I wrestled with God over the decision. I asked the guys about it, and they challenged me with the idea that I could make an impact on God's kingdom without leaving to take this new job, but I couldn't have much of an impact on my family from across the country. I spent time with God in his Word, and he confirmed this understanding.
The decision became clear. My hope was not in a job, even a "dream job." At the same time, my hope was not in my marriage, family, or finances (as good as those things may be). My hope was in God alone. If I put him first, he will take care of everything else. I said "no" to the job and "yes" to fighting for my wife and family. God would have to supply for our financial needs and provide ministry opportunities.
Over many months, God worked in a way that only he can. The process itself was very slow, but my wife began moving back toward me, and eventually she moved back home. Heidi and I extended forgiveness and grace to one another, and we reconciled. Our marriage was restored. And my men's group gathered to celebrate the great news.
As our men's group continued to grow, I felt led to start a new men's group so even more men could experience the community of a life-changing group. Leaving the group in the hands of two of the core men, two of us left to start a new group. Shockingly, God began to fill our new group with men who were struggling with their marriages. One man had recently gone through a divorce that he asked for but now deeply regretted. Another had a marriage on the rocks due to his gambling problems. Through group meetings, late-night texts and phone calls, and many hours just hanging out together, I could see God working in these men's lives. God was using our painful experiences to draw us together and to himself. As we worked through our marriage struggles, God changed our lives and the lives of others. One group member actually reached out to a friend whose marriage was in trouble. The friend came to our group and experienced God's overflowing grace for the first time.
What I Learned from the Pain
God gets our attention through the painful circumstances in our lives. But when we trust God and depend on his church, we can see amazing life change in ourselves and others. As God's partners in the process of transformation, we need to do three costly things:
1. We must be humble. Pride often gets in the way of God's work in and through our lives. Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned in the midst of my pain was humility. I had to acknowledge that I was powerless over the situation. For me, humility led to surrender, especially over all those things I would have been inclined to try to control. God's presence, power, and purposes had to become sufficient for me—and they were.
2. We must be authentic. When we're honest about our pain and sin, God can use it. This not only leads to change in us, but also allows God to use our struggles to reach someone else. God used my circumstances because I chose not to hide what was going on in my life. I had to admit my shortcomings. I had to come clean and then trust that my friends would still accept me—and they did.