Institute in Basic Life Principles

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Can I find freedom from the bondage of hidden sin?

A Pathway to Freedom
finding freedom and restoration through Jesus Christ

My childhood was unpredictable. Through the influence of alcohol, violence, and abuse, those years held little stability for me, and I became depressed and lonely. When stepfathers came into my life in steady succession, weekly visits to the therapist became routine. These experiences taught me that love was earned, divorce was an option, and that people could decide to no longer love me.

As the years went by, stealing, pornography, lust, and drinking became my escapes from my situation. These things were my way of coping with the pain in my heart. By the time I was a young adult I looked fine on the outside, but on the inside my life was out of control.

A New Experience: Being Loved

One day my sister invited me to church and wanted to meet a special girl there. Her name was Dana, and she was the most beautiful girl I had ever met. We began to get to know each other.

Finally, I had found someone who loved me! I felt accepted by Dana, and I did not want to risk loosing her. During the early part of our friendship, I made a choice to withhold the truth of who I really was, and I didn’t tell her about the destructive habits that held me in bondage. I decided to hide my failures from her. I knew it was wrong, but I also knew the pain of rejection. I chose to live with the guilt of hidden sin in an effort to preserve our relationship. I reasoned that if she knew the truth, our friendship would end immediately, and I was gripped by that fear.

Our relationship continued, and within four months Dana and I were engaged. I was still busy keeping my secrets hidden. Dana had fallen in love with someone she didn’t know, and I had fallen in love with someone I didn’t deserve.

The Anguish of Ignoring My Inner Turmoil

Before we were married, I joined the Air Force. I wanted this to be my new beginning, and I saw it as an opportunity to really change my life. Instead of reformation, this time only held greater defeat, and I continued to make sinful decisions that would affect me for the rest of my life.

I was in inner turmoil, yet I still held the truth back from Dana. Our plans continued, and we were married in 1988.

An Empty Marriage

Here I was, a newly married man, caught in a tangled web of sin. I was a liar, a thief, and a moral failure, yet I was keeping it all inside. The guilt and shame were a heavy burden to bear, and I knew I was not the husband Dana deserved. But what could I do now? After pretending for so long, how could I ever tell her what was really in my heart and life? What hope was there for me…or for us?

As a result of my hidden sin and dishonesty, my wife began to feel that there was some intangible thing between us, which prevented us from connecting at a spiritual or intimate level. Our marriage felt empty, and her way of dealing with that was to compensate with perfectionism and to take on the spiritual leadership for the family.

Dana found a good church for us, got us into Bible studies, and prompted me to pray. As we began having children, her role as spiritual leader increased as she became the one who taught the kids God’s Word. My role in her life changed from being her husband to feeling more like her child. Our family was disjointed, and Dana and I did not love one another.

As the years went by, the hardest part of my situation was realizing the fact that I had created this disaster, and my sin was what was taking my wife and three children down this destructive road with me. Earlier, I had believed that I was in control of my life, and could fix my problems by myself. Now, years later, I knew I was out of control, and I knew I couldn’t fix any of it on my own.

A Testimony of Freedom Brings Hope

In July 2005, our family attended an ATI Regional Conference before enrolling in the program. At one of the sessions, I saw a tall man and his wife on stage. They began to speak, and the man started to tell of how he had been trapped in the bondage of moral failures. With open honesty, he said what he had been involved in—he shared things that I never heard anyone talk about. He went on to describe how God had brought freedom and released him from the bondage.

I was gripped by his message. What had he done that gave him so much freedom? He was being painfully honest with a huge group of people, and what was even more incredible, his wife was up there holding his hand and looking up at him with a smile!

For the first time, I had hope. I saw this man telling of the freedom that I longed for, and I saw his wife supporting him with obvious genuine love. There was an answer here, and I had to find out what it was. I convinced Dana to attend their next session, and I could hardly hold still in my excitement. Perhaps there was still hope me and for our marriage!

Taking the First Step Toward Freedom

Following that session, I knew the time had come for me to come clean with Dana and confess my hidden sins to her. After years of trying to do anything to escape pain, I now saw that the only solution to our problems required walking through the pain of confession and possible rejection and turning everything over to God. I realized that I had to be broken and grieved over my sins, and I knew that actually feeling pain similar to what I had put my family through was going to be the key to my brokenness.

The night after the session Dana and I attended, we stood on our hotel balcony together. I told Dana, “There is something I have to tell you. I hope I have the guts to do the right thing.” For years, my wife had always rescued me and made me feel better when I felt guilty—but not this time. She looked at me sternly and pointed toward our three sleeping children as she said, “There are three good reasons to do the right thing.” With tears in her eyes, she told me that this situation was up to me, and that I had better tell her everything this time. I didn’t have the courage to come clean with her that night.

The Pain of Confession

In fact, it took five days before I had the nerve to start telling Dana the truth of who I really was. Finally, the night came when I could put it off no longer, because Dana demanded to know the truth. She was done waiting for me to work up the courage to confess, and she wanted to know everything.

I began to reveal myself to her—my lies, my stealing, my pornography and lust, and my moral failures. Weeping, I confessed my sin. Dana was stern and asked questions. This news came as a total shock to her, and she responded with hatred and anger. Her life crumbled before her, and now all she cared about was our children.

I ended up on the couch, and I lay there hyperventilating as questions filled my mind. I had just heard my own mouth say all the things I vowed to never tell anyone, and the truth of who I really was and what I had done quickly became a reality to me. Questions filled my mind. Had I done the right thing in telling my wife my hidden sin? What was I supposed to do now? How can I fix this now?

Direction for the Future

In those moments of pain and questioning, I knelt on the floor and cried out to God. As I begged Him for mercy, I began to understand more clearly where I was and what I had chosen to do. In His mercy, God helped me see that the road to restoration would be long and painful, but He would be with me and would transform my heart and mind by His power. I surrendered my life to God and committed to do whatever it took to restore my marriage and walk in purity before God.

At this point, God brought our pastor to mind, and I knew that I needed to go talk with him. I realized that this was the beginning of the long road of purification. This was to be the painful part of coming clean—but Jesus was with me.

I rushed over to my pastor’s house, and even though it was 4:30 in the morning, he welcomed me in. The truth poured out as I cried uncontrollably, and my heart was filled with the anguish of knowing that I’d hurt God. We prayed and asked God to forgive me of my each of my specific sins, and I began to feel freedom for the first time in my life. With it came an overwhelming sense of peace.

Later that morning, Dana joined me at the pastor’s house. This was the first time I had seen Dana since confessing to her, and she looked at me with angry, bitter eyes. Seeing her grief and shock broke me, and I began to see the pain I had caused her.

We were both in much inner turmoil. However, we agreed to maintain a civilized and respectful relationship in front of the children, and to only openly communicate about things when we were alone.

The Pathway of Restoration and Change

I immediately found a Biblical counselor and began meeting with him weekly. Dana and I began to start over in many ways, and we had a time of physical separation. I also confessed everything to two more pastors at church, and I installed monitoring software on our computers to guard against pornography.

Accountability was critical to my recovery. The pastor and I met regularly to talk about my progress and discuss what I needed to do to continue walking in victory. I found that every time I told my story and revealed the truth of who I was, I took another step toward freedom. Slowly, joy began to fill my heart and life.

It was not easy, and it seemed like I would take three steps forward and one step back. I had destroyed the trust between my wife and I, and it had to be completely rebuilt. God was gracious, and He kept reminding me that even though the path was long and hard, He was with me and at work. He encouraged me to trust Him and reminded me of the change of heart that He was working in me.

The biggest battles were with my thought life, and I learned to regularly cry out to God as Satan tried to tempt and torment me. I asked God to take away every immoral and evil image stored in my mind and to reclaim the control I’d surrendered to the enemy. Through these struggles, God revealed my need to see and feel the damage I had caused my family, and this was key to my brokenness. Their lives had been greatly influenced by my choices, and the results were painful to face.

Telling the Last Hidden Sin

The night I confessed to Dana, I wasn’t completely honest with her. I kept one thing back. As time passed, the guilt over that one thing grew until I could no longer keep it covered. I finally told my wife about the thousands of dollars of debt that I had kept hidden from her. I had waited seven months after coming clean to tell her about this issue, and she was devastated to hear that I hadn’t been completely honest. I urge you, don’t follow my example in this! Tell everything to your wife the first time.

Seeking God With My Whole Heart

As God continued to work in my life, He also began a work of restoration and forgiveness in Dana’s heart. She began to look at her own heart, and she saw areas where she needed to repent in as well. Slowly, our relationship began to mend, and we began to experience the delight of truly loving one another.

I sought after God, filled my day with the Word of God and wholesome music, and was open with my wife about my daily victories and my struggles. Dana needed to know I wasn’t just sorry that she knew my secrets, but that I was truly sorry for the sin I had committed.

The fruit of coming clean and allowing God to work in my heart and life has been miraculous! Dana and I took each child and talked with them about how their daddy’s sin had affected them, and our children were able to come clean too and confess moral failures to us. We prayed with them about hidden sin in their own lives and began to read the Bible together. Because I was no longer a hypocrite hiding who I really was, I was now able to lead in family devotions. It was about this time that I had the incredible privilege of leading our four-year-old son to the Lord.

Grateful Hearts for God’s Mercy

As Dana and I look back over what God has done in our family, we are overwhelmed with joy and praise. He has changed our hearts and taken us through fire and great pain to find healing and joy and incredible peace. He has taken over my heart, and He is my reason for smiling and living every day.

Every man must make a defining decision to either follow Jesus, or attempt to lead his own life. So often we think we know the way—yet only through Him can we find the way that leads to life. Our prayer for you is that you will give up trying to fix your problems on your own and turn to God for His purifying process. May we walk in humble brokenness before the God who wants to give us freedom from our sin. Our prayer is that you will find the same blessing that we have found. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact me.

Related Command of Christ

This testimony illustrates the command of Christ to Be Reconciled. (See Matthew 5:23–25.) By taking responsibility for their mistakes, seeking forgiveness and reconcilliation, and openning their lives to God’s transforming power, Marc and Dana’s marriage was restored.

About the Author

Marc and Dana Stevens live in California, with their three children.

Disclaimer

The views expressed and information given in this article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of IBLP.

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