Last Sunday I sat and listened to one of my favorite couples give an amazing presentation on godly marriage. Probably the best I’ve seen. And I’ve seen dozens, if not hundreds, so that’s saying a lot. As is typically the case when a Christian couple gives a testimony, the husband attributed his decision to serve God to his wife’s prayers. She was going to church but he wasn’t interested. After a few years of fighting about it she stopped fighting and started praying. One day he felt God tell him he needs to go to church too. So he did and today they’ve been married over 15 years, have three beautiful children, and are staff pastors at their church.
It’s a wonderful testimony about the goodness of God and honestly it’s a story I’ve heard a million times. God is definitely in the marriage saving business. And I celebrate God for it every time. But I can’t help but wonder what is the message to those whose prayers didn’t result in a lengthy marriage, kids, and ministry. Take me for example. I served God with my whole heart as a single woman with no children for fifteen years before I married an amazing guy. And I was still serving God less than two years later when my husband filed for and got a divorce from that marriage. I didn’t even get a kid out of the deal!
I know my marriage was God’s plan for me. Absolutely everything about it was heaven sent. It wasn’t long, however, before the heaven sent didn’t feel so heavenly anymore. But if you know me, you know I’m not a fair weather Christian and I’ve been on the prayer team almost my entire walk with God so praying is what I do. So of course when my husband started saying things that sounded like my marriage wouldn’t make it I started to pray. And when I say I prayed, I mean I PRAYED! I prayed, I confessed, I declared…you name it, I took authority over it. I even had my most trusted prayer warriors to pray with me. There was no shortage of prayers for us collectively and individually.
Nevertheless, I still found myself sitting in a courtroom listening to a judge legally dissolve my marriage. Now I’ve talked about that whole process so I won’t belabor the point here, but let me make it extremely clear: There was no sin, no retreat, no surrender. I trusted God for my marriage and the man I married up to the moment the gavel dropped.
So as I sat there listening to the husband of one of my favorite couples encourage women to pray for their husbands because God will save him (as I’ve heard many times since my divorce) I have to admit I cringed a little. And then I looked around the room and spotted a few more ladies I know personally who have prayed prayers for their husbands/marriages and still wound up in divorce court. Or women who have been living with the father of their children for years, started coming to church and began to trust God that the man would marry her, only to find herself a single mom juggling visitation schedules and child support payments. My point? You can pray all you want-do everything “right”- and still have it all seem to fall apart.
But did it though? Fall apart? Or did it fall into place. God is not a God of happenstance. Everything has a purpose. And while we like to hear stories of “happily ever after”, the only real happily ever after is eternity with God. Everything else, and I do mean EVERYTHING else is the result of His sovereignty.
So why don’t we celebrate that? Why don’t we celebrate the freedom from the bonds of a relationship that did not serve God’s purpose for our lives. I tell people all the time: my prayers may not have saved my marriage, but they absolutely saved me. And the truth is, my husband and I probably would have reconciled if he didn’t pass away just two years after the divorce was final. I believe that because I know the God I serve. I know He knows me well enough to know that I would not have been able to move on until HE ended my marriage. Because no man, not even a judge, can destroy my marriage when God brought it together. So my husband‘ s death is what ended our marriage in my mind, but I still can’t help but wonder why my prayers didn’t stop the divorce altogether.
Nevertheless, I have no doubts about the God I serve. I know that He is a good God no matter whose life you look at. The God who let me sit in divorce court is the same God that changes hearts resulting in amazing marriages, families, and ministries. The Holy Spirit inside of the wife whose husband changes after she prays is the same Holy Spirit inside me. The oft heard phrase “God is good all the time, all the time God is good” is not just a clever phrase. It really is true.
Don’t get me wrong, I love married people. And I love celebrating marriage and the restorative power of God to save marriages over and over again. But the absence of a long marriage doesn’t negate the presence or power of God in one’s life. Suffering, trials, etc., these are the tools God uses to perfect us for eternity. That’s the happily ever after. God’s goal is to spend eternity with you, not give you a happy marriage. In fact, I dare say God is not concerned with you being “happy” at all. If He were you would have no struggles. Nothing in God’s plan is for show. It all serves a purpose. It is in His sovereignty that He decides what circumstances will get you where He needs you to be. I just wish churches would celebrate God’s sovereignty as much as it celebrates His grace. Because both are blessings.
God is a good God when he transforms the heart of a spouse and He is just as good when He liberates one of His children from the bonds of a relationship that does not serve His purpose. Let me be clear on one thing though, God has to do the liberating. If you gave up on your marriage and walked away because it wasn’t serving YOUR purpose, that is not the same thing. But there are so many stories just like mine where spouses would have never walked away. And not all are women praying for husbands. Many husbands have prayed for wives as well. We have prayed, and believed, and trusted. But God had another plan. Yes a PLAN. Nothing happens to God’s children by chance.
So if you find yourself sitting in a church service listening to someone give a testimony about how their prayers changed their husband, or saved their job, or found their house while your prayers haven’t, don’t cringe. Instead, remember that the glory of God is found in His sovereignty as much as His grace and He is indeed good…all the time!