Heartbreaking Joy

It is with great joy that I serve alongside several other volunteers in The Crossing’s divorce-recovery ministry, to help bring hope and healing – God willing – to those whose marriages are shipwrecked. But it wasn’t always that way. Initially, my own desires to self-protect threatened to keep me from unlocking some of God’s greatest blessings in my life.

Make no mistake, it is heartbreaking and emotionally draining to sit with another woman and hear her story, how the hope she had for a lifetime – living life beside the man she loved – has been destroyed.

Somehow, in God’s economy, both of those ideas are equally valid. It can be very draining to enlist oneself in the service of others, and yet at the same time some of the deepest, most joy-filled moments in life occur within the context of serving others. I’m still trying to figure that one out!

DivorceCare has just started up at The Crossing once again, and it really is my great joy to be a part of our church offering this class, and it’s also heartbreaking. I have to regularly remind myself that God allowed me the freedom to make my own choices, and many of those choices brought a lot of pain and heartbreak to my life and to the lives of others that I love. I’ve helped shipwreck a marriage, and then followed that up with a lot of poor decisions in the pursuit of happiness. My happiness.

Remarried now for the past nine years, my husband and I were talking just last night about how we didn’t initially feel “called” to separation and divorce ministry so much as we wanted to be obedient to our pastor’s request to consider helping The Crossing offer some kind of support to people going through the kind of pain we’ve lived through. Neither of us were all that thrilled about the idea of sharing our messiness with a room full of people we’d just met.

But we swallowed our pride and dove in anyway.

I remember feeling woefully inadequate to the task of leading that first group. I was wildly uncomfortable the first time I shared with a room full of people some of the selfish decisions and foolish mistakes I made in my pursuit of happiness outside of my first marriage. It was hard to take the story of my life – the one I’d helped create, but God had sovereignly overseen – and bring it out into the light for others to see.

But that was all I had to offer in my desire to be obedient – my past mistakes. Neither Warren nor I “did divorce” well, nor were we wise in the way we lived out our lives as single parents prior to meeting each other. Our only qualification for volunteering in divorce ministry is that we had survived and we were willing (well, somewhat willing) to share our stories of survival with others, in hopes that somehow, our efforts would glorify Christ.

It didn’t take long, though, for God to give us a heart for the hurting people in that first class, five years ago.

As people began to share their stories, each one touched a familiar chord with one or, often, both of us. God took our historic experiences of pain and stupidity, and He exposed us to here-and-now pain. Through obedience and His prodding, a passion to help people survive one of life’s deepest rejections, deepest betrayals, was born.

Nowadays, I really can’t imagine stopping. I can’t imagine not helping other people learn to trust God through times of deep darkness.

And I know others who are willing to use their stories to help others in similar circumstances. Women who are or were single moms who now have a heart for coming alongside other women struggling to raise their children alone. Men who have experienced the terror of imprisonment who now want incarcerated men to know there is hope outside of those bars. Women who have chosen abortion who now have a passion for helping others not make that same horrific mistake.

As you look back on your life, what difficult experiences have you lived through that might be used by God to help others? Maybe it’s embarrassing, or painful – or both. I wonder if you would you consider using the story God has given you to serve others? To maybe even save others?

We all have a story, and no detail is irrelevant or unimportant. God can use you and your experiences to His glory, if you’re willing. Perhaps, like me, you don’t feel particularly called to highlight your pain for the benefit of others. But I wonder, would you consider it anyway? For those willing to consider it, check out the various care ministries already in operation at The Crossing. If you don’t find someplace to plug in right away, spend some time in prayer and simply ask God which portions of your life He might use for the benefit and comfort of others.

There’s a world of people out there who are hurting. They need people who have lived through heartbreak of one kind or another, and who are now willing to come alongside them in theirs. Yes, it costs us something to serve. Yes, it’s messy and tiring and sometimes it’s even heartbreaking. But it’s also a joy. A heartbreaking joy. It’s how God uses us, in our broken and weak state, that brings Him glory. Trust me, if you wait until you feel “strong” and “confident,” you run a great risk of missing His call altogether.

Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

1 Corinthians 1:27-29
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

2 Corinthians 4:7-10
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

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