Only too often human love, even the love of a spouse, fails us. In the midst of divorce, one man learned that God’s love never fails. Here is Martin Wiles’s story…
Life was good—until I heard the words, “I don’t love you anymore.”
I had met Brandi* when I was 24 and had fallen head over heels in love. Within a couple of years, we were married. In the meantime, after a rebellious youth, I had also got myself back on track with God.
Growing up as a PK (preacher’s kid) riled me. After all, I was born at the beginning of several revolutions: sexual, civil rights, political. It appeared I had the rebellious gene too—although not inherited from either of my parents. They were straight-laced and obeyed the rules. Not me. When I was 14 the rebellious gene broke loose and stuck around until I was a young adult.
When God turned me back to Him, I remembered the call He had placed on my life when I was 12 years old, a call that entailed full-time preaching and full-time teaching. I had no idea how those things would work out, but I was ready to find out.
Now, to tell the new wife.
Six months after we married, I shared the news with Brandi: “I think God’s calling me into the ministry.” She seemed excited—and I was glad. I sure didn’t want to melt down a six-month-old marriage to pursue God’s will. Then came the hard part: an education I had not wanted after high school.
One and a half years after we married, we packed our things—and our ten-month-old daughter—and headed to a college eight hours away. No jobs lined up. No savings. Just a place to stay on campus, the clothes on our backs, and a few belongings. Four years later (and with one more child in tow), I graduated. Six months later, a church called me as pastor. One year later, I took a job teaching history at a local private high school. God had worked out the teaching and preaching thing after all.
Five years later, another church issued a call—one closer to our home—and we moved again. Things went well…for four years. By this time, our daughter was a senior and our son beginning high school. Old enough to care for themselves. Old enough that my wife no longer felt she was needed at home. Brandi wanted a job. The first she’d had outside the home since we’d married.
That’s when the trouble began.
Her work peers didn’t share her beliefs…or her lifestyle. Temptations poured in on her in record time and with unbelievable intensity. Whispers and questions arose at church. “Is everything okay with Brandi?” “Have you checked up on her lately?”
I knew something wasn’t right, but checking up? Didn’t that constitute distrust? “No, I haven’t,” I answered. Only to hear, “I think you need to.”
As Brandi moved up to assistant manager, her work hours lengthened. She filled in at other stores. Sometimes, she didn’t come home at all. When she did, I smelled aromas I recognized from my rebellious years. I saw things that made me suspicious. But she always had a good excuse, and I believed her. Until…
One night behind our closed bedroom door, out of earshot of our kids, she said the words I’ve never been able to dismiss completely from my mind: “I don’t love you anymore.” She didn’t want counseling. She wanted a divorce.
After one last attempt at reconciliation—reconciliation she didn’t want—I told her goodbye and said hello to three years of the darkest depression I’d ever experienced.
I had lost the person I considered the love of my life. The divorce also led to the loss of my job, as my church led me to understand that they wanted my resignation as pastor. So in addition to deep grief and loneliness, I faced great financial difficulty. If ever I had needed the Lord, I needed Him now. I read and studied my Bible more than ever . I prayed longer. I went to church more. Nights were the worse times. The verse that got me through was Psalm 4:8: “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe” (NLT).
Although few of my pastor friends reached out to me, many other friends, relatives, and family members did. God showed me His love through them, and His healing work began in my heart. The Lord also provided me with a secular job where my work peers didn’t care that I had been divorced.
I had given up on the thought of continuing in any kind of ministry until two things happened. First, I met a woman named Michelle who became my wife. Through her, God taught me to love and trust again, something I thought would never happen. Second, Michelle encouraged me to try to get back into ministry.
With her support, I sent out hundreds of resumes to churches. Most of them were ignored, but eventually one church gave me an opportunity, and, as time has passed, more have done so. I no longer depend on that for my full-time income (I teach at a Christian school), but I pastor bi-vocationally.
Eighteen years after I heard those fateful words, “I don’t love you anymore,” I have forgiven my ex-wife, established speaking terms with her, share several grandkids with her, and am doing what God originally called me to do. Proof that divorce can be survived—even though painful life changes and depression might be a part of the process.
The dark years after the divorce brought me closer to God and gave me a deeper understanding of His love, from which nothing in this world can separate us.
Martin Wiles is a pastor, teacher, author and editor. You can read more from Martin at Love Lines From God.