Photo by Chanan Greenblatt on Unsplash

As an evangelist, you may love what you do…and be very good at it. But life can throw you some curve balls. Opposition, financial woes, poor health, broken relationships, and more can make you feel like giving up. What do you do when chaos happens? Maybe my story can encourage you.

1996 was a terrible year for me. During a two-week period, my wife of twenty years divorced me, my employer of twenty-five years showed me the door, and I had a cancer scare.

Life seemed to be swirling out of control.

During those dark days, my mentor, Bob Prall, offered some wise counsel: “Remember, Romans 8:28 hasn’t been repealed yet.”

  • “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Bob was right. God has been very gracious with my married life since then. My outreach for Christ has greatly multiplied, and my health is good. What happened?

Where do I begin…?

Some context.

In 1975, I married a wonderful woman. She was kind, sensitive, beautiful, loving, intelligent, fun, talented…my best friend. We traveled the globe together speaking in universities, on television and radio, writing books and articles about love, sex, and marriage.

When she left, I felt as if I were being reamed out by an emotional Roto-Rooter. I cried buckets.

She and I were international speakers with a prominent evangelical movement with thousands of terrific staff. Her divorce action caused quite a stir.

Hit the road, Jack…

Though initially expressing sympathy for me, corporate leaders claimed their policy required that divorcees terminate. I was told I was a public relations risk. At one point they wanted me to agree never to speak or write about marriage, divorce, or remarriage (mine or the themes in general). Things got “curiouser and curiouser.”

This movement has done much good around the globe. It helped me come to faith when I was a student. Please understand that I am seeking here the proper blend of grace and truth, not an easy task in these matters.

I communicated my story to ministry partners and friends, always seeking to place my ex-wife in a positive light, though conveying that I disagreed with her decision to divorce me. Most people were extremely supportive. Luis Palau’s warm abrazo at the National Prayer Breakfast spoke volumes. He and others encouraged me to keep spreading the Gospel.

Faith and good friends helped me process what I was experiencing and feeling. A skilled counselor, a caring divorce recovery group, sympathetic employers, wise pastors, plus God’s Word and the Holy Spirit all contributed to my therapy.

On the road again…

After a time of healing, friends advised me to return to speaking, saying my story of how God sustained me through personal and professional crises could benefit others.

To my surprise, transparency about my suffering opened new emotional pipelines to people’s hearts. Folks with relationship struggles, job conflict, illness, and more seemed thirsty for the message that Jesus could help with their hurts.

Christian leaders began inviting me to speak, write, and broadcast about related topics: Divorce and You; Starting Over: Facing the future after significant loss; Coping with Loneliness at Christmas. God was using my hurt to advance the Gospel.

It took about ten years for my emotions to catch up with my intellectual appreciation of Romans 8:28. I now affirm wholeheartedly that if the extreme disappointment I endured in 1996 could help other people find Jesus, it was worth it.

Romance, forgiveness, and change

In 2000, I married a lovely partner. Cancer took her in 2016. In 2018, I married a delightful, longtime friend. We’re very happy together. God – by His grace – keeps me reaching people for Jesus. I long ago forgave my former employer and have been pleased to see them now allow divorcees to remain on staff in some cases.

So, when your life or career is imploding, know that God is still in charge and can use your tragedy for His glory and your good.

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Rusty Wright is an author, syndicated columnist, and lecturer who has spoken on six continents to university students, professors, executives, diplomats, military leaders, and professional athletes. Over 2,000 websites, newspapers, and magazines have used his outreach resources in any of 14 languages. Holding Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively, he's appeared on secular TV and radio talk shows worldwide and trains professionals in effective communication. www.RustyWright.com
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