help you to understand many of the pitfalls women encounter when dealing with issues like these.
Tomorrow we will deal with the other side of this coin- Carrying His Secret Sin.
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