Chapter OneWhat's Happening?
Divorce is like a tornado-ripping through your life, threatening to destroy everything in its path. The emotional whirlwinds bring fear, confusion, and despair, affecting you, your children, family members, and friends. You will likely wonder, Why did this storm hit my life, and why does it hurt so much?
Dr. Jim A. Talley says, "The reality is that divorce is the most painful thing you can go through because it impacts so much of your life. There's no way around or easy way out. And everybody is looking for a painless way out of this whole situation."
It is easier to clean up the physical damage of a tornado than the emotional damage caused by divorce.
"I hated life," says Ginny. "I woke up every morning, and I absolutely hated it. I hated the pain that I woke up with and the pain that I went to sleep with."
You may wish you could get through the pain quicker, but healing is a process, a day-by-day, moment-by-moment process. In order to experience any level of recovery, you must see it through. There are no shortcuts. But take heart. In the coming days and weeks, you will see it is possible to heal and to look to the future with hope.
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, `plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11).
Dear Lord, my life is ripped apart, and I can't keep from focusing on the devastation and pain that seem to define my very being. Help me turn to You. No one else knows what I am going through. Amen.
Why Divorce Hurts So Much
"It's pretty natural to expect hurt when a mate leaves, but I was not prepared for the level of hurt or the level of pain I felt," says Steve.
The pain of divorce is much deeper and more soul wrenching than most people can imagine unless they have been through it themselves. Divorce can mean the end of your hopes and dreams, the end of your life as you have known it, a loss of control, and feelings of rejection, loneliness, and blame. There is anger, depression, helplessness, bitterness, resentment, feelings of worthlessness, and guilt. The list goes on and on.
"I was afraid that once I opened that door, the intensity of what I was feeling would break me into little pieces," says Marie. "I'd be scattered all over the floor in little tiny scraps, and I'd never be able to pull myself back together."
You will not be able to "hurry up and get over it." That is not possible. Instead, start by making a commitment to take a small step forward every day. Marie says, "Gradually, God has put the pieces back together, and the pieces that I don't have anymore, the severing of the part of me that was bonded with my husband, God has healed and replaced. He's in the process of finishing that up."
"I cry to you, O Lord; I say, `You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.' Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me" (Psalm 142:5-6).
Lord and Savior, the intensity of my emotions is unbearable. Hold me in Your strong arms. Comfort me with the comfort that only comes from You, and guide me in taking one step forward each day. Amen.
The Level of Pain
"I thought, `There's no way anyone can survive this kind of pain. You can't have this kind of pain and live,'" says Cathy. "It was the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced in my life. I kept thinking, I'll soon die. Then I realized I wasn't going to die, and I would pray: 'Lord, please take my life.'"
The level of pain you are feeling is beyond the comprehension of someone who has not been through divorce. People around you may mean well, but they cannot understand how deep the pain cuts and why it would have such an extreme effect on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of your life.
Anne Graham Lotz offers this reassurance: "When you're experiencing pain and difficulty-maybe the loss of a loved one or a divorce-it's a wonderful thing to know that God truly feels your pain. You may think God doesn't care, and maybe the pain has caused you to be hardened toward God, but God understands physical suffering firsthand. He, therefore, understands how to comfort you in your suffering."
Jesus knows how you feel. Although this may be difficult for you to believe, the Bible assures you it is true:
"In all their suffering he [Jesus] also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years" (Isaiah 63:9 NLT).
Jesus, You know exactly how I feel. Please rescue me. Amen.
Alienation: What Is It?
Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines alienation as "a withdrawing or separation of a person or a person's affections from a position of former attachment." In separation and divorce, you are alienated not only from your former mate, but also from relatives, friends, and sometimes from the church.
Dr. Myles Munroe says, "When a person gets divorced, you often see the opposite of what happens in a physical death. Your family may back away from you, seeing you as a failure, a loser. Some people in the church may back away from you. Society backs off from you; they see you as someone whose life didn't work. When you divorce, you end up lonely, isolated, rejected, and dejected, which adds to the trauma.
"Being divorced is bad enough, but to have your family or your church turn against you, that makes the hurt even worse. A person who has been divorced ends up in a state that God never intended, and that is the state of isolation."
God does not intend for you to be alienated from other people, and He certainly does not intend for you to be apart from Him. God loves you unconditionally. While your family and friends are wrong to alienate you, separation from God only occurs when you back away from Him.
Keep in mind that while you may feel alienated from some people in the church, your best opportunity to find help and support is in a local church family.
"Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Faithful God, forgive me for thinking that You, too, have rejected me. Lord, I open the door of my heart to You today. Please come in and love me. Amen.
The Church Can Help You
The church, as God intended, provides supportive hands, wise minds, and loving hearts to help those who are hurting and in need. The driving force and the solid foundation of the church is Jesus Christ, who loves you dearly and without conditions. Even if some people in your church have pulled away from you, help is still available there.
"When you are going through a divorce, you feel like you are wearing the scarlet letter and everyone is shying away from you," says Warren Kniskern. To some extent that's true, but the worst thing to do is to withdraw from the people of God.
"This is a time more than any other time that you need to be with the people of God and receive their encouragement. Keep your focus on Christ instead of on your problems, or else you're going to sink just as surely as Peter sank when he walked on the water to Jesus."
In the Bible, Peter was on a boat one stormy night, and he looked up and saw Jesus walking on the raging sea. Jesus asked Peter to come to Him. At first Peter jumped up with joyful assurance and started across the water to Jesus. Then he became afraid, focusing on his inadequacies instead of on Christ's sufficiency.
"When he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!'
"Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. `You of little faith,' he said, `why did you doubt?' And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down" (Matthew 14:30-32).
Lord, give me the courage to seek help in the church and to keep my focus on You and not me. Grant me the faith to persevere. Amen.
Not Sure About Church?
Many people look everywhere else for help before they go to the church, or they just don't give the church a chance. Perhaps you have had a bad experience there. Do not give up. The church is not a building, a social gathering, or a clique. The church is a group of people whose lives have been changed because of Jesus. They are not perfect people, but their love and commitment to Jesus is the reason they gather together. There is room for you there. Find a church where the people love Jesus, and they will love you too.
"I'm not a big joiner of any group," says Joanne." I like to do things by myself. I'm a very stubborn person. But the warmth that I felt from being back in church and learning to develop a more active relationship with my God was a special thing in that time of my life."
God promises in the Bible that He will supply all your needs. These needs include physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Give God a chance to use the people in His church to help you.
"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25).
Jesus, I hesitate to seek help from people in the church for a number of reasons. Please open my heart to see and to accept the love they have for me that I might not have noticed before. Amen.
Coping with Feelings of Isolation
Laura Petherbridge says, "I would go to church on Sunday morning and I would think, Everybody has their wonderful little Ozzie and Harriet families, and I don't belong here anymore. I'm sitting in the corner of the pew drowning in sorrow. On the outside I might not look like I'm struggling, but inside I'm dying. I feel very distant from everyone. I can't connect with people anymore because they do not understand my pain."
This is a normal reaction for a person going through separation or divorce. You are not alone in these feelings, so do not let your confusing emotions worry you. If you would like to find a place where people truly understand how you feel and what you are going through, consider connecting with a DivorceCare(r) group or another Christian divorce recovery support group. In this type of group, you will not only find people to connect with, but you will also learn about a God who can be trusted no matter how difficult or dark your circumstances.
"'Everyone who calls, "Help, God!" gets help.' But how can people call for help if they don't know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven't heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them?" (Romans 10:13-14 MSG).
Dear God, help! I feel so alone and helpless. Lead me to a support and recovery group where I can build friendships with people who understand what I am going through and where I can learn to put my trust in You. Amen.
Pointed in the Right Direction
"I pondered the direction of my life, and I turned to follow your statutes" (Psalm 119:59 NLT).
The first step you need to take is to point yourself in the right direction. That direction is toward God. This may seem to be a pat answer, too simplistic for the complexity of your emotions. But it is true. God alone can save you and give your life meaning and purpose and energy again.
"When you finally reach the bottom and when you finally get to the point where everything else is exhausted and your very essence is gone and everything that you had on earth is gone and torn apart, there's only one way to go," says Don. "I learned very quickly that Jesus Christ is the only solution and the only way."
Anne Graham Lotz says, "In the middle of your problems, in the middle of the hurricanes and the storms that come into your life and turn everything topsy-turvy, you need to keep your focus on Him. On the days when you lose focus, remember that He stays focused on you."
You may be thinking, God sure isn't helping me, but have you asked God for His help, and do you trust that God's answer and timing are best? Each day give your burdens and your requests to God, and focus on His loving-kindness. He will not fail you.
"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul" (Psalm 143:8).
Living God, I turn to You. I have reached my lowest point, and there is nowhere else to go but in the direction of You. Save me, Jesus. Amen.
Ideally, the amount of energy you expend each day is equally balanced across the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of your life. But during and after a separation or divorce, your energy distribution is much different. As much as 85 percent of your energy can be diverted to dealing with the emotional upheaval, leaving only 15 percent to deal with all your physical, mental, and spiritual demands.
"Emotionally you're spinning," says Dr. Jim A. Talley. "You are going round and round. It's like you are running your engine wide open, but you're in neutral and not going anywhere, yet you can't shut the motor off. Eighty-five percent of your energy is being consumed in the whole emotional area. That leaves you 5 percent mental, 5 percent spiritual, and 5 percent physical. Mental difficulties include the inability to make decisions. Physically, you are totally exhausted. Spiritually, you have a loss of faith; you are not sure God exists, and you're not sure if you even care if He exists."
The emotional turmoil, the mental fog, the total loss of energy, and the questioning of God are to be expected. You don't desire any of it, but you have it, and your feelings and thoughts are natural.
"I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer" (Psalm 6:6-9).
God, I'm wiped out. Help me to acknowledge that my feelings are completely normal, and give me the energy to turn to You for help. Amen.
Imbalanced Energy Distribution
When your energy distribution is imbalanced to such an extreme for an extended period of time, it is inevitable that you will experience an energy collapse.
"I was to the point of exhaustion," admits Cheryl. "I couldn't do anything. I couldn't go to work for a few days. I couldn't function. I was just a zombie. But it was after that time I finally realized I needed to deal with everything that was going on. I had to pull myself together and deal with the issues at hand."
You will likely experience an energy collapse, but you will also begin to move back to a balanced state again. Nothing happens quickly in the divorce recovery process. The journey is mostly uphill, but there are things you can do and information you can gain that will aid you in your recovery process and bring you to a level of peace and healing. Each day, turn to God and call out to Him in prayer, asking Him to supply you with the energy to get through the day.
"Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak" (Psalm 31:9-10).
Lord, I have no energy. Every part of my life seems to be collapsing. I am crying out to You because I have no one else to cry to. Hear my prayer. Amen.
Feeling Guilty About Lack of Balance
Your energy imbalance affects every aspect of your life. You may feel guilty because you lack the spiritual energy to relate to God or because you lack the physical energy to care for your children or to keep up with family and friends. Please don't.
Dr. Jim A. Talley says, "You need to be aware that these things are normal and to be expected, that you will recover, and that things will be fine. It's a matter of going through the process and allowing God to help you stabilize yourself. Put yourself back on the right track, and allow God to walk through this process with you. It is not a quick fix.
"The painful reality is you have two choices as you walk through this process: You can either have extreme pain by doing it the right way or excruciating pain by doing it the wrong way. There is no pain-free way out."
Do not feel guilty if you are not living up to your own expectations of how you should act in regard to your spiritual, emotional, physical, or mental responses. Regaining a balance is not possible right now. Just take one forward step at a time.
"When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4).
Lord God, I choose to walk this journey with You, realizing that my pain is going to be a way of life for a while. But not forever. Amen.