Mike Novotny - What if There Was an Affair? - Part 2
But what if you already fell? I know there are double digit people in this room right now that say, "I can't go back, pastor. I wish someone would have told me ten years ago, 'Don't.' Period. I wish someone would have given me that wisdom and take a step back and not come close, but I already did so what do I do? What does God have to say to me"? That's truth number three I want to share with you today. After thinking deeply about the people that I have walked with on this journey, I came up with an equation that I think best describes how to heal after an affair. What do you do? What does he do? How does this work?
This is a theory I've tested on couples. I've out too to a counselor, and I think that this is valid and solid. For some of you if you've healed from an affair, I can almost guarantee this is how it happened. And if you feel stuck, like there's still bitterness and a lack of forgiveness, I think this will explain why it hasn't happened. Let me explain the three parts of the healing equation. First is time. It takes time. Right, if that 18-wheeler smashed into you and you're sitting there with, like, both arms and both legs broken. It doesn't matter how much you wanted it to work, how much you wanted to get back on your feet, when you get hit that hard, it just takes time to heal. You know the phrase right, "Time heals all wounds". And an affair is a huge wound that takes time to heal.
And that's so important for you to know. You might be doing the right things, and she might be doing the right things. You might be connecting with friends and family, a counselor, a pastor. You might be humbling yourself, following Jesus, but it is going to take a big amount of time. If the number is zero, or one, or small, the healing equation itself will be small. And a question that every couple ask at this point is, "Well, how much time? Like, I don't trust him yet, how long is this going to take? 'She's still mad at me and totally uninterested in intimacy, how long is this going to take?'" And I debated whether I should give you an answer cause it's different for every couple. I'm like, "Do I want to promise something the Bible doesn't promise"? But from what I can gather from research I've done, on average it takes about one to two years until a couple feels good about being a couple.
After the last secret is out... I'll come back to that. Once the whole truth is on the table, it takes about a year to two years until most couples can say, "We're going to make it, and we're going to be better than we were before". Takes time. Second in the healing equation is that it takes work. The one who cheated on their spouse has to do a lot of work. The time could be one year, two years, ten years, or twenty years, but if the person who cheated does zero work, the healing will be zero. That might seem like a weird thing to say, but it often happens. If I am unfaithful to my wife and I'm carrying this burden and I know I shouldn't, but I keep going back to it, then finally blah! The truth comes out and I confess my sin, I'm ready to move on, I have already processed the pain and the trauma.
I'm ready for a fresh start, a new us, but she's not. And so, I have to do an insane amount of work for healing to happen. That work primarily involves telling the whole truth. If you want to screw up healing, here's some advice. Give them about half the truth. This actually happens all the time, "I cheated on you". "What? You..." Like, this close to divorce and you think, "Oh, I can't share the rest. I can't share how long it happened, or how many times it happened, or with this other person, with the pornography part of it either". People, they trickle out the truth and it just re-traumatizes the person who always has to wonder, "What else don't I know"?
And so, I have to tell you, the hardest work that will terrify you and keep you up at night is being 1,000% honest. However, ugly, or traumatic, or disgusting it was, you have to get it out. Once the semi hits, don't bring another semi behind it. Let the whole truth hit hard so you can rebuild the pieces together. And then, then the real work begins. Because if you've cheated on your partner, you will have to do the hard work of answering the same question approximately 1,612 times. And when you say, "I already answered that question". No. You caused it, you have to clean it up. Can't tell them to get over it. You can't pull the Bible card, "You're supposed to forgive me, isn't that what Jesus did"? Nope. Nope, nope, nope. You do the work of telling the truth, and then telling the truth, and then telling the truth, and then telling the truth.
And when she's trying to play detective and make up rules for you and your phone, and your schedule, you submit to them and you obey them because that is the work you have to do to heal. Try to do your own thing and you will sabotage the process. Humble yourself day after day after day. Month after month, year after year, and you give the healing equation a chance to work. I won't lie to you, it'll probably be the hardest thing you ever do in your life, but if you do it, it will be worth it. Healing equals time, times work, and here's the last thing I need to tell you, times work. There are so many hard things I need to say to you today. I'm pretty convinced that what I'm about to say is the hardest of them all. Are you ready for it? If you were cheated on, you have to work. Doesn't feel fair. Doesn't feel right.
It wasn't your fault that your spouse did this, but if you do zero amount of work, all the time in the world can pass and your spouse can grovel and beg and humble themselves for a decade. But if you do zero work, you will not heal. I think of a couple I ministered to who was just, like, smashed with a devastating affair. And after meeting with them, and meeting with them, and meeting with them, and time passed and this guy was really impressive, the work he was willing to do. And after enough times, I felt it was time to ask her so, she gave me permission to tell you this story. I asked her, "So, what are you doing to serve your husband these days"? She looked at me and said, "Letting him live in my house"? And I smiled, and she smiled and said, "That sounds bad, doesn't it"? I get it. It's mercy just to let him back in. You would think it's his time to fix what he's broke, but honestly, that's not how it works.
It doesn't mean that sin was your fault. It doesn't mean I'm blaming you for the decision that she made. But the fact is, if you don't do some really hard work, it's not going to work. Think of it this way. If there was some deprivation that your spouse was feeling that led the towards attraction, and intention, and emotion, and connection. If there was something about your marriage pre-affair that made him or her very unhappy, come on, doesn't it make logical sense that we need to work on that? A pastor friend of mine likes to ask couples, "Imagine this never happened. Imagine this is pre-cheating you. B.C. you. What were you working on then? What did she need to do or he need to do more of before... You were sinners back then, were you not? Hmm-mm You were sinful spouses back then, were you not? Hmm. What good work did God want you to do then, because we probably still have to pick that up sometime".
If one person in a marriage becomes the holy God who never needs to do anything, or apologize for anything, and the other person becomes the slave or the servant, that is not intimacy, and it's not connection, which means you have to work. The Bible says if your spouse cheats on you, you don't have to stay. You can leave on a clear conscience if the trust is too broken. But if you decide to stay, there is still a vow that you need to keep. And you don't get a free pass to sin. You don't get to let bitterness and anger take over your heart, you don't get to lash out, punish, use vengeance. That's not how God treats you and you don't get to do that either. So, you have to work. You have to have the insane humility to go to the one who cheated on you, look them in the eye and ask the question, "How can I be a better spouse to you"?
And a million demons will be digging their claws into your ankles trying to hold you back from that question, but it is a holy question. It is a humble question, and it is a healing question. "How can I love you better"? That's the work. In fact, since you've been sitting for so long, would you please stand for one second? I want to put the words of the Lord's prayer up on the screen because I bet a lot of you have never thought about the Lord's prayer from the perspective of a couple that's cheated. Can you just think of what these words, how they must hit a little bit different when you've been through something like this? What does it mean? "God, your will be done right now in my marriage. God, forgive us our sins, I've sinned. I can't go back. God, help me to forgive those who've sinned against me cause I don't want to right now. There's so much temptation to do this, say this, bring this up, give in. God lead us not... deliver.
This was an evil that happened in our home. Deliver us from it, cause we don't have the power, but you do". Today, whether you've been there, or you're thinking about someone who is there, let's pray to our heavenly father that he would help. Would you join me in the words of the Lord's prayer? "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever". Amen. You may be seated.
Friends, that brings us to point number four. I'm going to keep this one faster than you think because this is next week's entire sermon. What's truth number four if you are dealing with an affair? Is run to them. No one ever thinks that adultery is going to happen in their home. And when it does, it is embarrassing, and it's numbing, and it's shameful. It's the thing you think about 24/7, but you don't want to bring up to anyone because you don't want them to know just how bad it is at home. But I'm going to tell you this, you cannot. You cannot make it without them. Without good counseling, without good ministry, without family, friends. You don't have to get up and tell everyone at work, but you need people in your life that you don't have to fake it or pretend. You need them. The Bible says in Galatians 6:2, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ". Alright?
An affair is like a grand piano that you need to give into the moving truck and you can't move it by yourself. It is such a heavy burden, and so, God says to his church, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ". That's all I'll say for today about that. The people that you run to to help are not Jesus Okay? Do you need to write that down? Your brother is not Jesus. Your pastor is not Jesus. Pastor Michael's kind of close to Jesus, but he is still not Jesus. Alright? The people you run to, they won't know what to do. They're not experts. They're not going to know, "Do I talk to you about it or are you having a good day and you just don't want to think about it? Do you want me to bring this up, or do you not"? It's going to be messy. They're going to need advice. Hopefully they keep your confidence well, but don't wait till you find, like, Jesus walking down the street to run to help. Find the best spiritual options you have and run to them, so they can bear that burden with you. More on that next week.
Point number five. I saved the most important for last. Run to him. Run as fast as you can to God. Whether it's something you did or something that was one to you, the best advice I can give you today is sprint like a Jamaican into the arm of Jesus. You know, a lot of people when they cheat, they see sin for what it is for the very first time in their life. They see how evil, foolish, absolutely idiotic it was. They live with the daily consequences that don't go away after a day or a week, sometimes it takes years. And the shame of that can weigh so heavy that we start to believe it is an unforgivable sin. Some of you need to know today, it is not. Did you know 2,000 years ago when Jesus was on the cross, he knew the name of the other woman? As the God who knew past, present, and future, he already saw how you would cross a line with that guy from work. He knew it. And you know what he still said at the end of his suffering? "It's finished". Finished.
Some of you wake up everyday with this extra-large garbage bag full of bricks of shame and you just drag it with you and refuse to rejoice in this day that God has made. Today, I'm telling you that Jesus forgives adultery. I'm not guessing, the Bible gives us heaps of evidence. Remember when Jesus was face to face with the woman who was caught in the act of adultery? No time had passed. There was zero healing. She had done zero work. Jesus looked her in the eye in John 8 and he said, "I don't condemn you". King David, you know that story? He was attracted to Bathsheba. Saw her from a distance, he did something with intention, he made a physical connection. And she covered it up for an entire year, he lied to people.
And when king David confessed that sin... Love what the Bible says in Psalm 32. David's writing, he says, "I acknowledge my sin to you God, and I did not cover up my iniquity. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the lord.'" And how does God respond? "God, you forgave the guilt of my sin". That God hasn't changed. Some of you cheated seven years ago, and God hasn't thought about it in seven years. Some of you are thinking you lost your spot in heaven, God's face is scowling upon you. If you are a follower of Jesus, all of it, the worst of it, the most shameful piece of it is there. And you don't have to carry It anymore, he forgives the guilt of your sin. And if you've been cheated on, I want to give you the same advice today, run to Jesus. I haven't been there, but I've heard how people feel. "What's wrong with me? Why did he choose another woman? Why am I not good enough"?
You question everything about yourself. Your weight, your looks, your personality, your everything. You feel so less than. Here's what the gospel of Jesus says, "You're not". Jesus made you enough. So beautiful that God doesn't get bored with you, he doesn't stray from you. Jesus is the perfect spouse who is always faithful to the one he vowed to love. Maybe you've seen in the midst of this process, some pretty ugly things come out of your heart. You didn't know such bitterness and hatred could live within you, and then it's there. I want you to know Jesus died for that too. He chose you, he forgave you, he saved you, he loved you, and he is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. You don't have to wait one to two years to fix your relationship with God because Jesus did everything in your place. It is fixed. And you actually have a spot right now in the happiest, holiest home on earth. The very presence of God with a perfect father. Breathe. Rest in everything that is yours through faith in Jesus Christ. Run to him.
So, put it all together, and what do you got? "Don't". Some of you are tempted right now, but don't. Don't even come close. Some of you are two steps way, it's time to take a step back. Healing equals time, times work, times work. No matter who you are, there's work to do, and there's time to wait on the Lord. Run to them, you're going to need people to help you. Imperfect people, but good people. And run to God. You know, I interviewed five people from our church who have been through an affair and I asked a really dangerous question at the end of it. The question was, "Is anything better now"? You were living in this kind of happy, kind of holy home, and then this tornado called "Infidelity" ripped it down to the very foundation. "Is anything better now about your marriage"? First guys said, "Everything". And the second woman said, "Everything". And the third guy said, "Almost everything". And the fourth woman said, "He never tried to love me like he loves now". And the fifth woman said, "My husband as never been more spiritual than he is now after the affair".
And I can't guarantee that happens. Some people don't do the work, some people don't take the time. Sometimes the damage is just too much to fix. But I can tell you this, if you run to him, there's hope. Asked Pastor Michael, "Pastor, you've been a pastor 25 years. Can you tell me about this"? And he said this, "If people run to God and they do the work, there's hope". And I reached out to a local Christian counselor, and I said, "What do I need to know"? And he says, "It's going to be different, and it's going to be so hard. But there is hope". And that's the word I want to leave you with today, "Hope". Our God is so good, he doesn't just have the power to forgive you, he has the power to take what the enemy meant for evil and turn it for good. So have hope, go in peace, there is forgiveness. Let's pray:
Our gracious Lord, you know who needs this message and help. You know there are some people right now who are just dealing with those old thoughts, and triggers, and emotions. They need your peace and they need your grace, so give it. You say that we can run to you and you forgive the guilt of our sin. As far as the east is from the west. We hold you to that promise today, God, because we need every word of it and we need your power to do the work, to be willing to wait, to have the wisdom and humility to step back. God, all of us need this message in some way or another, so fill this up, equip us, and give us the kind of peace that goes beyond understanding. God, affairs have happened here, may they ever happen again. May your people have ears to hear, wisdom to obey, and especially souls that soak in the salvation that is 100% theirs through faith in Jesus Christ. It's in his name that we ask all of these things. Amen.