Divorce is one of the most painful experiences in life. The aftermath can leave you lost, hurting, and tempted to walk away from the faith. I want to share six keys that will help you endure an unwanted divorce.
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The spare tire asked his four friends if he could have a chance to do what they do. The brown shoes said to the black tux, “I feel odd. Something is wrong with me.”
If you have walked through a divorce, I need not explain my riddles to you. Divorce is a different pain of the soul, and if you did not ask for it, the pain is deeper. There are no winners in a divorce.
- The children lose God’s design for complementary parental leadership.
- The spouses lose God’s intent for something good (Genesis 2:18).
- The church takes a hit as a restoring community.
- And the biggest loss of all is the shrouding of God’s glory because of sin’s momentary victory.
Divorce is not God’s way. From Genesis to Revelation, the Lord is plotting out a plan to redeem broken people. The overarching storyline of the Bible is restoration: sinful people being overcome by the Lord and put back together by the power of His gospel.
Divorce is one of many of the devil’s devices to tear away at the Lord’s gospel. It flies in the face of what is good and right while mocking what our Redeemer says He can do (1 John 3:8).
I have described divorce like an amputee reaching down to scratch his leg only to remember he has no leg. Divorce is a surreal experience that is hard to explain. The Lord put man and woman together, and nothing is supposed to tear them apart.
Then the first couple sinned.
For the first time in human history, there were possibilities on the table that could break up a marriage. One of those possibilities is death (Genesis 2:16-17). Since Adam’s fall, people are born to die, and one of the consequences of death is the dissolution of our marriages.
The second possibility is divorce. Because of sin, humanity no longer has to wait until a spouse dies to separate from their covenant (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Sin presents a quicker though deceptive “do-over” for those who don’t like what they have.
These two sinful possibilities are painful.
They are radical surgery, which feels like the ripping apart of the flesh. When God puts two people together to form one flesh, and someone or something comes along and cuts the union apart, it is an indescribable pain.
Because the pain is spiritual, it cannot be measured, fully repaired, or quickly soothed. It’s not like you can apply a healing balm to your wound, cover it with a Band-Aid, and expect the pain to go away quickly.
It’s more like a haunting shadow that meets you at every turn. No matter what you do or where you go, you’re no longer attached to your spouse. You have a new, constant, and unrelenting reminder of what went wrong and what you can’t fix that replaces your covenantal partner.
There are a thousand questions about divorce. In this piece, I’m only dealing with one—how to endure an unwanted divorce and the accompanying rejection. If this is you, this article is for you. If you know someone like this, feel free to share this with them.
Six Keys for an Unwanted Divorce
1 – Walk By Faith – Don’t ever forget God is good. It sounds simple, but I have been tempted many times in my life to lose my way when going through the “slough of despond.” The Lord will not give you a map for what you’re going through, but He will make you a compass.
He will not tell you all the dangers, toils, and snares you will have to go through, but He will tell you who to follow (Matthew 16:24-26). If the Lord gave you a well-mapped out path for you to walk, you would be tempted to place your faith in what you know rather than who you know.
Your divorce kicked your faith in the teeth. You’re looking for answers that will never come. Your call, like my call, is to follow God. Nobody knows the specifics of their future, but all of us should be aware that we will be okay if we are mindful of the fact that the Lord is in our messes.
You’re going to be okay. The Lord is working His plan in your life. Take your soul to task moment by moment. Remind and re-remind yourself that the Lord is good and He has a good plan for you.
2 – God Is Love – The Father loved His Son, and He crushed His Son (Isaiah 53:10). The conjunction “and” joins two amazing and profound ideas: the love of God with personal suffering.
How can the Lord be loving when so much pain is allowed into my life (Luke 22:42)? How can the Lord be good when there is evil all around me (Genesis 50:20)? You will find the answers in your parallel universe.
- Up above you have your sovereign God working His plans that nobody can thwart.
- Down below you are living on earth with a lot of evil, and the pain seems to have one goal—to decimate you (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)
Where you direct your thoughts will have a lot to do with how you live as a divorced person. If the evil that has come into your life is bigger than the Lord of your life, you will drown in sorrow, regret, and anger.
But if by the grace of God you must force your focus on the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, you will be able to navigate through your sorrow with a greater victory. The good news is you will get through this regardless. The Lord does not start stuff He can’t finish (Philippians 1:6).
3 – You Are Normal – You are not a spare tire in a trunk or a pair of brown shoes on a black tux. You are not any different from any other person in your world. Repeat after me: “I am normal.”
God does not have different rooms for different kinds of failures. He has one room, and we’re all in it because we’re all failures (Romans 3:10-12, 23). People walking around in the darkness do not think they are better than the other people in the room (2 Corinthians 10:12).
The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” – Luke 18:11
Perchance you bump into someone who has a “sin stratification” list where he ranks you as a lower class of human being, let me give you a piece of advice: he is not your friend; your friends will always love you and your enemies never will.
Do not fall into the trap of thinking you have lost value in God’s world. Though some people may believe that you belong on a lesser rung on the ladder, that is not how God views you. To think otherwise is heretical.
If you are God’s child, then you are perfect because of the incredible power of the gospel. Your sins, all of them, have been placed on Christ. He has become sin for you so you could be made righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21).
4 – You Are Qualified – You are being shaped by the Lord to become one of the most used vessels in His kingdom. Though you may not perceive it at this moment, the Lord is doing a deep work in your soul.
He is giving you a gift (suffering) that you do not want, a gift you will cherish forever. Only the person who dies is used well by the Lord (John 12:24). I need not tell you this, but I will:
Let me give you a snapshot of your future if you have not already experienced it. There will come a day when you will sit across from a hurting soul. This person will be in deep pain. They will be looking for a drop of hope from God’s well.
You will be God’s gift to them. You will be able to walk with them like nobody else because you have walked their path (Hebrews 13:3). What I’m describing to you is at the heart of the gospel—Christ died for you so you could experience victory.
In an “echo kind of way,” you are mirroring this gospel reality. You are dying so you can be a gift to others. That may seem a long way off today. I don’t know. But what I do know is,
- The Lord does not waste pain.
- The Lord can use sin sinlessly.
- The Lord will give beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
5 – Don’t Ever Forget – Do not ever forget the pain. Take copious notes of what the Lord is doing deep in your soul today. Why: because He is qualifying you for ministry. You may not know the way He is taking you, but I do. Listen to Job:
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. – Job 23:8-10
In Mark 1:12 we find an amazing verse: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” What is so amazing about this verse is its timing. The Lord had just finished thirty years of living in submission to Joseph and Mary. In this scene, He was in the Jordan, finally being baptized by John.
From all appearances, it seemed He was ready for ministry. After He came out of the water, the dove came down, and the Father spoke from heaven. It appears to me that the next thing on the redemption calendar would be for Jesus to spread the hope of the gospel. Not so.
The next thing to happen to Him was forty days in the wilderness with wild beasts and temptations from Satan. And I never saw it coming. In a sense, it is where you are—in the desert, tempted, and tried.
…and the angels were ministering to him. – Mark 1:13
Don’t forget the rest of the story. Just like Elijah on the side of Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 19:5), the Lord had His angels ministering to Jesus. He is with you too because He has a plan for you. He has a plan for your life. Learn the lessons of suffering well.
- Elijah came out of his funk to anoint three future leaders who were central in the demise of evil in the kingdom (1 Kings 19:15-16).
- Jesus came out of the wilderness and changed the world.
- You can get out of your pain and find usefulness in yet-to-be-perceived-ways by the Lord.
6 – Expect Failure – Remember, you don’t have a map for this, but you do have a compass. Trust God. He has you on an incredible and dangerous journey that can reap a bountiful harvest if you choose to follow Him through this death (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15).
And for the record: you will fail. You have to fail. If you worked flawlessly through a divorce, you would not need the Lord. He is calling you to do what you cannot do with resources you do not have so He can make Himself significant in your life (2 Corinthians 4:7).
In Matthew 14:29 the Lord called Peter to do what he could not possibly do—walk on water. If somebody asks you to walk on water, expect failure. You can’t do it.
If you are called to walk through a divorce, expect failure. You can’t do that well either. But it’s not about you doing it well. It’s about you trusting the Lord. The rebuke Jesus gave to Peter was about his faith, not his ability (Matthew 14:31).
Point your compass north (to Jesus) and walk that way (John 14:6). He has you right where He wants you. Your divorce may have been a surprise to you, but it was not to Him.
When Mary and Martha were struggling with the sad death of their brother, the Lord made a remarkable statement: “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad.” – John 11:14-15 (KJV)
Jesus was telling His friends that their brother was dead and He was glad because He was going to do something remarkable—resurrect a dead situation for God’s glory, their good, and so many would believe (John 11:45).
You are in an impossibly hard situation, but here’s the good news: the Lord can do a lot of redemptive work through you. You only have one question to answer: Will I follow Him through this trial?
Call to Action
- What is the hardest thing about being divorced?
- What do you believe the Lord wants you to learn from this disappointment?
- As you reflect on God’s sovereign purposes, what do you think God is planning for your life?
- How are you finding hope through God’s strength?
Also published on Medium.