This month we are looking at a very painful topic: divorce. Thank you to each of our dear sisters who prayerfully prepared their testimonies to share with us.
When God Brought Me to My Knees
My experience with abandonment and divorce is probably not much different than others. I had no inkling that my husband was having an affair and desired to leave our family. It shocked me that my husband could so completely turn his back on his family and God. My husband started his affair when our youngest son was three months old.
She was a coworker of his who was having marital problems. It first started as a friendship then progressed to more since I was preoccupied with my new born son and my job. The worst part of it all is the fact I know the lady he was having an affair with and work with her mother. The other woman’s mother knew, but did not say anything to me because her daughter was happy. The two of them are still together, and they now have a baby together.
Probably the worst part of it all was the divorce trial. I would not settle out of court because I knew I had to fight for my boys. Fighting over custody is not easy and brings out the ugly in some people. I was blessed to have found a Christian lawyer who understood what I wanted. It is unnerving to see and hear someone you love say negative and mean things about you to try and show you are not good for your own children. That was the most heart wrenching thing to hear. I could not believe that my ex would use my Christianity as a reason for me not to be a fit mother. His lawyer tried to make me out to be close-minded and a bigot.
Thankfully, the judge did not see it that way, and saw past the attempts. Also, I had to trust God with my finances, because my husband refused to pay child support. It was hard to not worry about how I was going to pay bills when I was not getting any support. It was amazing how God worked everything out with help from family, friends, and my church. God definitely knew what I needed more than I did. For that I am eternally grateful.
I was completely lost and shaken to the core. God used this to bring me to him and show me that I had been trying to do things my way and not his. I was broken and knew that I could not try and fix our marriage on my own. I knew God was leading me to him through all of this. Yes, I yelled at God and asked him why he was punishing me by allowing my family to be torn apart. I could not wrap my head around how a divorce could be in God’s plan as for what was best for me and my two boys.
My ex and I had three mandated marriage counseling sessions. These sessions brought so much to light that I had been trying to fix on my own and not allowing God to lead me. I found out, that I needed to stop fighting and allow God to work in my life. I took it upon myself to continue counseling sessions to help my growth and to ensure I was walking down the path God truly wanted me to go. Counseling was the best thing I could have done for myself and my boys. I had an advocate who was right there beside me all the way helping me anyway that I needed. The pastor I had counseling with was there to let me work through all my emotions and problems at my speed. It was wonderful to know I had a safe place where I could go and let it all out.
Getting counseling for my eldest son was also a priority because he was having a hard time coping. He could not wrap his head around how his dad could turn his back on God and his family the way that he had.
My family, my ex’s family, my friends, and my church family have also been such a wonderful support for me. They have all stuck by the boys and me and have been there unconditionally. I have so many different people to go to for help with anything. My boys have no lack of Godly father figures to learn from, and I am so thankful for that. I am glad that God has brought me closer to my ex’s family through all of this and that I can lean on my father-in-law for help with discipline and love of my boys.
Since the divorce was finalized, I have moved to be closer to family and friends who are my support system. My husband is still living with his new family. I am able to work on showing God’s love to them all on a daily basis. I know that this is what God wants me to do, and it allows me to show my ex that I still love him. We all pray that God will bring my ex back to himself and to his family, but if that is not God’s will than that is okay. God will show me his will for the boys and my life. I completely trust him in all because he has done so much for us already.
Through this whole trial that has encompassed the last 2 1/2 years of my life I have learned so much about myself, about God and his will and path for my life. This is definitely not the path I would have chosen to walk down, but it is the path God has chosen for my boys and I to walk down.
God has laid many scripture passages on my heart through this all and I have my favorites memorized and the others written up and hanging in places around my home where I see them daily. My favorite Bible passages are: Jeremiah 29:11-13, Romans 8:28, Proverbs 3:5-6 and Philippians 4:4-9. These all give me comfort when I am having a bad day and struggling a little more than normal.
Stopped In My Tracks … God Carried us Through
Conflict, Separation, and Divorce: The three words that can stop any woman in her tracks as she walks down life’s pathway.
Sometimes, as I look back, I see that what I thought was a life choice on my part, was only on my side of my marriage. People must make the decision to remain married for themselves, no matter where they are in their relationship, whether two years of marriage, twenty, or more.
At the beginning of our marriage we seldom argued because neither my husband nor I liked conflict in our home. We did have a few arguments and quite a few discussions about how our family was managing. After being assured that I was being too sensitive about a recent discussion with my mother-in-law, I began to lesson my guard and tried to understand why a woman who had been married to seven different men would be telling me to be careful and keep my eyes open for changes that may be coming (?).
I had been feeling happy with how our jobs were working out and how we were dealing with financial difficulties. Some of our greatest needs had been met with the help of an extra part-time job. So when we were not able to spend as much time together as we wanted, it was credited to all of the hours that we were working. While I was working the evening shift, he would watch our two young children. Then he would load them up in the car and drive to work were he would punch in two minutes late, so that I could punch out and walk out to the car and he would go into the building and punch in for his overnight shift. Everything was going so well that I couldn’t have been more pleased.
Then after a couple of “guys nights” where he came home very late, I was not so happy. He seemed to be pulling away and finding fault with everything that we were doing. He was not happy. But the biggest secret was not one that I was keeping; it was the guilt of the one he was keeping. There were other people in our marriage that had not been invited by both of us, so the conflicts began.
He was unable to share how he felt and he chose to escape our difficulties by having a couple of girlfriends, as well as other interests. As one thing led to another, the dishonesty was overwhelming to him, and finally he left. I went to work one night after asking my family to watch the girls, so that he could go visit and help his mother at her house. And he just didn’t come home. I was devastated! I was completely unable to understand that he was not coming back… ever. He had taken the opportunity to move in with his mistress, just one of the women with which he created a relationship.
The separation of our family was complete. Repeated attempts to reconcile with advice, counseling, and therapy just did not work. It was as if he had made up his mind and there was no changing any of the circumstances or outcomes. This is not what I would expect from a soft and gentle spirit and someone who knows that God is able to repair and renew relationships.
As far as I could see my life was over. But God had a different plan. This was just one step in God teaching me to rely on Him … not me, not my husband, not even my church and the friends I found there.
I read in the scriptures that a marriage covenant is from now until death do us part (I Corinthians 7:39). I take this to be certain. Not everyone believes the same as I do, but since I came from a divorced home with many “girlfriends” and “guy friends” being brought into my relationship with my mom and my dad, I knew that was not going to be right for me. (I didn’t like getting to know a new person just to have them disappear after about two months of visitation or four or five months of being around.
The constant coming and going made me not trust too many adults, and I didn’t feel like I could be alone with them without them wanting to “get to know me better” or just getting rid of me.)
So I chose to stay single at least until my children were grown and out of the house. If God had a plan of a different path then it would be up to Him to show it to me. God showed me scripture in a whole new light, like this passage from Isaiah 55:7-9:
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
If raising children as a single parent was so easy then everyone would be doing it, right? So, I just kept on doing the best that I could. I would get my children connected with their Sunday school teachers, youth workers, and youth pastors so they would have connections with godly examples of how families should work. Sometimes it was a great fit, other times not so much. But the families in our church would include my children in as much as they could so the kids would see how godly families were designed.
And I never told my kids that divorced life was what was easy. The time spent with their dad and step mom was difficult. And although they had opportunities to do things with dad that we couldn’t afford to do, I didn’t want them to think poorly of their father. He was always a hard worker and really tried to understand why the children were conflicted about our situation. The conflict that it created for our children was a constant point of contention in how he and I related as co-parents. His current wife was not always contributing in a positive way, and it caused conflict within our family quite a bit.
But, God is bigger than the human problems that we construct. God is much wiser than the human mind. God is much more gracious than the human attitude. So I found peace in seeking God’s will for not just myself, but also for my “broken” family. We were a family that prayed together, went to church together, made too much noise during the service together, and served together in our church through visitations, nursery work, children’s church and many teen activities. This is what our family did to combat the inward looking self-pity that often accompanies divorce. We used our God-given skills and gifts to reach others with the gospel.
Looking back and looking around… those who are going through divorce, conflict and separation are both a mission field and a ministry opportunity just waiting for loving, patient, godly friends and family to lift them up, befriend them and support them as they find the path that God has for them through and after the conflict.
Are you willing to reach out to a family going through this type of conflict? Here is my advice for reaching out to divorced women and their children:
- Pray for them
- Tell them you are glad to see them when they are at church- no matter how many of them are able to make it. Please be gracious and avoid comments like, “I haven’t seen Dave much lately … has he been ill?”
- Ask if you could watch the children so the woman/man can go to the store without taking all the children out.
- Invite the children to your home for an evening meal and family time… this is especially helpful if the father is absent from the home and not involved with leading family devotions.
- Ask if there are any car repairs/home maintenance issues that you can lend a helping hand to, or recommend a good expert (plumber/electrician…) to help them when they need someone to handle a large job.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to share my story. It was difficult, but also a blessing to look back now and see again how wonderful our loving Father is, and how He was always with us during this and all times.
We were high school sweethearts and as a senior I knew I was going to marry him. We dated through college and were married on June 11, 1994. He felt God calling him to be a seminary professor. So the focus for eleven years became his schooling. During that time we moved seven times, received three degrees, and had three children. In 2005, he was hired at a seminary, and we settled in loving where God had us.
Around November, 2009 I saw things that concerned me. When I asked him, he reassured me everything was fine. About ten months later I stood in the shower sobbing to God, knowing something wasn’t right. Soon after, I started searching the house – drawers, between mattresses, closets – I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I was looking.
On October 9, 2010, I found a phone in my husband’s work bag. I confronted him. And what I didn’t think would ever happen to us had happened – my husband was having an affair and the woman was someone I considered a friend. I was devastated, confused, and numb. When he asked me to forgive him, I said I didn’t know what that looked like. After finding out he had bought a ring for the woman, I made him leave.
The next morning was like any other Sunday except the kids questioned where Daddy was. I said he had a meeting at church so he left early. After church he told the kids (ages 7, 10, and 11) that he loved another woman which hurt mommy a lot and was wrong … so he could not live at home for a while.
I got counseling, and by the end of November I knew I needed to reconcile. In early December, just as I was accepting the idea, my counselor asked to see me. When I arrived she prayed like always, but it was slightly different. She ended with “help Amy to know how much we love her.” Immediately my heart began beating faster. She said, “He needs to talk to you. There’s more.” We walked to the pastor’s office, and he told me they had done things in our house and in OUR bed.
Before I left that day my pastor said, “I don’t know how you are going to walk into your house or sleep in your bed tonight, but God loves you.” I replied, “I will sleep in my bed tonight, because a week ago a friend insisted on buying me new bedding. I’ve had it on my bed for two days. A week ago I told her it wasn’t necessary. God knew it was, and He took care of it. I know He loves me.” In February I told him I wanted a divorce. I couldn’t trust him, and I couldn’t go through this again.
God worked though, and by the end of April I knew God wanted me to reconcile. One of the things He used was a ladies conference at our church in March. The speaker said, “When my husband asked if I could ever forgive him for the sin he committed against me and our children, I said ‘yes.’” She followed by saying, “In that moment I didn’t need to trust my husband. I needed to trust God.” The next morning I told him I forgave him.
Around that same time my pastor said in a message, “The extraordinary acts of God in the world often take place in the context of the faith of ordinary believers who obey God in circumstances that are neither pretty nor easy.” April through September included uncomfortable times in counseling as a couple and dating. It was an exhausting time for me, because while I knew what God wanted me to do, I wasn’t good with it. A godly man gave me this advice, “Obey God now and the feelings will come.”
On September 15, 2011, we exchanged vows in front of our closest family and friends. It wasn’t easy to promise “till death do us part,” because this time I knew what I was promising. The past two years haven’t always been easy, because I am still afraid of getting my heart broken again. He recently spent two weeks half-way around the world teaching a theology class to a group of pastors – something a couple years ago he didn’t know if he would ever do again. It was during the time he was away that God showed me I wasn’t trusting Him with my future. God knew I needed him to be gone as much as he needed this teaching opportunity.
Things I decided early on:
1.) My life would continue. It didn’t matter what happened the day before, I went to church! I didn’t cancel a brunch I had planned at my house for that Monday.
2.) I would not talk negatively about my husband in front of my children.
3.) I would be kind to him. I claimed Ephesians 4:32 and often read, “Forgiveness is all about me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.” One time I knew the Lord was telling me to invite him to stay for dinner. I thought, “I don’t want him here.” Yet, I felt the same prompting “invite him to stay for dinner.” I actually stomped my foot and said, “Fine! I’ll let him stay.”
Things God did for me:
1.) He loved me.
2.) He was faithful in keeping His promises.
3.) He was good.
- The morning of October 10, the first Facebook status I saw was “Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives, but God is not helpless among the ruins. Our broken lives are not lost or useless. God’s love is still working. He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out His wonderful plan of love” (Eric Lidell). God hugged me in that moment.
- When unable to decide if we should come home for dinner or just go to Wendy’s to make the evening easier after a crazy day a friend dropped by and said, “I thought you could use this.” It was a gift card to Wendy’s! It was like God said, “Let me buy you dinner tonight.”
4.) He prepared me. That summer we were challenged at church to read through the Bible in 105 days. Our family took the challenge, and every day the kids and I spent an hour reading ALL of God’s Word.
5.) He took care of my children. My counselor encouraged me to get a notebook for each of them to write anything related to the situation. One night I was looking at my seven-year-old’s notebook, and she had written: “I am scared Daddy won’t get to come home.” Next she wrote “What time I am afraid I will trust in God.” He brought Scripture to her mind when she needed it.
6.) God provided for us.
- He provided a vehicle through my in-laws when ours wasn’t worth repairing.
- He provided financially. The seminary gave me his paycheck through the end of the year. He started a new job on January 3 so there was always an income.
- He provided a vacation. For a long time we had been planning to go to Disney with friends in January 2011. In October I was sure that trip wasn’t going to happen, but God provided every penny.
- He took take care of school. My children were in a Christian school, a benefit of my husband’s job. The seminary graciously paid the tuition for the remainder of the year, but I knew the following year I could never afford to keep them there. In March I was hired to work in the school office. One of the benefits is my kids go free which only God could have arranged!
- He provided a new home. In April I told God He would have to provide a new house for us to move into before he could move back in. That August the kids and I moved.
There are no words to express the pain of betrayal by a spouse. Even with my closest friends by my side I felt alone. But, God never left me. It was after I told him I was going to divorce him that I said to God, “It’s you and me, God, and I’m good with that.” I know He only allowed those things to happen to me that would make me more like Jesus. And while I can’t say I was thankful for the trial, God helped me to be thankful in the trial. With all the things God taught me and did for me during that time I felt like Job when he said,
“I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.” Job 42:5
Here are some ways you can help a hurting friend:
- Do something! If you feel a prompting from the Lord, do it. Remember the bedding and the gift card? He might want to use you to meet a need in His perfect time.
- Don’t say “if you need something let me know.” She won’t know what she needs.
- Make a meal.
- Don’t stay silent! Let her know you love her and that you are praying.
- Be there for her . . . when she is ready. She may have just a couple close friends she turns to. Be okay with not being one of them.
- Remember she still has the same interests. She is going to get tired of talking about her situation.
- Don’t gossip.
- If she has children offer to take them for an afternoon. She has gone from having a husband who shared the load to doing it alone.
- Sit with her in church. It can be very lonely sitting in a church pew by yourself when you’ve always sat with your husband.
10.Send cards and include a Bible verse stating a promise or attribute of God. She can read them when she needs encouragement.
11.Don’t immediately preach at her to forgive and reconcile. She needs time to process all that has happened. Let God work.
12.Most importantly pray for her!
- That she doesn’t make emotional decisions
- That she will forgive
- That she will be open to reconciliation
- That she will be kind to her husband
- That she would constantly be in God’s Word and stay close to Him
- That she would see how good God is and know He loves her
- That she will sleep because everything seems a little better after a good sleep
Hope and Healing Through Christ
When Sara first asked me to contribute to this article, I was in the half asleep fog of early morning and agreed to it before I really comprehended what she was asking. I began mulling over some of the things that helped me through the struggles of being divorced, and I felt excited at the idea that my experience could encourage someone else. I had every intention of sitting down really soon and writing out my thoughts…but then I was overcome by fear and doubt. I have a tendency to think I’m not good enough, I don’t have any answers, and I can’t help anyone.
Over the holidays I continued to struggle with these thoughts. It’s difficult not to feel your “aloneness” more acutely when everything around you is centered on family, togetherness, and love. I spent too much time feeling empty and alone, and not enough time thinking about the things I’m thankful for, the true meaning of Christmas, and the hope and promise of a new year. I somehow forgot all the things that helped me, and even wondered if anything really did help.
I put off writing the article. I think Satan must take particular delight in distracting me from Christ and what He’s doing by getting me to focus on the brokenness of my own life.
When you’re divorced, it’s easy to focus on the brokenness of life. The shattered pieces are all around: the aching loneliness and rejection, the hurting children, the weariness and uncertainty. But the reality is that all of us, as humans, experience these things to varying degrees and in various ways no matter our circumstances, because we are all broken. There is a battle for our attention; the brokenness of our lives vs. the victory of Christ. When I focus on the brokenness of my life, I feel discouraged, unloved, and alone. But I can choose to turn the eyes of my heart toward Christ and His love for me instead.
The truth is that I am deeply loved by the very Creator and Sustainer of the universe. In John 15:9 Jesus says,
“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.”
In Galatians Paul says that the Son of God loved me enough to give Himself up for me. And in Ephesians he tells me that the love of Christ surpasses knowledge and that knowing that love will fill me up. I don’t need to feel empty and broken, because God loves me so much that He became broken for me, so that I could be whole in Him. Remembering the truth of who I am in Christ gives me the courage to face each day as it comes, believing that God is loving and good, and that He has a plan and a purpose for me. My hope is in Him, not in my circumstances here on earth. To quote the hymn,
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”
Thank you, dear Sisters, for sharing your stories with us. I am so very sad for what you have gone through. At the same time, I am awed by God’s loving provision for you and your families. Thank you for helping us learn from you, gaining wisdom and understanding to more compassionately lift up our divorced sisters and their children. May God continue to lavish His love on you and your families!
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