Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

An Open Letter to Lysa TerKeurst

Dear Lysa,

I read your blog Rejection, Heartache, and a Faithful God today. As I read the words, I couldn’t hold back the tears.

A decade ago, the tears I cried reading your words would have been tears of anger, disappointment. I would have been upset that yet another well-known ministry couple had succumbed to divorce rather than allowing God to fix a tough marriage. I would have written you off as a failure, determined never to read your words again.

But today, the tears were tears of compassion, of heartache, of empathy. They were tears of grief over the pain you and your family are experiencing. They were tears of guilt over my own pride, over my years of being a judgmental Christian who thought divorce was the chief of all sins. My tears were out of genuine love for you.

What changed? I, too, stand with you in the army of believers who love God fiercely, who seek to honor Him in all things, who are passionate about sharing His word…and who also happen to be divorced. I, too, stand with you as a fellow minister who is also the victim of adultery. I, too, stand with you as one who fought a fierce battle for my marriage, spent untold hours in prayer, and still landed in divorce court.

I stand with you.

As I read your words, I wanted nothing more than to come alongside you, to wrap my arms around you, to remind you you are not alone. I wanted to be able to share the many lessons I have learned in the last decade of walking this journey ahead of you. I wanted to be able to share with you the joy of reaching the Promised Land, of seeing everything you lost repaid…and even more. I wanted to reflect on the incredible intimacy I built with my Father along the way.

While I can’t physically walk beside you, I can share some important thoughts with you. Maybe you will see them; maybe you won’t. But perhaps some other struggling soul will benefit from what I have to say to you.

Thank you for being honest about the reasons for your divorce. When I first learned of my husband’s adultery, I immediately began to question myself. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t keep my husband happy? Was I so ugly that he needed someone else? Why could I not succeed at the one thing I wanted more than anything else—a successful marriage?

Knowing that your spouse seeks fulfillment outside the bounds of marriage is one of the most painful experiences this life can hand us, a betrayal at the deepest levels. It causes you to doubt and question everything about yourself. Many people choose to hide the true facts of their failed marriage, maybe from shame, maybe humiliation. Or maybe it’s just a continuation of the enabling they have done throughout their marriage. It takes tremendous courage to utter the words, “He had an affair,” to our closest friends, let alone to a public audience.  

Thank you for choosing not to hide behind a cloak of shame. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I have learned that adultery only takes one hardened heart. It is not about the faithful spouse, what he/she did right or wrong, but it is about a heart that has chosen a path in opposition to the Father. It’s about a person who chooses to indulge in the works of the flesh rather than to walk in the Spirit.

It does not matter who you are, what you look like, how godly you are. Adultery is no respecter of persons.

Trust God as He carries you through. I love your words, “I am brokenhearted beyond what I can express. But I am more committed than ever to trusting God, His promises, and His plans, whatever they are from here.” Thank you for choosing to trust God in your pain. Thank you for standing firm on your convictions that God is good in all things.

I wish I had chosen the path you did, one of remaining faithful and believing God is still good. Instead, I blamed God for my husband’s infidelity. I couldn’t understand how a good God could reward my years of ministry, of faithfulness, with an unfaithful husband. I chose to run from God. I am so thankful He didn’t give up on me but instead pursued me relentlessly, chasing after me until I surrendered. I will always be grateful for His determination to come after me, the one lost sheep who wandered from the safety of the Shepherd.  

Keep clinging to Him because, as you said, He is a faithful God…even in the midst of a failed marriage.

Walk in integrity. Divorce is so ugly. How can two people who pledged to love in each other for better or worse disintegrate into the worst enemies? How can two people who once shared the deepest human connection find themselves bickering over worldly possessions?

I’ve been there. I spent the better part of the last decade trying to figure out how to co-parent with another human with drastically different desires. The non-stop disagreements drag you into a pit of despair that is not easily escaped. The once fierce love you shared dissolves into bitterness and hatred.

Always take the high road. Always seek to live above the level of reproach. Always choose to do what’s right regardless of what he says or does. Set the example for him, for your children, for all of the outsiders watching to see how you will handle this experience.

But, when you mess up, admit your mistake and move forward. We are human, and we will have those moments when we choose to stoop to their level.

Be a fierce voice for oppressed spouses. Oh, Lysa! There are so many men and women suffering abuse in their marriages! They endure mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse because it has been beat into their minds that divorce is never an option. They stay because they fear…fear God will turn against them, fear the church will reject them, fear they will forever wear a scarlet letter D.

While I understand the Church’s fierce defense of marriage, when did God elevate rules above people? As I read scripture, I see Christ extending grace to the most unworthy sinners. I see Him healing the sick and the blind. I see Him setting captives free.

Like you, I was captive in my marriage for years, without even realizing it. And, like you, I did everything I could to save my marriage. I forgave untold heartache and fought with every ounce of my being. And I believed God would restore our marriage and give us an incredible ministry of reconciliation.

Until I heard Him tell me enough is enough, that He was now setting me free.

Be prepared for unbelievable criticism. I wish I could tell you that everyone will come alongside you, love you, support you as you walk this incredibly difficult path. I can’t. And, the more outspoken you are about the realities of divorce, the more criticism you will face from God’s people.

I know you are no stranger to those who make human interpretations of scripture equal to the infallible Word of God. But when it involves divorce, there’s no shortage of harsh words. I promise you will be told you failed God. You will be told you must continue to pray for reconciliation, cling to your spouse until he repents. You will be told that you will be subject to hell if you entertain remarriage.

As you know, you live for an audience of the One. It matters not what man says to you; it only matters what God says to you. And He says you are a child of the King, worthy, forgiven, deeply loved. He says you are the apple of His eye, His treasured possession. Let the voices of the world clamoring to heap shame and guilt upon you fade into the darkness as you keep your eyes, heart, and ears focused securely on Him.

There are so many strange yet wonderful avenues of ministry opening before you. Forget about the past and be open to the incredible new thing He is doing in you and through you (Isaiah 43:19).

And know that you don’t walk this path alone.

With love,