Integrity through divorce, is that possible?

As I blog on the topic of divorce, I understand that this topic will take several posts.  Please bear with me as I begin to answer a very tough question.  A question that is asked often and a question that stares us in the face because of the harsh reality of living in a fallen world.

“Do you ever advise a friend to walk away from a marriage, even as a Christian?”

To look at this question through the lens of right and wrong or justified and unjustified will not give the clarity that is desperately needed. As I have thought through and prayed about this question, I have remembered the devastating circumstances of godly individuals faced with the harsh reality of a dying marriage.  I am not too far removed from my own divorce that has left deep scars on my soul.

When is it time and when is it appropriate to advise a friend to walk away?  I do not think there is a single time or one event that will be the sign to advise someone to walk away from a marriage. There is usually a culmination of experiences, choices, and circumstances that lead to the very question I am answering.  As believers, we are to take marriage seriously.  Marriage is THE EXAMPLE to the world of the Gospel. It is a beautiful display of Jesus and the church, the bride and groom.  However, when it is a marriage of two people claiming to be followers of Jesus and the marriage is being destroyed by one’s sinful choices and hardness of heart, it is devastating.

Another question to be asked is “what is happening in my friend’s marriage that is leading me to think divorce is the only option left?”  Sometimes it is easy to be caught up in the particulars of a situation and we do not look at the real heart of the matter.  I can only use my own divorce as an example of what I mean. It is a preferred situation when the answer is black and white in scripture.  However, there are circumstances that are not so cut and dry. I found myself in the latter category. It was this reason that I leaned heavily on the principles of God’s Word and one of the particular scriptures that became my heart’s cry is found in Job.  (you are probably thinking, “Of course the scripture was in Job!”  After all, Job went through terrible life-altering events)

Let me be weighed on honest scales,
That God may know my integrity.  Job 31:6

I want to explain this verse so that you can apply the godly wisdom to unwanted circumstances. The word “weighed” means to weigh out. When we weigh something we know exactly what we are dealing with. Weighing something gives accuracy.  In this verse, Job is asking the he be weighed.  If you and I are to be weighed then we have to put everything, all of ourselves in a position of being completely known. For me, it was two years of marital counseling and 4 years of personally entrusting myself to the godly wisdom of a counselor. I deliberately put myself in a place to be weighed – completely known.

For Job, he didn’t want to be weighed on just any scale, he desired to be weighed on honest scales.  Some versions of scripture use the word “accurate”. I found the meaning of this word, honest or accurate, to drive my prayer life and reveal the motives of my heart. The word means, justice; righteous.  The scales of righteousness are not easy to step on and be weighed.  This type scale reveals MY heart not my marriage.  To be weighed on this scale one will not reveal the other person. The only person revealed is the one being weighed by honesty.  Honesty, according to God’s standards.Choosing to stand on these scales challenges our lifestyle and our choices.

We have a tendency to think that if the Bible does not directly address our circumstances then we are stuck and have no direction.  However, I believe the books of Job and Esther are perfect examples of circumstances that are not black and white and God proves His faithfulness to the individual that continually seeks the heart of God. I wrote the following in my book Identity Crisis: Moving From Crisis to Credibility,

 If integrity is one side of the coin then Psalm 26:2 is the other side. The American Standard Version says: “Examine me, O Jehovah, and prove me; Try my heart and my mind.” If we surrender to God’s scales and he weighs us then we must be at peace with how he chooses to examine our heart and mind. To be all right with one and try to manipulate the other is hypocritical. You can’t have it your way and his way. You may have already entered into this area of your crisis. You may be living out the portion of these lyrics to the song “Restored (The Grindstone Song)” by Cheri Keaggy: “I’ve been living against the grindstone, where nothing is sure but the Lord.” It is more crucial now than ever to understand and trust the Lord. There is purpose to your pain. There is reason for your heart being examined and your mind being tried.

Just think, God can KNOW your integrity and my integrity.  This word, “know” means to find out and discern; clearly understand; to know by experience. There is so much solace in knowing that in crazy circumstances God knows what you are experiencing and He clearly understands what our heart cannot. When we encourage others to step onto the only scale that can vouch for integrity, we begin to walk a journey with that person that is acknowledging their difficult circumstances and seeking to understand. This comes through a variety of ways and one of the best ways is to support your friend to seek godly, wise counsel. Entrusting oneself to this part of the process is crucial. It is in the knowing that the fog clears and clarity is given. Becoming aware of the ugly truth and then admitting the truth can be painful.

Integrity in this context means innocent.  Is it possible to come through great devastation and the Lord see you as innocent? Yes.  However, arriving at this takes a lot of time and letting that time be God’s timing. It also requires submission to a process of godly counseling. It demands you be completely transparent with a few safe people. There is a process of being weighed.  As you are faced with how to direct your friend, please begin on the only scales that will safely deliver his/her heart and soul to a life of integrity.

“Our God is a consuming fire A burning holy flame, with glory and freedom Our God is the only righteous judge, Ruling over us with kindness and wisdom We will keep our eyes on you So we can set our hearts on you Lord, we will set our hearts on you!”

There are times that divorce is no option.  Let the process not be dictated so much by the details of the situation, although that can not be completely ignored, but allow for a process that is guided by a life of integrity.

**Please leave a comment; let’s have THIS dialogue.

(I have written in more detail in my book. It is available

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Divorce: Balancing Truth with Grace

I was asked the following questions: “Without “bashing” the other parent, how do you answer those hard questions that children ask during/after a divorce?” and “How do you break the news to your kids that divorce is imminent?” I can identify with both of these women’s concerns. When someone is seeking the Lord with all of their heart in the midst of circumstances that they have no control one of the best options is to walk through that fire balancing truth with grace. It is one of the most beautiful gifts you can give to your children in the midst of such an ugly situation.

When you seek truth and you walk in the truth and you speak truth then you will not be “bashing” the other parent. Children only ask what they want to know. However, they do need to be given direct and truthful answers. What we are called to do is to show grace.  The hard truth will need to be spoken. It is in truth that the way is made for overwhelming grace to wash over us and begin to heal us. If we sugarcoat the truth to make ourselves comfortable and to avoid the difficult conversations then we shortchange the power of grace.

How do you know know if you are “bashing” or speaking truth? What is your motive behind why you are giving the information you are giving? It is not your responsibility to prove the pain that exists in the hearts of those under your roof. They know the pain because they feel the pain. Nor is it your obligation to prove your own pain to your children as a way to win their devotion to you. You can and must walk them through the brokenness with validation of their pain and their own experiences.

The more direct you can be when breaking the news of the divorce to your children is best.  Direct does not mean there will not be emotion.  What it does mean is you are setting a standard within your own home to not ignore the elephant in the room. You are willing and available to be fully present for the tough stuff. That conversation will be very difficult, but the focus is their pain. Depending on the ages of the children the conversations will be different and the emotional responses will vary.

Ultimately, you will need to take care of your soul and guard your heart.  No one is able to balance truth with grace unless you walk in the truth of God’s Word and allow the loving-kindness of the all knowing God to bring into the light what has been hidden in the dark. To lead your children with openness and honesty, you must first and foremost be open and honest with others that are godly and trustworthy.

As you walk in truth and experience grace, your children will begin to have the confidence to do what they see you living. In the darkest times and the ugly circumstances the greatest gift you can give your children is truth and grace. The truth of the reality you all are living and the grace to allow their emotions and the pain of their heart to be validated. Then the great opportunity is to walk with joy knowing that His grace is sufficient and He has you all in His grip. Allowing for every tear to fall understanding the Lord sees each of you and your pain is not invisible. Leading your children with understanding that only God can give purpose to the pain. Give them truth. Give them grace. Give them purpose.

A winner will be chosen from the comment section below for the next giveaway!

all things through Christ

For years, Philippians 4:13 has been the one verse that has been universal in my life.  When I was asked recently what my favorite bible verse is, this immediately came to mind.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

I can’t think of one life circumstance or any situation that this verse cannot give wisdom and direction.  However, it is important that I keep this verse in context.  So often, we are tempted to use God’s Word like a fortune cookie. This is not a good luck charm. Why did Paul write this short but ever powerful sentence? Philippians 4:13 is the wrapping paper on the gift of contentment.

 “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

For years I did not understand the context that Paul wrote Philippians 4:13.  I have to admit I did use it as a motivator, my personal good luck charm. Then life was slammed by a crisis called divorce and single motherhood and I really wondered if I could do all things through Christ and if He would strengthen my very weak and wounded soul. As the days turned into months and the months into year 1 and so on; I did learn that I could do whatever the “all things” were for that day and His strength is perfect.  I did not experience Philippians 4:13 fully until I understood and began to “learn that whatever state I am, to be content”.

The verse that I discovered in my early teens became my most challenging truth. We like the motivational feel of Paul’s words but dare we really experience the depth of these words with the blood, sweat and tears of really being content in WHATEVER state we find ourselves. Can we really live everyday, “in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need”. If we only choose to quote Philippians 4:13 as a way to pump ourselves up for selfish gain and personal motivations then we cheapen the truth and we miss the perfection of His strength and the sufficiency of His grace.

We cannot have one without the other.  When I choose to be content in whatever state I am in then I fully experience that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I did find contentment in abandonment and rejection.  I did find contentment in my singleness and parenting alone. I learned that when one chooses contentment, Jesus is there. When Jesus is your resting place,you stop wanting and you begin to be satisfied in Him – the one who sustains you and the one who keeps you.

It is only THROUGH CHRIST that we can do whatever our “all things” are.  However it is only in choosing contentment in those “all things” that we experience a strength that cannot let go.

Order your copy of Joy’s new book Identity Crisis: Moving From Crisis to Credibility at

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A Quiet Heart

Of course, being quiet is the most difficult thing to put into action when your world has fallen apart. Maybe this is why we read that Nehemiah took a ride in the dark to see the damage of Jerusalem. Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem and I imagine he was flooded with many different emotions. He had arrived safely and with no problem because of the letter from the king (Nehemiah 2:9). He had also had his first hint that not everyone was particularly thrilled that the people of Jerusalem were being cared for. In light of his journey, a time of quiet was compelling. Maybe he needed to be quiet because he could not separate himself from the damage. Maybe he realized he didn’t need (at least in the beginning) people talking to him all at once. In Nehemiah 2 he was with a few men and knew what he was supposed to do. The first few hours, days and weeks into your crisis are so significant. It is imperative that you
have the quiet times,the time to take in the damage,the time to cry when no one else sees our tears, the time to begin to have some hope and see the possibility of a life restored. It is not time that will heal your wounds. However, you need time.

You need to have time alone. You need to allow yourself to feel the weight of all that you have lost and experienced. So many times we like having busy schedules, noise, entertainment, chattering people, and any kind of distraction that will guarantee we are never left alone with our thoughts. If you are already giving into that tempting offer then you are robbing yourself of perspective and seeds of hope that can be planted during the times of loneliness and grief. Communion with El Roi, the God Who Sees (Gen.16:13), will give you strength to rebuild. Make time for the quiet reflection and the quiet realization that all is different but not all is lost. Emerge out of those quiet times with a deeper gratitude to the One who will direct your steps.

You do not have to tell everyone everything. You do not owe everyone an explanation. You do not have to give all the details of how your crisis has changed your life. Simply choose to be aware of what all has been devastated and while knowing, be quiet. After all, neither you nor I want to leave a legacy that begins with “Then it happened” and ends with “She or he never got over it.”

My prayer is to encourage you to do something with the crisis that God has allowed to enter your life. Take it all in. Stop hiding behind covered eyes. Look at the damage and call it by name. Maybe it is death, cancer, miscarriage, a stillborn child, chronic illness, addiction, divorce, or financial ruin; whatever it is, don’t run from it. Face it.

Nehemiah took a ride in the dark and realized that the descriptions “distress” and “reproach” was the only name fit for the damage he saw (Neh. 1:3, 2:17). That may have been what he called the city’s condition but it was not the people’s identity. Whatever name fits your crisis, it is a name only. The crisis does not define you! The ability to name something by calling the crisis what it truly is gives you the sense of knowing where you are. Nehemiah knew he was at the place of Distress and Reproach. He also knew he wanted to arrive at Restored and Renewed. Maybe your place is “grief and loneliness” or “sad and confused” or “shock and fear” or “tried and failed” or “hopeless and weary.” Whatever your crisis is, there’s a name that describes it perfectly.

Be encouraged and rest in Him.

(this is an excerpt from Joy’s book, Identity Crisis: Moving From Crisis to Credibility. you can pre-order your copy today at

Labeled and No Good

My first vivid memory of broken things is from when I was four years old. I was taking a casserole dish back to our neighbor. She had been so kind and brought dinner over when my younger brother was born. The last words my father said to me as I scooted out the door were, “Don’t drop it.” I made it across the yard and as I turned around her car, I heard a loud crash. There at my feet was the casserole dish in a billion pieces. A billion pieces is an exaggeration. However, to a four-year-old child it might as well have been a billion pieces! So I did what any problem-solving child would do. I ran home, crying, and hid under my bed. My father somehow convinced me not only to come out from underneath my hiding place but to also go with him to tell the neighbor about her broken dish. I have no memory of the exact conversation but I do remember her chatting calmly with my dad and sweeping up the glass.

Where are you hiding? What do you hide behind? Why are you afraid? I have known about a certain woman for most of my life. Recently, I have wondered what it would be like to have known her personally. Part of me can relate to a piece of her life story. Specifically, this woman’s sense of separation and belief that everyone else’s crisis was more important than her own. Jesus’ disciples Matthew, Mark, and Luke introduce us to this woman. We do not know her name but we are told about her problem. Her problem was chronic. Her problem left her feeling hopeless and isolated. Luke introduces her this way, “And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, who had spent all her living upon physicians, and could not be healed of any” (Luke 8:43, ESV). We find this woman’s story tucked quietly inside this passage of Scripture where Jesus had calmed a raging storm that terrified his disciples, cast out demons that had tormented a man for years, and was heading to the house of Jarius, whose daughter was dying. While this woman may have broken all protocol that day and joined the crowd, she was desperate. She may have come thinking Jesus was her last hope. I wonder at what point she knew He was her only hope.

Have you thought that your crisis was not as important or as dramatic as others’? I have thought about this woman through the years and wondered if she almost talked herself out of going to see Jesus. I don’t know what gave her the courage she needed that day to make her way through the crowds of people. Had she heard that he had calmed the raging storm? Had she overheard others talking about the demon-possessed man who was now in his right mind? As she made her way through the crowd did she overhear Jarius’ plea for Jesus to come very quickly to his house and heal his dying daughter? Was she afraid that someone would realize she was amongst the crowd and make her leave at once? Perhaps she had family and friends who encouraged her to go see Jesus because, if he could heal the sick, then just maybe he might be able to heal her. Her crisis labeled her unclean. That is what a crisis does: it labels.

Divorce is my label. Maybe drug abuser is your label. The alcoholic label you wish you could rid yourself of remains because others have a hard time letting it go. Maybe you think that others see your silent label of the child abuse you suffered and you live with shame. You may be desperately wanting to tell the truth behind your label of anger and depression but are fearful of others knowing about the abortion you had. Too many labels to list and too much pain carried by the individuals who wear them…but all desire to be made whole. This woman’s label was a problem not only for her, but also for others. If she touched anyone else, that person was made unclean for an amount of time. For her to make her way through a crowd was not easy or accepted. Furthermore, this woman was broke. Luke tells us that she had spent all she had on doctors. No one could help her. A crisis will have you looking for help at any cost. A crisis will label your life whether you want it to or not. On this particular day the woman had Nehemiah’s brand of courage when he risked his life going before the king with a sad countenance. (Neh 2)

This woman went to Jesus, risking condemnation from those she might contaminate. Maybe she thought she could make her way through the crowd unseen and quietly leave after touching the hem of his garment. Everything she thought could happen did not happen and everything she hoped to happen did happen. I wonder if she ever thought that she would have Jesus’ undivided attention. Yet that is exactly what had to happen! No one can enter into the presence of the King of Kings and be made whole without having his undivided attention.

(this is an excerpt from Joy’s book, Identity Crisis)

you can pre-order Identity Crisis: Moving From Crisis to Credibility at Amazon.