Faith, Hope, prayer, promises, Uncategorized

Irreconcilable Differences

Irreconcilable differences … a phrase typically associated with divorce. My own divorce was granted on the basis of irreconcilable differences caused by infidelity.

There was a time when I wondered how any two married people could have irreconcilable differences, especially after a marriage has lasted two, three, or even four decades. Now I know. There’s usually more to the story than just irreconcilable differences.

But when else do we experience irreconcilable differences? Have you ever felt like your prayers and God’s answers represented irreconcilable differences?

I prayed so hard for my marriage to last. I begged God to restore our marriage and give us a new ministry. I repeatedly asked Him to convict my husband of his sins and return to his marriage, to his family. I begged Him to protect us—physically, mentally, financially.

And yet I still ended up in divorce court.

Or what about the man who longs for nothing more than to be a dad? Yet, for whatever reasons, his children choose to walk away, missing the years of sacrifice he made for them.

How about the family begging God for healing of their loved one, only to see that person suffer and die?

Or the child who asks God to help him forgive his estranged father and build a relationship with him?

I’ve seen so many prayers that—on the surface—appear to be irreconcilable to what actually happens. I’ve known people who walked away from their faith because the “answers” to their prayers didn’t match up.

But are these truly irreconcilable differences?

Let me start with my situation: While many of the prayers I prayed over my marriage and family went unanswered on the surface, I saw many of those prayers answered in the years to come…not in “our” lives but in my life and the life of my kids. God protected us by allowing my husband to resign from the pastorate before the ugly truth came out. He provided financially in ways I never could have expected. He has given me a ministry greater than anything I ever could have asked or imagined. While He didn’t answer my prayers in the way I expected, He definitely answered my prayers.

What about the father who longs to be a dad…but his children have walked away? Maybe his ex-wife has poisoned them against him or maybe he wasn’t such a great dad in the early days but has since repented? Maybe God picks him up and sets him in a family with kids who want and need a dad. Maybe the answer for this father doesn’t look the way he expected, but maybe God answers in an unexpected way.

How about the child whose father doesn’t repent but instead dies unexpectedly? What if God is sparing some other, more significant pain? What if God is stopping the abuse for your own protection? What if God is looking down the road and seeing the future on this earth and the most kind, loving thing he can do is to spare this child additional hurt?

Yes, our prayers and this life often seem to offer irreconcilable differences. But, instead of losing faith because our prayers seem to go unanswered, maybe we just need to adjust our perspective, to look for God in the unwanted and unexpected answers.

Here’s a few thoughts on the irreconcilable differences between our prayers and this life:

Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my plans than your plans. Isaiah 55:9

We must always remember that God is omniscient, He sees all and He knows all. We, on the other hand, have a very finite view of life. We only see the here and now. We only see a very small sliver of what is actually happening. God, however, has the overarching viewpoint where He can know every intimate detail of what is happening now and what is going to happen in the future. His answers to our prayers take this knowledge into account.

Not only does God see all and know all, but His plans are for our good and His glory in all things. Maybe He looks down and sees the opportunity to do a work in us that never could have been accomplished if He answered our prayers the way we want. Maybe He wants to grow us, to develop an intimacy with Him that can only come through the trials of this life. Maybe His plan is so much bigger than anything we could start to imagine.

Ultimately, when our prayers and this life offer irreconcilable differences, we just need to relax and let God unfold the full picture before us in His time.

Don’t remember the prior things; don’t ponder ancient history. Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? Isaiah 43:18-19

Sometimes God wants to take us down a different path than the one we have been traveling. Sometimes He wants us to put the past behind us and watch as He starts a new work.

For example, God called me to ministry many years ago as a ten-year-old child. My view of that ministry was to be a pastor’s wife, to serve faithfully alongside my husband. Unfortunately, that view of ministry limited what God could do in me and through me. While serving as a pastor’s wife was a wonderful plan, God wanted to do more. He wanted to take me out of my comfort zone and give me the opportunity to proclaim His name in a new and different way. He allowed my marriage to fail, but He answered my prayers for a new ministry…I just didn’t recognize it at first.

Enjoy the Lord, and he will give what your heart asks. Commit your way to the Lord! Trust him! He will act and will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like high noon. Be still before the Lord, and wait for him. Psalm 37:4-7

God clearly tells us when we delight ourselves in Him, He will give us the desires of our hearts. However, He has to transform our hearts so our desires are His desires. Then, when our hearts and desires have become one with His, He grants us the desires of our hearts.

I find it interesting that God follows up this familiar verse with the command to wait. Be still before the Lord and wait for him. Our desires are not granted immediately. It’s a process, just like everything else in the Christian life. He does a work in us in the waiting, teaching us to trust Him and His timing. We can never take short cuts in the Christian life.

Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us… Ephesians 3:20

When our prayers seem to be irreconcilable with this life, we can take great comfort in the promise that God is able to do far more than we could ever ask, hope, or even imagine. Maybe this life doesn’t look like what we wanted or expected; but maybe God is in the process of doing far more than we ever dreamed possible. Maybe we were selling ourselves short, failing to dream big enough. Maybe God is trying to stretch you, pull you out of your comfort zone where we can find so much more, where we can find the God who is able, whose mighty power is at work in each of us. Maybe He’s trying to do something we never imagined possible.

I’ve faced many irreconcilable differences between my life and my prayers, but I’m learning to trust God. I’m learning to trust that when the answers to my prayers don’t look the way I expected them to, I can still trust the One who sees all and knows all.

Lord Jesus, this life is often hard, and sometimes it’s difficult to see our circumstances as answered prayers. But we want to see this life through your eyes, with your perspective. Help us to release our expectations and trust that you are working something in us and through us in ways we could never comprehend. Help us to remember that you have plans bigger than we could ask or hope or imagine. Help us to remember that we have to wait for you to give us the desires of our hearts, to let you transform our desires into your desires. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


21 thoughts on “Irreconcilable Differences”

  1. After years of prescription drug abuse & then alcohol abuse I divorced my husband of almost 20 years. He has been sober for 10 months. Do you believe God desires us to return to the wayward spouse if they repent and ultimately turn their lives around? I still love him but when he comes around I know I’m not in love with him. Yet, I worry that God will expect me to take him back.

    1. No, I don’t. God is a God who sets us free. The goal is to become so close to God that He leads you into the future He has for you, whatever that may look like. I grappled with that question, and finally chose just to trust Him. Best decision ever. Hang in there!!

      1. Ty for replying. My children all are firm that they do not want me to ever go backwards. They want a relationship with him but not with us as a couple. They lived with enough hell that they cannot fathom me living thru it ever again. They love him & want him healed. They want it for us all.

  2. Why Do you constantly write about your previous marriage? One of the things that destroys new marriages is constantly harping on the past marriage. . You need to stop looking in the rear view mirror and move on. That’s why you always seem to be in so much pain. If God delivered you, be thankful and move on. Talk and write about the wonderful things thst He is NOW doing for you! Forget the past. I have followed you for some time now, and I have heard enough of a marriage gone sour. Stop living in the past. This must be hard on your new husband!

    1. Gail… if you’ve heard enough, stop reading. You see, God has given me a story of His faithfulness, of an intimacy with Him that was forged in the wilderness of adultery and divorce. He has called me to a ministry of helping the abused, the divorced, as they strive to move forward. It will ALWAYS be my story, my passion, to help those traveling the long and painful path. You are so sure you know my marriage…and you don’t. You don’t know the intimate conversations, the laughter, the pain. My divorce is the past, but it’s also a frequent illustration of many lessons learned. God has called me to be a voice to the church, a voice pointing out the pain Christians heap on those suffering like I have. I will preach that story until I take my last breath. I will PROUDLY live the calling He has given me.

      1. I am also a product of a broken marriage due to adultery of my spouse…times two. The pain was horrific. First marriage was for twenty years and we had 3 children. The adultery was going on for years unbeknown to me. I married again only to find out he had an online sex ring happening via Facebook. I was devastated. I prayed and begged God to re-build my life. I was 55 and thought it would never happen as the selection process at that age is slim. But, never underestimate God, never doubt Him and always trust Him. God sent me the most wonderful man. A man I had known in my church for 30 years. He is a pastor. The most wonderful human being that anyone has met. He went through a difficult marriage that ended in divorce. Neither of us was looking in the other’s direction. But, God brought us together and we are SO happy. I also have a message to share. But it is not to harp on what went wrong in the past because thst is exactly what satan wants. But, it is to put Christ first and talk about the good He has done in both our lives. I don’t spread the adultery. I don’t spread the pain. I spread the good thing he has done for us. Satan took control in the past. But, by God’s grace he will not have control of the present or the future. Let go of the past and focus on the good in your life now. Every blog recounts the adultery and your pain. Don’t give satan that platform in your life.

      2. God has given me a story to help others through their pain, to comfort others with the comfort I have received. He has called me to be a mouthpiece to the church, calling them out on their stance against divorce and abuse. My words are being used to help an army, as evidenced by my emails, my following, my tribe. I will live my life as God calls me to, and I will allow you the same. End of discussion. 

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    2. Gail, you are judging her and seeing her through your personal lenses of experience. That is not your place. You have no idea how God is using her story as she tells it over and over and how God worked in her life through the pain. Her talking about the pain has touched me! Why would we not talk about how God uses our hurts and disappointments to reach others who have experienced similar things. Not talking about or telling the story God has brought us through is what gives satan a platform. Too many Christians don’t talk about the “ugliness” that ultimately gives God the glory! We should never assume to know how or what or who God is using because His ways are not our ways and we can never understand fully His ways. Encourage don’t judge!

  3. As I’ve moved through my current situation and its accompanying prayers – some of them answered, some of them not yet answered – God is showing me that not all of my prayers will be answered in this lifetime, much less in the way that I expect. He started showing me this at a Beth Moore event, where she talked about Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” She pointed out we are not promised the work will be completed in our lifetime, but it WILL be completed at the return of Jesus! I confess I don’t know what this looks like, but even if I don’t see answers in the here and now, every prayer will be answered when I see Jesus!

  4. I hated that term irreconcilable differences. The truth is that a separation and ultimately the divorce was about infidelity, pedophilia, and unfaithfulness. The irreconcilation was about lack of repentance.

    1. I’m so very sorry. The two pains have such similar outcomes. Hugs and many prayers as you embrace this irreconcilable answer to prayer. 

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  5. Irreconcilable differences. A judge was asked that question and he couldn’t define it either. Truth is it’s a nice way for courts to not have to deal with the messy issue of adultery. I even hate the word infidelity. Again nice word to try and soften a cruel and harsh crime against your partner. Divorce is the ripping apart of spouses and families. Courts get to decide how you’ll raise your children. One weekend with Mom and one weekend with Dad and his cohabiting partner. Keep telling your story. Your journey and your healing is helping me immensely. I found your site by typing when you’ve lost faith in God. Seeing your journey has led me to believe somehow the other side of this pain is a bright future God has for me. It’s just dark and scary in the storm but there is sunshine in the other side.

  6. I just want to thank you for being a voice to us going through divorce. It’s very painful and I wish more than anything that I could wake up and know it’s just a bad dream. I gave my husband so many chances only to find out more lies about his adultery. At first I was so mad at God and didn’t want to follow a God who would allow me to hurt this much after all my prayers. It wasn’t until I found your site and started reading your blog when I began to see that it’s not Gods fault and he is good even if my situation isn’t. I’m in the divorce process right now and it has been very draining. One day I am sad and the next I am strong. I do not wish this on anyone. However God has continually provided and revealed the truth about the mental abuse and manipulation I was in for so many years. Thank you for writing! It has been so encouraging and helpful to me.

    1. And you are the reason I keep writing and standing. You bring tears to my eyes, knowing my pain has not been in vain. And one day, you will get the joy of helping others. Hang in there! God will carry you through to find the beauty of a broken life.

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