There were two fears I carried early in life, two circumstances I begged God to never allow happen: losing a child and divorce. I’m not quite sure why those two particular issues scared me as they did—maybe because I’ve seen the devastation loss like that creates in life, the aftermath of the destruction, and the seemingly impossible chance to come back, to heal.
The death of a child seems apparent—death is not natural, the death of a child before a parent, even less so.
But divorce—I’m not sure where that first started—maybe because I knew what the Bible said about divorce. God hates it. Divorce looked like the ultimate snub, like flipping God a spiritual middle finger in pursuit of everything the world offers.
It’s the easy way out.
They must not have tried.
They just gave up.
Didn’t you know that divorce is the ultimate sin?
Okay, so that last statement may be a bit of an exaggeration, but that was the message I remember from the time I was young. I’d hear the whispers of adults as they talked about friends whose marriages were falling apart.
Can you believe it? She’s filing for divorce.
Ripe with judgement and condemnation, I vowed that seven-letter word would never be a part of my story.
Then my two fears collided head-on. In 2005, fire destroyed my home and snatched away the life of my five-year-old daughter. Emma and her daddy were inside the house as fire roared and raged. Emma didn’t survive, and her daddy spent three weeks in a medically induced coma giving his body a chance to heal from the damage the fire inflicted upon his body.
In those early days, while I waited for him to wake up and grief twisted my heart in ways I never knew possible, I begged God to save my marriage. I knew hearing that Emma died would devastate her daddy’s heart. I also knew this could be the final strike that would incinerate our already struggling marriage.
While our marriage didn’t end in an explosion, it did die from a slow burn—the kind that’s usually good for simmering a tasty brisket but not so good for rescuing a marriage. Seven years after we buried our little girl, the papers were approved to remove our marriage from life-support. Divorce was written into my story.
I remember staring at myself one day in the mirror, staring myself down, actually. Was this really my life?
Questions swirled as I looked deep into those red-rimmed hazel-green eyes hoping to find myself, to peer past the cloud of pain and see me, to find hope. All I saw was the smoldering stare of guilt and shame and condemnation in my wrinkle-lined eyes.
I stared again and swore. Not a promise-making-I’m-going-to-rise-above-this oath. No, I literally cussed myself out. How in the h-e-double hockey sticks did I wind up here? All that was left of my 14-year marriage was distance, memories, and a mountain of pain and debt I couldn’t see my way through. Everything about my life landed in a stereotypical movie cliche—a 40-year-old divorcee trying to find herself.
Now this is where I’d be tempted to add divorce statistics in a feeble attempt to explain both sides of the story. The divorce rate is down, though it’s still high within churches.
But honestly, those rates aren’t helpful when you’re the one in pain, when you feel like a modern-day leper banished to the edge of town. Rates don’t sit with you, cry with you, or offer a Kleenex to wipe the snot dripping down your nose as you ugly cry your way through another Hallmark happily-ever-after-why-can’t-I-have-that-life movie.
Rates also don’t tell you the truth that we’re all sinners, selfish monsters devouring any chance of hope this side of heaven because if we were truly gut-level-honest we’d admit that all we think about is ourselves: How we can be happy. How we expect others to make us happy.
I wish I could offer you a magic formula—10 ways to happy, especially after enduring a divorce. Truthfully, I wish the list would end at 10. I wish I could give you a well thought out list, a command to do these things, and all will be well.
If I offered a list like that to you, I’d be lying. There is no quick fix for enduring the death of a marriage, regardless of the circumstances. There is no amount of time that will heal all the broken places hidden deep within. There is no magic formula or pithy list designed to heal the ripping that occurs as one becomes two again.
But I will say this: if you’re truly looking for healing, you won’t find it in another’s arms. You won’t find healing in another relationship, in your kids, or that work you think is important, no matter how right it feels. You won’t find healing in numbing or drinking or pretending none of it ever happened by stuffing it so far inside of you that you think it will never again see the light of day.
If you truly want to experience healing, there is only one way—and his name is Jesus.
Jesus, the One who ate with tax collectors and spoke with prostitutes. Jesus, the One who touched lepers and called lame men to walk. Jesus, the One who commanded the seas to stillness and a dead man to life. Jesus, both fully man and fully God who lived a sinless life yet stretched out his arms and endured death on a cross to pay the penalty our sin required.
That Jesus is the only One who truly heals.
“He heals the broken-hearted and bandages their wounds.” Psalm 147:3, NLT
Bartimaeus knew this. Blind and a beggar, he spent much of his time sitting along the road perhaps hoping someone would have mercy on him. Most people walked on by, not even giving him a second look. In fact, that happened the day Bartimaeus heard Jesus was nearby.
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimaeus began to shout.
The crowd yelled back, “Be quiet!”
He only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus heard him, and stopped. “Tell him to come here.”
Oh, can you imagine the murmuring that rippled through the crowd? The whispers.
Did you hear? He told that blind beggar to come.
Why is he wasting his time on that man?
Doesn’t he know what really happened?
But the murmuring didn’t stop Bartimaeus. Scripture tells us that he threw off his one protection, probably his one treasured possession—his coat. “Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.” (Mark 10:50)
And then came the question that waits for us: “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied, “My Rabbi, I want to see!” And Jesus healed him instantly.
What do you want Jesus to do for you? Are you willing to toss aside all that is valuable to you—your pride, your fear, your plans—and run to the One who is calling you? Healing is waiting; are you willing?
Healing begins when you sit with the One who loves you most and lay yourself bare before him.
“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” Psalm 139:1, NLT
Healing begins when you confess your fears, your selfish motives, your attempts to rescue yourself and admit your need of a Savior.
“For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night,.” Psalm 51:3, NLT
Healing continues as you immerse yourself in his Word and the Holy Spirit reveals truth and hope and grace throughout its pages.
“The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” John 1:4, NLT
Healing continues as what was dead is brought to life and hope gives birth to faith.
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!” Ezekiel 37:5, NLT
Healing continues as the weight of condemnation is released by the sacrifice of Jesus.
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” Romans 8:1-2, NLT
And healing will not end until the day Jesus returns again.
“And I am certain that God, who began a good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6, NLT
Yes, healing from divorce is possible, not by anything you can do—though it does take time and effort and trust on your part. The good news is that the hardest work, the saving work of healing, was already accomplished through Jesus’ death and resurrection. All you need to do is answer the question Bartimaeus did—what do you want Jesus to do? And then believe.
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21, NLT