My parents celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary earlier this year. It hasn’t always been easy, and I remember plenty of rough times between them, particularly during my late teens and early college years. Believe me, they’re aware of what an accomplishment it is these days to have had such a long marriage, and they credit their commitment to Jesus as much as to each other.
It’s heartbreaking to see how few marriages last a long time, and Christians aren’t immune to divorce. (The stats that Christian marriages end in divorce as often as non-Christian marriages isn’t quite true, but the numbers are still staggering.) Even well-known Christian “celebrities” can fall victim to divorce, as we’ve seen recently in the case of Lysa TerKeurst.
I’ll admit that I don’t know much about Lysa TerKeurst, but she’s a prominent women’s ministry author and speaker. I see women quote her on social media all the time, and she has a major following. She has written 20 books, been featured on cable and network news programming, and trained other Christian writers.
We’re not talking about one of those folks you’ve never heard of, like the gay Christians the left-leaning media like to hold up as prominent names in the church. No, TerKeurst is a heavy hitter.
This month she published a blog post announcing that her marriage of nearly a quarter century has come to an end, due to her husband’s infidelity. She writes:
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.
TerKeurst goes on to relay her story of intensive counseling, prayer and fasting, and the final realization that she had done all she could to save her marriage. She admits that she will take a break and undergo more counseling before resuming her ministry.
My heart goes out to TerKeurst, and she and her family are certainly deserving of our prayers. But there are lessons that the contemporary church can learn from her unfortunate story.
First off, accountability is
important essential. I’m part of a trio of guys with whom I serve in ministry; we get together once a week where we can be completely open about our struggles and encourage and pray for each other. I have relationships on the church staff that operate in much the same way.
The Bible calls for accountability:
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (ESV)
I don’t know if Lysa TerKeurst’s husband, Art, was part of an accountability group or pursued friendships built on honesty and trust, but I can’t help but think if he had been, he might have been able to put the brakes on the affair before it went too far.
Second, Christian community is priceless both before and after tragedy strikes. I can only assume that the TerKeurst family was involved in a local church, and I bet that her relationships within a hometown body of Christ have served as a refuge for her as she struggled to keep her marriage afloat.
The church needs to love and support the divorced in their congregations. I’m certain that Lysa TerKeurst knows that her church — and other believing friends — has her back, and hopefully wherever Art lands, the same thing will happen for him.
At the same time, local congregations need to help build strong marriages. As Jenny Rapson writes over at For Every Mom (a site I admittedly never read), “A really great way to hurt the Kingdom of God here on earth is to take down Christian marriages.” There’s nothing our enemy wants more than to take down families and destroy souls in the process, so churches need to promote healthy families who are immersed in God’s Word and prayer. We believers — married, single, divorced, whatever — need to have each other’s backs. We need to encourage each other, hold each other accountable, and glorify God together.
I encourage you to pray for Lysa TerKeurst and her family, and I hope you’ll pray for Art TerKeurst as well. And pray for anyone you know who is fighting to make a Christian marriage work.