The word echoed through my mind as I contemplated my future. I had dedicated my life to ministry, to serving the God who had been so faithful throughout my life. But now, I had the scarlet letter “D” hung around my neck for all to see. My unwanted divorce had permanently disqualified me from ministry.
I found myself grappling with my usefulness to God, with my ability to do the one thing I knew I was created to do. My divorce had robbed me of the title of pastor’s wife. After spending my entire adult life as the first lady of a church, I was now just another face sitting in the congregation. No one seeking me out for advice. No place to use my gifts in the church. Alone. Rejected. Unwanted. Permanently disqualified from ministry.
I grappled with Scripture as I tried to make sense of a God who would call me to ministry and then allow my husband to walk away, leaving me disqualified from my calling. I mulled Romans 11:29, the verse that so perfectly reminded me that my Father’s call is irrevocable. But how could that be? I had always been taught, always known, that divorce permanently and irrevocably disqualified one from ministry. And as I stared at the papers in my hand knowing my marriage was over, I wondered how, where, who would want a divorced pastor’s wife.
One day I stumbled upon John 11, the familiar story of Lazarus being raised from death to life. As I read those familiar words, God illuminated them in a way I had never known. For the first time, they took on a new, powerful meaning as I saw my divorce in a new light, a light that freed me to serve God openly not in spite of my divorce but because of my divorce.
So the two sisters [Mary and Martha] sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.”
But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days. John 11:3-6
Just like Mary and Martha, I had cried out to God to save my marriage. I felt the troubled waters. I sensed the waves of adultery. I did everything I could to save my marriage. Yet, my husband chose to walk the path of unrepentant adultery, to choose another over the covenant he had made to me. I knew God could have saved my marriage, but He didn’t. He chose to wait until it was too late, just like Jesus did with Lazarus.
Related: Behind Closed Doors
Like Mary and Martha, I grieved. I grieved deeply for what should have been, for my children, for my ministry. The pain was so deep, a betrayal of the most intimate type. The one person I had trusted with my deepest secrets, my most vulnerable spots, had left me. Rejected me. Where had God been? Why had He not stepped in and saved my marriage.
But I heard Him say, “This sickness will not end in death,” just as He had said to his good friends Mary and Martha.
And then, He wept with me. I felt His love and His comfort as he pulled me into Him, lavishing His love on me, reminding me I was not unwanted and rejected. No. He saw me as worthy of His love, as precious in His sight. He used words like chosen, princess, masterpiece to describe me. He wanted to be my everything when my whole life had been swept away, when I had nothing but a pile of rubble left of my life.
As I felt Him drawing me close, I heard Him whisper that He had plans, new plans like nothing I had ever imagined. He had a new ministry for me, one far greater than I could ever hope or imagine. As He slowly began to pick up the pieces of my life and begin the process of rebuilding a broken life, I poured myself into knowing Him in new ways. There was an intimacy I had never known before, a closeness with the Father like nothing I had ever experienced.
Related: Three Truths About Divorce
That’s when the rest of the story became clear. Jesus hadn’t come immediately to Lazarus because He had bigger plans, a bigger story He was writing. He allowed Lazarus to die so He could show His power, show the world God’s glory.
Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”
Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” John 11:38-44
He raised Lazarus from the dead to proclaim His power over sin and death! He raised Lazarus from the dead so He could show the world who He is!
And I heard Him calling to me, “Dena, come out!” While the world around me declared I was disqualified, that my life stunk because of my divorce, my Father had other plans. He was using what the world said disqualified to make me into His image, to give me a voice to point the world back to Him! I didn’t wear a scarlet letter “D” for divorced; I had a scarlet letter “A” for anointed, scarlet because it was written in the blood of my Savior and it was His blood that gave me a testimony of God raising me from the death of divorce back to the life of one chosen and called!
It’s been over ten years since I lost my life to divorce, but I have gained so much more. I have become an outspoken advocate for those suffering the pain of divorce, for those whose lives have been wrecked by the storms of adultery. I have the privilege of ministering to tens of thousands of readers on my blog, of pouring out my words on paper to help others walking through their own devastation.
From the time I was young, I knew I was meant to write. Never in a million years did I imagine God would use the most painful experience of my life to give me a story, a story that points the world back to Him. But that’s exactly what He wants from all of us: He wants to get the glory from our stories, from the resurrection from the dead where we can show the world how He breathes new life into us.
The painful circumstances of this life do not disqualify us from serving God. No matter what your story entails, it is a story God can use. What’s important is allowing God to do a mighty work in you so He can do a mighty work through you.
For a great resource on divorce and remarriage in the church, check out this book by David Instone-Brewer.