Emotional Abuse, Faith, Grace, Hope, Pain and suffering, Surviving Adultery and Divorce

An Open Letter to Lysa TerKeurst

Dear Lysa,

I read your blog Rejection, Heartache, and a Faithful God today. As I read the words, I couldn’t hold back the tears.

A decade ago, the tears I cried reading your words would have been tears of anger, disappointment. I would have been upset that yet another well-known ministry couple had succumbed to divorce rather than allowing God to fix a tough marriage. I would have written you off as a failure, determined never to read your words again.

But today, the tears were tears of compassion, of heartache, of empathy. They were tears of grief over the pain you and your family are experiencing. They were tears of guilt over my own pride, over my years of being a judgmental Christian who thought divorce was the chief of all sins. My tears were out of genuine love for you.

What changed? I, too, stand with you in the army of believers who love God fiercely, who seek to honor Him in all things, who are passionate about sharing His word…and who also happen to be divorced. I, too, stand with you as a fellow minister who is also the victim of unrepentant adultery. I, too, stand with you as one who fought a fierce battle for my marriage, spent untold hours in prayer, and still landed in divorce court.

I stand with you.

As I read your words, I wanted nothing more than to come alongside you, to wrap my arms around you, to remind you you are not alone. I wanted to be able to share the many lessons I have learned in the last decade of walking this journey ahead of you. I wanted to be able to share with you the joy of reaching the Promised Land, of seeing everything you lost repaid…and even more. I wanted to reflect on the incredible intimacy I built with my Father along the way.

While I can’t physically walk beside you, I can share some important thoughts with you. Maybe you will see them; maybe you won’t. But perhaps some other struggling soul will benefit from what I have to say to you.

Thank you for being honest about the reasons for your divorce. When I first learned of my husband’s adultery, I immediately began to question myself. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t keep my husband happy? Was I so ugly that he needed someone else? Why could I not succeed at the one thing I wanted more than anything else—a successful marriage?

Knowing that your spouse seeks fulfillment outside the bounds of marriage is one of the most painful experiences this life can hand us, a betrayal at the deepest levels. It causes you to doubt and question everything about yourself. Many people choose to hide the true facts of their failed marriage, maybe from shame, maybe humiliation. Or maybe it’s just a continuation of the enabling they have done throughout their marriage. It takes tremendous courage to utter the words, “He had an affair,” to our closest friends, let alone to a public audience.

Thank you for choosing not to hide behind a cloak of shame. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I have learned that adultery only takes one hardened heart. It is not about the faithful spouse, what he/she did right or wrong, but it is about a heart that has chosen a path in opposition to the Father. It’s about a person who chooses to indulge in the works of the flesh rather than to walk in the Spirit.

It does not matter who you are, what you look like, how godly you are. Adultery is no respecter of persons.

Trust God as He carries you through. I love your words, “I am brokenhearted beyond what I can express. But I am more committed than ever to trusting God, His promises, and His plans, whatever they are from here.” Thank you for choosing to trust God in your pain. Thank you for standing firm on your convictions that God is good in all things.

I wish I had chosen the path you did, one of remaining faithful and believing God is still good. Instead, I blamed God for my husband’s infidelity. I couldn’t understand how a good God could reward my years of ministry, of faithfulness, with an unfaithful husband. I chose to run from God. I am so thankful He didn’t give up on me but instead pursued me relentlessly, chasing after me until I surrendered. I will always be grateful for His determination to come after me, the one lost sheep who wandered from the safety of the Shepherd.

Keep clinging to Him because, as you said, He is a faithful God…even in the midst of a failed marriage.

Walk in integrity. Divorce is so ugly. How can two people who pledged to love each other for better or worse disintegrate into the worst enemies? How can two people who once shared the deepest human connection find themselves bickering over worldly possessions?

I’ve been there. I spent the better part of the last decade trying to figure out how to co-parent with another human with drastically different desires. The non-stop disagreements drag you into a pit of despair that is not easily escaped. The once fierce love you shared dissolves into bitterness and hatred.

Always take the high road. Always seek to live above the level of reproach. Always choose to do what’s right regardless of what he says or does. Set the example for him, for your children, for all of the outsiders watching to see how you will handle this experience.

But, when you mess up, admit your mistake and move forward. We are human, and we will have those moments when we choose to stoop to their level.

Be a fierce voice for oppressed spouses. Oh, Lysa! There are so many men and women suffering abuse in their marriages! They endure mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse because it has been beat into their minds that divorce is never an option. They stay because they fear…fear God will turn against them, fear the church will reject them, fear they will forever wear a scarlet letter D.

While I understand the Church’s fierce defense of marriage, when did God elevate rules above people? As I read scripture, I see Christ extending grace to the most unworthy sinners. I see Him healing the sick and the blind. I see Him setting captives free.

Like you, I was captive in my marriage for years, without even realizing it. And, like you, I did everything I could to save my marriage. I forgave untold heartache and fought with every ounce of my being. And I believed God would restore our marriage and give us an incredible ministry of reconciliation.

Until I heard Him tell me enough is enough, that He was now setting me free.

Be prepared for unbelievable criticism. I wish I could tell you that everyone will come alongside you, love you, support you as you walk this incredibly difficult path. I can’t. And, the more outspoken you are about the realities of divorce, the more criticism you will face from God’s people.

I know you are no stranger to those who make human interpretations of scripture equal to the infallible Word of God. But when it involves divorce, there’s no shortage of harsh words. I promise you will be told you failed God. You will be told you must continue to pray for reconciliation, cling to your spouse until he repents. You will be told that you will be subject to hell if you entertain remarriage.

As you know, you live for an audience of the One. It matters not what man says to you; it only matters what God says to you. And He says you are a child of the King, worthy, forgiven, deeply loved. He says you are the apple of His eye, His treasured possession. Let the voices of the world clamoring to heap shame and guilt upon you fade into the darkness as you keep your eyes, heart, and ears focused securely on Him.

There are so many strange yet wonderful avenues of ministry opening before you. Forget about the past and be open to the incredible new thing He is doing in you and through you (Isaiah 43:19).

And know that you don’t walk this path alone.

With love,

Dena

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34 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Lysa TerKeurst”

    1. I’m right there with you–and Lysa! This is why I so appreciate Dena. Finding her words in the aftermath of my own nuclear marital meltdown was such a breath of fresh air after all the “well meaning ” religious “advice” and tiptoeing around on eggshells to avoid the uncomfortable subject that many do. Dena tells the bold truth and says what The Establishment is afraid to accept or acknowledge. I pray that her words minister to and encourage Lysa the way they have me!

  1. Thank you for posting this. I’m so, so proud that we can love and support another sister in pain without judgement but with love. My heart has broken today for Lysa, and it also reminds me of Courtney Johnson from Women Living Well. I say to myself, “why Lord?, why?!”. It hurts that the marriages of women serving God are not safe and protected. And I wondered to myself in exasperation if maybe women shouldn’t be in these leadership roles serving God because the husbands can’t handle it. But all that said, thank you Dena for showing love.

    1. Good words, wise advice. I’ve been divorced for 18 years. It’s so hard to even believe in marriage when even Christians cannot stay together. It’s even more difficult to advise young people to get married, I have no right to say anything.
      This news just saddens me.

  2. Just beautiful Dena! Thank you for taking the time to write this and being the artist that you are with healing words and wisdom. Both you and Lysa have helped me through your words in my ongoing marital struggles. I believe God has and will continue to use the transparency and vulnerability from you both in His most magnificent way to minister to so many of us in our isolated pain. Blessings

  3. Amazing words of wisdom. I am honestly speechless because I get every word. Finally someone who understands what I went through!!!!! I am going to share this with as many people as I can. I too stand with other women hurting. It is brutal & hard & the most hurt I have ever experienced is from the church. Many many thanks

    1. Glad my words resonated with you…but so sorry you’ve dealt with this pain. And so very sorry the church has been the source of so much pain for you. You are the reason I write.

  4. Beautiful Dena!! Many heartfelt prayers for Lysa. And for you dear child of God….we are all so very thrilled for you. You can’t imagine what hope your story gives to those of us that have lost love. To keep trusting God, that He has not forgotten us… He is just moving us on to something better!! Amazing!! Thanking God for you!!

  5. It is such a tough path to walk. I have been divorced for over two years and separated roughly for six and a half. I am still standing for the restoration of my family and in love with my husband, yet he is still in a relationship with the other person. It is a lot of pain and very little understanding from others, even christians. I did not choose to divorce – he did. We had a very happy marriage for over twenty six years, although he didn`t think so at the time of separating. My children were devastated and we are still feeling the effects of the tearing of the fabric of our close family.
    I, too, was saddened at the Lysa’s news and it tugs at my heart to see another sister go through this pain.
    Yes, do listen to God, He is the only one who matters!

    Love

    1. It is a lifelong journey. I pray you cling to God and you find Him more than faithful. I pray He restores the years the locusts have eaten and repays every pain with two blessings.

  6. 4 years for me…gambling, work aholicism, loss of faith and perhaps more…but feels the same. After 39 years of marriage.
    God is still faithful, in control and good. Praying for Lysa…my heart breaks for her and her sweet family.

  7. I am with you Lysa and Dena. How terrible to see how the enemy has infiltrated into the homes of christians and destroying families. I too been in the ministry have suffered adultery and after fighting as hard as i could,forgiving unimaginable acts of sin,i too am ready for divorce. Enough is enough. God can do anything,anything…but if a heart does not repent and does not wish to change how can God work in it. We are never alone. God is good.

    1. God is good! And I went through the same things!! Trust that he does not want his daughters to face abuse and harm!!!! He will never leave you as hard as the road seems, just trust he will bring you out on the other end, shining and living the way he intended you to live. xoxo

  8. I love nothing more than humble, genuine, honest people trying to live by God’s word. Thanking God for the ability to witness His work through our broken world. He is so good!!

  9. I stand with LYSA and YOU! I felt the same way when I read it! And I just happened to click on it as I got back from the “final Judgment (court)” being entered in mine today after a long dragged out process that lasted more than 2 years. As I read your article, I just kept hearing myself say yes, yes, exactly, yes. I felt the same way about wanting to hug Lysa too. Thank you beautiful ladies for your honesty and courage. xoxo L

    1. I am glad my words could minister to you in the midst of your pain. Despite the long process, you are still in the early stages. I pray the roller coaster slows down and you can catch your breath as you continue to heal from the pain. Hugs!!

  10. Thank you for this Dena. I’m in the middle of a divorce with a cheating, covert narcissist, and I struggle with feeling that God even cares. I KNOW he does, but the doubts creep in amidst the pain and rejection.
    Lysa, if you read this, please know that I’m praying for you and your family…This is hard stuff…but you WILL get through it, and become even stronger in the process.

  11. This is absolutely beautiful! I, too, know the pain of divorce- both in my parent’s marriage (where the pastor of our church told my mother God would sit her on a shelf because God doesn’t use divorced people) and in my own marriage. I pray that while the enemy is working hard to destroy marriages, the church will not contribute to that destruction with unkind words and harsh criticism. I imagine that God weeps, both for Lysa in her brokenness and for her husband in his waywardness. May we truly be as Christ would be if He could stand physically before her and embrace her fully. Lysa, my prayers are with you and your family.

    1. Amen! It’s such a painful road. I cannot comprehend how anyone can heap additional pain upon those walking through divorce. I pray the Church opens its eyes and heaps grace upon all divorcees.

  12. Thank you for this Dena. I was hoping you saw Lysa’s writing on what she has been going through and that you could minister to her.
    Thanks for coming along side Lysa and others in very difficult, heart rending situations.

  13. I have never told this publicly before and I hope my story might help someone else going through a dark time such as this…I came to know Jesus at age 30 after being an atheist all of my adult life. In fact, I married the wonderful woman who introduced me to Him. Her and I had been friends for many years before I came to Christ, and even though I asked her out on a date several times, she would not date me because I was not a Believer. Well, although we never went out on a date, we talked frequently on the phone and she would always invite me to Church…I never went. I used to say to myself, “I’ll straighten her out on this Jesus stuff”…in retrospect, I bet that gave God a good laugh. Then one day during a particularly unpleasant time cursing at the God I didn’t think existed, I dared Him to reveal Himself to me…
    Well there was no thunder and lightning and I was still alive, but He did start to reveal Himself to me and made me realize that even though I knew I was one of the most repugnant humans to walk the earth, He actually loved me and wanted a relationship with me…I told her about this and she led me to the Lord! We married a year later and had a wonderful, amazing Love and marriage for 13 years…She was the perfect Wife and Proverbs 31 Woman… Then I did something very stupid…
    In my past when I was just a 19 year old kid, I had what I “thought” was my first great love…the “one that got away” that I regretted losing for many years after. Well by “accident” I found that she was back in town, not many states away as I had previously known…For some unknown reason, I thought it would be a good idea to see her and tell her a few things to be able to get her “out of my system” once and for all…so I did…and that was the beginning of what I now refer to as my “Mid-Life Madness”…Things quickly spiraled down from there…the next thing I know, I’m about to leave my perfect Wife who had done absolutely nothing to cause my evil behavior and completely blow up my life. In her incredible wisdom, my Wife realized I was out of my mind and immediately had all of our Christian friends praying for me…she was amazing! She asked if I would meet with a good friend of ours who is a Christian Pastor & Counselor…I said yes and what he said to me after listening to my story hit me like a high powered rifle shot right between my eyes…
    You see, he knew after meeting with hundreds of married couples over the years, that when another person enters the picture in a marriage, most times that marriage is over.
    So in his incredible, Godly wisdom he said to me, “Ken, your choice isn’t between your wife and this other woman…your choice is between this other woman and JESUS!!!
    When he said this, my head felt like it exploded and my world went into slow motion…He was RIGHT and at that moment I finally realized it…
    He went on to explain that Satan is a strategist and he had waited for just the right time and for the only woman that could have caused me to be unfaithful. As I started to fully understand, the demonic hold that seemed to have total control of me lifted and I came to my senses. I immediately cut off all ties with the other woman and asked my Wife’s forgiveness.
    Luckily for me, she forgave me and with God’s help, we restored our wonderful Love and marriage…It became better and stronger than ever and we are now in our 31st year of marriage…Thank You Lord.

    1. Thanks for sharing. Yes, it’s a road that is easy to slip down if we aren’t carefully guarding our hearts and minds and abiding in Christ. I am so thankful you were able to save your marriage! What a testimony to God’s grace.

  14. For Lysa, Dena, all of us that experienced the same or similar conditions.. there’s this one song that always strengthen me..

    There is no problem too big
    God cannot solve it
    There is no mountain too tall
    He cannot move it

    There is no storm too dark
    God cannot calm it
    There is no sorrow too deep
    He cannot soothe it

    Oh, if He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders
    Oh, I know my brother that He will carry you
    Oh, if He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders
    Oh, I know my sister that He will carry you
    I know my brother and I know my sister that Jesus will carry you

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