Passion Through Pain

I was recently having a conversation with a dear friend whose marriage is struggling. As we talked through the issues they are facing, she shared just how deeply the pain is affecting her. She talked about her dreams—dreams of an extraordinary life, dreams of being used mightily for God’s kingdom—and she wondered aloud how those dreams could possibly come true with her current situation.

“What if,” I began, “God’s path to fulfilling your dreams is through the pain you are experiencing right now?”

We continued talking, and I told her about my dreams. Since the age of 20, I have felt that God had a writing and speaking ministry for me. I have seen his hand provide experiences for me that would prepare me for the fulfillment of those dreams.

But, those dreams have lain dead and dormant for many years.

In all reality, I had given up on those dreams. I had accepted that my role was that of wife and mother. I had chosen to serve quietly, faithfully beside my husband, content to be the strong but silent pastor’s wife in the background. I felt that my highest calling was to support the ministry that God had given my husband.

When God plants a dream in your heart, however, he refuses to let those dreams die. They may lie dormant, unfulfilled for many years. You may forget about them, become content to live your quiet, ordinary life. You may settle for the status quo, believing that your best years are behind you.

But God has not forgotten you. He has not forgotten the dreams planted in your heart. He will not let your dreams go unfulfilled.

Be prepared, however. Does God ever do things the way we expect? Or does he take the most unexpected, unconditional route to achieve our dreams?

I am finding that God often uses the most painful circumstances of our lives to fulfill our dreams. He creates passion in us by walking through the pain. He molds us into his image, igniting a burning passion that will not die. He gives purpose to our pain.

Twenty years ago, my dream was to write and speak. I never dreamed that God would use adultery and divorce to give me a voice. I never dreamed that he would allow everything to be ripped away from me so that I could be prepared to be a voice for him.

When we are tempted to believe that our dreams are dead, we must remember the promises God has given us.

If you will search eagerly for God, plead with the Almighty, If you are pure and do the right thing, then surely he will become active on your behalf and reward your innocent dwelling. Although your former state was ordinary, your future will be extraordinary. Job 8:5-7

Job’s “friends” were not the most encouraging in his time of distress, but I love this little gem! His friends tried to convince him that somehow the calamity that had befallen him was because of his sin. Of course, we know the back story. We know that God had a conversation with Satan and hand-picked him to be tested. God saw his heart, his purity, his righteousness, and he knew that Job would pass the test.

And what happened to Job at the end of his life? He proclaimed, “My ears had heard about you, but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42 5). Through the trials of this life, God gave him a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Savior. And, the second half of his life was more blessed than the first (Job 42:12).

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

God has created you for good things. He will stop at nothing to accomplish his purpose in you and through you. Almost every biblical character went through a period of preparation that involved pain, isolation, learning dependence on God. Elijah was fed by ravens at the Kerith Brook. Joseph spent years in bondage and prison between the birth of his dream and the fulfillment of his dream. David spent years running from King Saul after he was selected to be King of Israel and the time he took the throne.

Your trials are accomplishing a work in you, an eternal work that God will use to prepare you for the great purpose he has planned for you. Maybe, just maybe, God will use this season of pain to give you the future you desire.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20

Our perspective is limited. We are not all-knowing, all-seeing. But our God is. You see, he can see our past, our present, our future. He can take and weave it all together into a beautiful mosaic. He sees the final picture even when we can’t.

As a matter of fact, we can’t even begin to imagine the way he will fulfill our dreams! It will blow us away!

Here I am, my dreams of writing and speaking have been dormant for 20 years. I had almost given up. And yet, after walking through divorce and adultery, God has prepared me for an amazing future. He has used my pain, my isolation to create a heart for those walking through marital pain. He has given me new compassion, a new outlook on life. And, today I see this amazing ministry unfolding in front of me.

When I started this little blog two and a half years ago, I hoped to have a few readers. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would have readers around the globe, be writing for a variety of Christian sites. Never did I imagine that I would be a guest on radio shows, have invites to speak in Kenya, be honored to speak at the upcoming single mom conference.

I am blown away by God’s grace, humbled by the doors opening before me. I am amazed at God’s goodness on my life. I am blessed by every email, every comment, every view on my blog.

God has begun to fulfill my dreams, but it came through immense pain.

Are you facing pain? Perhaps it is through the pain that God will give you passion. Perhaps it is through the hurt that God will fulfill your dream. Search for him. Plead with him. You won’t be disappointed!

I’m Tired

I’m tired.

I’m tired of being responsible for everything in our home. Making the money. Paying the bills. Balancing the checkbook. Making all of the decisions. Doing all of the grocery shopping. Planning all the meals. It’s exhausting to carry the burden alone, to have no one else to help determine the best course of action.

I’m tired of bearing the entire burden of raising children. We have had so many doctor’s appointments lately. We’ve had stress and drama. We have raging hormones. We have had countless late night talks that go way beyond my bedtime, followed by early morning appointments that fit best with my work schedule (but not my workout schedule).

I’m tired of being a chauffeur. With three kids, ages 10-15, we have activities and friends. It seems that there’s rarely an evening that allows me to come home and just enjoy a quiet evening at home. My oldest now has his driver’s permit, but it still requires me to go along.

I’m tired of being tired. Between work and kids and my other responsibilities, I simply never feel truly rested. My exercise routine has dropped off which just makes my energy level that much lower. But, I can’t seem to find a way to add more exercise, to keep things going. If I ever sit down in the evening, my kids start making bets on how long it will take me to fall asleep.

I’m tired of juggling. It seems I have so many balls in the air that I often feel like I’m going to let something fall. I recently woke up with the horrible realization that I had missed my daughter’s parent-teacher conference. Yep. I totally flubbed that one. Major parenting fail.

I’m tired of unanswered prayers. It seems like forever since I’ve seen God pour out a resounding “YES!!” to my prayers. I have so many requests hanging out there. I keep thinking there has to be breakthrough somewhere.

I’m tired of waiting. Oh, the beautiful promises he has given me! But, when? Haven’t I waited long enough? Hasn’t he done enough work in me to fulfill some of those promises…NOW?

I’m tired of silence. Oh, don’t get me wrong. There are days I would love nothing more than a few minutes of silence. But, I’m talking about God’s silence. I would give anything to hear his sweet whisper, just something to get me through the day. It seems that it has been a while.

I’m tired of this season. How many times have I told others to remember that it is just a season? But why does it have to be such a long season for me? Why can’t God see fit to bring this season to an end? Can’t he see that I have done my best to be faithful, even through the hardest times in my life? Can’t he see the growth? Can’t he see that my heart is fully his, that he is officially my greatest desire? Can’t he fulfill my longing to share this life with someone?

I’m tired.

But I will not quit.

My kids are more than worth it. I pray that one day they will look back and see how hard I have worked to provide for them, to keep everything going. I pray that one day they will appreciate my sacrifices. I pray that one day they will tell their spouses, their kids about the wonderful childhood they had despite the less than perfect circumstances.

I know that the future God has for me will far outweigh the pain, the frustration, the hurt. He says he will repay every pain with two blessings (Zechariah 9:12). I’ve seen many, many blessings, and I (normally) recognize that the joys and blessings officially outweigh the pain. I know that my past was ordinary, but my future will be extraordinary (Job 8:7). I know that he is planting the seeds to fulfill my dreams, dreams that have been in my mind for more than 20 years.

I know that even in God’s silence, he is not still. He is working. He is preparing hearts, preparing opportunities. He is moving heaven and earth to accomplish his purposes for me, for my life.

I know that he will sustain me. He tells us not to grow tired of doing what is good because we will reap a harvest of blessing at just the right time if we don’t give up (Galatians 6:9).

He is the God who sees. He is the God who hears. He is the God who is always faithful to keep his promises. He is the God who has great plans for me.

He is my sustainer, my redeemer, my restoration. He is my strength. He is the one I live for.

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting god, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

 

******

 

In the days since I wrote this post, God has been so good! He has been constantly reminding me that He is my strength, my hope. He has faithfully reminded me that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

Here’s the lesson: We all have our days, our moments, when we get down, frustrated, tired of being patient. It’s OK! God understands our frustrations, our weaknesses. He understands our human emotions that sometimes cause us to lose our footing. As long as we run to him in those times, he will faithfully carry us through.

Are you tired like me? Turn to the one who is our strength!

After the Resurrection

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28:1-10

What a beautiful week celebrating our Savior’s gift to us! We remember the pain, the desperation, the darkness of Friday as our Lamb shed his blood for us. Then came Saturday, the day when all seemed lost and hopeless, the day of silence as we wondered what God could possibly be doing, even how we could have been so wrong about Jesus. On Sunday the grave lost its sting, Jesus overcame the chains that bound him, victory was won! Oh, what a Savior!

As I reflected on the resurrection, I found this little phrase in Matthew 28:9 that captured my heart: the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy. What a response to the news of the empty tomb!

Can you imagine what the women had been through in the previous days? They had spent nearly three years with Jesus, following his ministry. They had been witness to his miracles, to his teachings that went against so many of the traditions of the religious leaders. Everything they saw, everything they heard, solidified the reality that this truly was the promised Messiah.

And now he was dead, their hopes crushed.

I’m sure that they had spent their Saturday discussing the situation. If Jesus was who he said he was, why was he now dead? Did we misunderstand all of the signs we thought were from God? Have we been fooled by the greatest imposter of all times?

And yet, I’m certain they were still convinced of all they had seen and heard. Saturday had to be confusing as they tried to piece together all they had seen and heard and reconcile it with the reality of Christ’s crucifixion.

And then came Sunday.

Perhaps it was finally beginning to make sense. Was it really possible that Jesus was alive? If he had the power to resurrect Lazarus from the dead, could he possibly have power over his own death? Could it be that death was all part of God’s greater plan?

Can’t you hear the women as they left the tomb that day?

Wonder and awe. Could he truly be alive? Could we be eyewitnesses to the greatest event in the history of the world? Could we see the fulfillment of all of the prophecies ever told?

Fear and dread. Did someone steal his body? Could this be the end of everything, every hope we ever had in him?

My heart resonates with the women at the tomb that morning. As I look back over my life, as I see the mighty work he has done in my life, I find myself rejoicing. I often collapse in tears of wonder that my Savior has found me worthy, has chosen me to be a vessel for him. I am overwhelmed with joy as I review God’s blessings and his faithfulness.

And yet, I am often still gripped by fear. I know what he has told me, the dreams that he has planted in my heart. I know that he is faithful, that his promises to me will be fulfilled. And yet, they lie dead and buried. I’ve watched those dreams and promises die in my mind thousands of times.

Then, a glimmer of hope. Could it possibly be that the story isn’t over, that nothing is ever dead when God is involved?

I vacillate between fear and joy. I cling to hope because my Savior is faithful and cannot lie. And yet, in my human condition, I cannot comprehend how there could ever be more.

Isn’t that the story of the walk of faith? Can’t you imagine Peter as he stepped out of the boat. I am certain that he was overwhelmed with excitement. And yet, he was also consumed by fear.

What about Elijah as he stared down 400 of Ahab’s prophets on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18)? He knew he had his orders from God. He knew God would show up. He knew he was about to experience the might of Jehovah himself. And yet, we know that Elijah often cowered in fear when it came to Ahab. We know that he argued with God about being sent before the king who had ordered his death.

Think about Moses as he was called from the burning bush. We know he froze, experienced that moment of fear where he argued with God about why he was not able. And yet, there had to be a sense of excitement that God would consider him worthy. Think about him as he stared down the Red Sea, all of the Israelites watching and waiting for their fearless leader. Fear and joy, the Red Sea in front and the Egyptians behind.

Sometimes I get so upset with myself for doubting, for wondering if God will really come through. And yet, here we see that even the women standing at the empty tomb, eye witnesses to the most amazing events in all of history, walked away from the filled with joy and fear.

Somehow knowing that the women that day experienced the same emotions I do is comforting. Perhaps as God calls me to step out in faith I will find comfort in knowing that it is normal to be filled with fear, as long as it doesn’t prevent me from walking forward in faith. Perhaps God wants us to let our joy be slightly tempered by some fear. Perhaps it is just part of the human experience.

Thank you, Lord, that the women stood at the tomb and experienced very human emotions. Thank you that I don’t have to hide my fear from you, but that instead I can be honest about my fear and trepidation. Thank you that even after experiencing your faithfulness, even after walking with you for years, even after hearing your voice so clearly, you understand that fear happens. And, thank you that ultimately we know that you will triumph!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does it all mean?

My thoughts jumped to the many times God has called me to walk into the unknown, to take steps of faith and not sight. I reflected on the joy of hearing my Savior’s voice, of knowing that he is calling me forward. There is an eager sense of anticipation as we wonder what mighty work our Savior has in store for us.

But, along with the joy comes a healthy dose of fear.

If you are like me, you find yourself asking the what if questions. What if I heard him wrong? What if I don’t have the ability to do what God is calling me to? What if God doesn’t come through for me? What if I end up looking like a fool?

 

 

 

 

The Power of the Resurrection

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28:1-10

It’s Holy Week. The week we celebrate our Savior. The week we remember his sacrifice on the cross for our sins. The week we remember his mighty triumph over sin and death.

With Easter upon us, I’ve been contemplating the resurrection.

The resurrection is central to Christianity. It sets us apart from other religions. Most every religion has a central figure, but only in Christianity do we find the power to conquer death, the power to live again.

And that is where we, as Christians, find hope.

We have hope for eternal life with our Savior. We have hope that we will one day be reunited with our loved ones who have passed from this temporal life into eternity. We have hope that one day every tear will be wiped away, there will be no more sadness nor sorrow. We have hope that one day we will be in the presence of the One who loves us enough to die for us.

But what about hope here on this earth? While I long for heaven and to be with my Savior… I long to embrace my grandparents who are in heaven waiting… I long for that place of eternal peace and love… But I don’t believe that my work on earth is finished. Does the resurrection offer hope to us while still here on this earth?

The dictionary definition of resurrect is to restore a dead person to life. Jesus himself declared, ”I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

Jesus is the resurrection. Jesus is the life.

While we recognize the significance of the resurrection for the life to come, I think we sometimes fail to see its importance here on this earth. The crux of Christianity is the resurrection.

Yes. The resurrection is about Christ’s conquering sin and death, without a doubt.

Yes. The resurrection gives us hope for a future life with our Savior.

But for me, the resurrection gives me hope in every hopeless situation.

You see, Christ is all about life and hope and a beautiful future (Jeremiah 29:11). He is all about taking every situation and making it work for our good (Romans 8:28). He is all about living a full and abundant life here on this earth (John 10:10).

So doesn’t it stand to reason that the resurrection is for today as much as it is our future?

Life can be tough. Perhaps you are walking through the pain of adultery as I have. Perhaps you are in a difficult marriage, clinging to hope that God will step in and heal it. Perhaps you are walking through the dark days of addiction. Perhaps you are the parent of a prodigal child. Perhaps you are suffering the immense pain of loss of a loved one. Perhaps you are walking through a period of financial devastation. Perhaps you are suffering from unemployment.

Life is full of losses and pain.  We are told in John 16:33 that we will have trouble in this world. But, Christ follows that up with the promise that we can have hope because He has overcome the world!

When I walked through the darkest days of my life, days filled with adultery and pain, I often felt as if I was dead. The life had been drained from me. My life had shattered, never to be repaired. The beautiful future that I expected had been devastated in a moment. My hope was gone. I would have preferred to be with my Savior in heaven rather than still walking this earth in pain.

And yet, here I am some five years later! Life is beautiful! My life is better than I ever dreamed. For the first time, I truly feel that I am living the abundant life that Christ came to offer. I get up each and every day, excited to see what my Savior might have in store for me. I wonder what opportunity I might have to share his love, to be his hands and feet. Who might cross my path that needs a simple word of encouragement? How can I share the joy that just wells up inside of me?

You see, my Savior has resurrected me from death to life—right here on this earth! The dead woman lives again!

And, that’s his plan for each of us. When we face death on this earth—death of a dream, death of a future, death of anything—God has the power and desire to step in and resurrect it, to restore us from a place of death to life.

Think about Joseph, rotting in a prison for some 13 or so years. He had a dream as a child. He walked through betrayal, slavery, and prison. His dream was as good as dead.

But God…

God stepped in and raised him to a place of honor. God fulfilled his dreams just as he promised. God took all the bad in his life and used it for good.

Or consider Ruth. Her husband passed away. She left her homeland in a move of loyalty to her mother-in-law. She was a widow, no future, dependent upon the goodness of those around her.

But God…

God stepped in and brought along a kinsman-redeemer, one who would love her and treasure her. God gave her a beautiful future and allowed her to be in the lineage of Jesus Christ himself. Talk about restoring life from death!

Or think about Peter. Peter, one of Christ’s most loved disciples. Peter, who walked on water. Peter, who was full of zeal for his Savior. Peter, who in Christ’s most painful, difficult moments, denied that he even knew his friend. Peter, who had to feel such shame and guilt and pain as he heard the rooster crow. Peter, who had expressed his unwavering love for his Savior who now stood alone knowing how miserably he had failed.

But God…

God stepped into that moment of unbelievable denial and failure and transformed Peter. Peter, who became the rock upon which the church is built. Peter, who was rescued from shame and guilt to become a powerful force for Christ here on this earth. Peter, who was truly resurrected from sin to new life.

I don’t know what you are facing this beautiful Easter weekend. I don’t know if you are dealing with your sin or the sin of someone else. I don’t know if you are facing betrayal or hurt or pain. I don’t know if you feel like you are dead. But, I do know that the One who died on a cross many years ago for our sins has the power to resurrect you to a full and abundant life right here on this earth.

Don’t give up! Life is available to all who seek!

Lord Jesus, what a beautiful time to remember your sacrifice on the cross for our sins. What joy to know that you loved us so much that you gave up your own life to give us hope for our own. What joy it brings that we can look to the empty tomb to know that death is never the end of the story. Thank you for giving us life and hope—in this life and the life to come!

Happy Resurrection Day, my friends!

 

 

 

A Biblical Love Triangle

In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites….However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem.

Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. … Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent David a message, saying, “I’m pregnant.” 2 Samuel 11:1-5

The story of David and Bathsheba has always been an interesting one to me. Here’s a man selected by God himself because of his heart. He was anointed long before he took the throne. He was known as a man after God’s own heart, and he was promised that he would always have a son on the throne. Through his family line came the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ.

And yet, he was full of humanity. Here we see that King David chose not to go to war as was the duty of the king. As he was outside on the roof of the palace for some unknown reason, he saw her. She was beautiful. He had to have her. His lust took over, and he called for her. He even involved his messengers in his little plan to get what he wanted.

Why did Bathsheba respond to his call? He was the king, and it was very risky to disobey the king’s orders. Perhaps she feared she would be put to death if she chose to disobey. Perhaps she was flattered that the king—someone like that—would be interested in her. Perhaps she was simply lonely because her husband, Uriah, was off fighting a war. We don’t really know why, but we do know that she went, that she willingly participated in the adultery.

We will never know that side of the story. I suppose God didn’t consider it important for whatever reasons. But, we do learn more of the story. Bathsheba became pregnant, and David panicked. What now? How does he cover up his sin? Uriah is out fighting a war, and Bathsheba is pregnant? How can he convince Uriah that he is the father? If it was obvious that Bathsheba had been unfaithful, she would be put to death…and she might implicate him. His reputation would be tarnished. How could he stop the consequences?

So he called Uriah home from the battle. He tried to convince Uriah to go home to Bathsheba, to sleep with her so he would think the baby was his.

But Uriah was loyal. He was committed. He lived with purpose. When asked why he didn’t go home to Bathsheba, he responded:

 “The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents, and Joab and my master’s men are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I would never do such a thing.”
2 Samuel 11:11

So, David tried again. This time, he got Uriah drunk, hoping that he would go home to Bathsheba in a drunken stupor. But, Uriah still would not go home to Bathsheba. He was a man of loyalty, responsibility, commitment. He would not indulge and satisfy his own selfish desires until his commitment to God and his fellow warriors was fulfilled.

Have you ever really thought about it from Uriah’s perspective? We don’t know a whole lot about this man. David and Bathsheba become the central characters. But we can surmise a lot about Uriah.

Let’s start with his faithfulness. He obviously had a true sense of responsibility. Yes, he was out of town for work, and perhaps Bathsheba became lonely. It might have been a difficult season in their marriage, but I have to believe that his character before King David speaks of every area of his life. He’s the type of man that any woman would be lucky to have.

But…his wife still had an affair. Despite the fact Uriah was where he was supposed to be, doing what he was supposed to be doing, standing strong with an amazing sense of responsibility and commitment…and Bathsheba still walked away into sin.

How many times have you heard others say that it takes two to make a marriage work and two to make a marriage fail? I certainly believed that all of my life. No one would walk away from a kind, loving, faithful spouse. Spouses who have affairs choose that path because their needs aren’t getting met at home. The faithful spouse must be critical, angry, resentful, nagging. Perhaps he/she isn’t meeting the spouse’s physical needs. The faithful spouse must be failing somewhere.

And yet, that’s not what we see with Uriah and Bathsheba. Sure, Uriah was on a business trip. But, Bathsheba chose to walk away from a loving, faithful spouse. There is no indication that Uriah was doing anything other than exactly what he was supposed to be doing.

I have learned that there are many, many faithful spouses doing their best to be the loving, committed husband/wife. And, despite their best efforts, their spouse chooses to walk away in the hardness of his/her heart. Adultery and divorce do not always result because both spouses have chosen to neglect the marriage; many times, adultery and divorce result from a choice—a selfish, greedy decision on the part of one spouse to get what he/she wants regardless of the cost, regardless of the pain.

I have heard stories of those who did everything right: dated with family approval, remained pure until married, committed their families to Christ. And, at some point later, one spouse chooses to harden his/her heart and selfishly walk into sin.

We think that if we follow the right formula, that is we marry the one we are certain God has called us to marry, we will somehow be insulated from the pain of adultery and divorce.

Unfortunately, God gave all humans free will, the opportunity to make decisions for themselves.

How many times have I made poor decisions based on what I wanted, on what felt good at the moment? How many times have I found myself in a season where I wasn’t abiding in Christ and I was quenching the Spirit? How many times have I found myself walking down a path that was taking me farther from my Savior?

We all have those times. We can only pray that we are sensitive enough to the voice of God that we wake up from our stupor and change our course before we make a life-altering decision that impact those around us.

But what happens when one spouse continues on that path without altering the course?

There will be consequences. In the story of David and Bathsheba, Uriah ended up murdered. David and Bathsheba lost their child. Can you imagine the guilt that they had to live with for the rest of their lives?

In many situations, consciences are seared, and hard-hearts refuse to repent. Offers of forgiveness are trampled. Families are ripped apart. Children lose their security. Hearts are broken. Words can’t even begin to describe the devastation.

And yet God…

God pours out his extravagant love, grace, and forgiveness. This story doesn’t end well for the innocent party. That breaks my heart. I wish that we could see Uriah alive, well, and thriving after walking through the pain of adultery. We don’t.

But, we do see a God of forgiveness and redemption. We see a man and woman caught in the deepest, darkest deception, a couple who eventually turns their hearts back to God. We see consequences. We see repentance: true, heartfelt, gut-wrenching honesty about the sin (see Psalm 51). And, amazingly, we see a God who restores and blesses a marriage that began in sin.

If God can redeem this marriage, I am certain that he can also resurrect my life as the victim of adultery. If God can bless this marriage, I am certain that his grace and mercy can bless any marriage. If God can take an adulterous relationship that results in murder and make something good, then there is no doubt that he can take the ugly mess that I was given and make something greater than I could ever ask or imagine.

And, he can do the same for you!

 

 

 

 

I Write Because…of You

Several years ago, I was dealing with the fresh pain of my divorce. The wounds were still gaping, and pain was my constant companion.

One Sunday, I went to church. I was blessed that “our” church continued to love on me and support me (for the most part). What happened on this particular Sunday, however, is seared into my memory.

As I sat through the sermon, I tried to focus on the message. I tried to listen to the words, hoping they would be balm to my soul dying within me. And then it happened…

The pastor made a comment about “divorced people.”

Somehow, as the knives dug deep into my heart and tears stung my eyes, I found myself stereotyped. I was one of “those” people. I was one of the condemned. From the pastor’s wife of the church, to a complete loser. From a pillar of the church to the lowest of the sinners. From minister to disqualified and disgraced.

I walked out of the church that day more damaged than when I entered. The very place that should have embraced me, loved me, helped me return to a place of health and wholeness had turned on me, left me deeper in mire and mud than I had already been. The church had heaped condemnation upon me when I was already drowning in guilt and shame.

I have always been thankful that I had a solid foundation with my Savior. I had been raised in a Christian home and had spent my entire life seeking his face. He was already my rock. He was already my everything.

But, I began to wonder. What if I didn’t have a solid foundation? What if I had been a hurting soul trying to make sense of the devastation in my life? What if I had come to church that morning desperately seeking God, desperately needing to know that I was loved and accepted despite my divorce? What if it had been the very last straw at which I was grasping?

I would have never stepped foot in a church building again.

That’s right. If I had been someone trying God as a last resort, I would have decided in that moment that this God-thing was exactly what I thought: a bunch of hypocritical, judgmental people who called themselves Christians so that they could take my sins and failures and throw them back in my face.

In that moment, I knew that I wanted to encourage others facing the pain of divorce. I knew that I wanted to counteract the spiteful, judgmental attitudes of others. I wanted to be an extension of God’s grace and love.

This past week has been absolutely overwhelming! I wrote an article for Crosswalk, expressing my understanding of the pain anyone walking through divorce is experiencing. I expressed that God’s grace is great enough to cover all sins, including divorce. I expressed my belief that God hates divorce more because he hates to see his children hurting than because it is some great sin. I wanted every single divorced Christian to know that God’s love and grace is poured out extravagantly upon them.

As I expected, there were many emails and comments that left me in tears. So many people sharing their stories, thanking me for my words of grace and understanding. So many broken souls, sharing the release they felt. So much sadness given new hope through my words.

However, as I also expected, there were so many evil, ugly, judgmental words. Accusations of taking scripture out of context. Accusations of heretical teaching. Words of condemnation. Daggers to be stuck deep within an already hurting soul.

I have been told (many times) that I am obviously very prideful and arrogant in my stance. I have been told that I am obviously still hurting and need to let God heal my own heart. I have been told that I am looking for loopholes to match my own situation.

And, I am told that I must remain single or reconcile with my husband or risk eternal damnation.

While I am strong enough to withstand the attacks, my heart broke again for those who are not. My entire goal in writing is to encourage those dealing with the pain, to help them trust God to restore their broken hearts and lives. I want to comfort others with the comfort I have received from God himself.

There is a righteous anger burning within me! It is the very anger that Christ Jesus himself exhibited when he over-turned the tables in the temple. It is a righteous anger that wants to protect those who are perhaps not as strong in their faith as I am, not as far along in this journey. It’s an anger that cries out to share the love of God, to prevent others from turning away from the only one who can actually help them out of the pit.

I will be the first to say that I don’t have full knowledge of the scriptures this side of heaven. Perhaps one day when I meet my Savior, he will tell me the areas in which my understanding was not complete. Perhaps he will pull me aside and tell me that I misunderstood certain commands, that I failed to live up to certain areas of scripture.

God has entrusted me with a story, one that I never wanted and never dreamed would be mine. But, as long as I can point others back to the grace and love of my Savior, I will travel this journey to the best of my ability. I will use my words to encourage others, to point them to the Great I Am. I will do my best to be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to my master, prepared for every good work.

I will do my best to show the same extravagant love and grace to others that my Savior has so freely lavished upon me.

 

An Extravagant Response

How is a Christian to respond?

This week, videos surfaced of students from a University of Oklahoma fraternity singing sickening, racially-motivated lyrics. The racial slurs were painful to hear, and the video should offend everyone who sees it. Racial tensions in our country are at an all-time high, at least in my lifetime. To add fuel to the fire in such a manner only deepens the divide.

I recently learned that a friend of mine is a lesbian. She married her partner here in Oklahoma after the courts struck down the ban on same-sex marriages. I’ve known her for years, and I have often wondered if she was a lesbian. However, I never inquired and she never shared. Perhaps she didn’t share because she was afraid that I, as a Christian, might reject her.

Some time ago, yet another friend of mine got into some legal trouble. He was going through a very difficult period in his life, and he made some poor choices. Those choices are completely out of character for him, and yet he is still paying the consequences of his decision. He lives in fear of judgment and condemnation.

In some very, very small way, I can understand how it feels to be rejected for sin. Since I began openly sharing about my divorce, I receive some extremely hurtful and condemning comments and emails from Christians. I am reminded frequently that divorce is a sin, that God hates divorce. I am told that I need to seek reconciliation with my ex-husband regardless of the circumstances surrounding my divorce. I am told that if I remarry, I will be living in adultery and condemned to hell.

However, as I study scripture, I find myself asking how Christ would respond to these situations.

To the Samaritan woman at the well, he acknowledged her worth despite her race and gender (John 4). He offered her living water.

To the woman caught in adultery, Christ extended mercy and gave the exhortation, “Go and sin no more,” (John 8). He told her accusers to look at their own sin, first.

To Zacchaeus, the tax collector, Jesus went to his house for fellowship (Luke 19). His love brought about true change in the life of a sinner.

To the sinful woman who anointed his feet with expensive perfume and wiped them with her hair, he forgave her sins (Luke 7). Because her sins were many, she had a tremendous debt of gratitude for the forgiveness extended to her.

But to the hypocrites, those who pray publicly and loudly, making a show of their superior spirituality, Christ said they had received their reward in full (Matthew 6). He reserved his harshest words for those who felt compelled to point out the sins and shortcomings of others.

How often does God extend grace and mercy to me in the midst of my poor choices? How often do I fall at the feet of Jesus in gratitude for the debt of sin he has canceled for me? How often does he fellowship with me despite my status as a lowly sinner?

And yet, so often I let my pride get in the way of people. My first response to another’s sin is often one of self-righteousness indignation. How could that person do something so awful?

And then, if I choose to hear him, I hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit reminding me of my own sin. Perhaps it’s my own poor choices when my life fell apart. Perhaps it’s my own pride that blinds me to my sin while keeping me focused on the sins of others. Perhaps it’s my daily failures to walk in total and complete obedience to my Savior, to live completely abandoned to the one who died for me.

How, then, should we respond to sin?  I would argue that we should respond with extravagant love! We should seek reconciliation with those who feel rejected and condemned. We should love unashamedly those walking counter to scripture. We should allow mercy and grace to pour through our lives to those dealing with the consequences of sin. We should remember that it is only by God’s grace that we are where we are today.

Throughout scripture, we find passages exhorting us to love:

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Did you catch that? It is our love that will show others we belong to Christ! It’s not how much scripture we know. It’s not how well we can exegete Greek. And it’s certainly not how well we can point out others’ sins. It is our love for others that will set us apart.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14

Above all else we must put on love. It’s not optional. It’s not just a suggestion. It’s not just a portion of our Christian wardrobe. It is the most essential part of our wardrobe. Love is the one thing we must never forget. It binds us in unity, showing a lost world that there is a better way.

What if we were all keenly aware of our own sins, of our own failures, of our own need for grace and forgiveness? Would it make us more compassionate with others? Would it remind us of how great the price paid for our own sins? Would it make us put down our stones of judgment and condemnation? Would we learn to make allowance for each other’s fault if we allowed ourselves to live in constant recognition of our own sins?

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Gifts and prophecies are great. The spiritual gifts are essential. Understanding great truths about God is a blessing. And yet, without love, all these things amount to nothing. They are rubbish in the sight of God if we choose not to love.

How, then, should a Christian respond to racism? To homosexuality? To poor choices? To divorce?

A Christian should respond with love. With extravagant love. With love that could only come from the one who is love himself.

I pray that I will have opportunity to show that the color of one’s skin is irrelevant to me. My care and concern for my friend who is a lesbian will not change. I will continue to love her with the love of God. My friend paying consequences for poor choices will know that I see the situation through the eyes of grace, as an opportunity to have a greater understanding of God’s love and forgiveness. I pray that others will look beyond the divorce attached to my name and see that the worst thing this world has given me has been the greatest motivator to draw closer to Christ. To God be the glory in all things!

I pray that we, as Christians, will be so busy examining our own hearts that we don’t have time to pick at the speck in others’ eyes. I pray that we, as Christians, will understand that the first and greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love others. I pray that we, as Christians, will spend so much time looking for opportunities to shower others with extravagant love and grace that the world will step up and take notice.

I pray that we, as Christians, will become known for our love in all circumstances.