My divorce experience and things I wish church leaders knew”

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April 7, 1984, was the worst day of my life. It was the day my marriage died. My husband was having an affair and no longer wanted to be married. No amount of crying, begging, promising, or counseling could change his mind.

When we divorced, I was a new Christian, but I knew enough to ask God to use the trauma, shame, and agony to help others.

Over the last 34 years, that’s precisely what He has done.

Divorce is a complex subject for the church. I’m not called to be a theologian, but I’m sure we don’t want to ignore God’s commands or give the impression that marriage is temporary.

Divorce also has severe, long-term consequences. No one comprehends that better than I do.

Here are 10 aspects of divorce I’d like to share with church leaders to help them love the brokenhearted while not condoning divorce.

Regardless of the circumstances, divorce signifies the fatality of the marriage vow. It’s the death of the dream, the breaking of the covenant, and the ending of “what should have been.” It often feels like death would have been easier because it is natural and doesn’t carry the shame.

2. DIVORCE IS A SOUL-ENTRENCHED BETRAYAL

It’s a rejection like no other. The person you thought would be your lifetime partner, your soft place to fall when the rest of the world abandons you decides, “I never loved you. You aren’t worth it.”

3. DIVORCE HAS NO CLOSURE

A divorced person experiences loss and humiliation over and over and over. Every time you check the “single” or “divorced” box on a form your child cries for the other parent.

4. DIVORCE IS A GUT-LEVEL ACCUSER

Night and day, the spousal rejection hauntingly whispers, “You are a loser. You are unlovable. You are a failure. You deserve to be alone. Life is over. You will never be loved again.” Satan loves divorce. It’s a superb weapon of soul-deep destruction.

5. DIVORCE BECOMES AN IDENTITY

One of the most humiliating tasks for me was being labeled “divorced” rather than “married.” Being labeled a single never bothered me. But “divorced” tattooed an imaginary red “D” on my forehead, which can seem synonymous with “failure,” “reject,” or “ugly.”

It took a long time, great friends, and a terrific church to help me recognize that divorce was something I experienced. It was an event—not my identity. God still sees me as His precious daughter, one purchased and healed by Jesus.

6. DIVORCE TAKES ONLY ONE WHEN MARRIAGE TAKES TWO

Just because the sin of divorce has occurred, it doesn’t mean both spouses have sinned in this way. There might be only one who is involved in addiction, adultery, abuse, pornography, anger issues, gambling, deception, drugs, homosexuality, mental illness, outrageous spending, or unwillingness to work. One spouse can destroy the marriage, no matter how hard the other is trying.

7. DIVORCE ISN’T ALWAYS INITIATED BY THE GUILTY PARTY

After 34 years in the divorce recovery ministry, I’ve found that the men and women who didn’t want to be divorced are often the ones to legally file. These are individuals married to someone who doesn’t love them, the kids, or God enough to do the hard work to keep the marriage alive.

But the culpable one doesn’t want the guilt associated with divorce, so he or she will often withhold money, child support, visitation, etc. to force the other spouse into taking legal action. That way they can say—and manipulate others into believing—“I didn’t file for divorce—my ex did.”

8. DIVORCE CAUSES THOSE AFFECTED TO DREAD SUNDAYS

Walking into the church and witnessing all the nice families and loving couples was a stark reminder of just how abandoned I was. Sundays were often dreaded days I just needed to “survive.”

Too depressed to visit friends and exhausted from flashing my perfect “I’m fine” smile, I collapsed at home. I would spend most of the day crying. I could barely pray, so I sat by my stereo and sang worship songs, begging God to heal my tormented heart.

9. DIVORCE CAN STRENGTHEN AND WEAKEN FAITH

As previously mentioned, I was a new Christian when my divorce occurred. On one hand, I knew Jesus was the only One who could carry me through the horror. On the other hand, the feelings of failure, humiliation, shame, and loss enticed me to run back to my former life and anesthetize the trauma with alcohol.

I seriously contemplated suicide to stop the madness. My life was hanging by a thread. I teetered between running to Jesus and running away from Him. Fortunately, my heavenly Father wooed me back into His loving embrace. He became the faithful Husband I had lost.



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