Divorce Pain

October 26, 2008

How do I cope with the pain I'm experiencing from my divorce?

Divorce is never easy. It is a painful, heart-breaking experience for everyone involved. Families are torn apart, leaving confused, angry, and hurting children. No one "wins" in divorce.

When you first begin to go through a divorce, your main thought is survival. You want to "just get through" the excruciating pain and keep up with life. Your heart feels like it is being ripped out, but life goes on. You must go to work, pay your bills, clean your home, and continue to parent, which some days can seem like an impossible feat.

Divorce is such a shock that many try to survive it through denial. Denial is a way of shielding your heart from harsh feelings of rejection, despair, and betrayal, which can temporarily help you absorb the initial trauma. Consciously or unconsciously, you may be telling yourself, "This really is not happening." You may convince yourself that your spouse is bluffing. You might even avoid telling anyone that your mate has left you or intends to.

As the painful truth begins to sink in, support from family and friends is vital. Be encouraged to tell trusted friends what you are thinking and feeling. You should not attempt to endure the pain of divorce without the emotional and spiritual provision of your friends and family.

Once you have faced the fact that a divorce is inevitable, you will have many overwhelming feelings. Anger, sadness, rejection, and feelings of betrayal invade you without warning. It is important to allow yourself to have those feelings. Do not try to cover or numb your feelings with something like food, work, or another relationship. We all may be tempted to suppress our feelings on occasion. But allowing yourself to experience your feelings will promote healing, not thwart it. If you are more committed to avoiding your pain, chances are high that you will experience these painful feelings inappropriately later in life and in different relationships.

These times of emotion can be opportunities for you to know God in a more intimate way. Allow God to comfort you and bind and heal your wounds ( Psalm 30:2 .) You can allow Him to show you things that maybe you have overlooked for years. God wants to show you a better way of living your life. He wants to help you see and break patterns of relating to others that may have contributed to this devastating experience of divorce.

This may be a time of repentance for the way you have related to others in your life. Do you have a pattern of avoiding conflict in relationships? Have you allowed someone to disrespect you over time? Maybe you struggle with intimacy and communication. This part of the healing is difficult and can feel scary. You may be tempted to blame your spouse for everything wrong in the marriage. Blaming may feel more comfortable than facing the part you played in the breakdown of the marriage, but it doesn't help you grow as a person.

But what if you have been the victim of horrible abuses and violations of trust? Don't you have the right to put more of the responsibility for the divorce on your spouse? Isn't your anger justified? You will have natural feelings of anger and bitterness at times. Certainly, it is right and appropriate to hold your spouse accountable for the way he or she hurt you. Scripture does not say that to be a loving person we must ignore the faults of others and allow them to continue in sin. Rather, in Romans 6:1-2 Paul said that if we love Christ and recognize the extent of His grace, we should not allow a loved one to continue in sin. Loving well means that you encourage another person's growth towards Christlikeness by holding him or her accountable with the hope that it will bring the person to his or her senses.

While a certain amount of anger and bitterness is justified, it is not in anyone's best interest to let your feelings grow into obsession and revenge, as this will inhibit a submissive heart for God ( Proverbs 20:22; 22:4; 1 Peter 5:5 ;James 4:6-7 ).

A submissive and loving heart for God will be nurtured through prayer and thankfulness. When you think about the betrayal in your marriage, it may be easy to fall into revengeful and hateful desires. Bitterness and depression can creep into the heart and destroy love and compassion. The best way to face these negative emotions is to immerse yourself in prayer and thanksgiving. Pray for yourself, your un-met longings, and your pain. Pray for your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Pray for God's redemptive purpose to take place in your life. Pray for hope, that in the midst of your pain and anger, you may one day have a compassionate heart for your spouse. And be thankful. Remember the good and wonderful ways in which God has been there for you in the past. Be ready to see His blessings today. A thankful heart will bring you peace and guard your heart against hate ( Philippians 4:4-9 ).

You are beginning a long and lonely journey. Fear will surround you. Overwhelming feelings of loss, betrayal, and isolation will plague you. Some moments you will feel strong. The next moment, waves of emotion will suffocate you. The path to healing means that you accept these lonely times as a place where God wants to teach you things about yourself and Him that you haven't yet learned. Cry out to God in your desolation. He will hear you and help you ( Psalm 34:17-18 ).

Divorce has the potential to produce bitterness, depression, and a lack of trust in people. It also has the potential to deepen your relationship with God, which brings with it great blessings ( Psalm 37:4-6,9,11,18-19 ; Matthew 5:3-10 ; Philippians 2:1-2 ).Trust that God will not leave you alone in your suffering. He will comfort you ( Matthew 5:4 ), and heal you ( Psalm 34:17-18 ). It would not be an easy road, but you can find solace in knowing that He suffers with you in your loss. This is not what God intended for your life, but He can use suffering to pour love into your heart and produce deeper character in you ( Romans 5:1-5 ).

I pray that you have been truly blessed by this teaching. AMEN.