Divorced But Not Destroyed
As you are reading this title, you may be thinking, He doesn’t really understand just how destroyed my life actually is, or he would never use this title. Yes, I do understand how devastating and destructive divorce is in a person’s life. After counseling men and women for the last 40 years who have been abused, rejected, betrayed and left by their spouses for any number of reasons, I have seen the worst of the worst situations. Yes, you are in one of the darkest places of your entire life, but God will still be your light to direct your path. You may be in the most dire circumstances, wondering how you will provide for yourself and your children, but your sufficient God is with you right now. You may be in the most spiritually devastating time of your life, feeling betrayed and possibly even questioning God, but the wise master-builder, Jesus Christ, can and will rebuild your life. That is what I mean by, divorced, but not destroyed.
However, I also want you to consider that there is someone who wants to destroy your life. Jesus said that the enemy of your soul wants to rob, kill, and destroy you (John 10:10). Don’t let that happen! Paul warned all believers not to be ignorant of Satan’s strategy lest he gain an advantage over them (2 Cor. 2:11). He wrote this to a church that needed to forgive a sinning brother that had done the church much harm. Paul wanted the church to not allow Satan a foothold in their hearts because of unforgiveness.
You do not want to be ignorant of Satan’s plans in your life, or be stumbled by your own sinful nature. Therefore, how can you deal biblically with all that has happened to you? What are some of the issues that are important to address, so that you will not be defeated or destroyed?
1. Don’t get angry with God. One of the primary areas in which believers stumble after a divorce is believing the lie that God has somehow let them down. Many individuals have sat in my office depressed and angry, saying to me, “If God loved me, why didn’t He stop my spouse from leaving me? Why didn’t He change my spouse before it got to this end? I prayed, but nothing happened. Why did God allow this to happen?”
The answers to these and many other questions are essential to resolve in your mind. Why? If you blame God for your divorce, it will greatly hinder your ability to come to Him in faith. If you are angry with God, you will not seek fellowship with the One who wants to strengthen you during this time in your life. Without the Lord’s strength, you will not be able to do any of the things I am about to tell you in this article.
So, why is God not at fault? It is the same reason why terrible things happen to Christians every day in this world. God is not the source of evil. His Word declares emphatically: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:13-17). God is not responsible for the evil done in this world. The lust of Man is the problem. We live in a fallen world. We are married to sinners, who many times choose to do as they please, and obey their own desires instead of the commandments of God. This is exactly what caused Adam and Eve to sin and plunged the world into its present chaos. God continues to plead with all men to turn from their evil ways, so why don’t they? It is because they have a choice, and God will not violate their free will and force them to do what is right. Jesus revealed that this was the reason why the religious leaders of His day wanted to kill Him. Jesus said of these men, “You are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:40). These religious people should have known better. Had they not read God’s pleadings in the Scriptures? Of course they had, but they chose to commit the greatest evil ever done to another human being. They crucified the Lord of glory! They chose to do this evil and Jesus did not deserve any of it.
You too have been betrayed. Your spouse has done great evil to you by leaving and divorcing you. He or she did this against the express desires of God and the pleading of the Spirit to their heart. Remember, God said that He hates divorce (Mal. 2:16). Why would He cause something that He hates? Therefore, don’t blame God for this divorce. He is the God of reconciliation, and I’m sure He was seeking in every way to help reconcile your marriage. However, it requires a response from your spouse.
2. Forgive. The second greatest issue that hinders people after they go through a divorce is unforgiveness. Some have no problem with anger toward God, but are ruined by resentment toward their mate and those who have contributed to their divorce. I have talked with people after twenty or thirty years that are still burning with resentment toward their former spouse.
So, have you truly forgiven? Forgiveness does not mean that you condone what your former spouse has done. Forgiveness means that you have you released your spouse, and anyone that contributed to your divorce, from the debt they owe you? Why do I call what has been done to you a debt? That is the way you look at the sin that has been done to you. You see it as a debt they owe you. People say to me, “I didn’t deserve this! They made a covenant to me. They owed me something so different than what I received.” People are expressing that their spouse has not fulfilled his or her obligation. This is why Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). We all have a debt of responsibility. We have a debt or what we owe God, to love Him. We also have a debt and responsibility to love one another. When we refuse to love either God or man, we have the debt of sin, which is the breaking of God’s commandment.
Therefore, the question you must answer is, have you forgiven as you have been forgiven? Jesus said, “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26). I want you to note the words anything and anyone in this passage. Jesus means what He says. There is not anything or anyone that is exempt from this command. If you are not forgiving, then be assured, you are trying to rationalize away the meaning of these words. You must forgive or you cannot go forward in your life nor in your relationship with Christ. God will not permit it. Why? It is very simple, you are acting hypocritically. You are asking God to forgive you, yet at the same time you are refusing to forgive your spouse.
Therefore, if you choose not to forgive, you are choosing to become hardened and remain bitter. This decision will only separate you from God. Don’t let this happen! If you want to read more on this subject of forgiveness, please go to www.covenantkeepers.org and find the article I have written entitled What’s Keeping You From Forgiving Your Spouse.
3. Reject self-pity. Another common stumbling block to recovery after a divorce is self-pity. Individuals say to me, “What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t they love me enough to stay and work this out? Who is ever going to want me now?” Notice the focus of this kind of thinking. The focus is on self – What about Me. When you allow your focus to be predominantly on self, you are headed for trouble. This is why Jesus said that if you want to follow Him you must deny yourself (Matt. 16:24). Why? Living for self is at the root of all relational instability and every moral evil. James said, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16). The word confusion means: instability or a state of disorder. The word evil refers to anything morally or ethically wrong. So, if this is the result of selfishness, you do not want to put your focus here.
The simplest way to turn from self-pity and a self-focus is to make others the center of attention. Paul told the Corinthians, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being” (1 Cor. 10:24). This was Paul’s simple solution to solving the conflicts in this church.
Therefore, begin by asking God to fill you with His love, because love “does not seek its own” (1 Cor. 13:5). Choose to love and serve others at home, at church, and at work. Seek to benefit others wherever you can and self-pity will disappear from your heart. Choose to be loving toward your former spouse, and this will create the best opportunity to solve the issues that have driven you apart.
4. Control your thought life. If you are struggling with these first three issues in this article, then you will definitely need to control your thought life. Controlling what you allow your mind to dwell on is the key to personal victory in any relational struggle. During Christ’s ministry here on earth, He constantly challenged people to correct their thinking. He knew that how a person thought would determine an individual’s beliefs and behaviors.
Let me give you some examples of how Jesus sought to correct people's thinking. He asked the Pharisees: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” (Matt. 22:42). He knew that their thinking about the Messiah was incomplete. They did not believe that the Messiah would be both the son of David (man) and the Son of God (God come in human flesh). This is the same reason Jesus asked the scribes, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” (Matt. 9:4). He knew that their incorrect beliefs caused them to think evil toward Him and ultimately motivated them to kill Him. Therefore, thoughts motivate beliefs, and beliefs inspire behaviors. This is why Solomon taught, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).
So, how is your thinking? Do you dwell on angry and resentful thoughts toward your former spouse? Do you allow thoughts of self-pity to rule you? Do you vacillate in your mind, between trusting God one minute, and questioning Him the next? If you allow your thinking to continually go in these directions, then you are preventing yourself from ever going forward in your life. This was also one of the Corinthian church’s problems. They were not winning the battles in their own minds. Paul counseled them: “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). What did Paul mean by these encouragements? It is your responsibility to cast down every thought that is contrary to the knowledge and truth of God. In other words, do not play with thoughts that are contrary to the Word of God. The words casting down mean: to dethrone, tear down, or demolish any argument in your mind that leads you to exalt yourself against God, or the knowledge of God. These words are in the present tense which means you are commanded to do this continually. Paul declared that you must bring every thought into captivity or under control to the obedience of Christ. The word obedience means: submission. Therefore, God wants you to bring your thoughts into a place where they are in submission to His thinking. If you choose to obey this command, you are going to survive this hard time in your life, because you will be thinking, believing, and behaving as God requires. You will grow through this difficult time in your life and not be destroyed by it.
5. Seek understanding. Do you understand why your divorce occurred? Can you identify specifically what your spouse did wrong in your marriage? Can you identify what you did wrong that contributed to the failure of your marriage? These two questions are essential to gaining critical understanding that will cause additional growth in your life.
You may be wondering, Why is it important to determine my faults? If you do not understand where you went wrong, then how will you know what to address if you and your mate seek to reconcile? However, even if you never reconcile, don’t you want to know where you need to grow? Only by repentance concerning your faults, and by surrender to God, will there be lasting change in your life. Don’t you want God’s transformation inside?
In addition, gaining understanding concerning your failures will aid you in all your personal relationships in the future. If you were divorced for biblical reasons, you may get married again. I am sure that you do not want your past faults to affect a future marriage!
Therefore, sincerely pray as David did, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24). When you open your heart before God in honesty and humility, His revelation will come to you. Choose to repent of whatever sin He shows you, and seek guidance from the Word of God as to how you can address these issues in your life. You may want to seek your pastor’s counsel for additional encouragement.
6. Self-righteousness or guilt. Once you understand your faults and failures, you must be very careful not to allow guilt to grip your heart. Yes, God wants you to be convicted of your sin, but He does not want you to be condemned by guilt. The purpose of a guilty conscience is to turn you to the Lord, so you will find His mercy and forgiveness. Remember David said, “You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You” (Ps. 86:5). He is ready to forgive; are you ready to receive His forgiveness?
In addition, for those of you who believe your spouse was the primary cause of your divorce, you must deal with any self-righteousness you may have. A self-righteous person is just as blind to the truth as a guilty one.
One of the best examples of this truth is seen when the religious leaders brought the woman who was caught in the very act of adultery and set her at Jesus’ feet. They wanted Him to condemn her and consent to her stoning. The woman cowered in guilt as the Pharisees stood self-righteously over her, ready to condemn. What was Christ’s response? Did He encourage them to stone her? Did He condemn her? Did He minimize her sin? No, Jesus did none of these things! Notice what Jesus said to these self-righteous leaders: “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7). Jesus wanted to reveal to them their harshness and readiness to condemn her. He also wanted to reveal His righteousness and mercy to her. Jesus said to the woman as her accusers walked away convicted: “‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’” (John 8:10-11). Note that Jesus did not condemn her, but neither did He condone her sin. He made it clear she should stop this behavior – sin no more!
Therefore beloved, be very careful to have the right attitude toward your former spouse, and see yourself correctly. Do not let either self-righteousness or guilt control you. If you allow either of these issues to rule in your life, you cannot go forward successfully.
7. Don’t isolate yourself. One of the ways you can know that you are caught by guilt or self-pity is when you are isolating yourself from others. Do not do this! It is foolish and hurtful to your growth, and hinders your ability to get good counsel at this time in your life. Solomon said, “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment” (Prov. 18:1).
You need to make sure that you plunge yourself into the body of Christ and become an integral part of your church. Your church is where you will find others to serve. Serving others will keep you from allowing self-pity to rule you. The church is also where your children will be strengthened, and find other helpful role models that will encourage them. God meant for you to be involved with His people, because we are “members one of another” (Eph. 4:25). Do not isolate yourself!
8. Minister to your children. In the midst of your pain and suffering of betrayal, you must make sure that you do not forget your children. Many times children think that they were the cause of the other parent leaving. They secretly blame themselves. Children have said to me, “If I would have been better, Dad and Mom would not have divorced.” They may also secretly wonder if you are going to leave them too. So, do not forget about your children’s needs. They feel the loss too. They are struggling to figure this all out, but with much less ability to understand.
Therefore, here are some things to do and not do with your children: 1.) Daily confirm your love to your children. 2.) Restate your commitment to them; that you are never going to leave them. 3.) Explain only the minimum to your children of why your marriage has ended. 4.) Affirm that this divorce has nothing to do with them. 5.) Explain that divorce is an adult issue, and that if they want to know more, you will explain it to them when they are older. 6.) Assure your children that the other parent loves them and is committed to them too. 7.) Do not use your children as spies against your spouse by firing twenty questions at them every time they come home from a visit. 8.) Do not belittle your mate verbally to your children in anger, this is slander. 9.) Do not give them all the details of your former spouse’s sin to try to make them look bad, and you look good. 10.) Do not use your children as an emotional substitute for your former spouse. Remember, he or she is a child, not your counselor.
9. Reconciliation. If there is any hope of reconciliation with your former mate, be sure to pursue this option diligently. There are different circumstances under which every separation and divorce occur, so be sure to get good counsel from those you trust. However, ultimately you must conclude whether or not there is a potential for reconciliation. Therefore, pursue reconciliation until you are certain that there is no possibility for resolution. Remember, God is the God of all hope and all mercy, so follow His example. Have hope and be merciful. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). However, even God Himself knew when there was no remedy or hope of changing or reconciling with His people (2 Chron. 36:16; John 5:40; Matt. 23:37-39). If you are unsure, seek counsel from your pastor or one of the elders in your church. No matter what happens in your future, God’s grace will always be sufficient for your circumstances (2 Cor. 12:9). Ask Him, and it shall be given. Seek Him, and you will find Him (Matt. 7:7-8)!
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