Pain and suffering


I opened my computer with plans to write a blog about our thoughts.

But before I could even start, my thoughts captured me and took me in a completely different direction.

As soon as my computer booted up, the screen hit me like a punch in the stomach, temporarily knocking the breath out of me.

In the top right corner, my computer gave me a simple reminder of the brokenness this life has.

July 3, 2016

The date sucker-punched me, reminding me of all the hurt and pain and sadness that has punctuated my life for the last decade. Even as I pound out these words, not even knowing where I am going, the tears sting my eyes just before they roll down my cheeks. I am overwhelmed with so much emotion.

Joy. Grief. Maybe a touch of guilt. Sadness. Gratitude.

The roller coaster of emotion is running at full speed right now, even as I try to process everything rushing through my brain and my heart.

You see, at this exact moment 23 years ago, I was at the salon, having my hair and nails done.

Excitement in the air. Nerves getting the best of me. Ready for the day every girl dreams of. The first day of the rest of my life.

Family and friends gathered in the church, even as I slipped into the beautiful white gown. I placed my grandmother’s pearls around my neck. The elegant veil placed atop my head. My dad by my side.

We walked down the aisle where my best friend was waiting.

We laughed and cried throughout the ceremony. We made a solemn pledge before family and friends and before God to love, honor, cherish, in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer, for better and worse, until death do we part.

And we walked back down the aisle, hand in hand, ready to face the world…together.

So much has happened in 23 years. Happiness. Sadness. Fights. Making up. Deaths. Births. Ministry. Laughter. Tears. Betrayal. Heart ache. Despair. Anger. Bitterness. Forgiveness. Moving forward. Building a new life. Raising kids. Growing. Changing. Seeing God.

Three years ago, on what would have been my 20th wedding anniversary, I had my first article published. I remember the tears, again a mixture of joy and sadness. Reflecting on what should have been versus the new life God was building for me. The pain and sadness compared to the overwhelming faithfulness I experienced at the hand of my Savior.

Today, I sit and weep. Weep over what should have been. Weep over loss. Weep over a life cut short. Weep over the pain my children are experiencing. Weep for unknown reasons.

And I find myself wondering how to reconcile my expectations with reality.

Years ago when my oldest was only a few months old, we served on staff at a large church. In our short tenure there, we discovered undeniable evidence that the senior pastor had an affair. We confronted him and were assured that he had repented and was surrounding himself with men who would hold him accountable.

As we walked away from the situation, we carried a strong reminder from God: If you choose not to abide in me daily, it could be you one day. Sadly, the warning we received early in ministry was not enough to prevent our own collision course with adultery.

What would our lives have looked like if we had both remained in the vine, abiding daily? What kind of ministry would we have? Where would we be living? What kind of joys and sorrows would we have faced?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the what ifs and the what could have beens. It’s easy to lose our focus, to turn our attention away from what we have.

It’s easy to become discontent by missing the many blessings we have right in front of us.

So on this day, I’m trying to refocus my attention.

I’m recounting my blessings.

Three amazing kids who touch the lives of everyone they come into contact with.

An incredible family that has stood by us and loved us and supported us every step of the way.

A former church that still loves us and embraces us as if we never left.

A beautiful ministry where I get to share from my heart how to overcome the brokenness and build a beautiful life.

So many amazing friends—many of whom I’ve never met—that walk this journey alongside me.

And, above all, the opportunity to experience the Great I Am, to find Him faithful in every situation. To know Him deeply and intimately as He guides my every step of this crazy journey called life. To find that He is trustworthy…forever and always.

The last decade has been quite an adventure, one I never dreamed and certainly never wanted. And yet, here I am today. The more I walk with my Savior, the more I long for the adventure only He can give.

He is calling you and me to step out of the boat and walk on water toward His outstretched hand. It’s a daunting thought to take that first step, to lift that leg up and over the edge of the boat. But you can be certain that He is there waiting.

Your journey may not look anything like you expected. The storms may be raging, winds howling and thunder crashing and lightning flashing. You might fear drowning.

Forget the storm and the waves crashing all around you. Focus only on Him. Reach out for that outstretched hand. Notice the nail marks, reminders of One who loved you enough to give His life for you. Let Him pull you from your comfort zone, from your ordinary expectations of this life.

And let Him lead you on the adventure of a lifetime…no matter how different it may be from the life you signed up for.


26 thoughts on “Sucker-Punched”

  1. This is going into my “saved” file to be re-read and re-read. You’ve touched on so many things that I am experiencing. While clinging to what often seem mere shreds of hope, I am learning to choose to see Him. Thank you for the shared pain, and the encouragement.


    1. It’s a strange feeling to scroll down and read a comment very.similar to one I was going to make by someone with the same name! Beth


  2. Your story always blesses me-thank you! I was married in 1990, divorced in 1999 after his adultery with a co-worker at a Christian college. Family, church, friends all walked away-it’s been Jesus, my daughter, and me . Now, as I prayed for the first few years for my ex as a prodigal son, I’m now praying for my prodigal daughter. No one seems to understand the emotions as you listed all the life events and how each one is forever filtered through divorce. Keep writing! I am praying for you and your children and am convicted to thank God for today.


    1. THank you, Bonnie. Yes, there’s a new filter on everything. His death has created an entirely new dimension to the entire mess. I will join you in prayer for your prodigal daughter. The pain must be immense as you watch her walk down this path. Thank you for the prayers!


  3. Dena, thank you for your concerted effort at being transparent & real about your journey. Thanks for taking the time to share these difficult feelings & thoughts. Your life & story is new to me but the grief, wounds & pain are not.
    I was the husband, father, pastor, friend who did my best to love my wife & keep our marriage of 22 years together in spite of multiple affairs over those years. Boundaries were not a principle/ practice I understood or set well though the years of unfaithfulness.
    When she announced she was leaving & never coming back 22 years of trauma, hurt & pain surfaced & God had lots of work to do in my heart & life.
    The work continues as does life & the joy filled anticipation of someday experiencing a marriage of trust & oneness I never knew.
    We have the honor of being wounded warriors,being helped & loving others each day.
    God bless you, your children & each one you reach out to with understanding, compassion, gentleness & love – right now!!
    I look forward to reading more of what God is teaching you each day.


    1. Mark, welcome to this journey. I wish you didn’t have to walk this path, but I’m honored to have you walk with me. Yes, I walked faithfully with my pastor husband, and it wasn’t until I finally walked away that I recognized the years of hurt, pain, and manipulation for the abuse they were. It’s been a long process, but God has been so faithful! And, yes, one day He will bring the entire full circle and completely restore our lives. I am fully convinced of this. Praying God strengthens you and draws you near in this difficult time.


  4. “…From your (my) ordinary expectations of this life..” This spoke to me. Thank you for plowing through your moment to minister to us.


  5. I really admire the way you are able to put emotions into words. I have not dealt w/ adultery but my firstborn has had behavior issues his whole life and unfortunately fell victim to heroin and the awful awful life it encompasses. It was me and Jesus. My husband and I were on very different paths and he has chosen to reject Jesus. God has changed me so much these last 16 yrs. I try to put my thoughts to paper w/o success. I am very interested in emotions and the why’s and the affect in my life. God has brought me so low in depression and anxiety that I could not get out of bed. I see God’s handprint everywhere in my circumstances. I look forward to becoming the new creature my Heavenly Father is creating.


    1. I love that! “I look forward to becoming the new creature my Heavenly Father is creating.” What a beautiful statement of faith and forward vision! I am so sorry for the pain you have experienced, for the broken life. But God is in the business of resurrecting our lives from the dead. Let Him have every broken piece of your life, and He will create something beautiful. Praying for you!


  6. Thank You Dena! So much of your life experiences resonates within my spirit and parallels many of the things I have been through in my life (I was married for 22 years and I have four children) and having to “rebuild” and come to acceptance that this is not the life that I had “planned” but it is HIS purpose and will for my life and it’s Good! God Bless you and your family! Take Care


  7. Wow! Your words are exactly what I needed this morning. God knew I would need this reminder today and put it where he knew I would look…on my Facebook newsfeed. You see, on this day 3 years ago, my husband of 29 years left the marriage and basically our family. Even though our kids were 20 & 26 at the time, the news we all received on the last day of our family vacation devastated our lives. We are doing better with each year but this date on the calendar still stings a bit. Thank you for sharing your journey and reminding me of God’s faithfulness.


    1. I am so glad God could use my words in His timing. Isn’t He amazing? I’m so sorry for your pain. I know it so well. Yes, those moments, those days, are frequently relived. Even after all these years, it is surreal where I am in this life. And yet, God has used the journey in so many ways. I wouldn’t trade my life today for anything this world has to offer. I pray you find His faithfulness just as overwhelming as I have. God bless!


  8. Thank you for sharing . I found your messages when I was looking for help. I married for life but my husband chose unfaithfulness with my own daughter . I’m still hurting but I know the Lord holds my hand.
    May God continue to bless and comfort us !!!


    1. I am so sorry for your pain. Just remember that we could never experience God’s healing power if we never hurt. He is with you, every heart-breaking, painful step of the journey. He will bind up your wounds and heal your broken heart. Prayers to you!


  9. Dena, I read this last night when , as usual, I couldn’t sleep. I got up to pray and Google and you popped up. The date could have read – July 15, 2016. My ex husband passed away on that day. So much emotion has followed. It is like the affair, the disbelief, the divorce is all resurfacing. 16 years ago , when he left was like a death, and now it feels like me and my 2 daughters are going through it all again. My girls are now 18 and 20, so much change is happening all at once. Graduation, driving, college, I feel in a daze. I loved him, I know I always will. My girls are blessings and putting on a brave face. They are helping his wife( yes the one he had an affair with) handle all the planning for a memorial. Your story helped me to see I’m not the only one. Prayers for you and your children.


    1. Oh, sweet friend! We are walking this same path. Death post-divorce is such a strange mix of emotion. Holding my babies tight as they grieve the loss of their daddy. Praying you and your daughters will feel His love and mercy, just as we are striving to do. Hugs and prayers!


  10. Good afternoon Dena it’s David again, as I read your thoughts I reflected on my own and the journey my wife and I have been on. God brought us together in a church and that was the best start to our life. We both are very ill with Lyme disease especially my wife Rhonda. It is a terrible malady and attacks every aspect of her being. When I read your genuine thoughts and honest issues that you deal with it helps me to better understand what God has planned for me. Keep up the good work Dena and I’ll be in touch. Love David and Rhonda Wilson


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