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Finding Strength in the Midst of Disappointment (Part 1 of 2)

Finding Strength in the Midst of Disappointment (Part 1 of 2)

Lysa TerKeurst offers hope and encouragement to listeners struggling with life's hardships in a discussion based on her new book, It's Not Supposed to be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered. (Part 1 of 2)


Lysa Terkeurst: And now, I have a completely different view of God. Now, I picture that it took every bit of holy restraint for God to not answer my prayer and take away that pain. Because God loves us too much to answer our prayers at any other time than the right time, and in any other way than the right way.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: You’ll be hearing more from Lysa Terkeurst today on Focus on the Family about how God is present in the midst of difficult and disappointing circumstances.

Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, I’m sure we all know what it feels like to be disappointed. It’s that gnawing sensation that things that were supposed to go a little differently for our lives or for that situation. But it doesn’t always turn out the way we think. And if you feel like you’re in that spot, believe me, this broadcast is going to help you. It’s for you.
When you’re in the middle of this kind of storm it’s easy to doubt that God cares about you, and we want to come alongside you with some help and healing today and bring that biblical perspective.

Right in Psalms 34:18, it’s one of my favorite life verses. It says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit.” If that’s how you’re feeling right now, please stay with us.

John: Yeah. There some real encouragement here. In fact, Jim, when we first aired this broadcast it touched a lot of people. It was God’s perfect timing for this message in their lives. And frankly, that’s our prayer again this time as we present one of our highest responded to programs from the past 12 months.

In fact, Mary contacted us and said that this broadcast spoke to her so deeply that she had listened three times because she was crying so hard. Clearly, Jim, God has used this message to touch lives.

And as we noted, Lysa TerKeurst is our guest. She’s the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, a really popular speaker and blogger, and her latest book is called, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way. Let’s go ahead and listen in.

Jim: Lysa, welcome back to Focus. It’s great to see you.

Lysa: Thank you. It’s an honor to be with you guys.

Jim: Let’s move this direction. You wrote this book from a very messy place over the last few years. It’s very vulnerable, which I applaud. It’s so hard for us in Christian life and in Christian leadership, particularly, to be vulnerable. But you’ve done it. Why – I guess is the question – did you feel it would be important to write about this season of your life so openly? What compelled you to move that direction?

Lysa: Well, I think one of the reasons is certainly that the Lord just really strongly led my heart that way. But another reason is, when I was drowning in my own sorrow, I really didn’t feel like I had anyone to go to that could really understand my circumstance. And that was really hard, because I’ve always been a person of deep connections and deep relationships. But I was in a very unique situation. Not unique in what was happening in my marriage, but unique in the fact that I didn’t know exactly how to handle being the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, being a mom of three adult kids that were getting married that year, five kids total. But three of my kids were getting married in 2016, when everything was unraveling.

And, I just didn’t know how to navigate everything.

Jim: Yeah.

Lysa: And it was very hard, and I felt very, very alone. And, one promise I’ve always made to myself is when I’ve gone through something hard, or something that seemed like, “Wow, this could be so much better if I just had a few other people who had been there, done that, who could help me along.” I’ve always promised myself I would help those people coming behind me. I did that with writing books. And to this day, I hold conferences, and I have lots of material out there to help people who are interested in being in ministry, speaking and writing. So, it fits my natural ministry flow. I love helping people come behind me. I just never thought this would be one of the ways I would help people…

Jim: Right. And we’re going to move into that. But let me take a higher 40,000-foot view of disappointment in the human condition and what we walk through. It can be a number of different things, and we’ll get to your specific story. And it’s not just one thing that you ended up dealing with. There were several things. And, over the next couple of days, we want to unfold that for the listener because you’re going to connect with so many people who are suffering through different things.

But let’s speak about disappointment. And I was thinking about this reading the book and looking at the material. You know, it really starts at about 2 years old in the checkout line. I can remember my two boys, at different times, having a fit over not getting what they wanted. That’s the human condition, this disappointment. Why do we set up expectations the way we do as older, maybe mature, Christians? And we still don’t learn how to manage disappointment. Why is that? Why don’t we have a more mature attitude about things going differently from our expectations?

Lysa: Well, because I think we all set our expectations. And then, we have an experience. And the experience doesn’t live up to the expectation. And so, the natural feeling that emerges is disappointment. Where this gets complicated is, I think, often in Christian circles, we’re told, you know, when you’re a Christian, don’t be disappointed. Like, pray another Bible verse or, you know, put a little joy on it…

Jim: Always stay on the mountaintop.

Lysa: Yeah. Consider it pure joy, you know? And so, oftentimes, we’re told not to feel disappointment. And so, we just kind of push it aside and push it down and put a happy bumper sticker on it and keep on trucking down the road. But the problem is that disappointment is the exact gateway where I think the enemy loves to come in and start to really create an opportunity for temptation for people.

Jim: Huh.

Lysa: Because the human heart does not take kindly to feeling constant disappointment. At some point, we’re either going to numb that pain, or we’re going to have to deal with the pain. If we never understand how to deal with the pain, we’ll never understand how to heal the pain.

Jim: Right. And there’s a lot there in terms of justifying your actions that lead you down a really bad path. Lysa, let’s get into the specific pain that you have gone through. Your husband came to you a few years ago and said what?

Lysa: I wish that the story would’ve been that my husband came to me and admitted what was happening. But, that’s not what happened. I discovered it. And I immediately felt like my world was imploding in a way that I never, ever, ever thought that it would. I never thought this would be my story.

So, basically, I found out that he’d been having some struggles with some addictions. I found out that first. And then felt like maybe that explained away some of the behavior that I was discerning wasn’t right. I have a very discerning spirit. The problem is that just because you have discernment, discernment doesn’t give you details.

Jim: Right.

Lysa: And so, that’s where a lot of people live. If they’re in close community with someone, and they’re feeling like something isn’t right. They’re discerning something is right, but they can’t figure out the details. And that is a really difficult place to live. So, that’s where I lived for a long time.

Jim: Suspicion.

Lysa: Yeah. Suspicion, but not wanting to be suspicious.

Jim: Yeah.

Lysa: So, then it goes from feeling suspicious to feeling, like, “Well, I’m the crazy one,” you know? Because, you can only go to someone so many times and say, “Hey, I’m just not feeling right about this, or this, or this.” And, you know, if you’re discerning something’s not right, but then you’re told everything is right, it starts to mess with your head and really make you feel like you’re the crazy one. So, there was about a year where I felt like I am seriously crazy. And I was trying to do everything I could to go before the Lord and really ask the Lord to help me fix wherever I was off, emotionally and spiritually.

Jim: It’s not unusual. And often, you know, here, as we’ve talked to various guests, women have an incredible aptitude to look at themselves first. I mean, it’s a God-given thing. I think men, we struggle with that, because our egos might be in the way. But women will often say, “OK, what have I done? Where have I blown it? Am I wrong?” I can imagine all the questions running through your head. Of course, this is Art, your husband, involved in an affair.

Lysa: Um-hm.

Jim: And, I mean, you had to be swirling about what that means. So, how did your, you know, kind of your concerns come to light? What did take place, if he didn’t come and talk to you? What happened that confirmed those concerns?

Lysa: Well, it was kind of a slow unfolding. It’s like, you know, I found one thing, and then I found another thing. And all the while – this is the other thing that gets really complicated in this – as a Christian wife it’s very complicated when you wanna be so deeply respectful of your husband. And so, that was a hard line for me to cross, even going to him to confront, or to even say harsh things to him, or to try to bring this to light. It was just a complicated thing, all the way around.

And so, it was a slow unfolding. But finally, I went to him and I said, “I know something’s going on.” And I had a little bit of proof, and I gave it to him. And finally, at that point, he said, “Yes,” that what I suspected was true. He was having an affair.

Jim: Yeah.

Lysa: And I was spinning. I don’t even know. It’s like I couldn’t even gather up my thoughts. I felt like my thoughts spun out of my head in a million different directions. And, nobody teaches you how to handle that moment.

Jim: Let me ask you this. And I – again, I so appreciate your openness and vulnerability. And in many ways, you’ve written the book. It’s out there. Of course, being the founder of Proverbs 31, you know, this is hard stuff. So, right there, I just appreciate your heart.

The fact is many couples suffer through something like this. I mean, this is a betrayal of trust, et cetera. Describe that feeling of where you’re at when it was confirmed, when Art either nodded yes or somehow confirmed that suspicion. What went through your heart? I mean, that – that betrayal. I can only imagine. So, what was that like, and what were your words like afterward? And…

Lysa: Well, it was the worst moment of my entire life. I’ve been hurt a lot (laughter) in my life, but nothing like that.

Jim: It’s the deepest.

Lysa: It is. It’s the deepest shock and pain that you could ever experience. And I always had this script in my mind. You know, oftentimes girlfriends will even joke with each other – “Oh, if I ever found out my husband was doing that, here’s exactly what I would say. Here’s exactly what I would do.”

Jim: Yeah.

Lysa: I had a script in my mind, you know, of what I would say and what I would do. But the Lord was so gracious to me. And, you know, when the Lord encourages us to pursue Him, it’s in a daily way. And so, the Lord really does want us to spend time with Him every day. And I think, sometimes it’s – we think it’s because it’s part of the good Christian checklist to do.

Jim: Yeah, sure.

Lysa: But the reality is the Lord sees what’s coming, and He is so compassionate that He wants to fully prepare us. Now, sometimes we don’t slow down enough for His preparation. But boy, our life would be a lot better if we did.

I’m so thankful that in January of 2016, before I found out what was happening, I did a fast. It was supposed to be a 21-day fast. And I was praying. But on day 21, I said, “Well, Lord, I really haven’t gotten a revelation, but this has been a really sweet time of connecting with you, with more intentionality every day throughout my day. And so, now I’m gonna go to the movies and have popcorn.” And I’m just really excited about my popcorn at the movies, you know? And the Lord said, “No, seven more days, Lysa. And I want you to pray only about your marriage for seven more days.” And I was so confused. So, on day 28, I – I went before the Lord. And I said, “OK, Lord, now it’s day 28.” And, – so this isn’t an audible voice that I’m hearing, but it’s this deep impression.

Jim: Yeah.

Lysa: I know when the Lord’s speaking to me. And on day 28, the Lord said something. And I have clung to this. The Lord said to me, “I’m about to reveal exactly what’s happening. But you have to make me two promises on this day to prepare you for that day. And the two promises is, number one, you’ll trust my timing, because the timing will not make sense to you. And number two, that you will absolutely commit to Me that you will love your husband.” And I said, “Well, of course, Lord. I’ll love my husband.” Like, and I – so – and there was about – between that time and when I found out, it was about two and a half weeks. And, during that two and a half weeks, I thought of a million different things that it could be. But this was not – the way that the story unfolded was never part of what I thought. But the minute that Art finally admitted to me what was going on, I remembered that moment two and a half weeks ago where the Lord had already prepared me to not react out of my flesh. My flesh would have said a lot of crazy things in that moment and probably been justified in (chuckled) doing so. But I remember what the Lord said. And so, my first words to my husband in that moment is, “This isn’t who you are. This isn’t who you are. I know who you are…”

Jim: How did he respond to that?

Lysa: “…And this isn’t who you are.” He was shocked, because he also had a script in – in his mind of all the crazy things I would do and say, if I ever found out. And, the script of, this isn’t who you are, it stopped him in his tracks.

Jim: Kind of derailed his plan, or his thoughts.

Lysa: It did.

Jim: You know, Lysa, I’m thinking as you’re describing this – and, you know, with that emotion that you had a moment ago, and the Lord’s speaking to your heart, which is so beautiful. And then His analogies of Him being the bridegroom, and the church being His bride, and Him communicating to your heart about continuing to love your husband through this. It’s coming from His own experience as our Lord and Savior.

Lysa: Um-hm.

Jim: This is the way we are. We betray. We’re disloyal because of our sin nature. That has to be in some way such a beautiful connection, for you to say, “OK, Lord, this must be” – when you had tears in your eyes, think of the Lord’s pain about His betrayal. Think of the Lord’s pain about our betrayal toward Him in our walk with Him when we do things that we know displeases Him, whatever that may be. It can be light. It can be heavy. And that connection you must have had…

Lysa: I’ve gone…

Jim: …feeling His heart.

Lysa: Oh, yeah. I’ve gone to Mark, chapter 14 more times than what I can even tell you. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve gone to Mark, chapter 14. But it’s when Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane and He is praying to the Father, asking God to change the story.

Jim: Right. Let this cup pass from me.

Lysa: Let this cup pass from me. And, what’s interesting is just before He withdraws from the disciples, He tells the disciples, “Stay here and keep watch.” And I always thought that was stay here and watch for the detachment of soldiers that I know is coming, so that you don’t get caught off guard, so I don’t get caught off guard. But then it occurred to me Jesus already knew. He could see. He’s omnipresent, so He could see the soldiers coming. He wasn’t gonna get caught off guard. So, I wonder if maybe that sentence has a little bit of a double meaning. Like stay here and watch because the soldiers are coming. But even more importantly, stay here and watch me, how I go through this moment of my deepest hurt and sorrow. Of my deepest fear.

And then the scripture, right after that – when Jesus says, “Stay here and keep watch,” right after that it says, “Going just a little farther” – just a little farther, so the disciples could still see Him. And that’s when He says, you know, to the Lord, “Take this cup from me. Let’s change the plan. I don’t want this to be my story.” And boy, have I said that so many times.

But I love the way that He ends that time with the Lord, nine earth-shaking, hell-shattering, demon-quaking words – “Yet, not what I will, but what you will.” And, that to me has been the prayer that I have often gone before the Lord, because, Jim, as I sit here today, I don’t want this to be my story. I don’t.

Jim: Right. Yeah.

Lysa: I woke up this morning, knowing I was coming to do this interview, and I thought, I don’t want this to be the subject matter.

Jim: Yeah.

Lysa: This wasn’t – it really wasn’t supposed to be this way. But I know – I know that God has a good plan in the midst of it. Even if I can’t see the good or feel the good as I’m walking to it and through it, I know. So, I’ve had to pray that prayer. Yet, Lord, here’s all my suggestions, here’s all my angst of fighting against this reality, yet not what I will, but what You will.

Jim: Yeah.

Lysa: And that moment that Jesus had in the garden of Gethsemane has been so profound for me.

Jim: You have felt it.

Lysa: Yes.

Jim: I mean, that deep betrayal. And, Lysa, there are other aspects to the story that we’re going to continue to unfold. It just wasn’t this story that occurred in your life. Yet, at the end of the program here, to kind of help people with this particular issue of infidelity – it’s not just husbands that have affairs.

Lysa: That’s right.

Jim: Women have affairs, too, and we get that. But – but speak to that person that may be fearful, where you were prior to Art’s discussion with you and how that unfolded, but they have concern. Speak to that issue of fear. This is the one area where the Lord says you have a card that will allow you out of this relationship – adultery. It’s biblical to divorce for those grounds. Yet, He still says, “I hate divorce.”

Lysa: Mm-hm.

Jim: Reconcile that in the last few minutes here, for the couple that either is now going through it – both of ’em know what had happened. Or the spouse who is suspicious something might be going on. What is that way to handle this in a way that does honor the Lord, which I think you and Art are doing. Um, it’s the tough stuff of trying to mend this back together. But speak to the listener who is going, “Lysa, I feel that. I am with you. I know what you’re talking about.”

Lysa: Well, first of all, I want to be very careful to say not every suspicion that you have is going to come to fruition in the same way it did with my story. However, every discernment that you’re having that something’s not right needs to be attended to. And, it may be that you’re having discernment because something has not yet happened. Or maybe you’re having discernment because it’s like that check engine light. It’s time to go to a counselor and just get some help. Or it’s time to get in a small group at your church or get more intentional about bonding together as a couple. So, not every suspicion comes to fruition in the way it did with my story. But every suspicion is like a check engine light coming on that something needs to be attended to.

So, I just want to say that for the wife or the husband that has discovered that there is something profoundly wrong in the relationship, whether it’s an affair, or an addiction, or any time your spouse is keeping secrets from you. And there’s – there’s other betrayal besides just, you know, physical infidelity. But when a betrayal has occurred, you’ve got to get other people involved. You can’t just the two of you sweep this under the rug and pretend like, well, we’ll just keep marching and hope that everything gets OK eventually, because it’s gotta be attended to.

Jim: Yeah. Lysa, before we leave today – and, hopefully, we can pick this up tomorrow and continue the discussion. In the midst of watching your 25-year marriage crumble, and what you and Art were facing in this moment, you experienced some physical pain in your family. You ended up in ER, which unfolds the second chapter of your valley journey. Just tell us what took place there. And then, we’ll pick it up next time.

Lysa: Well, my counselor kept saying, “Lysa, we’ve got to find ways for you to process this healthy.” So, those two friends helped connect me with a counselor that I started to go see. And, the counselor kept saying, “Lysa, you’ve got to get the pain and the anxiety – you’ve got to get it out. You’ve got to process it, because your body will keep the score.” And my body did. Just about six months into this, my colon – the right side of my colon ripped away from the abdominal wall. It wrapped around the other side of my colon. It cut off the blood flow and…

Jim: Kind of twisted.

Lysa: It twisted. And the blood flow was completely cut off inside of me. And, I kept crying out to God to please take away the pain. But, God did something even more miraculous than that.

Jim: Uh… And it just keeps going. And, Lysa, we’re going to do that. We’re going to speak to these issues. So, for the person that, you know, maybe this is the greatest knife that could go through your heart, of course, with infidelity. It wasn’t the only thing. And, I want to ask you right from the get-go – how do you not become discouraged toward God? Those disappointments that we set the program up with in the beginning get deeper. It’s like a swimming pool that just – you’re at the bottom of the pool. And the pool’s getting deeper and deeper and deeper. And I – you can’t breathe, spiritually…

Lysa: That’s right. Well…

Jim: …physically, any other way.

Lysa: That’s right. Well, let me clearly state I have gotten discouraged with God, you know? And so – but I think one thing that has helped me so much is to not just run away from God and shut off God. I’ve had to recognize there is my physical reality. There’s what I see right now. But, at the same time, there’s what God is doing. And there’s always two layers to our story. And if we run away from God, we’ll never even catch glimpses of the better story that God is writing, despite the physical reality of what we’re seeing. And so, I’m thankful that I continue to press into the Lord, so that I can even see glimpses enough to know that there’s what I see, and at the same time, there’s what our good God is still doing.

Jim: Lysa, this has been heavy. And, as we come to the end of the program today, we need some hope for folks to hang on to. What verse really has sustained you?

Lysa: Well, I’m gonna give you a couple of verses. But I’ll just read a few portions of it. It’s Hebrews 2:14 through 18 and Hebrews 3:1. In Hebrews 2:14 through 18, we are reminded that Jesus was made in humanity. He’s full divinity, but He completely shared in our humanity. He was made fully human in every way in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God and that He might make atone for the sins of the people. So, He knows what it feels like to be human. But listen to Hebrews 3:1 – and this is our hope – “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus.” You’re gonna be so tempted to let your thoughts go in a million different directions. You’re going to try to want to figure out exactly what to do today and what tomorrow will look like, and how is God gonna redeem this story, and is God even going to redeem this story? Is this person gonna get fixed? Am I gonna get fixed? Are my kids gonna be OK? There are a million thoughts you’re gonna be tempted to think. But, here’s my very best advice. Fix your thoughts on Jesus. Park your thoughts on the hope and the healing that is always present with Him. Fix your thoughts on Him. He knows what you’re going through. He sees you, and He loves you.

John: Well, what a very candid conversation we’ve had with Lysa TerKeurst today on Focus on the Family as she underscored how hard life can be sometimes, but also how much God can step in and how much we need the Savior. And I hope that you’ve been encouraged by what you’ve today.

Jim: That’s so true, John. For someone in a hard situation – maybe a marital issue, or a health problem – it can seem impossible to get through it, but the Lord can bring healing. And in fact, not long after we recorded with Lysa, I’m happy to say that she and Art renewed their wedding vows, so praise God for that!

If you need help from our counseling department, please give us a call and ask to schedule a free consultation. You will not shock us or surprise, so don’t worry about that. We’ve been at it for over 40 years, and we know most of those stories.

God may be allowing disappointment in your life for a reason, but that doesn’t mean it’s wasted. Like Romans 8:28 says, He works all things for good to those who love Him and are called by His name.

He can teach you and redeem your circumstances that you’re suffering with. So, allow us to come alongside you and encourage you.

John: And certainly, one way we can do that is by sending a copy of Lisa’s book. It’s called, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way. We’d also recommend a CD, or you can get the free download of this broadcast. Either way, just call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459, or visit

And please remember that Focus on the Family is listener supported. We’ll encourage you to become a monthly sustainer. Make a pledge, and every month contribute to the work here. Or make a one-time gift of any amount.
Either way we’ll send a copy of Lysa’s book to you as a way of saying thank you for joining the support team.

Jim: And John, let me add as we close, you’ve probably heard of our Hope Restored marriage intensive program to help keep couples together, to keep them from divorcing, frankly.

And we have several locations around the country now. And God is doing amazing things through Hope Restored. Two years after going through the program, four out of five couples, 80%, are still together and doing better in their marriage, so ask about that when you call.

John: And in fact, if that’s something that you need in your marriage, if you’re feeling things aren’t going to work out, call us, and let us tell you more about Hope Restored.

The number again is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Well, thanks so much for joining us today for Focus on the Family. On behalf of Jim Daly, I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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