Three years ago, Lysa Terkeurst and her husband stood before man and God and renewed their vows following a painful separation after infidelity. They gave so much hope to those walking the painful journey of infidelity, a reminder that God is able.
And God truly is able.
He is able to heal the most broken marriage. Restore the most dysfunctional relationship. Give new life to the addict. Change the most hardened heart.
He is able to make all things new. To pick up the most shattered heart and create a new heart. He is able to take the most broken of people--of relationships--of hearts--and make them whole again.
But sometimes, it simply doesn't happen the way we expected.
The way we prayed.
The way we hoped.
Sometimes we are left shattered, devastated, even grappling with hopelessness. Sometimes our relationships aren't healed because it takes two people willing to do the hard work of seeking God and one another.
And we have no control over another person's will.
On New Year's Eve, Lysa Terkeurst made what is undoubtedly the most gut-wrenching and devastating post when she began to share that she has prayed and sought God for her marriage. When she shared that she has fought for her marriage with every ounce of her being. When she shared the pain of ongoing betrayal. When she shared that even though He is able, sometimes our spouse simply isn't willing.
It is now--in the face of "chosen patterns of behavior that dishonor God and the biblical covenant of marriage"--that she has reached a place where she feels God has told her the right decision is to stop fighting to save her marriage and instead accept reality.
As I read her Facebook post here, I found four key truths for those of us experiencing the pain of prayers that have not been answered the way we expected:
1. The future is different.
Oh, how I remember! When my marriage crumbled, I felt as if I had been working on this huge puzzle for years only to have someone come along and knock all the pieces to the floor. I frantically began trying to fit the pieces back together, but the pieces all looked different and no longer fit together. There were huge sections that had just disappeared. This puzzle simply bore no semblance to the one I had spent 17 years working on.
Now that I am on the other side, I can say that God clearly had the box top--the one that had the final product. There are beautiful aspects of my former life that have remained intact, but if I'm honest, God had a much more meaningful final product in mind. It looks nothing like what I expected, but it is incredible in ways I never dreamed possible! Instead of a simple puzzle, He has created an amazing mosaic from all the broken pieces--and it is more beautiful than I ever dreamed possible!
2. There's a difference between mistakes and patterns of ungodliness.
For years, I excused my husband's actions as mistakes. The truth is, my husband chose patterns of behavior that caused deep, deep pain for those of us who were closest to him. I made mistakes--the ill-timed word, the poorly worded criticism, tendency to enable. It was never intentional, and I always sought forgiveness.
But patterns of behavior? Pornography. Obscenity-laced tirades. Using fear to control. Lustful thoughts and actions. Repeated without any desire for repentance.
Honestly, Galatians 5:19-21a sums up patterns of ungodliness pretty well when it talks about the works of the flesh: When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.
3. God is still in the redemption business.
I wasn't so sure about redemption at the beginning of this journey, but today. Today I am absolutely 100% convinced of the redemption of a God who loves us so!
Redemption may look different for each of us, but there's one thing we can count on: If we experience the pain of this life, we will also know His healing.
He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, Hosea 6:1-2
For me, redemption includes experiencing an earthly love that God intended for us to here on this earth, the love of a man who loves as Christ loved the church. But even if God hadn't brought Roy along, my life would have been so much richer and beautiful because of the intimacy I experienced with my Father during my darkest days.
4. Forgiveness is essential.
Learning to let go of the pain and trust God is essential to finding peace and joy in your new life. Holding onto bitterness is the most certain way to find never-ending pain and bondage.
It's important to note that forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't. It simply means that we release the pain someone caused us and trust God to handle it in His time and His way.
I will never forget the day God worked His forgiveness in my heart. My step was lighter. My joy returned. I was free! Who wouldn't want that?
I will close with a simple quote from Lysa that sums it all up: "Sometimes the culmination of all our efforts and the answer to our prayers is that God restores us in relationships. And sometimes He rescues us out of relationships. I don't understand why circumstances sometimes go the way my story is now going. But I'm standing firm in my faith and trusting God with every step."
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Engin Akyurt