“I knew without a doubt that God had sent him, that God had told me this was the man with whom I was to spend the rest of my life.”
By Dena Johnson
I am divorced, and it’s all to God’s glory!
Before you start throwing the stones in your hands, please hear me out.
I grew up with a firm foundation in Jesus Christ and a conservative denomination. I gave my heart and life to Christ at the age of six and vowed never to date anyone who didn’t make God his number one priority. When I felt a call to full-time ministry at the age of 10, I knew the path my life was on—and I never looked back.
As I grew, I watched in horror—with stones in my hands—as well-known Christians announced their divorces. I vowed never to listen to their music or sermons again. How could they ever break their vow and humiliate the name of Christ, especially while serving in full-time ministry?
In my last years of college, God brought a man into my life. I knew without a doubt that God had sent him, that God had told me this was the man with whom I was to spend the rest of my life. I entered my marriage with a solemn vow before God and man. Divorce was never an option in my mind
Through 15 years of marriage and three precious children, we had seen our share of ups and downs. I had devoted myself to being his helpmate, a co-minister at our church, a mother. Although our marriage was not perfect, it was good. He would counsel couples having marital problems and come home to tell me how blessed we were to have such a solid marriage.
On September 9, 2008, my life shattered when my husband was caught in an affair with a woman in our church. After my fair share of yelling, screaming and crying, my heart began to soften. I began to see this situation as an opportunity for God to be glorified, for Him to take a good marriage and make it a great marriage. I set my heart on forgiveness and reconciliation, and I prayed that God would open the doors to a new ministry.
For nearly a year, I worked and prayed. I endured untold pain and fear and hardship. I did everything within my power to keep the marriage together. In the end, I discovered that while it only takes one to walk away from a marriage, it takes two to keep it together. I could not save my marriage alone.
Now I was the object of scorn and condemnation. I was the one facing the angry mob holding the stones. I was the one who had humiliated Christ through a divorce.
I’ve asked God many times why He would tell me to marry a man who would cheat on me and not repent. I’ve reminded Him that I could have certainly found a man on my own who would do that. I’ve wondered why I should continue to walk in obedience if divorce was the blessing I received.
Although I know that God’s perfect will was for my marriage to survive, I have learned to factor in man’s free will. You see, God had a plan for my husband and I to have a great ministry, a great marriage. When my husband chose to walk in disobedience, God had a plan for reconciliation, a plan to receive the glory for a marriage repaired by the grace of God.
And, when my husband continued to walk in disobedience, God adjusted His plan once more. You see, now He wants to get the glory through my divorce.
I in no way argue that God wanted me to divorce. However, He did give me permission to divorce (Matthew 5:32). The important fact is that my response to my situation—even though it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to—can bring God glory. You see, God has taken my life and redeemed it. I went through a time of death, depression and despair when I lost my marriage. But, through God’s love and faithfulness, He has restored me to life. I have truly become a new person! My faith has grown immensely through the trials and tribulations of this life! I have a new hunger and thirst for Him that is beyond my greatest dream! He has taken the hurt and pain that I have suffered, and He is now leveraging them for His glory—as He opens doors for me to share the hope of a life renewed.
In John 11, we read the story of Jesus’ good friend Lazarus. Lazarus’ sisters sent Jesus an urgent message, telling him to come quickly.
When Jesus heard it, He said, “This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. John 11:4-6
Did you see that? When Jesus was called to heal his good friend, he didn’t rush to Lazarus’ side; instead, He stayed where He was for two more days. By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead and in the tomb for four days. Surely if Jesus had shown up in a timely manner, Lazarus would have never died!
But, Jesus said, “This is for the glory of God.”
You see, God could have shown up in my marriage. He could have prevented my divorce. He could have heard my relentless pleas. But, He allowed my husband to exert free will.
What did Jesus do when Mary, Lazarus’ sister, came to Him and fell at His feet? Jesus wept (John 11:35). He experienced the emotions of the situation, the pain of losing a dear friend.
What did my Savior do when my marriage crumbled? He wept with me. He cried over the hurt, the pain, the devastation. He cried for the lives impacted by our divorce. He cried over the broken vows.
Then, as only Jesus could do, He called for the stone over Lazarus’ tomb to be removed. His sister Martha protested. “But, Lord, his body is decaying! He stinks! We can’t do that!”
When I filed for divorce, people around me began to pick up their stones and accuse me of breaking my covenant, of humiliating the name of Christ. I walked in shame and condemnation. I had a heavy burden of guilt. I felt as if there was an overwhelming stench that surrounded me.
As the people obeyed Jesus and removed the stone from Lazarus’ grave, Jesus gave the command.
Then Jesus raised His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You heard Me. I know that You always hear Me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so they may believe You sent Me.” After He said this, He shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him and let him go.” John 11:41-44
After Jesus wept with me over the death of my dreams, He called me—the dead woman—to come forth. He proclaimed, “I am the resurrection and the life!” (John 11:25). He told me that He would resurrect my life, that He would take the death I had experienced and give me a new life. He told me that He would replace my heart of stone with one of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19). He told me that He would do something new (Isaiah 43:18-19). He told me that He would do something amazing in me so that He could do something amazing through me. He commanded me to remove the graveclothes of guilt and condemnation and to put them behind me.
As I continue to walk this path, I am amazed at the new life I have. My trials and tribulations have worked into me a new compassion for hurting people. While I certainly don’t recommend divorce, I am the first in line to offer a word of hope and encouragement to anyone walking through the pain. I no longer pick up my stones because I realize there’s always more to the story. My heart has a burning passion for purity and encouraging those whose lives have been ravaged by the storms of this life. My purpose in this life has become proclaiming the restoration that only God can bring!
It doesn’t matter what life throws at you: divorce, adultery, medical problems, financial ruin, addiction. It doesn’t matter whether the storm was heaped on you by someone else or by your own acts of disobedience. The only thing that matters is what you do with what life gives you. No matter what the situation, God can—and will—redeem it for His glory. You must simply choose to surrender to the Resurrection and the Life.
While divorce was not God’s perfect will for my life, I choose to let it be for His glory!
Thank you, Lord, for taking my life from the depths of the grave and breathing new life into me. Thank you for taking the failures of my past and using them to encourage others. Thank you for taking my divorce and using it for your glory!
About the Author: Dena Johnson is a single mom of three amazing kids. In her spare time, she is a Registered Nurse. She delights in taking the everyday experiences of life and turning them into biblical lessons for her children.