I met Carrie, a divorced mother of four, about six years ago in a Sunday school class I taught for women. As I began to learn about her heart for God, a deep connection formed between us that has continued to this day. Carrie has a powerful testimony for singles in that, for the past several years, she’s been “doing it God’s way” by embracing the “nos” along the way, seeing them as divine appointments for her good, not excessive restrictions. Her story shows that it’s never too late to begin a path of obedience, and that there’s sure to follow a time of reaping the benefits.
Carrie’s marriage was a disaster from the start—except for the beautiful, sweet-spirited children who resulted from it. A combination of being deceived by her husband beforehand, as well not being interested in discerning or following God’s will for her life at the time, Carrie ended up in a loveless marriage to a repeatedly unfaithful man who also dabbled in activities from the dark side. Five years into the marriage, about the same time I met her, Carried decided to hand the controls of her life over to God and ask Him to do something with the mess she’d gotten herself into. But it was not to be an easy road.
For starters, even though she had grounds for divorce, God clearly told her to stay in her marriage until further notice. She did it for the sake of obedience, but it was excruciating at times. Carrie says, “Every time I was lied to or betrayed, the first thing I wanted was to get out. I didn’t think I could take it and I felt like I deserved better. I’d ask, ‘God, why are you making me stay in this?’ But I found that when I remained open to God’s will and listened to Him, He brought peace after the storms. At some point I stopped praying, ‘God I want to leave this marriage,’ and instead began praying, ‘God work in this marriage and show me what You want.’”
Two years after I met her, Carrie experienced the beginnings of a great move of the Holy Spirit in her life when she and her husband moved far away from Wyoming (sniff) to Salem, Oregon. Shortly thereafter, her husband took a job in Iraq, coming home only for a couple brief visits a year and continuing a pattern of unabashed infidelity overseas.
Carrie learned that “Salem” means “peace,” and she believed that God had symbolically moved her to a new place of peace when he took her husband out of the home. She remained fully committed to her marriage, as instructed by the Lord, but it was in her new surroundings that she began to become aware of the many “yeses” from God that inherently go along with the “nos,” when one is in obedience.
Looking back now Carrie sees how her years of obedience, though somewhat blind at the time, were all for her benefit. God took her husband out of the home and daily life, yet he provided comfortably so she could stay home and raise their young children. After her children were in school, her husband provided for her to go to college to earn her degree. She graduated at the top of her class this past May, and now has a great job with good benefits. Carrie says, “I thought God asked me to stay in the marriage for my husband’s sake. But I look back now and realize God was really did it for me. Down to the smallest details, God took care of me and provided for me through my obedience. If I hadn’t listened to the “nos,” life would have been much harder.”
Carrie also sees how she grew spiritually through the process. “Looking back at the tough years of marriage, I learned to be less selfish and to be more of a servant to my husband, putting aside my hurt and my anger. In a me-centered world we want a quick fix when we feel wronged, God instead taught me how to patiently depend on Him to get me through it. I wouldn’t have become as close to God as I am now if I hadn’t stayed in this marriage because, when life is going good, you don’t depend on the Lord as much.”
Things began changing once again for Carrie this past spring when, through prayer and her time in the Word, she sensed God releasing her from the commitment to her marriage. This was totally unexpected because she had completely resigned herself to her marriage for life. And because she had waited for God’s timing, the whole divorce miraculously took only about a week while her husband was home on a visit, with no complications or resistance. An added answer to prayer was that even in the low economy, their house sold almost immediately and she found a house for rent just a few doors down.
It was the furthest thing from Carrie’s mind to get into another relationship. With four, children, three of them in grade school, juggling a new career, and her general distrust of men, she had no intentions of getting involved or considering remarriage. But just a few months after her divorce, and old acquaintance sent her a friend request on Facebook—a man she’d dated before meeting her husband. He had not ever married since their dating relationship, and had always maintained a fondness for her even though she’d broken it off with him all those years ago. The reason? Says Carrie, “At the time, he was too spiritual for me. I had no relationship with God in those days and he always wanted to read the Bible and pray with me.”
But today, that’s exactly the kind of person Carrie has become. The two have been steadily dating long distance since September, spending much of that time in—you guessed it—prayer and Bible study! Carrie is full of optimism thinking about the possibilities, but she’s still waiting on God’s direction and timing since everything is so new. And the best part is the joy and peace she feels.
“The biggest thing I have experienced by waiting on God is that I have no regrets,” says Carrie. “There’s disappointment in the way things turned out in my marriage, but there’s no regrets, and that means no guilt. I believe I did everything God asked me to do so I feel a total release from my past.”
As we head into 2010, Carrie’s story is a great reminder to love the nos from God, and to wait patiently to see how they are going to lead to the yeses.
This is my last post for the singles blog (Lee still has one to go next week), and I hope you have enjoyed this year together as much as we both have. Keep on being faithful and seeking your First Love. I hope we have been a joyful and encouraging part of that journey for you.
Lee Warren is a forty-something-year-old single person who lives in Nebraska. He is the author of the book Single Servings: 90 Devotions to Feed Your Soul, published by Revell. Julie Ferwerda is a forty-something married person who has had a spectrum of experiences in the single’s life after divorce. She is the author of “The Perfect Fit: Piecing Together True Love,” and has written dozens of singles articles for CBN and other publications.