Ten years ago, my marriage was breathing its last breath. A year earlier, my husband resigned from his position as pastor of our church because he was “burned out” on ministry…or so he told me. Only two days after we left the church, the truth came out: my husband had been having an affair with a woman in the church.
My life was in shambles. My heart was shattered into a million tiny pieces. I was trying to comfort my children in the midst of the chaos, but I couldn’t give what I didn’t have.
And my faith. I had been a Christian since I was six years old, had given my life to ministry at the age of eight. Yet, here I sat, a broken mess. I wasn’t sure I wanted to follow God if this pain and devastation was the reward I got for years of faithfulness. I thought I could live my life my way. It couldn’t turn out worse than his did.
I’ve lived a full decade of life since the pain and chaos of adultery and divorce, and yet I still remember those days vividly. I’ve seen God restore my life, pick up the pieces and give me a fresh start. I’ve seen Him bring beauty out of my broken life. And I’ve seen Him restore everything I lost and so much more.
But it wasn’t an easy journey…or a fast one. It was filled with ups and downs. It was filled with miracles so big I didn’t know how to contain myself and manna so small it was just enough to get me through the day. It was filled with such intimate moments with my Father that I wished the pain wouldn’t end. It was a journey that brought me to the end of myself…and to the beginning of a faith I had never known.
How did I survive? How did I experience such intimacy with my Heavenly Father? How did I get from the broken mess to a place of complete redemption?
If you are in the midst of the pain of adultery or divorce—or any other pain—I encourage to consider the following steps to rebuilding your broken life.
Surrender. I remember the day vividly. I heard God repeatedly calling me to get my security from Him. I had run, ignoring His call for months. Finally, I couldn’t run any longer. I had come to realize that at the core of my being I was His, and I couldn’t deny His faithfulness over the years. I could not deny the One who had given His all for me.
I found myself on the bathroom floor, crying out to God. “Lord, I don’t want this journey. But, if this is what you want for me, I will take it. Just don’t let my pain be in vain.”
That moment changed my life…and there have been other moments of surrender over the years. And every time I find myself falling to my knees in surrender, it ushers in a new season, a season characterized by God’s blessings. It takes me out of the center, and puts God in control. I promise, there’s no better place to be than behind the Sovereign God of the universe, allowing Him to control the journey.
He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30
Forgiveness. It was at the funeral of a friend that I heard God call me to extend forgiveness to the other woman, a woman I once considered one of my closest friends. After much arguing with God, I set my attention on being obedient to God. I slowly approached her before putting my arms around her and whispering in her ear.
“I forgive you,” I began. “I know God can take this entire mess and make something beautiful out of it if we will let Him.”
With those words falling out of my mouth, I walked away. In that moment, my obedience allowed God’s forgiveness to flow through me. My anger dissipated, and I found a joy flowing back over me, a joy I hadn’t experienced in over a year.
Forgiveness is essential to move forward, to see God resurrect our lives from the destruction of divorce. Who do we need to forgive? It depends on the circumstances. I had to forgive my friend. I had to forgive my ex-husband (which was an ongoing process). I had to forgive people in our church who had turned their backs on me.
I’m certain there are a number of people you may need to forgive. You may even need to forgive yourself (which can sometimes be the hardest job of all). But forgiveness is essential to moving forward, to not getting stuck in the anger and bitterness that can become all-consuming.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15
Choose to thrive. There are days when survival may seem a noble goal, but God wants so much more for us! He called us to live an abundant life (John 10:10), not a mediocre life.
Scripture speaks to our mindset so often, and it’s no different in the midst of divorce. We must train our brains to think on things that are lovely and noble and true and excellent and right (Philippians 4:8). We must take our every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). We must learn to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).
Choosing to thrive is a matter of training our brains to believe God wants the best for us. Choosing to thrive is setting our brains on things above, choosing to believe God’s promises to bring beauty out of the ashes.
Know your identity. When divorce hits your life, it’s hard not to wear that scarlet letter D around your neck. It’s hard not to allow shame and guilt to become your identity. It’s hard not to believe the enemy’s lies that say you are unlovable, not enough.
As Christians, we must take up the identity Christ gives us. We must believe we are worthy, we are chosen. We must hear Him whisper over us that we are deeply loved, cherished, redeemed. We must wear the label of masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10), the label so lovingly bestowed on us by our loving Father.
Dig into the word. Find out who He says you are. See yourself through His eyes, with the robes of righteousness He puts on us.
Don’t let the labels this world puts on you hold you down.
Walk in integrity. I know how hard it is. How many times did I hear the lies about what I had done? How many times did I want to lash out, to blast back with the proof of what happened in our marriage? How many times did I want to stoop to a level that didn't represent my Savior?
I can’t even start to tell you how many times I made choices the world laughed at. There was the time I received a check for $2500 and I gave him half, even though the world would say it should have been mine. Then there was the time I heard the lies about my multiple “affairs,” and I allowed God to bring the truth to light.
It’s so hard to walk in integrity when lies are being told about you, but I encourage you to live above the level of reproach (1 Timothy 5:7). Just remember, God sees and knows and will reward you for your faithfulness.
Tell your story. God gave you a story, and if you allow Him to transform you, it will be a story of God’s faithfulness. It will be a story of how God took your pain, your loss, and transformed your life into a beautiful testimony of His grace and goodness. Let others know your pain and the hope that comes with walking with the Father.
So often, people want to paint the picture of a perfect life. We see the highlight reels of people’s lives and think we are the only ones suffering, watching our lives fall apart.
God calls us to be honest. God calls us to be authentic. Live your life in such a manner that others can see the goodness of God’s grace.
Let others know your life isn’t perfect—but your God is.