Question:

Hello Sir,

I have done something terrible! Like others searching through your questions and answers section, I cheated on my wife while she was my fiance. The guilt of cheating and the guilt of cheating with this specific type of person is eating me away! I have always been close to the Lord and have tried to live in the best way that I could. I know you do not know me, but this sin is so atypical of me! I am so disgusted in my actions.

I take complete responsibility for my actions and do not blame anyone but myself. I put myself in a terrible position (bar alone, drinking, etc) and sin abounded.

After confiding in a close friend of mine, he encouraged me to tell her so that "she can make her own choice" (meaning that if I withheld this information from her, that I was not loving her enough to give her a choice) and that my guilt would be relieved. I was grateful for his advice because she forgave me and we went through marriage counseling and we still do.

The reason why I am coming to you for counseling is that, like "My husband knows I cheated, but should I tell him the details?" I messed up! I was so unprepared and afraid of losing her that when I saw her crying hysterically and when I saw the pain I was causing her, I lied about certain details! There was no justification in it at all, and I am so sorry!

I do not want to hurt her anymore than I have already but the guilt of having lied to her about such a prominent and disgraceful sin in my life is crushing.

So here are my questions for you, if you wouldn't mind helping me:

  1. Should I tell her everything? I have been praying for God's wisdom in this area for quite some time because when I see her, I have no desire other than to hold her and love her. When I am alone to my thoughts, I am overwhelmed with guilt!
  2. Do you feel that this burning in my chest is conviction or condemnation? When I repented, I told God how scared I was of confessing and that in my own wisdom, I prayed that I felt it would do more harm than good, but that I would follow His directionregardlessof how I felt! I asked Him to give me a peace concerning which way to go and an assurance for that decision but all I feel is guilt. I do not want to ignore godly conviction, but if it is condemnation, then I do not want to give in!
  3. I know that I will always have the memory of my sin in much the same way that I remember the sins of my youth, but will the guilt ever go away? Growing up I was always taught that Jesusdoesn'twant us to wallow in guilt but to break free and live for him, but no matter how often I pray for the guilt and shame to leave me (both for my own sanity and so that I can completely devote myself to the marriage), it continues to come and go! I want to have children and be able to hold them in my arms without thinking of my sin, to grow old with my wife without a burning conscience.
  4. If I do not come clean that I lied, would I be living in sin, even though I have repented of it? I have become so discouraged that I am living in sin because marriage books that I have read say that lying or keeping secrets in a marriage is cheating in and of itself. I realize that they are not God, but it stabs at my guilt none-the-less, especially since I was always raised to feel that I had to come clean if I had messed up.
  5. If I should not tell, do you know of ways to combat the guilt so that I can be a better provider for my wife and so that we can live a happy life together?

I am so scared. All I want is for us to move on in confidence that this terrible sin is over with, that I have been forgiven, that God still loves me and cares for my marriage, and that I am not living in sin!

I am so sorry for my long email, but I could really use the advice of a scriptural mentor right now. Thank you so much for your time!


Answer:

You started out on the wrong foot. You took your burden of sin and made it your wife's even though there was no reason for doing so. I'm glad she took it well and that your marriage improved after going through this trial that you created. The point is that your fornication was a sin against yourself. "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body" (I Corinthians 6:18). Instead of repenting of your sin, going to God for forgiveness and leaving it behind you, you dragged it along with you. Eventually you chose to force your wife to carry the burden as well.

Then you compounded the problem by lying to your wife about what you were supposedly confessing. It appears you were more interested in punishing yourself than anything else. Your wife has zero reasons to know the details of your fornication. If there was a child because of your sin or something else that would impact her life, then she needs to know in advance so she can prepare for those things. But none of this is true in this case.

You prayed to God for wisdom in how to handle this situation, but you haven't turned to God's teaching to learn from Him. Instead you keep examining your feelings as if your feelings are coming from God. "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered" (Proverbs 28:26).

It is interesting that you talk about not wallowing in guilt while doing it. Guilt should be there for any sin. It is what keeps you from committing a sin again. It is the people who don't feel guilt over their past crimes who are the scary people. You keep waiting for guilt to go away. It shouldn't go away. You need to move on. You committed fornication before you got married. You got drunk. Those things were wrong, but they should be seen as the poor way you used to behave. They should not be a part of your character now. "Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles -- when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries" (I Peter 4:1-3). Instead of putting the old man of sin to death, you are defining yourself in terms of sin. "But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:20-24).

What it really comes down to is that you don't see yourself as a changed man. When a person becomes a Christian, it is the beginning of a radically changed life. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin" (Romans 6:1-7). It isn't "us" who need to move on. It is you who are staying back and thus putting a strain on your marriage.

The only unforgiven sin are those which are not repented of. Repentance is not being sorry about the fact that you sinned. Sorry is what leads to repentance, but it isn't the act. "Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:9-11). Repentance is changing your mind about the acceptableness of sin and changing your behavior in regards to the sin.

In most sins you can't undo the fact that they occurred and you can't stop the consequences that often spiral out from the sins. When a person repents, he doesn't want to profit from his past sins. That is why Zacchaeus offered to refund any money that he might have taken wrongfully. "Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold"" (Luke 19:8).

You told your wife the truth that you committed fornication before your marriage. You wrongfully lied about the details, yet bringing up this subject wasn't good for anyone before and bringing it up again to correct your lies won't change the basic facts and would be reopening old wounds. In this case it is best to just move on with a firm commitment to be honest for the rest of your life.

Sir,

Thank you for your response and for your time!

First off, I feel that I should define what I meant as guilt. I was not referring to remorseful remembrance, but rather the debilitating sense of guilt and shame. I know that I will always feel guilt over what I have done, I was asking if the incredible sting will fade, in your experience.

I understand what you are saying and I can definitely see the wisdom in it. I guess what I am asking you for is help. I am sure that I am not the first wayward husband to be overwhelmed with guilt that you have ministered to. Could you provide me with practical and scriptural ways to combat the crushing guilt when my chest is burning inside of me to tell her? How can I overcome my feelings to see the new creation that I am in Christ?

Lastly, the question that has been heavy on my mind and heart, how can I distinguish whether these feelings are God's way of asking me to tell her, or Satan's way of keeping me in bondage?

I do not mean to sound like the victim, I truly am the culprit. I am just trying to make things right in the best way I can.

Humbly, Sir, I just need some help.

You distinguish truth and lie by comparing what you have before you with what God said. "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17). Too many people are used to following their feelings and calling that God's leading. God doesn't use feelings to lead people. "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered" (Proverbs 28:26).

Paul said, "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). Compare that to what you are doing in your life. You are dwelling on what is behind you and you have stopped reaching forward for the prize. You have to be a new man and see yourself as having changed in order to separate yourself from who you used to be.