Written by: Jani Ortlund
Although we haven’t met, I know at least one thing about you. I know you didn’t enter your marriage thinking, “How can I ruin this? How can I bring pain to this man, and our families, and our friends?” You began your marriage hoping it would become a life-long love story, filled with deep joy and satisfaction. And yet here you are today, thinking about things you never thought possible.
How Did I Get Here?
Adultery often begins in your imagination. You cultivate an emotional affair and then fantasize about the sexual possibilities. All of this goes uninterrupted by godly repentance.
Soon you begin lusting after the attention of another man. Then you find yourself flirting with him, developing an emotional support structure with him.
We always have a higher tolerance for our own hidden sins, but none of us can caress a secret world of lust and fantasy without defiling our soul (Mark 7:23). Ultimately, adultery, like all sin, is a heart issue. This is where it all begins.
Are you disappointed in your husband? His earning power, his time-consuming hobbies, his spiritual malaise, his less-than-thrilling times of intimacy with you? Maybe you feel his expectations of you are too high. Or maybe you’re tired of not feeling seen or heard and you hunger for a man to pay attention to you. Is there growing within you a longing to be free from the inevitable confinements of this lifetime promise?
Adultery Brings Misery
The Bible teaches that marriage is a sacred bond, to be honored by all (Hebrews 13:4). Adultery takes the one-flesh relationship and smashes it with the hammer of reckless selfishness.
One-fleshness is more than sex, and sex is more than a mere physical release that two people experience together. Sex is a profound human connection that belongs only in marriage. God says you and your husband are one, and that he created that union (Matthew 19:6). Sexual intimacy is a precious gift that is to be treated with tenderness and awe. Through it you expose not only your body, but your very soul. And over-exposure will damage you in ways that are not discernible in the moment of passion.
Adultery brings misery at so many levels. It brings the adulterer shame. It introduces betrayal into your legacy. It shows your children that your personal pleasure is more important than their security. It brings sorrow to your Christian community.
God takes sexual sins very seriously. Adultery without repentance damns the soul (1 Corinthians 6:9–10: Galatians 5:19–21). When Jesus speaks of sexual sins in Matthew 5:27–30, he uses strong language — gouge out your eye and cut off your hand. In other words, be willing to endure pain and loss rather than engage in sexual sin. Marriage must be an unrelenting commitment to an imperfect person. That commitment means a willingness to sometimes be unhappy.
Adultery is a mature sin, a deliberate sin. You may “fall in love,” but you walk yourself into bed with that man. In all our years of ministry, I have never had one woman come to me and say, “I am so happy over this affair. It’s even better than I imagined!” And so as an older woman, I have one word for you: Don’t! Don’t go there. Don’t go there in your mind. Don’t go there in your heart. Don’t go there with your body.
Is There Hope to Renew My Marriage?
Instead, ask God to help you be zealous over your heart, “for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Guard your spirit. Cherish the everlasting honor that comes from saying no to momentary impulses (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4). Run from difficult or tempting situations. Remember that your body is the very temple of the Holy Spirit whom God has given you at great cost to himself (I Corinthians 6:18–20).
Think of the blessings of marriage. You belong somewhere and with someone. Someone has chosen you and you have had the chance to choose someone for yourself. You will write your own shared history to leave as your legacy. What kind of legacy do you want to leave?
The question for each one of us should never be, “How far can I go with a relationship — either in fantasy or reality — before it becomes a sin?” Rather, let’s ask, “How can I go so deep with Jesus Christ that sexual purity is the glad outworking of my joyful satisfaction in him?” The best guard against adultery is a deep love and satisfaction in Jesus Christ alone. The soul that is drinking deeply from his river of delights (Psalm 36:8) is not going to thirst for false joys.
The way to drink deeply from Jesus is through repentance and faith. In repentance you turn away from all sin and turn toward him. What does this turning away look like? Well, where are you being tempted? Maybe you need to give up your favorite TV show, where you keep imagining that you are the one in that handsome actor’s arms. Perhaps it is your reading material that sends you into someone else’s bed. What about your interaction on social media? Do you need to get off certain sites? Or you may even need to change your job if a relationship there is tempting you with sexual sin.
Then as you turn away from your sin, turn toward Jesus. Seek him in the Scriptures and through prayer. In faith, take those temptations and cast them onto Christ. Let him carry your burden away. He will give you a bright new hope for the future. He is the one who said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11).
And by God’s grace you will be able to answer him with renewed intent, “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). May God bless you and keep you!
This post was originally published on Desiring God