An open letter to Anna Duggar…and to others finding themselves in similar situations…
Dear Anna Duggar,
You don’t know me and I don’t know you or Josh. I have, however, frequently thought of you and prayed for you over the past few weeks, as the daily news has dissected your marital relationship while exposing Josh’s infidelities.
According to reporters, your friends say “Anna will not leave him,” “She is fully and permanently committed to her marriage and her children,” and “Divorce is not even something that will be discussed.” Your friend reportedly went on to say that you will try “on some level” to “absorb some of the blame…Maybe not publicly, ever, but privately, there will be some suggestion of whether or not she should have been more aware of the pressures Josh was under, of the issues he was facing, and how she could have better counseled him or helped him.”
Anna, your decisions and struggles during this time are yours alone, and I (a complete stranger) would not be so brazen as to attempt to tell you what decisions are right for you in this situation.
I want you to know my heart breaks for you.
I have some idea of the pain and confusion you must be experiencing, because I have faced similar situations. Like you, I was raised believing that marriage is godly while divorce is ungodly…that divorce is always the fault of both parties…that God hates divorce…and that divorce is not an option for a true Christian. And like you, I was faced with the reality of a repeatedly unfaithful spouse. Although that marriage eventually ended in divorce, for many years I held the position your friend reportedly says you hold. Determined to choose what I believed was the most godly course…to do what I believed was best for my family…I repeatedly renewed and restored fellowship, determined to avoid divorce.
My prayer for you is that you will learn of God’s grace through divorce more quickly than I did. I pray the Holy Spirit will guide your reading of scripture and open your heart to understand God’s tremendous heart of grace and redemption toward His children who are in a covenant relationship with an oath breaker. For your sake and the sake of your children, I pray you will at least seriously contemplate the possibility that divorce may be your best and most godly course of action.
I don’t know if divorce is the best choice for you. How could I? I do know you have some very difficult decisions before you. I do know there is no easy path before you…that whether you choose divorce or reconciliation your path is filled with sorrow and anguish. Divorce at least limits the anguish to a finite period of time allowing you and your children to heal and get on with life. Reconciliation to an unrepentant adulterer is a path of never-ending pain and sorrow…lies continually renewed with freshly broken vows.
And therein lies the wrestling with your most difficult question, “Is Josh truly repentant?”
Your instinct will likely be (as reported by your friend) to believe he is truly repentant…because believing otherwise turns your entire life upside down. And maybe he is…only God knows.
I pray you at least consider the very real possibility Josh may not be truly repentant…that he may go right back to the same traitorously adulterous behavior. As harsh as that reality is to face, it is a very real possibility meriting serious exploration before making final decisions in regard to you and your children’s welfare. Josh has repeatedly proven himself to be completely untrustworthy and entirely willing to egregiously violate his sacred marriage vows, fully realizing both the pain that causes you and your children as well the damage inflicted on your relationship. Josh did not unintentionally ‘fall’ into an adulterous relationship with an acquaintance…rather he used the internet to actively seek out and pursue adultery. To now take his word at face value would be neither wisdom nor faith. Rather, it would be a refusal to accept reality. Choosing to fully trust the proven untrustworthy is not inviting God into the situation. Rather it is shutting the full reality of the situation out of the decision making process.
I pray you will not allow yourself to carry the burden of Josh’s guilt. To do so is both unhealthy and unbiblical. Yes, I’m sure you have made mistakes yourself. That does not make you responsible for Josh’s sin. There is a huge difference between unintentional minor mistakes and intentional egregious violations of sacred covenant vows.
Finally, my prayer for you is that God will use even this experience for your good and for His glory. That whether this marriage is renewed or ends in divorce, you will learn God’s faithfulness in all of life’s circumstances. I pray you will emerge from this with a deeper understanding of God’s heart of love and redemption and a fuller grace toward all of His children.
May God continue to richly bless and keep you, now and through eternity.
Your brother in Christ, Joseph J. Pote