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Should All Divorced People Be Excluded from Ministry?

  • Jen Grice
Should All Divorced People Be Excluded from Ministry?

I sat in a Wednesday night women’s Bible study, tears in my eyes, wondering what God was doing with my life. I started the class while they were reading through one of Lysa TerKeurst’s books that I just could not relate to at this point in my life. I had just received divorce papers stating that I could lose primary custody of the child that I had been home with since before his birth. My entire identity had been wife and mother for well over a decade. During that time, I was proud that this is what I’d be known for in life. I silently cried while the other woman talked about arguing with their husbands about folding the laundry or how they were angry about driving kids to sports practices five nights a week. My world was crumbling; I didn’t care about the laundry or much else. My kids weren’t even seeing their dad at all. He would come home very late at night and leave for work before we were even up – just enough time to sleep and shower. And even before he filed for divorce, he was never around on the weekends to argue about anything. I found out later that he was wining and dining someone else on those late nights and weekends away.

Several months later, while we were finalizing the divorce, the Wednesday night church ladies started a new Bible study. It was about God’s divine destiny, even for those who experienced much pain and sorrow in their lives. God’s timing was perfect as I started to accept that my marriage was over and maybe God had something better for my life. I would now be a divorced woman and single mom. I needed to embrace that fact. Through this Bible study I heard from God that my unwanted divorce would be used for a purpose and that my pain would help minister to others. My new identity would be “daughter” and “woman of ministry” instead of just divorced, forsaken, and discarded. And I would go on to save many lives, if I were willing to surrender to His plans.

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An Encounter with Jesus

Another broken woman encountered Jesus a long time ago, and I’m grateful for her story.

Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’ He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.She said to Jesus, ‘You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?’ Jesus replied, ‘If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.’” – John 4:7-10 NLT

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"Even though her shameful sins had been clearly seen by the Messiah, He completely loved her and used her anyway."

This woman had many husbands. Some say she may have been “divorced,” yet her testimony brought about many believers that day. After her encounter with Jesus, she ran back to town sharing the story of her encounter with Jesus. Even though her shameful sins had been clearly seen by the Messiah, He completely loved her and used her anyway. Her exuberance for her new found faith was contagious. I’m sure Jesus knew it would be. Her shameful life as “divorced” was transformed into ministry – sharing the Good News about Jesus.

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The Ministry of the Transformed

Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, ‘He told me everything I ever did!’” – John 4:39 NLT

Can you imagine the dialog between her and other women in the village after that day? Woman who lived in shame for being abandoned and not taken care of, were now believers and knew God’s love. Even men became followers of Jesus because she wasn’t afraid to share how Jesus touched and transformed her life – like He did for many other in his three short years of ministry.

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What Jesus Never Said

He didn’t stop the woman at the well from spreading the Good News, or her story. He didn’t say to her, “Whoa! Wait a minute! Your sin, your singleness, and the fact that you’re a woman exclude you from ministering to others. Share this with just the shameful ‘divorced’ or single women but not to anyone else.” That may sound absurd, but don’t we say this and other such things? We put disqualifications on certain people, especially those facing an unwanted divorce, when Jesus never would.

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"What others had planned to use to destroy me, God intended to use to accomplish good and save many lives."

Jesus met the Samaritan woman right where she was. The Wednesday night Bible Study about divine destiny met me right where I was – in my devastation, shame, and worthlessness. I had to pick up the pieces of my heart and accept the path that led to divorce. I now accept that is was part of my story – my story that I need to share to live out my purpose of ministry. That’s not to say that I ran to town that day and started sharing immediately.

As I state on my blog, “I was still processing through my grief, trying to help my children, so I was lost on what to do.”

I decided it was best to put this ministry purpose aside for a year or so while allowing God to heal me, prepare me, and show me how He would use me to advance His Kingdom. What others had planned to use to destroy me, God intended to use to accomplish good and save many lives (Genesis 50:20).

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When the Redeemed Can Share Their Stories

Whether you believe the divorce rate is 25% or 50%, the fact is many Christian marriages are ending in divorce, even with people who are already in ministry positions. I’m sure we all can think of pastors who suffered through an agonizing divorce, yet still went on to do God’s work. Charles Stanley in 2000 and Paula White in 2007 are the first names that come to my mind. And I’m thankful that they’re still sharing their stories and lives in profound ways to this day. What a shame it would be if they were told they could never share their story, God’s redemption, or minister to others.

Too many people read this one verse in the Bible, “God hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16), and sentence a person to life without loving companionship ever again. He or she is punished for marrying an abusive and/or adulterous spouse or an addict who refuses to commit him or herself to continued healing. I don’t believe Jesus would say, “That horrible marriage is your cross to bare!” But when we use the “God hates divorce” line, it condemns people rather than healing them.

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"God can and will use anything bad that happens in our lives..."

God can and will use anything bad that happens in our lives to heal our own hearts, and the hearts of others as well. Cancer survivors encourage and empower other cancer survivors and their families. Mothers who lost a child can relate to and comfort other mothers who’ve lost a child. Recovering drug addicts, those who escape sex trafficking, prostitution, or the pornography industry can minister to those who need to fight their way to a safe and healthy life. But they can also share their inspiring, painful story with all of us.

I believe God cares so much for us that He wants us to live a thriving life. He uses those who’ve been through the troubles we’re facing to get us through our troubles and back to a thriving life. Anyone who has experienced trauma can help someone through their trauma. We bring with us a level of compassion that only someone who has been there can share.

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"...free to struggle while staying encouraged..."

Although I haven’t experienced every specific trial, the pain I have experienced helps me minister to others – no matter what pain their experiencing. It makes me believe that those who’ve experienced great pain and sorrow are better equipped to share God’s healing power and love for His children than someone who’s never experienced hardships in life.

When someone in ministry speaks about their greatest trial in life, I feel that he or she understands my current trial, even if they’re not exactly the same. And I feel less judged for not having it all together after listening to their stories of hard times and the hurt that comes along with it. I’m free to struggle while staying encouraged that things will get better.

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"We need to allow divorced people to minister to others..."

Life is hard! We need more divorced people in ministry to minister to the large percentage of people who are now divorced in the Church. While those who have never experienced divorce can certainly minister to those who have, we need more people who really understand what it’s like to walk through divorce as a Christian. We need to allow divorced people to minister to others, helping them recover and telling them to let God heal their hearts before seeking to marry someone else.

Sharing a painful divorce story doesn’t encourage other people to seek divorce. I would dare to say, it actually does the opposite. No one wants to encounter the destruction of divorce, especially after hearing a divorced person’s testimony. But those who were forced to take this journey can now empathetically walk with others down the road of divorce and recovery.

Not all divorced people should be excluded from ministry.

Jen Grice is a Christian Divorce Mentor and Empowerment Coach, author of the book, You Can Survive Divorce: Hope, Healing, and Encouragement for Your Journey, a speaker, and a single homeschooling mom. She writes full-time at JenGrice.com and empowers women to survive and heal after their unwanted divorce on her YouTube channel as well. Jen believes that through God's healing, grace, and redemption that all Christian women can survive... and even thrive, after divorce. Navigating this foreign territory we call divorce? Feeling alone? Start here!

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