Adultery is so crushing to the spirit. It’s unlike any other sadness or pain that I have experienced. It’s unrelenting. It’s like your marriage was murdered and you have to re-live the event daily. At least with death, there is finality.
The despair seems to have no end, thus you feel hopeless. In fact, the devastation to the spirit seems so overwhelming that I would swear I’m being broken. As a kid, I always had the idea that if you are good, God blesses you; If you are bad, He punishes you. Isn’t that the way parenting works?
Punishment vs. Discipline
In my most recent counseling session with my wife, we worked on my anger. I was mad at her and mad at God for allowing her affair. I asked my counselor one day, “Why is God punishing me?” He looked at me in astonishment and replied, “Why would God need to punish you? There’s enough pain and suffering in this world already. He doesn’t need to pile on.” The manner in which he replied caught me off guard. I could read the tone in his voice to suggest I had a serious flaw in my theology about who God is.
That drove me to study the topic of punishment as taught in the Bible. What I discovered was a significant difference between punishment and discipline. I can’t say it any better than Rick Warren when he says,
“If you are a believer, God does not punish you, because all your sin was paid for on the cross. God doesn’t have to punish you, because Jesus took the punishment. God does not punish Christians for their sins. But He does discipline them… The purpose of punishment is to inflict penalty. The purpose of discipline is to promote growth. The focus of punishment is on the past- what you’ve done wrong. The focus of discipline is on the future- what you can be. The attitude behind punishment is anger. The attitude behind discipline is love.” (reference)
If you were the one who was cheated on, it’s bad theology to believe that God is punishing you or your spouse for their sin. For me, I believed He was probably punishing her and thereby punishing me. Not true.
The Purpose of Discipline
The punishment for sin has already been paid (for all people) by Jesus on the cross. My wife and I are professing Christians and I know that despite her sin of adultery, she is still saved. That means the penalty and punishment for her sin were already paid for. God has no need to continue to punish her for sin although sin has consequences. However, He does have a great need to discipline her.
“God’s discipline does not cover our sins, for only Christ’s righteousness can do that. Rather, it is a way God roots out the sin in our lives. By making us suffer and convicting us by the Holy Spirit, God brings us to acknowledgement of our sins. In no way does discipline bring satisfaction, but it does prepare us for repentance.” R.C. Sproul, (reference)
Consequences of Bad Behavior
So was God disciplining me? I didn’t commit adultery, she did! Don’t confuse discipline with consequences, either. There are consequences for sin even though it has already been paid for by Jesus and forgiven by God. Everyone in the family feels the consequences of sin: the kids, the in-laws, your friends and especially you. The marriage bond is severely broken, that is a consequence of adultery. Trust is gone in the marriage…and I mean GONE! It’s like collateral damage when a massive bomb is dropped, everything in the surrounding area is affected.
My wife’s discipline was that she was caught and now has to face all the damage she caused. She was forced to acknowledge and confess her sin to me and many others. Thank God that He exposed her, otherwise who knows how long it would have gone on and if there would have been any hope to save our marriage. It also helped her realize how much she did love me. To see me so broken absolutely devastated her. I do believe she appreciates me a lot more now.
Hope for Today
I’m sorry that you are suffering so greatly. Believe me, I’ve been there. My encouragement is don’t ever think that God is punishing you. Ask Him to give you the strength to get through today, because He will. Even when you want to give up, keep the focus on seeking to please God. What does He want you to do?
“So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God that created you, for He will never fail you.” 1 Peter 4:19 NLT