The Face of Courage

She was trembling and tearful as she said, “I know I need to forgive, I’m just so afraid to open up and love him that way again.”

One characteristic of the Beautifully Fierce Woman is:

*She courageously faces her fears rather than running or hiding in shame.

Women like Hayley, whose fierceness was seen as she faced her greatest fear and courageously stood where many women give way. Barely in elementary school, her parents divorced and she was basically lost in the shuffle between Mom’s new husband and Dad’s new wife. As a young woman, her only real companionship was found in her relationship with Christ. Because of the pain and rejection from her parents, abandonment was a life-long fear, but Christ was one who never let her down, who promised to be her unshakable constant.

Just four years into marriage, Hayley’s life was shattered again with the pain of betrayal and rejection. I’ll never forget the look of sheer terror on her face as I sat with her during the aftermath of shock from discovering Kevin’s affair. The one person she’d confidently relied on for marital fidelity had broken that trust. Her childhood fears engulfed her like a flood.

As the affair became public, she took on the shame and humiliation brought on by his sin. Broken and confused she tried to make sense of it all “I’ve been faithful and kept myself pure, but I’m having to deal, not only with the rejection, the loss of our relationship, but also with the life-long consequences of his immorality.” The injustice was baffling, the betrayal brutal.

If you’ve walked this same path, you understand the temptation to run from public glare, to curl up in crumpled defeat, to close your heart and never open it to trust again. You understand the mental battle with rejection, the taunting words in your head communicating your worthlessness and encouraging you to give in to despair.

But Hayley stood for her marriage when every fiber in her being screamed, “Run!” She washed herself in God’s Word. She used that knowledge to battle the lies running through her head. She faced the public stares. She followed godly counsel, rejecting the world’s short-cuts. She supported the elders’ decision to proceed with church discipline although it meant embarrassment and the humiliation of public scrutiny.

And when her husband came to true repentance, Hayley worked her way through the rugged terrain of hurt and resentment to reach the place of forgiveness. She leaned hard into Christ and stepped into a position to start rebuilding her marriage with the man who’d broken trust and wounded her deeply. She went beyond just forgiving Kevin; she committed herself to helping him recover his walk with God.

Hayley demonstrated the tough courage and faith of a fierce woman fulfilling the “helper role” as a soft warrior.

You see, Hayley’s fierceness could’ve driven her to bitterness and revenge. She could have chosen to manipulate the situation to her advantage or poured all her energies into making Kevin’s life as miserable as possible. Even now she could choose to dangle Kevin’s past infidelity over his head as a means of control. But instead, her fierce loyalty to Christ drove her to grant Kevin the same forgiveness she’d been given (Ephesians 4:32) and to demonstrate to others the reality of God’s grace. Rather than hammering him as a moral failure, she seeks to use her power of influence to inspire Kevin to live out his calling as a godly husband and father.

More than a decade later, Hayley and Kevin are taking the lessons learned from their season of brokenness, and encouraging other couples who face some of the same marital challenges. What looked like the destruction of their marriage has become a platform of ministry to others. In a divorce culture, their story is rare; it doesn’t have to be.

A fierce woman’s courage and determination to fight for her man and her marriage may make the difference.

What courageous actions is God calling you to?

Excerpt from Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior Moody Publishers © 2012 by Kimberly Wagner

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/


  • Caroline

    Thank you for sharing this. So many of us are in the midst of our husband’s affairs…just trying to hold on and know what to do! Please, can you share how her husband came to repentance? How long did it take? What did they do from there to work on things?

    Thank you – this is so valuable. We need this desperately!

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Hello, Dear Caroline ~

    I am so sorry for the deep pain and loss you are experiencing. The short answer in how her husband came to repentance is that, his sin was handled biblically by church leadership that was willing to do the tough things involved with confronting him in his sin.

    It is very difficult for me to write what I’m about to tell you, because I know it is much easier to express the beautiful “big picture” truth than to live it out in the messiness and sorrow of a situation like you are enduring—but the truth is, living out Scripture in this situation is going to require you doing the hard thing. The easy thing is to run, to pack up your bags and get out. That is what any of us would naturally want to do. But by doing that, what are you communicating about the reality of God and His ability to step into the darkest of places and bring radical transformation?

    Let me encourage you to consider God’s heart when it comes to the issue of reconciliation and then consider God’s ultimate purpose for the marital relationship.

    God’s heart is one of redemption. Although I am sinful and vile, He welcomes me back when I turn in repentance to Him. He is in the ministry of reconciling hearts to Himself. All marriages consist of two sinners. We are all in need of great mercy. Biblical counselors will provide varying responses to the question of separation, divorce, and remarriage. Multiple opinions abound.

    But one thing is true: none of us deserve God’s forgiveness, mercy, or blessing—yet He gives it. None of us deserve His commitment of fidelity, yet He is unrelenting in it. None of us deserve second chances, or His patience, yet He is long suffering with each of us.

    He has called us to display His character. He’s called us to demonstrate to our mates and to others His mercy, grace, truth, forbearance, patience, endurance and even joy in suffering (Colossians 3:12–19; Philippians 3:7–10; Ephesians 4:31–32).

    There are no pat answers or easy solutions. The truth is that God’s grace is sufficient for every need, but that doesn’t mean that every situation will result in a happy ending. When two individuals are willing to walk in a state of repentance and humility, depending on God’s grace in applying the truth of His Word to desperate situations—even then it takes much hard work and perseverance to overcome selfish tendencies and begin to reap the joy of a one-souled marriage. When only one mate is willing to work on the marriage, it may take years for the other mate to respond in kind—and perhaps he never will.

    God’s ultimate purpose for marriage is not our individual happiness—ultimately His purpose is for the world to see the gospel displayed (Ephesians 5:22-33). The amazing grace in all of it, however, is that when we establish the type of marital relationship described in this passage—we experience great joy and God receives great glory!

    With all of the above in mind, however we should never “pretend” that sinful acts are “okay” or ignore the sinful conduct of our husbands. That is not fulfilling the role of a godly wife. “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:5–6).

    Scripture instructs us to humbly and lovingly confront the sin of a fellow believer—even if that believer is our husband, a brother in Christ (Galatians 6:1–2; Matthew 18:15–18). I don’t know whether your husband is a Christian, but if he is, here are a few general guidelines for wives when confrontation is necessary:

    1) Seek the Lord first. Spend time in prayer and the Word asking God for His direction and timing before confronting.

    2) Be sure your desire to confront stems from the motive of spiritual restoration for your husband, not in order to “fix things” more to your liking.

    3) Search your own heart to see if there are areas of sin that need to be confessed before God and perhaps to your husband (Matt. 7:5). As difficult as it will be, in order to confront your husband, you will need to extend the same grace and forgiveness to him that has been shown to you (Ephesians 4:31–32).

    4) Consider writing out your concerns in a letter. Most men do not respond well to emotional pleas, angry confrontations or impassioned exchanges. Putting things in a cordial written form is sometimes helpful in preventing that type of confrontation.

    5) Before confronting, release unrealistic expectations. Depend on the Holy Spirit to bring conviction, not your words. Determine that once you’ve voiced your concerns, you will leave this in the Lord’s hands.

    6) If your husband remains unrepentant in sin and that sin reaches a level that requires the intervention of spiritual leadership, you will need to follow the process of confrontation as outlined in Matthew 18:15-18.

    7) Do not enable your husband in his sin. Let him know that he should not make right choices out of fear of your reaction. He is responsible before God for his actions. After sincerely communicating this to him—allow him to reap the consequences of his own sin. No matter how difficult it is for you to watch—don’t bail him out.

    8) Diligently, specifically, and regularly intercede in prayer for your husband’s area of struggle. Do not talk to him about his sin more than you talk to God about it. After you’ve confronted him, give him time and space to repent while you go to the Lord with your concerns about the issue, rather than your husband.

    My prayer is that God will fill you with hope as He gives you a glimpse of what He can do. I pray that you will communicate openly, honestly and in loving humility, your heart to your mate. Please do not retreat to a world of self-pity and pain.

    No matter what your husband chooses to do, Christ is to be the center of your devotion and affections. Look to Him to fill your deepest needs.

    I pray that your mate will respond in receptivity and humility and with a willingness to make the hard choices of unselfishness and be willing to agree with you to go to whatever lengths are necessary in order to work toward reconciliation and establishing a Christ-centered love-filled marriage that reflects His character. I pray that he will completely cut off all sources of immorality.

    I pray that one day, we will hear of God’s miraculous intervention in, and supernatural provision for, your situation, which will bring great glory to Him and serve as a great witness to the power of the gospel.

    I (and hopefully other women who read your comment) am lifting up your marriage to the Lord in prayer. I’m unable to serve as a counselor or adviser for you, but can serve as an intercessor. I encourage you to seek biblical counsel within your church leadership.

    Pausing now to pray for you, dear one ~

  • Caroline

    Last week, we had a really really good week. I keep thinking, we really need to talk about things in the open but we both don’t want the “good feelings” to go away.
    With a recent talk, I tried to listen and validate but also got a bit irritated and said we don’t want to talk about things that are so difficult to talk about but we need to….

    Which launched into the infidelity stuff. He only wants to talk about it on his terms and he says I only want to talk about it on my terms. My only terms are his honesty. He insists on knowing what I know and *how*… which I’m not going to play into that. He can use that for all kinds of manipulation. So I don’t know how to get past this.
    What now??
    He won’t relent until he knows *how* I know. I don’t think it’s wise or safe for me to reveal how I gathered hard evidence, KWIM?
    What should I do??

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Hello Caroline ~

    Wow, I’m thankful you are attempting to have some honest conversations, but it would be wise for you to meet with a spiritually mature couple to help you navigate this process. It would be especially helpful if you have a couple who is biblically trained to counsel couples in this situation or a couple who has experienced marital infidelity and recovery and has had several years of successful rebuilding.

    It will be difficult for your husband to humble himself in this way, to confess his sin to another couple, but that humbling process will bring God’s grace and start the process of healing (1 Peter 5:5; James 4:6; James 5:16).

    There are painful consequences and hard choices to be made, but if your husband is committed to doing whatever it takes to be right with God and right with you, and he desires to have a renewed heart and mind, fruits of repentance will involve doing some tough things to be right with God. One of those tough things will be to confess everything, leave nothing hidden. Hidden sin prevents us from being right with God and provides cover for the enemy to continue working. Everything needs to be brought into the light for real cleansing to occur.

    I’m posting a few links below to some old posts that you might find helpful, even if you’ve read them before, maybe review these:

    I am so sorry for the pain you’re experiencing, but you are not alone, Christ is your hope and sustaining grace. He will tenderly guide you through this process as you cling to Him.

    Pausing to pray for you now ~