Stand Firm in the Faith
Kathy Gallagher has spent decades ministering to wives who have seen their marriages and their lives ripped apart by their husband’s sexual sin. And she can do this because she experienced this in her own life. Her marriage to Steve was far from the fairy tale she had hoped for, but God turned the worst thing that happened to her into something very precious to her. In this interview, she shares the spiritual lessons that came from this time in her life. (From Podcast Episode#415 - Wives: Stand Firm in the Faith)
Nate: Kathy, when Steve confessed his unfaithfulness to you, things were really, really painful. It was so painful that you left him for a period of time. You've told that story on Purity for Life before. So, we’re not going into all of that. But through a series of wild events, you did return to Steve. And at that time, you found yourself in a marriage with a man that you had no feelings of love or respect for. I can't imagine how excruciating that would be, and a severe trial of faith. You were obeying God, or at least what you felt like God was calling you to do, yet it was still a loveless and respectless relationship. Can you talk about that?
Kathy: Sure. It was definitely the trial of a lifetime. The real trial—at least the first trial, was that my marriage just fell apart. My husband was addicted to pornography and illicit sex with other people. That was the first blast. The second blast was that I had to go back to him. Without going into all the long details, I knew that it was what God was calling me to do. But to go back there… I think in my mind somewhere I was expecting there to be a wonderful revival of love and restoration. But that wasn’t there. It was not present. There was a loveless feeling, a feeling of, “I cannot stand this man,” that was dominating my mind and my emotions. Bigger than that was a complete lack of respect for him. He was not the person I married, at least he wasn’t the person I thought I married. So, the trial of faith moved from being married to an adulterer, to being married to a guy I did not want to be with at all.
I was expecting the Lord to just step in, make everything smooth and to level out this mountain in front of me. He didn't do that. He let me go through fire, an emotional and spiritual fire. And I was so young in the faith. I had such an immature outlook on God and His role in my life. People tell you when you first come into the kingdom, that God's going to make everything amazing, all of your problems are going to go away, and that everything is going to be wonderful. My experience was the exact opposite. It was almost like when I came into the kingdom, everything blew apart. Even as I think about it now, I couldn’t have imagined a greater trial to my faith than having an unfaithful husband.
Nate: Obviously, I can't relate to what a wife is going through, but you touched on this, and I know that when difficulties come into my life, it can be easy to begin to question what the Bible says about God. When things are good, we say, God is good and He's faithful, and I know He wants good for me and He loves me. But then when things get difficult, the circumstances begin to suggest something different about the character of God. And what would you say to a wife whose situation is calling all these things she has believed about God to be in question?
Kathy: Well, it is a battle. I’ll try to tie this into my own situation and at the same time relate it to other people. Because I know from a lot of experience that numerous have done the same thing that I've done. I didn’t realize I was doing this, but I approached God expecting Him to fix it right then and there. I had an idea of God—somehow, I don't know where it came from—where I expected him to be a sugar daddy. I expected him to change my husband, or to free me. I wanted Him to give me an out. So, I don't know that I would say that I questioned God's character. Maybe I did. I probably did.
But once I got to the place where I was called to go back, there was faith in me to do that, a trust in the Lord for it. Especially once I was there and I saw how horrible it was. There was still a faith and a trust to maintain and continue to go down this path. So, I think I had learned enough, there was enough grace carrying me through those very difficult months, that I was learning God's character through the fire. It was like I was being taught each day. It was literally sometimes hour by hour in a day, learning how to lean on God.
I know that sounds like spiritual stuff, but it was the reality for me. I did not have what it took to do this, I just didn't. I was failing often, and miserable. So miserable. But in the midst of it all, I was learning who Christ is and how He could keep carrying me through. The most valuable thing I could press into a woman's heart is that He is with you. He hasn't abandoned you. He doesn't have a flawed character. There's something more important to the Lord in your circumstance. If anybody is listening to or anything I've said, or have written, God is not as concerned about your happiness as He is your holiness. And this is an addendum to that: when you are walking in holiness, you are happy. You can't have the happy before you have the holy.
The only way I've ever known to walk with the Lord in faith and through fire, is to obey. It’s to follow and to be holy as He is. There's no easy way for that to happen. It doesn't just get thrown at us.
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Nate: Yeah, I was thinking about the song last night, “Jesus, Jesus, How I Trust You.” The chorus says, “How I've proved you o’er and o’er.” But you know, at the beginning, the truth is we haven't proved him o’er and o’er. We're beginning to, but the only way to really have that experience where we can say “I’ve proved you every time,” where you've shown yourself to be faithful, is by just going through those things. There's no easy or quick way.
Kathy: What you just said is the absolute truth. The only way that you learn that He is all sufficient, that He is good, that He is everything He said He would be, is to go through fire. In our culture, and just in our makeup as human beings, that seems so unreasonable. That a God who created, who spoke everything into existence would actually want me to suffer. This was very true of me when I was a young Christian, and I struggled with the whole suffering thing. I asked, “Why doesn't He just make it all go away?” And, “If He's good and if He's got a good character, why is He letting this happen to me?” I did not understand. And a lot of Christians do not understand the Lord. They know about Him, they know bits and pieces of Him, they know quaint little cliches about Him, they know isolated verses about Him. I've been a Christian for 41 years and it's taken me all this time to learn, just as Amy Carmichael said, “The fringes of His ways.” And there's so much to know!
Nate: Let's talk now about a wife who's just finding out about her husband’s sin. Because I've heard you describe before that the thoughts, the worries and the fears are just overwhelming. They're pressing in. Those are the real realities. It's not so much these high and lofty spiritual ideals that are the reality in those moments, but the situation. What are some of the biggest fears and thoughts that come to a wife's mind to buffet her faith, to say it in an old-fashioned way?
Kathy: Sure, there are a myriad. I mean, we're all different and we all have different weak spots in our characters, and in our emotions and stuff. But I would say, generally speaking, the fear that he'll do it again is huge. For me, once the chasm had been broken open by my husband’s sin, there was this enormous gulf or gap in this relationship. Some people can stick their head in the sand and act like, “Okay, that was a one-off thing, he'll never do that again.” In my experience most women feel like there is a huge fissure in the earth's crust, this gaping hole and that all of a sudden now my life is going to be lived in fear, lived in a lack of trust for him. “How am I ever going to trust him again?” That is like the biggest question women probably ask. They ask, “How could I ever trust him again? I trusted him all this time and we've been married for five years, and I just found out that he's been in pornography or sleeping with other people. How can I ever trust him again?”
The other fears are, and I don't know if this is necessarily a fear, but, “What's wrong with me? What was wrong with me? Why? Why did he need someone else?” Or if they have children, they're looking at not only their own emotions, but “How is this going to affect our kids? How do I tell my kids…? Do I tell my kids? And what about finances?” Just everything about life is all of a sudden very shaky. It’s very hard to navigate all this stuff. The fears are just ridiculous. It's overwhelming. All the fears that you never thought about having are now part of your daily life.
Nate: Yes. You mentioned that you went back, and you were going back specifically because God had told you to. But you also mentioned that there were a lot of failures, and you didn't respond very well to your own emotions and fears. I'm wondering that as you've talked with women, what are some of the common bad reactions to those emotions that you’ve seen?
Kathy: It’s two separate things for me, what you're describing. Because when I was facing things with Steve, when I had to go back, I hid my feelings. He never knew what I was going through. Okay, he had repented. He had gotten his heart right with God, and I was afraid to mess that up by just letting all this garbage spew out of me. What was inside of me was nasty. It was horrible. I won't say I hated him, but I hated for him to touch me. I was angry. It’s like I had been with prince charming. If anybody's heard my testimony, I ran off with another man. That’s one of the things that a woman will do often, is to go find someone else, to just plug the hole. That's a reaction. That was my reaction. So, this guy was awesome, and I had to go back to the creep. There was mental anguish in that. It was so painful. Because I felt like the other guy was God's answer to all that I was going through. That was part of the enormous struggle I had to go through. But that was not God's answer to my pain.
Other women have other ways they deal with it. A lot of women are enraged. They go through life with so much anger and so much bitterness, and they're vindictive. They want to pay him back and they can't. They can't give themselves to him because they've been hurt so deeply. The list is endless. I'm not hitting on everything, but it is just a bottomless pit for a wife, and I've never met anybody who did it right. To be honest with you, none of us have done it right. It takes time to learn how to manage and cope.
Nate: So, like you said, none of us have done it right. I'm sure there's kind of a continuum. On the left-hand side there's total failure and making every single mistake, and on the right-hand side, there is some real trust, some real faith, forgiveness, mercy and love. When you do counsel a woman that is doing things in a more Biblical and God honoring way, what is it about their life that helps them to do that?
Kathy: Faith. They have faith. They they're trusting in the Lord at some level, because you can't do this humanly speaking. I mean, I have never met a soul that has. And I've dealt with hundreds of women. This isn't something you can just white knuckle your way through and pretend to be Christian. That woman has some kind of faith in God. She's got trust for the Lord, and her eyes are at some level fixed on Him. That doesn't mean she doesn't have issues and struggles and pain. She does, but she's handling it right. She knows the Word of God.
I cannot emphasize that enough. The Word of God is not a medicine chest to go and grab a verse from when you're feeling bad one day, it is the revelation of who God is and it's so powerful. That's another thing, I wish I could just press into the hearts and minds of people, how important it is to know what the Word of God is saying. Not just grabbing verses out of context but getting the revelation of who God is. That's what gives you the faith and the trust to keep going through fiery trials. It's not in us to do that.
Nate: That's so encouraging. All of us are facing different things at different times. But I think it’s important for us to come to the realization that whatever it is I'm facing, I can't do this alone and I don't have to. We’re not expected to get the resources from within ourselves. Just as Hebrews says, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2a). He really can give us something that is foreign to us. It's outside of us, to get us through.
Kathy: Yes, His all sufficiency doesn't just happen because we call ourselves Christian. This kind of acquiring from the Lord comes through revelations in the Word of God. It comes that way, and it comes through suffering. If you really study and look at the Word of God, there's a lot in the New Testament that says it's the testing of our faith that is precious to God. And that endurance and perseverance are huge, huge themes. Suffering for Christians is a massive thing, but in America we don't like that. We don't want God to be like that. We want Him to fix everything. And He does, but the way He does it doesn't line up with what we're expecting or hoping for. So, we are challenged on every level, you know?
Nate: Yes, that's exactly right. I'm sure that there are people listening who have prayed this at some point in time: Lord, I want to walk with you, I want to know you, I want to have a real relationship with you. And then when God's answer comes, it's not usually what we were looking for. But we have to, like you said, trust Him as our Father, and that He really knows what's best for us. He's also prompt. Every good father always gives to their child what is best for them, and He is the only truly good father. That's where our faith can really land is in the goodness of God, despite what it seems like for us.
Kathy: When you're in the fire, or when you're drowning, and when you can say that God is good and it’s real to you—when it’s solid in your heart that He is good, no matter what the devil or what life may throw at you—then you can go through this. If in your heart there's a solid pillar that His lovingkindness is forever, then you can go through this. But if that issue of who God is, what His character is like, is in question, then you're going to shake. You're going to be shaken, and it will be very hard to stand if you are calling that into question.
I have spent endless, countless hours, days, months, years agonizing to know Him. Because somehow I knew early on that knowing Him was the answer to my issue. Not my husband, not him. He was an idol to me. He was an absolute idol. And that's why my bottom dropped out when I found out what he was doing. But as I grew in the Lord and got my eyes off of Steve and on to who God said He was, that is what helped me and changed me. I shouldn’t say it like it’s all we have, but He’s more than enough. He is more than sufficient. And people that hear these things but don't have a strong enough faith yet often get frustrated by hearing it. They want it, but they don't understand how to get there. Well, He's taking you there. Just keep holding on and He'll give you the grace to get through the fire. He is giving the grace to get through the fire, it just isn't the way we want it to be.
Nate: Yeah, I was vigorously shaking my head when you were saying that. When you said that to people, and they don't like it. I hated it when people would say that to me because I was like, man, what does that even mean? And how do I get there? But you're right, He is taking us there. Praise the Lord for that.
Kathy: But there's no milestones in it though. In a certain way, it's not like, oh I finally got over that hump. Your whole Christian life, you will feel like you're climbing uphill. With a one-hundred-pound backpack on, you know? But He's doing it! He is doing it.