I am a dedicated follower of Christ, a teacher of His Word, and an encourager of other Christian women; as a speaker and writer, I count myself in the ranks of an evangelist – I have successfully shared the Gospel in the United States, Africa, Russia, and even China, thanks to this blog’s reach on the Internet into that closed-door country. I am also divorced.
I endured physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse – plus adulterous affairs – from my first husband because I valued the vows I had made 10 years earlier. As I was recovering from emergency surgery from when he had thrown me to the floor so hard it shattered my L4/L5 vertebrae and caused a concussion, I told him I wanted a divorce.
Because he asked me this: “You just need to choose, Terrie: either me, or Jesus.”
I chose Jesus.
When he left, there was no more contention, no more violence, my sons no longer cried out for him to stop hitting their mommy, and there was peace. The peace that passes all understanding – the peace that only Christ can give.
Do I believe in divorce? No. Do I think it is an answer for every disagreement or because one is bored? No. Absolutely not.
But it doesn’t matter what I believe. It does matter what the Word of God says.
There are two implicit reasons the Bible allows for divorce. One is adultery; the other is when an unbelieving spouse abandons the marriage.
“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery,” said Jesus in Matthew 19:9. While the goal is reconciliation, just as God has reconciled us to Him through the cross, if the spouse who is committing adultery continues to sin and not break off those adulterous relationships, that spouse has no interest in reconciliation.
What does the Bible say about people who have no interest in reconciliation, in stopping the affairs or listening to repeated attempts at counseling or the Gospel message? Jesus said, “ If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet,” [Matthew 10:14].
My husband would see other women, hit me, threaten me – then bring home a bouquet of nearly-dead flowers from the grocery store clearance flowers, apologize, and say he was sorry. It wouldn’t happen again. But it did. It happened over and over again. I forgave him over and over again…but he treated forgiveness like a “get out of jail free” card instead of repenting of his behavior and not doing it again.
Listen: forgiveness is so that we can move on. Repentance is for the sinner to come to a saving grace in Christ, to not sin any more.
Forgiving someone who has wronged you should never make you a doormat for abuse.
The second biblical reason for divorce is abandonment. 1 Corinthians 7:15 states, “But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.”
If a Christian is married to an unbeliever, and if the unbeliever abandons the marriage, we are to let him or her go. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” states 2 Corinthians 6:14.
Marriages between believers and unbelievers face immeasurable difficulties – yet, there is hope. Prayer does wonders, and there are many unbelieving spouses who have been prayed for and led to salvation in Jesus because of a faithful spouse.
But when that unbeliever is adamant about ridiculing the faith of the Christian spouse, demanding a choice is made between Jesus and the unbeliever – we are to choose Christ. Luke 14:26 states, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple.”
Relationship with Jesus comes first, above all.
Can a woman who has divorced her adulterous or unbelieving, unrepentant spouse be involved in ministry?
The headline on an online news report made me see red: “Demands Escalate for Lysa Terkeurst to Step Down After Divorce Announcement.” Terkeurst, who is the founder of the women’s ministry Proverbs 31 Ministries, encourages women all over the world to lead lives worthy of the calling of Christ, to align themselves with the womanly example found in Proverbs 31.
The lead paragraph shares more information: “Some media outlets believe Lysa Terkeurst, the founder of women's ministry Proverbs 31 Ministries, should step down after announcing the end of her marriage,” wrote charismanews.com.
Maybe the first question should be – can a woman be involved in ministry?
“Some media outlets” need to read their Bibles.
Luke 8:1-3 details the testimonies of three different women: “After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”
Mary Magdalene had been cured by Jesus of seven demons. Seven! Joanna was the manager of Herod’s household – Herod, the ruthless ruler of Galilee who killed people arbitrarily. Susanna, who is only named in this passage without fanfare or description. But all three are honored here by Scripture stating they were helping to support Jesus and the disciples out of their own means.
Priscilla and her husband Aquila were missionary partners with Paul, who he mentioned several times in his books. In Acts 16:7, Paul wrote, “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” Junia – the only female apostle named in Scripture.
Paul wrote to Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also,” [2 Timothy 1:15]. If it weren’t for Lois and Eunice, Timothy would not have been a steady companion on Paul’s missionary journeys, eventually starting the amazing church at Ephesus.
Can women who have experienced divorce be in ministry? Women who are believers who have gone through the pain, embarrassment and uncertainty of divorce have an opportunity before them. Because they understand the shame of divorce, they can better minister to other women who are going through it. I remember sharing my story to a woman who had divorced her alcoholic husband who regularly beat her. She felt shame, and wondered how God could forgive her. I shared with her what God did in my life; Christ used my story to reach her. As we bowed our heads and I led her in the prayer of salvation, I thought that, right then, Christ redeemed my story.
Jesus can make any test into a testimony and any mess – even the mess of divorce – into a message.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 states, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”
We are to encourage one another! We are to comfort one another! We are to use life’s curveballs and the nastiness that exists in life, like divorce, to extend God’s grace to people. If we think God cannot forgive and use divorce, then we have no business thinking God can forgive or use anything.
God can use anything to bring glory to Himself. Even divorce.
In John 4, Jesus walks all the way to Samaria to a town called Sychar. The Samarians had nothing to do with Jewish people and the feeling was mutual. Jesus, being thirsty, decided to sit on the side of the well at the time of the day when no one would be filling their water jugs. Suddenly, a woman came – strange, when no one else was gathering water from the well. Jesus asked her for a drink of water. That opened the door for Him to talk with her about the Living Water only He can give. He then told her to go get her husband so he too could have the Living Water.
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you — I am He.” [John 4:17-26]
You think divorced women cannot make a difference in ministry? That five-time divorced woman who lived in Samaria experienced the Living Water. That little town called Sychar in Samaria is now known as the West Bank of Jerusalem, and according to the US State Department, has the highest concentration of Christians of all Israel.
I like to think that a divorced woman, who experienced the opportunity of the grace of Jesus Christ, had something to do with that.
Churches – and media outlets – today can learn something from this. When a woman who is in ministry makes the painful and personal decision to divorce her adulterous or abandoning husband, it is not a decision that is done lightly or without prayer. She needs the grace of God extended to her. God can use this to encourage others, spreading the Gospel and Christ’s encouragement far and wide to other women who need to know that there is no shame in Christ.
No girl grows up thinking that one day she will be divorced. Toy companies don’t make “divorce dolls.” And no woman in ministry thinks that one day she will have to make that horrific decision to sign a divorce decree. But God can – and will – use this, for His glory, and for the saving of many souls.
But we, as Christians, need to remember to extend the opportunity to grace to one another, in all situations.
© 2017 Terrie McKee
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