You never forget the day that blows out the flame of happy in your heart.
That afternoon I was at home, waiting for my husband, Bob, to come pick me up in his big red truck so we could “eat our way” through the Centre County Grange Fair. It’s a family tradition that sticks better than the fly tape in the pig barns, which are ironically located just next to the Scott’s Roasted Pork stand.
Bob was late, but I wasn’t mad. In fact, I was feeling really good about my husband that day. A week earlier I’d injured my back helping a friend move. I did not like the pain, but the attention and care my man had lavished on me was another story. He’d been so loving as he nursed me through recovery.
I decided to get in another stretch and was hanging upside down over an exercise ball when Bob walked in.
“Yay,” I exclaimed as he sat down in one of our red-leather chairs.
I plopped myself right side up and balanced over the rubber orb like a teenager hanging out with her boyfriend. My heart was carefree and unbraced for what was coming.
Bob studied me with a smile. I felt so seen in that moment.
But wait—that look in his eyes was oddly distant and hollow. Empty.
I had recently confronted Bob about my suspicions that he was not walking in sexual integrity. He had blown me off. Now everything in me suddenly realized that he was about to tell the truth. I stood up, moved to sit in our other red chair, and turned to face him.
My counselor and I had been praying for God to work in Bob’s heart. I still wasn’t prepared for what came out of His mouth.
“I don’t know how to find my way back to you or to God without breaking your heart,” he began.
And then he did.
He broke my heart.
I am not going to share the details of what Bob told me that day. Suffice it to say that before we were married, my husband had humbly confessed a fierce battle with sexual temptation that we thought would just go away after the wedding. It hadn’t. And we’d fought hard against it. Together. For many years my husband had experienced freedom. But one day, sitting in our red chairs, Bob confessed again. He’d lost ground.
It’s my decision not to tell more. But Bob wants you to know that what he did is worse than you may think, but not as bad as you might imagine. In his opinion, this ambiguity is another consequence of sin. We both believe that the pain of betrayal in marriage is similar whether a man has looked at pornography, had an affair, or acted out sexually in any of a number of ways.
And yet despite the pain of that betrayal, I am here to tell you that the story of Bob and Dannah Gresh is not over.
That sentence is an admission. My husband and I have so far to go—and we know it. Our story is not over. Period. Sobering fact.
That sentence is also a battle cry because Bob and Dannah Gresh have won over and over again. Our story is not over! Exclamation point. Sublime expectation.
Everything started so beautifully. On our wedding day we made a covenant before God to be united in marriage. We believed then—and believe now—that for Christian couples this is a sacred act with a special purpose. Marriage helps tell the story of a much greater love. It invites the world to see the sacrificial, unconditional love Jesus Christ has for His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:31–32).
It is sacred for you too.
That’s why you hurt so deeply if your husband has struggled with lust or pornography!
At our wedding, Bob and I wanted all our friends and family to know that we wanted to help tell the story of God’s love with our marriage. So we decided to speak at our own wedding.
I chickened out, terrified of speaking in public!
Bob did not. The words he shared that day were my favorite part of our covenant ceremony. I delighted to hear them, and I believed we would portray God’s love beautifully together.
But we did not ride off into the sunset.
In fact, we weren’t even successful at riding off in Bob’s new Nissan Sentra. We could not find his car, which the groomsmen had parked for us, in the parking garage after the wedding reception. What a pair we were, walking through each level of that concrete maze—I in my wedding gown and Bob in his tux! But nothing could have stolen the joy of that enthralling beginning.
Of course, our story contains a day that was as sad as that first one was joyful. A day when I had to absorb words I did not want to hear—that my husband’s hard-fought battle against lust had become unmanageable. And both our hearts would be bloodied in the aftermath.
Were we still telling the story of God’s love?
It sure didn’t feel like it then.
It felt like our story as we knew it was over. Or at least the ability to live happily had ended.
But God in His rich grace was not lifting His providential pen from the page, ending our story abruptly. Instead, He was preparing to write a chapter that mercifully revealed something Bob and I could not even see. Its title? Redemption!
Join me, Bob, and our team of therapists as we help you find your Happily Even After through our podcast by the same name.
This is an excerpt from Happily Even After: Let God Redeem Your Marriage. Your marriage does not need recovery. It needs redemption. Whether your marriage is suffering from pornography, addiction, an affair, or just years of unhappiness, Jesus Christ can help you redeem the broken places of your marriage. Dannah's newest book show you how to experience healing, live with joy, and hold your head high so you can participate in God’s redemption story for your husband. You may feel like your story is over, but no one writes better—or happier—endings than Jesus.