By Matthew Fretwell
“I don’t know why I did it, it just ‘happened’ and before I knew it, I was in the middle of an affair with my co-worker. She made me feel so important, needed, and to be honest, I liked it. At home, all my wife and I do is argue about the kids, money, and who’s going to be going where and doing what. This felt good—I just couldn’t take the arguing anymore.” Those are words from a broken and betrayed marriage.
I’ve had a spouse tell me, “It’s over, I’m done.” Then, as if a spark is lit, there’s something in the midst of my soul, something in my heart that wants to weep, wants to yield to the brokenness of humanity and yet trust in the power of Christ. The problem is the wife is dealing with the arguing, kids, money, and scheduling—now all alone and betrayed. Both sides are torn—ripped apart; however, while one drifted off into self-centeredness, ego stroking, and flattery, the other has been dealt with a severe blow—betrayal. Of course, this scenario can fit either the husband or the wife—it’s just as likely the husband is rejected.
Normally, most things in marriage counseling can be worked out, especially when both parties are willingly able to move forward—this is no different in the aspect of either betrayal or dissertation; regaining trust takes at least three things.
- Authentic Confession
The crux of the gospel comes from understating that the goodness and mercy of God forgives a debt of humanity that humanity cannot repay. But it also displays the need for authentic confession—hearts that are repentant…change. The meaning of repentance is to turn the other way, and continue walking in the other direction—away from evil and sin. Both parties in a broken marriage are hurting, but the one who has been betrayed, now has lost all faith in the spouse. Regaining that trust must include authentic confession with the other.
Just as we come to God with a heart seeking forgiveness, God will not accept our lip service, false actions, or half-heartedness—He wants it all. In the same manner, the man or woman, who has betrayed their spouse, must seek true forgiveness by talking out their sins and confessions—giving their heart back to the other. Even if not adultery, the breaking of trust has ripped a unified heart into two separate hearts—mending is needed. Relationships are built upon trust. Once trust has been broken, regaining it must begin with honesty—this is the first step.
Do not hide any secrets that can be brought out later on, if reconciliation is to occur, be honest and open. This is the period that will be tough; hard hitting honesty and facing difficult and sensitive areas are imperative. Assuredly the question of “Why did you do this?” will come up in this conversation. Therefore, make sure that all conversations are based in love, displaying humility, and willing to listen to the other—listening is sometimes more important than speaking. This is not a time to justify your actions—but to seek true forgiveness—own up t your sin. As my dad used to say, “You made your bed, now lie in it.” Regaining trust will take time…
- Allow for Time
You have heard the statement that time heals all wounds…it’s not true! However, time will begin to help regain trust, if you were contrite and honest about your sin. This is not a period of doing works to regain love—like buying flowers, candies, or tickets for the ballet, especially if you never did these things prior to the broken trust. The best thing to do is to love her.
I once heard Matt Chandler say something like, “If a man beats his wife, she doesn’t want him to come back and give her flowers, she wants him to love her—forget the flowers!” Now, during the time process, the one who is regaining the trust should be more receptive to listening, and to getting some quality counseling sessions under the belt. Do not think that time will just pave over the hurt, anguish, and betrayal. Both of you have some serious issues that are important, express these with an unbiased third party—a good Christian counselor (see here). You cannot win back trust like a ball game, or overnight, this will take intentional time, prayer, and a whole lot of God.
- Let God Take Control
If we really want to regain trust, we must seek God with all humility and let God take control of the situation. Letting God take control, does not mean that you’re “off the hook.” No, to the contrary, it means that you understand that the supernatural power and healing of the Holy Spirit will be working in YOU, through you, and for you. For the most part, letting God take control means to give God your heart first. This is not a time to seek God to “change” the other person—no—it’s to change and transform you—the one regaining trust. After David’s affair with Bathsheba, he cried out to God and wrote, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:10, 17).
To let God take control means that we allow God to have our hearts, to restore within us a heart that wants to, “love our wives as Christ loves the church,” (Eph 5:25), unselfishly and unreservedly. To ask God to change someone when you are not willing to change yourself is hypocrisy and arrogant—that’s not contrite. Letting God take control means submission to God. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Lastly, be humble.
These three things are certainly not the only applications to regain trust and of course, they’re not a magic formula. Regaining the trust of anyone is not easy. We must remember that feelings, emotions, and boundaries of all kinds have been ripped apart. We also must remember that we have torn the heart of someone who expected loyalty and protection from us, merely wanting love. Breaking trust is breaking hearts. But it’s not the unforgiveable sin. God can work in any and every relationship. God can restore broken marriages. I want to encourage you, if you or someone you know has broken the trust in a relationship, seek godly professional help; the elders and pastors of your church, or good qualified Christian counselors. Here’s a link to some in your area.
Matt Fretwell is married, has three daughters and an author of multiple books. He serves as pastor at Oak Hall Baptist in Sandston, Virginia. Matt is the founder of Job 31 Ministries and an advocate board member of Living Bread Ministries, a global comprehensive Church Planting organization.
He is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in church planting at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.