Emotional HealthHealingMarriage 6 minutes to read

Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. Love never stops loving.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 TPT

These verses were very difficult for me to process back in 2015. There I was, newly divorced after betrayal, barely surviving: feeling broken, lost, discarded, confused, and not sure where to turn. If someone would have shared these verses with me, it would have sounded like another language. 

At 44 years old, my experience with love was almost always the exact opposite of Paul’s description. It certainly wasn’t descriptive of my marriage, nor the years floundering in my love addiction. Although I wasn’t aware of deeply suppressed memories of childhood sexual abuse, I would come to realize, that much of my perception of love—the lens through which I processed love and intimacy—was formed around this early trauma.

When I found Pure Desire, my marriage had already ended. I found myself stuck in this place of feeling like I had failed God, myself, and my kids. There was no one around me who could truly relate to what I was experiencing. I felt so incredibly alone. Our church had been running the Conquer Series, and wanted to learn more about what Pure Desire offered, so they hosted a Pure Desire University (now called a Pure Desire Conference). This was the first time I had heard ANYONE speaking the language about what I had been living. I contacted the pastor in charge and said, “Whatever you need, I am there. I will support this in whatever way you need.”

After that event my Spirit was set ablaze. Pastor Konkol asked, “How would you like to lead a group?” After a few days of my Moses moments (Really God, Me? How can I lead these women? Surely there’s someone better?) there was nothing anyone could do to stop me.  

Stepping into this group for the first time, I had no idea what I was about to encounter. After all, it was not only men who had betrayed me, but I was quickly reminded of the wounds from many friendships with women over my lifetime that caused me to put up some serious walls. I thought, Trust? What is that? Now I was sitting in a room with nine strange women and thinking, You want me to do what?

The next few months were some of the greatest months of my life. Although we all were different ages, had different stories, were at different places, had different levels of previous knowledge about addiction and betrayal, there was something about being together that became the highlight of my week. There was nothing that could get in the way of my commitment to these ladies. I shared things with them I had never uttered to another person, ever. The freedom, the joy, and the healing that would come through our tears—that ultimately turned to laughter AND tears—were absolutely priceless. I was the only one in the group who was at the stage of divorce, but never once felt like I didn’t deserve to be there or that I failed. After all, the purpose of showing up was to show up for myself. Something I had never really done before. 

As I began unpacking the pain, confusion, lies, and other contributors that created my unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, I was able to take responsibility for the chaos I had created in my life and learned to live in grace for the things outside of my control. Finally, the clouds began to lift. Glimmers of God’s love began to peek through the clouds. Through safe and transparent relationships I experienced gentle and consistent love. I had a safe place of shelter. I had a community of people who believed the best of me and for me. Shame and disrespect didn’t exist there. These ladies became a forever part of my healing story.

Year after year, group after group, more and more of this love exists in my life. Upon completing Betrayal & Beyond, it was clear that Unraveled was the next step for me. In facing my own unhealthy behaviors, I truly understood that the grace I needed to move beyond my past was the same grace I needed to give to my ex-husband. We are ALL sinners and fall short of the glory of God. I was able to let go of so many feelings of being used, discarded, betrayed, unvalued, unwanted, and this was where freedom’s flag was confidently placed as a banner in my life.

Walking through the years of my love addiction and cleaning up the areas in my own heart allowed the missing piece of my puzzle to emerge out of the darkness and into the light. A deeply suppressed memory of childhood sexual abuse arose to the surface. I know this sounds terrifying, but it wasn’t. Sure, it was difficult, but I was in a safe place, with safe people, and I had the tools and the support to process this in a healthy way. I had learned the importance of processing with the RIGHT help from hearing the stories of the other ladies who had experienced similar trauma in their past. I soon had an appointment with a therapist who could walk me through EMDR and file this memory away.

I will never forget the picture God gave me as I journaled after one of my therapy sessions. It was a picture of Jesus in the middle, holding my hand—little Kelly’s hand—walking little Kelly to the cross, and leaving all of the pain and confusion about love and intimacy there. Safe in the arms of Jesus. I journaled, “The only thing you need is the Sword of the Spirit. The truth. The only offensive weapon. This is what you need to remain safe.” It was a beautiful moment. The day after my last session of EMDR, I met my current husband (God’s perfect timing and provision). 

God provided me with a new next adventure of learning what HIS love looks like. We are two imperfect people, both with a plethora of trauma, but we have both done the healing work. We continue to do the work and are committed to one another, to God, and to learning and growing in love. He is the source, He is the model, He is the way.

As I write this in February in the Midwest, although many days are cold and cloudy, it doesn’t take much to warm my Spirit with the truth of 1 Corinthians 13. I see it as I start a new group and watch women explore God’s love for them as it “comes to light.” I practice it everyday in my marriage with my husband. I feel it in my bones when my grandkids sit on my feet and hug my legs and say, “Don’t go, Grandma!”

This journey is certainly about healing betrayal trauma and finding freedom from unwanted sexual behaviors; but dare I suggest, more importantly, it is about discovering the ferocious and passionate love of God. 

The views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are those of the author alone and do not reflect an official position of Pure Desire Ministries, except where expressly stated.

Kelly Johnston

Kelly is the Women's Online Groups Coordinator. She has a Bachelor’s in psychology and counseling, with a minor in addiction recovery and biblical studies. She has been leading groups since 2015 and served as a Regional Group Advisor for more than three years. Kelly is passionate about encouraging and supporting women on their healing journey. She loves witnessing the process: when women have a head knowledge of the passionate love of God and it penetrates their heart, it becomes the foundation of new thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors. This is tangibly where she sees God’s love in motion.


  1. Sandi Dorey

    Thank you for your openness to share your story of encouragement! Thank you for all you do for the Women’s Ministry at Pure Desires!
    May God continue to bless you as you minister to others!

    1. Kelly Johnston

      It’s truly a privilege to allow God to use it all. Beauty from Ashes.

  2. Avatar photo John Begeman

    “There was nothing anyone could do to stop me.”
    Chills. What a beautifully written piece. Thank you for sharing your story.
    So honored to get to champion the message of hope, freedom and healing alongside you!

    1. Kelly Johnston

      ditto 🙂

  3. david blair

    It’s amazing what can happen in 8 short years! Your story from starting from what sounds like ground zero in 2015 to a happy, healthy thriving marriage in 2023 is really a testament to how fast God can work with you if you are willing to do the work the Holy Spirit lays out for you to do. Congratulations on getting to where you are now and thank you for all the work you are doing with the many women you are involved with.

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