I’m finally back from a very busy period.
There’s been another “high profile divorce” as Proverbs 31 ministries Lysa TerKeurst has apparently divorced her husband with numerous commentaries (the comments are always the most interesting part of course).
It’s pretty short so I’ll quote the whole thing:
No person’s rejection of me can ever exempt me from God’s love for me.
“A Gut-Honest Look at Love.” That was the title of my first blog post of this year. Based on 1 Corinthians 13, I wrote, “Love isn’t what I have the opportunity to get from this world, love is what I have the opportunity to give.”
This perspective on love has been a lifeline during the most painful season and decision of my adult life. I so wish we were sitting face-to-face so you could see my tears and hear the deep grief in my voice as I share this with you. My husband, life partner and father of my children, Art TerKeurst, has been repeatedly unfaithful to me with a woman he met online, bringing an end to our marriage of almost 25 years. For the past couple of years, his life has sadly been defined by his affection for this other woman and substance abuse. I don’t share this to harm or embarrass him, but to help explain why I have decided to separate from him and pursue a divorce. God has now revealed to me that I have done all I can do and I must release him to the Savior.
Anyone who knows me and Proverbs 31 Ministries knows how seriously I take marriage. I’ve always encouraged women to fight for their marriages and to do everything possible to save them when they come under threat. So, for the past couple of years I have been in the hardest battle of my life trying to save my marriage.
When I first found out about Art’s infidelity 18 months ago, I made the decision not to divorce him. I had just finished fasting and praying for 28 days and really felt led by the Lord that I was to love Art in my reaction to this shocking news and trust God for every step moving forward. I was still committed to doing everything I could think of to make our story one of restoration, even in the face of the worst kind of betrayal imaginable. I prayed continually. I sought counsel from family and other wise friends. And Art and I even made repeated trips across the country together for intensive counseling especially designed for marriages in crisis. But sadly, though I have repeatedly forgiven and accepted him back, he has continued to abuse substances, be unfaithful, and refused to be truthful to me and our family.
I believe I have the capacity to love Art and to forgive him, but his steadfast refusal to end the infidelity has led me to make the hardest decision of my life. After much prayer and consultation with wise, biblically-minded people, I have decided that Art has abandoned our marriage. Yet, the Lord has been so faithful to help me at every step of this very painful journey and has now assured me I’ve done all I can do.
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.
As many of you who have followed our ministry know, I’ve never shied away from sharing how God has gotten me through tough seasons and even grown me through my struggles. Thankfully, my story has been one of learning that I’m not defined by my circumstances. I’m Lysa, a beloved child of the one true God. My true identity doesn’t shift or fall apart under life’s strains, failures, my own imperfections, setbacks or heartaches. While people—even God’s people—change, I’m so glad I serve a God who doesn’t. I love this verse in Malachi 3:6—“I the Lord do not change; therefore you, children of Jacob, are not consumed.”
So what does all of this mean for Proverbs 31 Ministries and for me? Well, for over 20 years I’ve had a calling supported by my family for equipping women to deepen their relationship with God, study His Word, and to share their stories for God’s glory. Though my heart is so heavy that I’ve certainly pondered giving up, I’m determined not to let darkness win here. Therefore, after a season of rest and continued Biblical and professional counseling, I will continue to do ministry with an even deeper belief in the goodness of our God and a greater empathy for the deep heartbreak that happens to us all in this broken world.
Many people think Proverbs 31 is a picture of a perfect woman; but the Proverbs 31 woman is, at her core, someone who seeks the Lord in everything she does and trusts Him wholeheartedly with her life. Our mission is to meet women where they are in the real, hard places we all experience, and to intersect God’s Word right there. We are simply a group of women sold out to saying yes to God—and He truly does the rest.
“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” That’s what the Psalmist wrote long ago (Psalm 27:13) and it beautifully reflects what I’m holding on to in the midst of the deep grief my children and I are now walking through. We have some amazing counselors and pastoral leaders who are committed to helping us pursue healing and learn how to move forward.
What can you do for us? I’d simply ask you to pray. Pray for my precious children and grandchildren. Pray for me. Pray for our team at Proverbs 31. And yes, please, please pray for Art.
I love you all. Most of all, I love the Lord, who first loved me.
This situation is a less clear cut case than an example such as Jenny Ericksen who frivorced her husband. There’s also numerous angles to this, so I’m going to try to hash them all out point by point.
First, I’m always perturbed that when people encounter these types of situations they almost never quote directly from the Scriptures that are relevant to their particular situation. Lysa’s post quotes from Psalms 27, 1 Corinthians 11, and Malachi 3, but doesn’t quote from actual verses that may apply to the situation such as Matthew 18, Matthew 19/Mark 10/Luke 16, 1 Corinthians 7, and 1 Peter 3.
Quotations from this passage may illuminate how the person actually feels and thinks about the situation rather than just giving their platitudes about hope and moving on.
Second, Lysa alleges that Art is clearly in the wrong here but there are a lack of clarify details about Lysa’s involvement in the matter. For example, did Lysa deny Art sex throughout the marriage and/or been too focused on her “career/ministry”, which tempted him to go outside of the marriage?
1 Corinthians 7:3 The husband must [a]fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and [b]come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
While Art is at fault for his own decisions for adultery and substance abuse, Lysa may not be without fault.
I’ve seen this termed as “victim blaming,” but it is clear from 1 Corinthians 7 that her behavior may/could have tempted him on the wrong path. This is not victim blaming, but acknowledging that both parties may be accountable for their role in the present situation.
Third, much has been written on the topic of divorce. In general, I think 1 Corinthians 7 and 1 Peter 3 apply best to this particular situation:
1 Corinthians 7:10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not [d]leave her husband 11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not [e]divorce his wife.
12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not [f]divorce her. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not [g]send her husband away. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through [h]her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called [i]us [j]to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
1 Peter 3:1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and [a]respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right [b]without being frightened by any fear.
Via 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 Lysa should not have pursued a “divorce” but instead “separation.” However, if she is still open to reconciliation that is the ideal, but she is to remain single if she does not reconcile.
It is clear by both Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5 that those who are not obedient to the teachings of the Church should be treated as unbelievers. Therefore, via 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 and 1 Peter 3:1-6 the “best” option would have been for Lysa to remain with her husband as long as he does not want a divorce and to allow the Lord to work through her righteous behavior to potentially win her husband back to God.
I personally do not fault her for choosing a divorce/separation option, but she also did not make it clear from her post that she was still open to reconciliation and will not remarry. Again, this is the part where clarifying your actions along with Scripture would have been important which would leave less open to negative interpretation.
Fourth, I find it dubious that she is going to take a season for a time, and then prepare to re-enter the ministry with Proverbs 31.
This is not simply because she is a woman leading a Christian ministry. Even if women were permitted in leadership positions in ministry, 1 Timothy 3 clearly speaks that elders and deacons must run their households well. Although she may have done all that she could in order to have a godly marriage, things out the control of a leader can disqualify them from ministry. Being above reproach is a harsh requirement, but it is necessary.
Any Church leader who divorces should also step down from ministry, even if none of it was their fault. Likewise, so too Lysa should step down as well, even if none of it was her fault.
A more compelling story of the power of God to show mercy and compassion would be for her to step down and focus her efforts on reconciliation in her marriage and not her ministry.
In conclusion, numerous points of her story are lacking in clarifying details. It is possible that she could be fully faultless, but she could also have sinned gravely against him as well.
Based on the Scriptures, separation is a viable route and divorce is not — 1 Corinthians 7: if she remains single else she reconciles. Albeit we should encourage her to choose the high road which was to stay with him and use the Lord to work through her to win him to Christ.
Finally, she should not continue her ministry for multiple reasons, and focus her efforts on reconciling with her husband. Props to her for having the willingness and attitude to reconcile with her husband for a couple years after she learned of his sin against her. As Christians, we’d like to see that attitude continue.
For the “non-judgmental” crowd:
Christians are called to judge other Christians according to the standards of the Scripture, and call them back on the right path (Matthew 7 and 18, John 7, 1 Cor 5).
At the very least, given the divorce Lysa should definitely NOT be continuing ministry according to the qualifications given in 1 Tim 3. Throwing away reconciliation to her husband to continue ministry is the exact opposite of what she should have done according the Scripture.
Update 1/2018: Credit where credit is due. Lysa is still trying to reconcile so far in accordance with the Scripture. Continuing in the ministry is still questionable.
Update 7/2018: It appears Lysa has reconciled. Props to her for following 1 Corinthians 7 to stay single or reconcile.