I met him at Bible college. I thought he was funny and smart, and one day we went on an accidental date to the food court because we were studying together and got hungry. But I really began admiring him that night on Skid Row in Los Angeles. A group of us from school would often hand out tacos and talk to homeless people. On this particular night, a homeless man offered him a seat on his blanket. It quickly became apparent from the color and smell that the blanket was soaked with urine. I cringed and waited to see what he would do. He hesitated a moment, then smiled and sat down with a “thank you.” They talked for hours. Watching him endure discomfort to show the love of Christ caught my attention. Not long after that, I realized I wanted to minister to him and with him for the rest of my life.
We were friends for years before dating. We dated for years before getting engaged. We had the support of our families, friends, and church. My dad performed our wedding ceremony, and my best friend made the cake. He was even my first kiss.
Not long ago was our fifth wedding anniversary, and I spent it in my old bedroom at my parents’ house. He spent it in a half-filled apartment several states away. This just isn’t how I thought my life would go.
What You’ll Never Regret
About a year ago he confessed he was having doubts about his faith. After reading books from many perspectives and after numerous heart-wrenching discussions, he told me he could no longer trust the Bible or believe in God. He knew divorce might be on the horizon. The possibility of it loomed over me like a fog that wouldn’t lift. For months I didn’t know whether to focus on being a wife or to prepare for inconceivable heartache. At the right time, a dear friend cautioned me: You will never regret showing him too much love, but you might regret not showing him enough. Through God’s strength alone, I chose to love.
A few months later, he made the decision to leave, and I had no choice but to let the unbeliever depart (1 Cor. 7:15). The most devastating news was not the divorce, but his rejection of God. More than what I wanted him to be for me on earth, I wanted what God could be for him forever. The day he told me he no longer believed, I remember twisting up inside, physically beating my pillow, and pleading with God. Please, please, please.
How God Answered
Despite the devastating amputation of divorce and the fact God hasn’t yet answered my prayer of “Lord, save him,” I’ve seen countless answers to the prayer of “Lord, use me.” His goodness has become more apparent as he’s engaged me in the work of the gospel. Here are a few areas I’ve seen this lately:
1. In My Students
For the past eight years, I’ve taught high school English in a Christian school. When I found out about the divorce, I had to tell my students why I wouldn’t be returning the next year. I wrote them a letter sharing my heartache, but also my hope. It opened up conversations about God’s sovereignty and the purpose of suffering. Parents shared with me some of the discussions they had with their kids after reading the letter.
Pain often hands us a megaphone to declare the goodness of God. It is an honor and an opportunity, not a punishment.
2. In My Husband
I’ve been able to represent Christ during some of my weakest moments. Sharing the gospel with words ceased to be effective, but each time God helped me show patience instead of frustration, my husband saw. Each time I read my Bible in the living room, he knew. And each time I wrote about God’s goodness, he read it. He saw me cling to God when it would have been easier to give up and join him in unbelief. This is not a testament to me but to what God can do through sinners like me. Like you, too.
3. In My Heart
The words to that old hymn are often on my tongue: “O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee.” Just a few months before this trial began, I finished a two-year study on Job. I didn’t know exactly why I was studying such a dark book, but it transformed my view of God and his character. My fear of him increased. My love for him grew. What gracious provision this has proven to be! The Lord knew the reason.
Because of Job, I haven’t wondered once if God if still for me. I have struggled with many questions and wrestled with his plans, but I have never doubted his love.
Aslan Knows Best
If someone had told me how God was going to answer my prayers through this kind of loss, I don’t know that I would’ve signed up for the job. But I’ve seen firsthand how he gives grace for each moment—the moment you’re in, not the one you’re imagining.
Don’t be afraid that being used by God will mean future pain. Of course it will. And hallelujah. My story won’t be your story, but you never need worry that offering yourself to your Savior is too dangerous a commitment.
I’ve been reading a book of C. S. Lewis’s letters to children, in which he writes to a boy named Laurence:
Well, I can’t say that I have had a happy Easter, for I have lately gotten married and my wife is very, very ill. I am sure Aslan knows best, and whether he leaves her with me or takes her to his own country, he will do what is right. But of course it makes me very sad.
Lewis wrote these words with a bluntness and simplicity that speaks my language. I have no wish to pretend that I’m not broken. That I’m not anxious about the future—where I’ll live, how I’ll earn money, or whether I’ll be incurably lonely. But I know that Jesus knows best. He will keep using me, and he will do what is right. There is no fear in this. There is profound sadness, of course, but also overwhelming hope.
Editors’ note: For more on the topic of hardship, join us for our 2016 National Women’s Conference, “Resurrection Life: In a World of Suffering,” June 16 to 18 in Indianapolis. Space is limited, so register soon.