Someone wrote a while ago to ask for some input about a situation he has encountered. A childhood friend has a less than enjoyable marriage and has opted to compensate with an adulterous relationship. The person who wrote may have one opportunity to sit with his friend and talk. I think my reply may have application in many arenas of our lives. Here is how I responded:
Your friend’s marriage is still worth fighting for; but with the addition of the adultery, it will be an arduous fight, should they take it on. This particular circumstance is one of the hardest for me to counsel. In the absence of a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ, there is little direction or incentive or power to commit to take what seems, to the unregenerate man’s mind, an irrational and painful path. Without an anchor of absolute truth, why would anyone “stay the course” and intentionally pick the possibility of a lifetime of misery? Most will not. They will instead apply a situational morality that slides towards the path of perceived happiness.
And even for a born-again believer it will boil down to “God or no God.” I had a client who found himself in much the same situation as your friend. This man sat in front of me and pleaded with me to tell him what to do. There had been multiple sessions before so I was very familiar with his circumstances and his belief system. Basically, he had abandoned his wife, who had borne him a son he did not want, to enter into an adulterous relationship where he paid thousands of dollars in fertility treatments so this woman could bear him a daughter he adored. But that woman wanted him to divorce his wife; he would not so she kicked him out. He came home, allegedly all repentant, only to discover his wife would not have sex with him until he had a season of trustworthiness.
I surprised him when I told him I would tell him what to do. (Please recall I had already done hours of sessions with this man) First, I reminded him of the options:
1) commit to his marriage and son and totally separate from the other woman – which meant, at least initially, little or no sex, little trust, and being with a son he only accepted;
2) divorce his wife and marry his mistress – which meant lots of sex and being with the daughter he cherished.
Then I asked him to imagine there is no God, at least not in the room, and tell me which option made the most “natural, logical” sense – he said option 2.
Continuing, I asked him to imagine God in the room and tell me if his answer changed. He said of course – God would want him to choose option 1.
At this point I told him I had just clarified the entire situation – it was simply God or no God. If he believed there was a God who died for him and was intimately involved in his life – and he was committed to this God above all others – he would go home and make it work in spite of the pain and work because he knew God was involved. If he did not believe in or care at all about God, he would choose the “rational” path and divorce his wife.
I intentionally took it out of the realm of “this woman” vs. “that woman” and went to the foundational issue – God or no God – because when an individual lacks a personal commitment to God, telling him or her to stay the course because it is “the right thing to do” sounds inane. (no surprise to me, the man demonstrated the invalidity of his walk with God by divorcing his wife)