Though difficulties may cloud the start of a new year for some people, Lysa TerKeurst tells Claire Brine there is always hope
‘I’D like my life to be as predictable as a maths equation where two plus two equals four,’ says Lysa TerKeurst. ‘But the reality is that life isn’t that predictable. And, as much as I want him to be, God isn’t either.’
In 2016 Lysa discovered that her husband of 25 years had been leading another life.
‘It was completely devastating. I had no idea whether our relationship could be saved or not. It was the deepest angst I’d ever faced.
‘Separating from my husband affected me in so many ways. When difficult things had happened to me in the past, I would say: “Well, at least my marriage is intact.” My relationship used to be the bedrock of my stability. But when it came under attack, I lost confidence in myself and felt disillusioned about trusting people.’
In her book It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, Lysa shares what happened after her marriage breakdown, hoping that the story will help others who are facing painful situations that they cannot understand.
She tells me: ‘I think we can all relate to the questions of: Why me? Why now? Why this? Why, God? Like a lot of people, I’ve often felt that if I do what the Bible says and follow God’s commandments, then everything should add up to provide me with blessed circumstances. But we won’t ever find perfection in this life, however much we try. So my book is for those who feel disillusioned when God’s promises seem doubtful, his timing questionable and his lack of intervention hurtful.’
A year and a half after her marriage breakdown, Lysa faced another blow when doctors told her she had breast cancer. Such ‘trauma upon trauma’ was almost too much to bear.
‘I remember driving home after receiving my diagnosis and thinking it was unbelievable,’ she says. ‘I thought that because I was going through something bad already, surely I would be protected from anything else that was harmful. But I wasn’t.
‘I wanted God to fix everything that was wrong in my life – or at least explain to me why he wouldn’t. But over time, I discovered that it wasn’t answers from God that I needed. His presence was what would help me the most.
‘I began to force myself to look at my circumstances from a different perspective. I said to myself: “Lysa, tell your story according to the faithfulness of God rather than questioning his faithfulness.” I made the decision that it would take just as much energy not to have faith as it would to have faith. So I had to learn to go to God with my pain and allow him to be my place of stability.’
Though Lysa tried to put her trust in God, life didn’t become easier for her overnight. She wondered if God cared.
‘There was no evidence convincing me that he did,’ she confesses. ‘At times I would call my friends and say: “Help me to stand on your faith, because my own faith is falling apart. Tell me something of the faithfulness of God so that I can hang on for one more second, one more minute, one more hour.”
‘Sometimes I would lie in bed with tears running down my face, saying: “Jesus, you love me, and I love you. In this moment, that’s all I have.”
‘There was no epic, miraculous moment in which God suddenly made everything OK for me again. But there were seconds when I experienced a tiny uplifting of my spirit, which told me that God was with me. And those small moments eventually became my epi miraculous moments, because I knew I was trusting in God. He brought me comfort when nothing else would. Today, my faith still gives me an assurance that in hard times, life isn’t always going to be this way.’
Towards the end of 2017, after undergoing a double mastectomy, Lysa was declared cancer-free. Throughout her illness, she and her husband also attended therapy to see if they could save their relationship. They are now back together.
‘I wasn’t sure that reconciliation with my husband was going to be possible,’ Lysa says. ‘But God taught me that I could still have redemption in my life, regardless. My idea of “victory” just had to be reframed. Finding victory over my pain depended on me and the choices I made – not another person.’
As Lysa looks ahead to a new and, she hopes, positive year, she continues to long for predictability in her life. But she knows that whatever she faces, she has found a sense of peace through trusting God.
‘Honestly, I still want my life to be like a maths equation,’ she says. ‘But I’ve made peace with the fact that things don’t always work out that way. Right now, I’ve learnt not to fear what’s ahead of me. I take on the strength that I’ve gained, and I keep walking forward with God.’
The War Cry
The War Cry
Salvationist is a weekly 24-page magazine for members and friends of The Salvation Army - with news, features, Bible studies and much more