I believe that God allows each of us to go through some terrible stuff for a reason. And that reason is so that we can help others find their way. Recently three friends from across the globe contacted me to ask for advice.
Without going into detail, Christian marriages are a big target for the enemy. Just because you’ve married a Christian doesn’t mean that your marriage is immune from his attacks. The devil is an expert tempter, and he knows just what bait to dangle in front of each of us. And even if it’s not an extra-marital affair with a three-dimensional human being, pornography has become so easily accessible that even if you’re not looking for it, it often finds you on the internet. Innocent searches sometimes result in an accidental visit to a pornographic website. In a twist that would have the Founding Fathers spinning in their graves, these people claim that pornography is “free speech.” Really? If you read the writings of Thomas Jefferson, for example, you’ll find that he was a very moral man (despite being a slave owner). He would have been horrified to find his words used to defend and protect pornography.
My advice to these friends is the same: focus on Jesus. It’s not easy to do, but in a nutshell that’s what it will take to get through this very difficult time.
When I was going through the summer of my divorce I did exactly that. And I went to church every week even though I felt like pulling the covers over my head and sleeping my life away. I was suffering from depression, so I chose a spot down front, right behind the pastors. I had two reasons for sitting down front:
- If you sit down front and bow your head, people won’t come talk to you because they think you’re praying. (I wasn’t because at that time, I was having a lot of trouble praying, but more about that in a moment.) I didn’t know anybody there yet, and didn’t really want to. I didn’t want to socialize because . . .
- I desperately needed to hear from God, and I didn’t want anything to distract me from hearing Him. I know that if I sat even just a few rows back, I would be distracted by what people were doing, how they were dressed, etc. The worst would be to see couples with their arms around each other. For decades I had prayed for my husband to come to church with me again and put his arm around me (something I took for granted in the early years of our marriage). It never happened. And for years, every time I saw couples with their arms around each other in church, I broke-down and cried.
From that place down front in a church where I was unknown, I found the freedom to worship God with everything I had. And that’s not because I felt like worshiping. What I felt like doing, as I said, was pulling the covers over my head. But I worshiped with complete abandon because He is worthy, no matter how I feel or what I’m going through. (That’s the advantage of having been a Christian for over 40 years.) I held nothing back. I poured out every shard of my broken heart in worship. God loves brokenness. Not because God enjoys our pain, but it’s from a place of brokenness where we find that we can truly surrender. Think about it: if you’ve come to the end of yourself, it’s so much easier to go ahead and surrender because you feel like you don’t have anything worthwhile left anyway.
Praying was difficult in the midst and immediate aftermath of divorce. Every time I tried to pray my mind would go back to all that mess like a dog working on a bone. But I knew that prayer was important. Even if I couldn’t manage to hear God’s voice with all the interior interference, I at least had to talk to Him. So what I did was start writing my prayers in a journal. It helped a lot! In fact, God eventually used that prayer journal to show me my ministry. And little by little, I was able to start praying without pen and paper. Now I easily pass a pleasant hour or more in prayer each day.
I Surrender All
God wants it all. He wants everything you are, everything you have—everything. Even when I had nothing left, it wasn’t easy to surrender it all. But I did. Again, this is the advantage of being a mature Christian. Once I took that step and surrendered it all, nothing was taken away (though I was ready for that to happen). Instead, He gave me something so unbelievably precious that I’m still in shock over it. He gave me a life. And not just any life, but the life of my dreams! I’ve always loved three things: Europe, travel, and missionaries. Now my ministry is traveling throughout Europe, visiting missionaries, and praying for them. God supplies all my needs, and I lack for absolutely nothing. Jesus wasn’t kidding when He said that His yoke is easy and His burden light (Matthew 11:28-30). And the things I used to fear (speaking in public and flying) have actually become fun.
At 56, I feel like my life has finally begun. God is good!