Healing after Divorce: Beauty From Ashes
by Laurie Beyer
Beauty radiates from every part of Kay Arthur’s being. One would think that life has been especially good to her. But out of a life of ashes, God has brought Kay to understand what it truly means to reflect her redemption.
Born in 1933, Kay was brought up in a home that honored God. Her family moved frequently, and in each new community they would look first for a church home and then find a house to live in. She had a brother and sister and parents who loved and respected each other. She believed, “Of course I’m a Christian. I live in the United States, and I go to church.” She came to realize later in life that what she knew then was a religion, not a relationship.
Because Kay admired her parent’s marriage, she longed for the day she would marry too. After graduating from nursing school, Kay married the man she thought would be the fulfillment of all her dreams. She was warned that things might not be as they appeared, but pride became her guide. Frank Thomas Goetz, Jr. (Tom) was an outstanding athlete and an engineer. He gave her a huge diamond ring, and their engagement announcement on the front page of the society page gave her instant status. He most certainly was her Prince Charming.
Kay and Tom were blessed with two precious sons, but her marriage was far from perfect. Battling with depression, he was unable to find stability in a career. As much as Tom had going for himself, Kay could not understand why he struggled. She wanted to enjoy life, even if it meant doing so on her own. Taking up modeling, she remembers, “I had a mink, I had money, and I was miserable.”
Kay admits that she did not love her husband unconditionally. Neither had she tried to understand him. She wanted to be happy. She wanted her needs satisfied. Only later did Kay really realize that wasn’t what love was about. Seeking the guidance of their minister, they were advised to divorce. Regretfully, Kay recalls that the Word of God was never even opened in that counseling session. After just six years, their marriage came to an end.
She remembers once being warned, “Sin will take you farther than you ever intended to go, it will cost you more than you ever expected to pay, and it will keep you longer than you ever intended to stay.” This became true of Kay’s life for the next few years as she began seeking comfort in other men, at one point having a two-year relationship with a married man. Going from one man to the next, she was always looking for someone, anyone who would unconditionally love her.
Then, suddenly, one day she became aware of the emptiness in the life she was leading. “I realized that someday I would stand before a holy God, and He would say, ‘Depart from Me!’” At first she decided she would try to be good, but the good she wanted to do she couldn’t do. “The evil that I didn’t want to do, I did. I thought, ‘If I could just erase my past. If I could just have a new start.’”
At a party one evening in 1963, a friend said to Kay, “Why don’t you quit telling God what you want and tell Him that Jesus Christ is all you need?” The next morning, Kay stood before God and said, “God, I don’t care what you do to me. I don’t care if I never see another man as long as I live. I don’t care if you paralyze me from the neck down. I don’t care what you do to my two boys.” Those were the worst things she could conceive of having happen to her. “God, if you’ll just give me peace!” God at that moment gave Kay Arthur the Prince of Peace, His Son, Jesus Christ. He called her “Beloved” when she knew there was nothing lovely about her. “I went down on my knees a harlot, and I got up a saint.”
Kay had discovered after their marriage ended that Tom was manic depressive. Acknowledging that the counsel they received to divorce was not Biblical, Kay sensed God leading her to attempt to restore their marriage. Tragically, though, at about the same time she realized this, Tom committed suicide. As she looked back on the mistakes she had made in their marriage, Kay understood what it meant to have a sin bearer. “He paid for all my sins, past, present, and future.” God revealed Himself in a very real way as her comfort and guide.
Kay began to read God’s Word with fresh vision and realized, “I didn’t know this book was so good!” Experiencing the goodness of God and His Word is what brought the dramatic transformation in Kay’s life. Today, Kay is known as one of the leading Bible teachers around the world. She shares her life story because she truly believes that “all things work together for good.” As she has learned to trust God as her loving, heavenly Father, Kay has experienced the unconditional love she always desired. After giving her life to Christ, Kay went on to study the Bible at Tennessee Temple where she met her husband of almost 36 years, Jack Arthur.
Kay and Jack have three grown sons and nine grandchildren. Together they founded Precept Ministries International in 1970. It is a ministry dedicated to “teaching people to study God’s Word for themselves and applying its truths to their daily lives,” using the inductive study method. Through her worldwide teaching, the many resources available through Precept Ministries, and the more than 100 books and Bible studies she has written, especially on the subject of embracing life’s disappointments, Kay has ministered to the hearts and minds of millions.
We at Just Between Us were richly blessed recently to have Kay share with us from her heart. We’re grateful to be able to share that conversation with you.
JBU: You have what many people consider to be a unique love for God’s Word. How did this love evolve?
Kay: Before I was a believer, I would read the Bible and found it boring. When I became a child of God at the age of 29, I opened the Bible and it became a brand new book. I have been in the Word ever since. In those early days I also began reading biographies of great Christian men and women. One of the things that I observed was the primacy of God’s Word in their lives. They would meet with God daily and search His Word for what He had to say to them.
When my husband and I were on the mission field we had the privilege of leading many teenagers to the Lord. As I searched for Bible study materials to use in teaching them, I only found the fill-in-the-blank variety. That format bored me to death! Someone encouraged me to just take a book of the Bible and start teaching it. With the help of a wonderful old book, Independent Bible Study by Irving Jensen, I did just that and learned through the inductive-study method about the treasures found in God’s Word.
JBU: How did your passion for knowing God’s Word grow into such a burden for teaching others?
Kay: I knew that what was filling me was exactly what others were looking for as well. What brings us fullness of joy shouldn’t be hidden! You see, what happens when we begin to really desire to know God is that a veil comes off of the Word, because the Spirit of God, who gives the mind and heart of God is inside us. He creates the hunger and thirst for righteousness and takes the things of God and reveals them to us. We become like sponges.
It didn’t take long in my Christian walk for me to realize that a knowledge of God is absolutely fundamental to the Christian life. His Word is the bread by which we live and the foundation on which we build. And now, of course, my passion and burden is to help other people to get into the Word of God in the most effective way possible.
JBU: Why do you believe the inductive Bible study method works so well?
Kay: Because it brings you directly to the Word of God, apart from the interpretation of the text by someone else. Everything we do in our ministry is geared toward one thing: Not to have you think like we think, or to believe what we believe, but to show you how you can know truth for yourself.
In our culture, we can get our theology from a variety of sources: from preachers to novels. Certainly God has ordained preachers and commentaries, as well as many teachers on television and radio. But how will I know if their theology is right? I will only know if I learn to observe God’s Word and discern truth for myself.
Once I know what God’s Word says and what it means, I can put its truths into practice, being equipped for every circumstance of life. The ultimate goal of personal Bible study should always be a transformed life and a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.
JBU: Many people assume your ministry is primarily to women, although, in fact, you have been working with teens since the beginning. What makes your ministry so universal?
Kay: Ironically, outside of the U.S. most people see our ministry focus as being to men, so I guess that covers everyone! The reason, I believe, is that the message is universal, and it’s one that is universally desired by those who hunger for the truth. Why else would I have 900 women in the Atlanta Bible study I led committed to a 32- week study of Romans and willing to do hours of homework each week? And what about the teens at our boot camp programs, who after five to six hours of daily Bible teaching, hang around after class just wanting more?
My burden is for every person to be able to stand on his or her own two feet spiritually. They can’t do that without knowing the Word of God. Everything that our ministry does is focused on that goal. Our motto is to reach everybody, everywhere, any time, any place, any language, any age, with one message, the Bible, and one method, inductive. So everything we do is to accomplish the goal of establishing people in God’s Word.
When we see people who are exemplary followers of Jesus Christ, studying the Bible inductively, viewing the world Biblically, and serving the church faithfully in the power of the Holy Spirit, that’s the wonderful finished product!
JBU: Speaking of your message being universal, can you share a story about the overseas work of Precept Ministries?
Kay: We have excellent staff serving around the world, and I love being a part of their work. Recently, I was in Germany teaching and learning with people from 21 different countries. We spent six hours each day studying the subject of covenant throughout the Bible. There they were, bishops of churches and men and women in church leadership, people from a variety of denominations and church experiences. Outside of this setting they might not even associate with each other, but here they were all sitting together, discovering together the truths in God’s Word. We are so non-denominational in America, and for the most part willing to accept differences, but in many other parts of the world it takes something like studying the Word of God to bring these people together!
JBU: What do you believe is the general attitude toward God in America right now?
Kay: I believe that the American culture is in a state of moral anarchy because the church ignores the Word of God. At one time we accepted God’s Word as absolute truth, but now we live as if we doubt it. We are not proclaiming it in its power. Now we have a nation of hurting people and psychology has come to the fore as the answer, when the Word of God is really the answer. It has to be! Otherwise, what did all of those past millennium do without psychology?
We also don’t believe that our youth want to be serious about God. When I minister to youth I wouldn’t dare say, “Let’s have a cheer for Jesus!” Our tendency is to believe they only want to be entertained. People don’t realize how hungry kids are and that you’ve got to give them meat. We have so missed the holiness of God, and we’ve lost the fear of God. And, we don’t know the Word of God, and that’s why we’re in the mess that we are in!
JBU: You referred to people who are hurting. Why do so many Christians struggle with experiencing joy in their relationship with God?
Kay: I believe that one reason is because they don’t understand the purpose of trials in their lives. They are unable to embrace trials. We are so egocentric in our Christianity and want everything in our lives to be perfect as we perceive perfect. The Bible says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” In everything we are to give thanks.
God is sovereign! And knowing His Word, tasting of what it means to discover truth for yourself, transforms your life. You can go through all sorts of trials and tests, and pass. When we know our God, we are able to stand firm and be strong. I love the verse from Job 6:10 which reads, “Then I would still have this consolation, my joy in unrelenting pain, that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.”
The other reason we don’t often experience His joy is because we don’t live in His presence. When we are living in His presence, abiding in Him, we gain perspective on life, His!
JBU: What would you say to someone who is having trouble connecting with God’s Word?
Kay: First of all I would ask why? Are you willing to put forth the effort required? Are you willing to discipline yourself for the sake of godliness? A common problem today is that we have so entangled ourselves with the affairs of this life that we’ve forgotten how to please Him. My biggest battle is being busy. I believe that an essential key to connecting with God’s Word is spending leisure time in the Word. It can’t be rushed into, “Here’s my 10 minutes with You, God.” When I spend leisure time in the Word, reading and absorbing its truths, I realize that nothing really matters except my relationship with God. As Hebrews 5:14 says, we will grow into mature believers through the “constant use” of His Word.
JBU: How would you encourage people that it’s worth it?
Kay: Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether I speak here or there, or accomplish this or that. What matters is if everything’s all right between me and God. Am I becoming a holy woman? Am I reflecting Him? Am I pleasing Him? Am I following Him? I love doing other things, but if I’m not in the Word, then those things can capture my attention. When you develop an intimacy with God that comes through knowing His Word, then you are able to approach Him with clean hands and a pure heart, having dealt with the areas of sin in your life that God has revealed to you. Only then can you truly experience the sweetness of His presence and His joy. There’s nothing greater!Since founding Precept Ministries International with her husband Jack in 1970 with the vision to establish people in God's Word, International Bible teacher and four-time Gold Medallion award-winning author Kay Arthur has authored more than 100 books and Bible studies. Kay is also the teacher and host of Precepts for Life, a radio and television program which reaches a worldwide viewing audience of over 94 million, teaching them how to discover the Truth for themselves. Today God is using Precept Ministries to reach nearly 150 countries with inductive Bible studies translated into nearly 70 languages. Kay serves as Executive Vice President and shares the office of Precept CEO with Jack. Precept Ministries is headquartered in Chattanooga, Tennessee. To learn more about Precepts Ministries International, visit www.precept.org