“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Lisa sensed, even before he spoke to her, that something was terribly wrong. Actually, she had known for months that things weren’t as they should be. Dan, who had always been outgoing and talkative, had suddenly become moody, somber, and withdrawn, seldom interacting with Lisa or the kids. When he did speak to them, his words were clipped or evasive, as if he had more important things on his mind. He spent every spare moment at the office, and he no longer went anywhere with the family. Dan had even stopped going to church, using the excuse that he was just too tired.

Although she still puzzled over what was bothering her husband, Lisa had ceased to ask. Her attempts to discuss the problem—or even to intimate there was one—had elicited only angry, defensive responses. Now, she realized, he was finally ready to talk about it. And suddenly, she was the one who wanted to avoid the discussion.

Lisa’s heart raced as she sat across from him at the kitchen table. The children had gone off to their rooms as soon as dinner was over, but when Lisa had stood up to clear the table, Dan asked her to sit back down, explaining that he had something to tell her. And so she waited, the sense of dread growing within. She knew her life was about to change, but she had no idea how drastically.  

Through the ringing in her ears, Lisa heard her husband tell her that he wanted a divorce, that he had “found someone else,” and that he wanted to “get this thing over with as quickly and cleanly as possible for the kids’ sake.” After fourteen years of marriage, she couldn’t think of one word to say to him in response. She sat there, shocked and devastated, wondering why God had allowed this to happen and what He would do to “fix” the situation.

But the situation did not get “fixed”—at least, not the way Lisa had expected. They did indeed get a divorce, and Dan drove off into the sunset with his new love, leaving Lisa and the kids behind with nothing more than a promise to send the court-ordered child support and to visit whenever possible. The kids were angry, hurt, and confused. Lisa was bitter and furious—not just at Dan, but at God. She vowed she would never be hurt again.

Chuck, on the other hand, had shared thirty-three years of marriage with his devoted and loving wife, Sarah; together they had raised two sons. Matt, the older son, had gone into the service right after high school—against his parents’ wishes—and had been killed in a freak accident before he even finished basic training. Chuck and Sarah, devastated by their loss, had then turned all their love and attention on their remaining son, Joe. Joe had always been the more daring of the two boys, handsome and reckless, charming and witty. Sarah worried that Joe was too rebellious and might end up in trouble, but Chuck reassured her that he was just “a bit rambunctious” and would settle down in time.

Although Joe had a lot of aptitude, he never lived up to his potential. His grades in school were slightly below average, and his teachers commented on his lack of consistency in completing and turning in assignments. But somehow Joe managed to graduate high school, and Chuck was then determined that his remaining son would go on to college and make something of himself.

Chuck borrowed against his life insurance policy to send Joe to the finest school he could find. Within six months, Joe had been expelled. He returned home, only to go through a series of dead-end jobs, never staying at any one of them for more than a month or two. Chuck and Sarah tried to talk to him about his future, about their concern over the type of company he kept, about recommitting his life to Christ and getting back into church. Joe would have none of it.