The shock of divorce has waned over the last several decades, and it has become a widely accepted societal norm. But as I read the devastating announcement Lysa TerKeurst posted on New Year’s Day, my eyes widened, and my breathing stalled. My heart sunk deep in my chest as I soaked in her every word, “As many of you know, three years ago, Art and I renewed our marriage vows after a painful separation. It has crushed my heart to know he has broken those vows… I now believe the wisest (and hardest) choice I can make is to stop fighting to save my marriage of 29 years and, instead, accept reality.”
Lysa TerKeurst is a bestselling Christian author, speaker, and President of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She is also a respected woman of faith with a large following. Lysa openly shares her struggles, life wisdom, and faith in a relatable, comforting tone that her readers and listeners wildly treasure. Her community has followed along as she battled to save her marriage from the sins of infidelity and addiction by granting forgiveness and restoring trust.
As I read her heart-wrenching post, I realized her marriage had become a martyr, dying to the beliefs and truths of a loving biblical union in front of the world.
If you haven’t personally experienced divorce, you probably know someone who has gone through the life-altering process. My parents divorced when I was five years old. Failed marriages and remarriages mark my family tree. And a majority of my thirty-something-aged friends are on their second marriage.
It’s a coin toss, really. According to World Population Review, about fifty percent of first-time marriages in the United States will end in divorce or separation. This statistic alone is enough to replace hopeful anticipation with anxiety-induced sweat as we walk down the aisle. We could certainly use a crystal ball at the altar before slipping on the rings. But instead, we step into the unknown as we recite our vows and lovingly share our first kiss as a married couple.
My husband and I leaped into the great unknown sixteen years ago. Over the years, we’ve found a rhythm with enough highs and lows to keep us on our toes. Blessed to be chained to my best friend, I honestly didn’t feel qualified to write this article. I typically write about my trials, unsure how to write about someone else’s painful circumstances. So, I prayed, researched about divorce and saving marriages, and stuck my nose in the ultimate guide — the Bible.
When a relationship is ending that we fought so hard to keep, we tend to revisit all of the things we did wrong, the things we didn’t try, or the things we wish the other person would have tried. We tend to focus on the what-ifs and the should-haves as we grieve the loss and navigate the foggy days ahead.
But, let’s focus instead on the strength of Lysa’s fight during the past several years. Stay with me as we visit and reflect on three truths learned from this heartbreaking culmination of an almost three-decade-long union.
1. Divorce is a last resort.
After first announcing her intent to divorce back in 2017, Lysa had a change of heart and fought relentlessly to save her marriage. She shares the hardship endured and the battle she wrestled on her knees in prayer and counseling sessions. Divorce became her last resort as she sought reconciliation and restoration.
Divorce was never part of God’s original design. We discover the flawless bond of the first marriage in Genesis 2:24. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Joining two fleshes to become one is the contract of a lifetime union between a man and a woman. Jesus reiterated this in Matthew 19:6, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Everything was perfect until temptation slithered into the garden and sin entered the world. Unfortunately, the weakness of our flesh can often damage the marital bond. And while divorce was never part of God’s original design, there are two biblical justifications to end a marriage, sexual immorality (Matthew 5:32) and abandonment by an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 7:15). If possible, we should first seek forgiveness and reconciliation before pursuing a divorce.
God’s loving design for marriage, as referenced in Ephesians 5:21-33, never included physical or emotional abuse, addiction, or coercive control. I don’t believe our Heavenly Father, who freed us from our sins through the blood of His Son, desires for us to live enslaved to the brutal sins of an unrepentant spouse. As John 10:10 tells us, Jesus has come to give us abundant life — not bondage.
Sometimes the renewal of a committed marriage is not possible. But if it is God’s will and with His strength, marriage can be saved and vows restored.
2. You can’t fix your spouse by your own will.
Several years ago, as I put fresh sheets on the guest bed, my close friend asked if she should leave her husband. I looked her in the eyes and apologetically explained I was not the one who could or should answer that question. She fought for years to support and get the help her husband needed to free himself from addiction. There wasn’t a lack of love — there was a sin rooted deep in his soul that she couldn’t fix for him.
While we may not be able to fix our spouse, we are equipped with the Word of God to fight for our marriage. We have the power of our righteous prayers to intercede on behalf of our afflicted husband and to assemble with other Christ believers in prayer (James 5:16). We can work through the emotional toll of our spouse’s sins by starting the act of forgiveness and learning to trust again. Our arsenal of weapons contains classes, therapists’ couches, walks with friends, and Sunday mornings in the pew.
However, it is up to the sinner to wrestle it out with God, put on the spiritual armor described in Ephesians, and commit to lead a holy life. The sinner is to humbly come before the Lord and admit and repent of his sins.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
God wants us to turn from sin, as addressed in the story of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus doesn’t condemn her, but He firmly tells her to sin no more (John 8).
Through Lysa’s vulnerable writing, it is evident she used every tool in the shed in an attempt to save her marriage. In her announcement, she painstakingly addresses the destructiveness of continual sin. She also gracefully speaks of the redeeming power of God as she works through forgiveness and takes the steps towards healing.
3. God will walk you through the pain and bring you to a place of healing.
I slid my finger under the seal and pulled out a card with a handwritten verse, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10). I reread it several times, hanging on to every word. At this time in my life, I knew that God was the only One who could keep me upright. I was deep in the trenches of a trial with no end in sight.
In the same way, whether the Lord saves your marriage or you walk your separate ways, Jesus will come alongside you. He will go before you and behind you and wrap you in a warm embrace. It’s not just time that heals the heart; it is our walk with the Lord. It is immersing ourselves in His Word, meditating on His promises. It is silent prayers and fighting through doubt. The healing of the heart comes in leaning on others — letting our friends and family lighten our burdens. It’s gently giving ourselves grace allowing time to grieve properly. Yes, time is a factor of healing because it takes time to break down the walls of hurt, learn to trust again, and surrender our whole selves to the Lord.
Friend, I understand the sting of fresh pain is blinding, and healing can seem unattainable. I don’t know where you are in your walk with the Lord but take heart. He’s never let me leave a trial without a trail of heavenly treasures. And He will pack your days with trinkets of joy. In time, you will see.
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