An Open Letter to My Friend, Joshua Harris.

In Relationships by Debra Fileta

Dear Josh, 

After reading your recent announcement about your divorce, as well as your decision to leave Christianity behind, you’ve been on my heart. I know you said you’re not mourning, but any kind of change comes with loss, and there is an important grieving process there. So, I find myself mourning in your stead. 

No matter the circumstances, there is always a deep pain that comes with the aftermath of a broken relationship. I don’t believe that God hates divorce because he’s a legalistic dictator, I believe that God hates divorce (Micah 2:16) because He knows the excruciating pain that broken relationships bring to the heart of His children.

Even with the positivity we see from your Instagram post, I know that deep down, when we are left alone with ourselves, there can often be fierce pain.

Relationships are complicated, and when we go into relationships giving God the full responsibility for “bringing us together”, it would make sense that we find ourselves also doubting Him when our relationship “falls apart”. This is why I’m more adamant than ever before that we’ve got to teach this generation the meaning of personal responsibility when it comes to the relationship choices we make.  

Even before we met face-to-face, you’ve played a significant role in my life. I’ve told you before how I remember being a 16-year-old girl, sitting in on one of your relationship seminars and listening to you teach. Although I didn’t agree with everything you said, God used your passion to fuel my love for relationships and learning how to do relationships well. 

Fast-forward 10 years later, and you and I are sitting face-to-face, cameras rolling in front of us, sipping water out of our “coffee” mugs, and having a chat for your documentary. You so humbly listened to my “pro-dating” perspective, my struggle with the purity culture, and openly and honestly talked through the flaws and mistakes in your former beliefs about relationships.

After our conversations that day, I remember leaving inspired by your humility. But I also remember leaving that day with the sense that you were starting to feel burnt out, a feeling I myself am familiar with. Burnt out by the years of do’s and dont’s that came with your personal faith, burnt out by the politics of doing ministry, burnt out by the difficult life experiences you’ve faced in your personal and family life, burnt out by the long road of facing your critiques under the scrutiny of the public eye, burnt out by the way you did life “backwards” as you said: from bestselling author, to pastor, to student. 

My counselor heart knows that there’s an element of deep trauma in all those different experiences…and trauma has a tendency to “crack us open” as Carolyn Weber so eloquently says. 

My prayer for you in this season of your life is that God would bring healing to all those broken places, the ones you recognize, and even the ones you don’t.

I pray that as you wrestle with God, during this season of your life, that you would come out the other side strengthened, healed, restored, and even more alive than ever before.

I pray that as my brother said so well: that you would come out the other side with a faith that is flexible enough to bend in transition, rather than a faith that is so rigid it breaks. I believe that kind of faith exists.

A faith that isn’t divided by political beliefs or barriers, but united by the love of Christ. 

May we all be challenged to develop that kind of faith. A faith that doesn’t live under the law, but lives only under grace (Romans 6:14). 

My prayers are with you, Shannon, and your family on this journey ahead. Even though we may sometimes let go of God, I believe that He doesn’t ever let go of us. Praying that you would feel that deep down in your bones as you navigate what lies ahead.

God bless you, my brother and friend. If there’s anything I can do for you or your family besides praying, please don’t hesitate to ask.



DEBRA FILETA is a Licensed Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of Choosing Marriage and True Love Dates. She’s also the host of the hotline style Love + Relationships Podcast. Her popular relationship advice blog,, reaches millions of people with the message of healthy relationships. Connect with her on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter or book a session with her today!


Get busy learning what you need to know about healthy singleness, dating, and marriage. Check out Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me or True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life.

Choosing Marriage Christian Dating Book