With the passage of time I can now reflect on my experience with a degree of detachment and share some of the main stages that mark my journey through divorce. For me it was one of the most catastrophic events in my life and the journey through it could best be described as an emotional roller coaster.
It began many years before the word “divorce” was ever mentioned but I will never forget the day it dawned on me that my marriage was over. That feeling of finality was by far the most difficult to deal with. There was no way back, the building blocks of love; trust; respect; companionship; security; loyalty and commitment, that we had built over 24 years together, had disintegrated and were replaced with feelings of failure, guilt, shame and extreme loss. The initial stages were similar to the grieving process as I entered a state of disbelief, my senses numbed and I questioned everything. I lost my sense of identity and my sense of “self”. My concentration, memory and general ability to function normally were all in a state of disarray. I literally “muddled through” days, weeks and months. My life felt as if it was broken in pieces.
Yet, in the midst of this chaos, life went on and somehow I managed to take children to school; go to work; do shopping, housework; deal with letters and phone calls from solicitors and attend meetings with barristers. It was a time of endless stress and deep emotional pain, with major decisions to be taken on my own. It seemed to me that everything I believed in and built my life on was meaningless. I wondered how I had reached this point. I stopped going to church because the experience of marriage breakdown shook the foundations of my faith. I felt ashamed, I felt my life and witness were failures and I felt I would be judged in church circles. The reality however, when I did return to church, was very different. I was welcomed back with open arms and having genuine friends who offered support and encouragement and who I could trust to be discreet about my situation was indeed a turning point in my journey.
The main foundation stone to rebuilding my life was the constant and ever-increasing awareness of God’s presence in my life. I discovered that God is always with me and I developed the habit of talking to him all the time. I took comfort in praise and thanking God for his presence and for the sense of his presence. Things would happen – inexplicable things – such as a Bible reading or a worship song where the verses spoke directly into my situation, a friend would ring me or call in at a timely moment. A book arrived in the post one day from a friend who was “thinking” about me and it was so relevant I started reading it immediately from cover to cover. During my times of crisis there was always a significant event that encouraged or supported me. I believe this was in response to the many prayers made on my behalf by faithful Christian friends. I believe it was this faithfulness in prayer that brought me through the ordeals along the way. I started keeping a journal and what follows serves to illustrate how God used various ways to come along side me when I needed Him most.
For example, once when I was in the middle of a very acrimonious legal battle, I wrote in my journal… “Emotional unraveling! A very difficult day…” and then I recounted that that day a Christian friend in work had been praying for me and she told me to “get into the eye of the storm, that everything would be alright” She based this on an article called ‘Stilling Life’s Storms’ that she had read based on Psalm 107. My journal continues,
“As I read it I just couldn’t stop the tears – tears of wonder that the Lord reaches out and touches my soul just at the times when I need him the most. The phrase repeated in Psalm 107 is to “praise the Lord for his goodness to us”. The article said…“But faith cleaves its way through the murky mists and establishes a sure connection with the throne of the Eternal Father. This is what the New Testament calls the anchorage of the soul, and however severe the storm that sweeps over the earth, the soul that shelters there is safe”
It continued with, “The one resort of the soul when it is hard driven, is to look up to him who holds the winds in his fist, the waters in the hollow of his hand, and who cannot forget or forsake those who cry to him”
Other significant entries during troubled times: –
“My advice to you is this: Go to God and present your case to Him”
“Is anything too hard for the Lord”
“Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and he will help you”
“Don’t worry about anything: instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done”
2 Peter 1: 3-4
“As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life … and by that same mighty power, he has given us all of his rich and wonderful promises. He has promised that you will escape the decadence all around you…”
“…To all who mourn in Israel He will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair…Instead of shame and dishonour you will inherit a double portion of prosperity and everlasting joy. For I, the Lord, love justice…I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For He has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness…”
These are samples of the treasures I’ve stored in my journals and they form a powerful testimony of the greatness of our God; His loving faithfulness; His practical care and provision; His strength and His shelter in the storms. Like the manna given to His children in the desert He provided for me over and over again. God took the fragments of my broken life and gradually put me back together.
And so it was that my journey to the present day continued. It hasn’t been easy but the Lord has been in it with me. I am now “out the other end of the tunnel” so to speak, but for those who are either about to enter it, or who are still in the darkness, I would encourage you to look upwards and trust God with your future. Jeremiah 29:11 is another very significant verse that I still hold on to…
“I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Divorce is a traumatic event in anyone’s life and Christians are not immune from it or its effects. But, as in every major trauma that we may face, as Christians we do not face it alone. The main tools the Lord used to rebuild my life were fellowship with him and his people, communication with him through his word, through praise and through prayer. My life has been transformed beyond recognition – by the grace of God. I have arrived at this point feeling whole and without a bitter spirit. Life can be good again – so take hope and trust in the Lord with all your heart.