Wouldn’t it be great if the world was full of people who were what they said they were, did what they promised, and were full of integrity. It is devastating to be betrayed by someone we have trusted. Betrayal on any level is painful at the very least, but on some levels, without the grace of God, betrayal can be crippling.
God has given us certain laws of conduct to protect us from such devastation. Imagine a society that practiced the 10 commandments – no lying, stealing, adultery. Our creator knows exactly how life works. When He gives laws, He is revealing the secrets to the mystery of life and relationships. He is saying, “Live according to My laws and life will work. You will be protected!”
Imagine renting a car on an exotic island. When the rental agent says, “Our traffic laws mandate that cars drive on the left side of the street and right turns must yield to traffic,” he’s not restricting your fun; he’s protecting your safety. A tourist who says to himself,” Nobody’s going to tell me how to drive,” is not only foolish, but dangerous.
Suppose this guy takes off on the wrong side of the street, laughing as he dodges carts and bicycles. Suddenly when going around a curve he sees a large truck approaching. He jerks into the lane he should have been in all along, but too late. He escapes unharmed but his wife in the passenger seat is badly injured. After a stint in the hospital she is able to return to normal activities but is left with a limp and certain activities and weather cause her pain. This event causes both husband and wife much pain and distress. After experiencing pain, her sense of feeling safe and protected are lost. If it happened once, it can happen again.
The humbled husband emerges with a new respect for driving laws and promises to always abide by them. His new commitment to safe driving would no doubt be comforting, but it would not undo the damage that occurred before he changed his attitude toward the law.
Would it not be incredibly silly for him to be irritated at his wife’s limp? Imagine him saying, “It’s been a year since I drove recklessly, why are you still limping?” She might respond, “Honey, do you think I enjoy limping?”
Now there probably are wives who do enjoy limping to remind someone how bad what they did was, or for garnering sympathy. Most of the women I see, however, want desperately to be able to dance and skate again in freedom from their pain. They would do anything to lose their limp.
Of course, we aren’t really talking about driving laws, crashes, and limps. I’m addressing the emotional fallout that comes when someone discovers his/her spouse has broken God’s moral law and marriage vow to be sexually and emotionally true. For most faithful spouses the impact of that discovery is worse than a head on collision. James 1:15 says when sin is full grown it gives birth to death. A mate’s infidelity brings the loss (death) of trust and security in his/her spouse. Trust is glue in relationships. It can also be lost in other ways such as through repeated dishonesty and unkindness.
What can be done once trust has been broken? First, we are called to forgive everyone, (Matthew 6:12, 18, 21-35). We are to be reconciled with those we can, (Romans 12:18). However trust has to be earned. God doesn’t ask us to trust what is unreliable. Jesus is our ultimate trust object. Those who trust in Him will never be disappointed. How does one rebuild shattered trust in a person?
- There must be genuine repentance in the offender, which is different from just being sorry you were caught or sorry the relationship is strained. Real repentance is accompanied by humility, brokenness and sorrow over their sin (James 4:7-10). Genuine sorrow is more concerned over the grief they have caused than moving on and having everything comfortable again. It is hard to trust the wrong won’t be repeated if there is little evidence the perpetrator grasps the depth of the injury he/she caused.
- Both should throw away a time table. After a person declares bankruptcy it takes years of good money management to rebuild credit. Until then, they are not a good credit risk to a lender. The one who has broken trust needs to be patient and continue to earn good credit! When the injured spouse asks “Where have you been, who did you see,” if you have been faithful and true, view this as a pop test and an opportunity to raise your trust score. If you haven’t lived up to your agreement, come clean. Never lie. Lies never build trust. The goal is to be a person of integrity, not create a facade of integrity. One bounced check won’t ruin your effort to rebuild credit, but should warn you both to be careful.
- Keep your heart clean. When anger and bitterness start to ooze, immediately chose to forgive. Your job is to keep the wound clean by forgiving, God’s job is to bring healing. You do your part keeping the wound clean and God will do the healing in His timing. You must ban unwholesome thoughts from your mind ( 2 Corinthians 10:5, Philippians 4:8).
- Fix your eyes on Jesus so that you will not grow weary and lose heart, (Hebrews 12:1-15). You both have been thrown into the school of discipline. This time of discipline is unpleasant, but Christ has gone before you and is walking beside you. He intends to use this time of suffering to bring about “a harvest of righteousness and peace,” to strengthen you “so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” You can trust Him even if you can’t yet trust your spouse. When you are tempted to fixate on your fears and doubts, focus on Christ and His promises.
For the one who broke trust, it takes a commitment to rely on God to become a person who walks in the light, free of secrets and dark shadows. For the one whose trust was broken, it takes a commitment to keep clean of bitterness and to trust Christ to be your protection, wisdom, and healer. If each one’s vertical relationship with Christ is pure, then your horizontal relationship with each other will heal and become strong too.
Thank you for partnering with us in rebuilding character and trust in broken lives and relationships. We appreciate you.