By: Ashley Simmons
My life as a Pastor’s Wife was pretty close to perfect. My husband loved me. My kids loved people and loved the ministry. I was surrounded by love. God called us to pastor a church in a coastal community that was a hot spot for vacationers. Paradise, if you will. There were times I felt life was too good to be true. I had never walked through a heartbreaking season. I just felt it was God’s favor and blessing. Because I had done my best to follow God, it wasn’t necessary to endure trial. I would look at others with compassion and thank God I didn’t have to walk through their trials. I would soon learn, this is not how our Savior works. The Bible says when you face trials of many kinds, stand firm. Not if, but when. Trials produces things a peachy life cannot.
As we pressed on feeling accomplished, something changed year seven. As the church grew and the pressures added, an empty feeling came over my husband. His passion for people seemed to be dampened and what was once natural became a struggle. Doubts entered that had never presented themselves before. The enemy began whispering in his ear. At some point he gave into it and believed it. Was he really called? Is this what God wanted for his life? Maybe he heard wrong. Maybe he was overcompensating to turn out differently than the person he was at 18. The first lie began with a doubt of calling. The door had been opened. His heart was injured and a foothold had been set in place. Next, the strategic lie could manifest physically and eventually go in for the kill.
As lies where swarming his mind, God was preparing me. I saw. I questioned. I was in immense inner turmoil. As I moved through the next months, an inner struggle began that I had never felt before. It was definitely a fight. It was an emotional fight but more than that a spiritual one. The enemy had waged war against my marriage and my church. As I sat praying one morning the word of warning came to me. “The enemy is going to try and destroy the church and will do it through your marriage.” I had no idea what would come next. Surely this was a bump in the road. All marriages have rough patches, right? After battling through several months of, “Is this the Holy Spirit or is this the enemy tormenting me”, the truth would be revealed. Those words had come out of my mouth every day for 5 months, “reveal Your truth”. And this He did.
One summer evening the truth would come out as I looked at a simple text.
My perfect, complete life would crumble before my very eyes. I would have to endure the gut punch that he had been unfaithful. She was my friend, ministry partner and mentor to my children. The amount of loss seems unbearable when I look back now. How does a person survive this heartache? How can you go on when betrayal is at every turn and those you held most dear have hurt you most? I would learn the answer to this.
As I watched our life blow away in the wind like ash, I did all I knew to do. I clung to Jesus. I hung on His every word. God is so faithful. Every morning I would run to my chair where I would open up God’s word. Whether it be a devotional book or the bible, I felt it always speaking such specific things to me. When you seek, you find. This is true. I would find answers to keep me stable even if it was only until the next day. It was in these moments that I would find instruction and comfort. Instruction like, “forgive and you will be forgiven”, “you have been shown compassion so that you can show others the same”. I was being given words of ammunition to fight through and win. The more time passed, the more healed we both became. Not only did I have to live with the betrayal, my husband would also have to live with it. “What was I thinking?” swirled through his mind constantly. Sin so easily entangles. He would have to live with the fact that we were people blessed by God. We had been entrusted with a church that was uncommon and he allowed the enemy to take it. It was a mess.
After the season of survival the facts set in. We lost almost everything. It was like losing your job, income, identity, respect and honor all in the same blow. What now? God’s call is irrevocable. If you are called by God, you are called. No situation changes that. Over the months and years ahead I would sit back and watch the goodness of God. Our lives had been made a mess. There was no way of fixing it. That’s what the rational mind may think. The husband I had seen as the most godly man I knew had been broken and was being rebuilt. What God restores is restored to a better state than before. The good always seemed to outweigh the bad. We had become more spiritually mature than ever before. My children had a front row seat to watch what God could do with mom and dad.
We began a ministry in late 2013 called For Love For Life. We longed to be dealers of hope for marriages. We saw God take something really, really messed up and make it beautiful. How could we keep this to ourselves? As we traveled and spoke every weekend, many couples came forward and shared a similar story. It amazed me that the enemies tactics do not really change. So many feel ashamed and alone, like they are the only ones who have walked this path. Some choose to keep their story private and move on but my husband and I decided that would be impossible. We would lay our lives out in hopes that others could see that with God, all things are possible.
God turned our ashes into beauty. On our hope tour with For Love For Life a pastor we deeply respected and loved asked us to come be a part of what God was doing. He knew our story but never spoke of it. It didn’t tarnish what he knew God could do through broken people who had been restored. There is no doubt, God set this up. Today we both serve on staff at a wonderful church on the outskirts of Memphis, TN called Life Fellowship. Our life is beautiful. Not only did God change circumstances but He changed hearts. That’s the most important thing anyway.
He cares more about our hearts than our happiness.
I’ve found that when our hearts are pure and longing for Him, fulfillment is on the way too. Our case was hopeless and too far gone. Good thing we serve a God with no limitations who gives life, hope and restoration!
What’s your mess? Mercy awaits. It’s time to move on.