The opening chapters of Jeremiah contain
some of the most poignant and tender laments in the Bible. The Lord
has done so much for His people, and it hurts Him when they proved
as unfaithful to Him as a wife who deserts her husband and runs to
take another. For Jeremiah, as for Hosea, there can be no greater
sin than turning our backs on our Heavenly Lover. It grieves the
The moment we
lower the shield that Biblical truths provide us with, we are in
danger of exchanging the truth about God for plausible and
sophisticated alternatives (Romans 1:25). Since this is as true for
matters of the heart as for any other area of our life, Paul tells
||Keep a close watch on how
you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right
for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of
those who hear you.
1 Timothy 4:16
When marital relationships
are at a low ebb, it is easy to fantasize that some new
relationship will prove far more fulfilling – especially if
it appears to offer a way of escaping heavy
For many years, Carlene8 prayed for
her husband to come to faith, but when this did not appear to
happen, they moved to a remote part of the country, and the way was
wide open for a marital disaster. In time, an “attraction” led to a
full blown affair, which she managed to keep concealed. One year
later, her husband was spectacularly converted, but because Carlene
was so committed now to her new man, she was unable to rejoice at
the answer to something she had once prayed night and day for.
Determined to pursue her affair, she
rang to let me know that she was leaving her husband. Knowing how
important the next few minutes would be, I prayed for the Lord to
give me wisdom. Into my head popped an article I had read in the
National Geographic Magazine, which describes in graphic
scientific detail how such infatuations are like a mental illness –
a psycho-physiological process that is highly likely to run out of
steam after a certain period of time when a master valve in the
brain suddenly switches off the “chemistry” that had, until then,
been flowing so strongly.9
“In other words,” I told Carlene,
“the time will come when your feelings for your lover will switch
off, and you will be left with no feelings for him, no family to
turn back to, and, worst of all, no fire in your heart for the
Lord.” All too often I have shared such warnings to no effect, but
on this occasion, a strong conviction came on her that things would
work out exactly as I predicted. There and then she made the
courageous decision to face the issue head on and to return to her
husband – even though she very much doubted that he would be able to
handle her infidelity.
“Why do you think the Lord has been
strengthening him so much?” I replied. “Most husbands “know” in
their spirits when something is wrong,” I pointed out. “Surely one
of the reasons the Lord has been blessing Mark so powerfully has
been to prepare him for this?” Carlene agreed uncertainly, took a
deep breath, and set off to restore the relationship. Her fears
proved groundless. Mark forgave her immediately and the couple are
now fully restored.
When a married person “falls in
love,” or runs away from a marriage, they are usually so caught up
in their new passion that they mentally minimise the effect their
affair will have on their children – some of whom may never fully
trust them again. When they finally realise what they have lost,
they are often devastated. They may also make the unwelcome
discovery that the person they are attracted to has their own set of
demands and dynamics – all of which impose their own requirements
Many people’s lifestyle these days is
so intense that it almost encourages them to go in search of
something to “compensate” for things they are finding too painful to
bear, or which they perceive to be lacking in their lives.
Where this searching inclines them to
perceive another person as having more compassion or charisma than
the person to whom they owe their chief loyalty, they may soon find
themselves constructing elaborate hopes and fantasies around them.
As surely as there is a special
anointing that causes people to open their hearts to each other in
God-given friendship, it is as well to be aware that the powers of
darkness are also highly skilled in kindling potentially fatal
attractions. Counterfeit chemistry leads to emotional complications
that can shipwreck marriages in exchange for nothing more
substantial than a passing infatuation.
Just as David moved swiftly to secure
an intimate audience with Bathsheba, such longings can develop
rapidly from mental fantasies into dangerously co-dependent
relationships. Only this week I heard about a vicar abandoning his
wife for a curate half his age, leaving the parish in shock and
grief. Such things affect far more than the people most directly
When someone “suddenly” leaves, it is
usually the end result of a process that has been going on for some
time. For many, the process of infatuation begins (or accelerates)
during times of grief, when a person is already emotionally
Just as the Lord uses shared
interests – or hardships – as a starting point for promising new
relationships, so the enemy seeks to do the same in order to bait
the snare and spring his trap. Even seemingly well defended people –
whether seventeen or seventy – can be induced to follow a path that
will lead to exceedingly messy complications.
David’s early faithfulness to the
Lord was exemplary, but the effects of his affair with Bathsheba
profoundly affected the lives of his children. No other sin leaves
quite such a trail of misery as adultery. That is why Paul’s warning
remains as relevant today as it ever was: If you think you are
standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).
If we find ourselves directing
immense amounts of spiritual and emotional energy towards someone
else, it is time to take stock. Is the Lord calling us to befriend
this person and to lend them our strength? Or are we in danger of
becoming infatuated with them? Check your timetable and your bank
balance to see just how much you are doing to accommodate these new
desires. As Catherine Marshall reminds us,
||A man and a woman can
live in the same house, in fact lie side by side in the same
bed, and still be worlds apart. Don’t make the mistake of
thinking that the only lonely people are single people.
Loneliness doesn’t fly out of the window in the wake of the
As surely as we benefit from
taking the Lord’s promises and encouragements to heart, it
is equally as important to heed His warnings. Since adultery
almost never occurs where people are “heart accountable,”
have you got at least one person who knows what is really
going on in your heart? Make sure it is not the person you
are feeling attracted to!
Many hold back from seeking out the
level of covering we are speaking of here, because they have seen
pastors, leaders and family members over-reacting when someone has
confessed to a growing attraction. I have come across leaders who
have been summarily demoted, and even driven out of the ministry,
not necessarily because “something has happened,” but simply because
the person concerned shared how they were feeling, and the
leadership overreacted for fear of appearing to compromise.
In other words, the very course of
action that should have prevented the problem from developing became
the means of crushing souls who were battling not to give in to it.
How tragic. Nine times out of ten, everything could have been
defused by prayer and counsel.
Nothing is foolproof, but taking time
to ponder the following safeguards will both enrich our
relationships and make “accidental” attractions much less likely to
- Read and take to heart
the message of Proverbs 2:16-19, 5:20-21, and 6:23-29.
- At any given point in
your relationship with someone who is not your marriage
partner, would you feel comfortable if either the Lord
Jesus or your husband or wife were physically present?
- Take time to discover
what qualities it is that your partner is seeking from
the relationship (as opposed to what you think they
want).12 This will help you to direct your love and care
where it is most appreciated.
- Lay down any unrealistic
expectations you brought into the relationship. Much can
be resolved if you will both appreciate what the other
is contributing to the relationship, and acknowledge the
pressures you are both under.
- Pray regular and
specific prayers for each other. This can do wonders to
focus and renew your love.