“Our lives will never be the same, and it’s all my fault.” I will never forget these words, uttered by my precious husband of 15 years. He was right. With those words, our life took a turn I had never imagined. He had just stepped outside to take a phone call. How could one call change everything so drastically?
We were missionaries on home assignment and in the middle of transition. Our time in the United States had been busy and stressful as we attempted to build a financial support base, prepare for overseas ministry, and anticipated the birth of our third child. But we were excited to serve the Lord in expanding the truth of the gospel. Our relationship with each other was solid. Our children were growing and handling the changes well. We had a bright future of service ahead of us. Until that day….
The phone call my husband Joel had received was regarding a police search of our house. The authorities were investigating him for possession of child pornography, Joel tried to explain choking on the words. Even as I struggled to wrap my mind around this heinous and vulgar accusation, I knew by the expression on his face, every word of it was true.
Slowly the shocking story came out. Joel had developed a serious, clandestine addiction to pornography. Over the course of time this addiction had taken a critical turn and he had begun to search out underage images, never imagining the consequences, or believing they would catch up with him.
Our perfect marriage was tainted. I felt duped. I felt rejected. I felt utterly stupid for not having recognized the signs of this secret obsession. I was in a tailspin. I wondered what part of my life was actually real. Had Joel ever really loved me? Did he still love me? If so, how could he hurt me this way? Did he value our family? Did he love our ministry? Did he love our Savior?
I could see that Joel was broken and repentant by his attitude and actions. He took the painful step of confessing to his parents, my parents, his brothers, and other friends. He willingly went to counseling. He admitted his guilt and took a voluntary polygraph about whether he had ever touched an child (which he passed) at the Volusia County Sheriff’s office. My own hurt was compounded by my grief for Joel. But the question remained. How could he do this to himself? to me? to our children? How could he love us and still willfully cause so much damage?
The Jesus Fix
I could not think clearly. In my desperation I found myself crying out to God for answers. Honestly I wanted God to enter into my brokenness and fix it! I wanted renewal, restoration, redemption. After all isn’t that what Jesus does best?
Instead, I found that I could not even focus to read Scripture, and the sweet promises of God’s faithfulness tasted bitter against my tongue. The platitudes of caring friends so genuinely offered mocked me. “Oh Lord, to whom shall I go?” I cried with Peter. “I have believed and I know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” This prayer uttered out of pure desperation began a journey for me to surrender.
All my life I had been a fairly self-sufficient Christian. I believed Jesus had died to pay for my sins, and I was intensely grateful for his gift of salvation. I loved him and longed to serve him. Now, for the first time in my life I found my sufficiency gone. I realized, I need Jesus, not just for salvation, but for every breath I take. I don’t just need his help, his quick fix, his redemption. I need Him.
God began to speak into my heart His Word from the reels of verses held in my memory since childhood. I began to recite Psalm 119:68 as a prayer. “Oh, Lord you are good and you do only good.” Believing God’s goodness not just in a general sense, but also in my particular situation, built in me a sense of earnest expectation.
I did not have to find answers to the questions that had assailed me. I did not have to live in desperation, demanding answers, demanding restitution. Instead, I lived in expectation of God’s goodness, no matter what the outcome of Joel’s crime would mean for our family.
The investigation, charge, and sentencing of Joel took almost exactly a year. One long, painful, hope-drenched year. A year in which God’s Spirit worked in both Joel and me to bring about healing. A year in which Christ built into our lives the confidence that He is good and does only good.
Joy in the Mourning
When the verdict finally came on May 22, 2009, my sweet, broken husband was sentenced to five years and three months in a federal facility, and a lifetime of probation. It was not the rescue we had hoped for. But both of us were able to stand in that courtroom and testify to the goodness of God, and the power of His love in our lives.
Our road has not been easy. Some things about our situation will never be fixed in this life. But our deepest need, our true longings, our cries of desperation have been met by a good and faithful God. So while we grieve, we live with His joy in the mourning.
Tabitha Price holds a Bachelor’s degree in Christian Education and an associate’s degree in Biblical studies. She has spent the past seventeen years in full time ministry, teaching at an international school, writing and editing material for Asian missionaries and teaching Bible translation principles to national translators. Through extreme tragedy and loss, Tabitha has found God to be truly enough. In the midst of the conviction and incarceration of her husband in a federal prison, God’s faithfulness has been proved over and over again. Tabitha lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband Joel, who was released in 2012, and their three boys, Marshall, Jaden, and Roman. She continues to write and serve as a missionary with Wycliffe Associates equipping national and mother tongue translators in Southeast Asia. Tabitha and Joel call Citybrook Church home. You can find her book, Joy in the Mourning, on Amazon or on her website. Connect with her: www.tabithaprice.com,[email protected], www.tabithastravels.com (for information about my Bible Translation ministry).