Life After Divorce: Now What?
Divorce is a great loss. It’s a crisis, one that has a huge impact on the lives of everyone involved. If you have experienced or are currently going through a divorce, my heart goes out to you.
I know about divorce. My parents got divorced when I was 12-years-old. It was a painful and destabilizing experience for my whole family.
In my years of being a counselor, I have heard many divorcés express their feelings of loss, betrayal, and confusion. "This isn’t the way the story is supposed to end," they say. “Now what?” they ask.
But I’m here to tell you that divorce is not the end of the road. It isn’t easy, and it’s not what you would have chosen, but God can help you make wise decisions to deal with the transition.
Life for a Christian who is suddenly divorced and single is not directionless, purposeless, or hopeless.
God has plans for you. He says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans not to harm you but, to bring you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
God will strengthen you. He says, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:27-31).
“I am so tired of feeling the way I do.”
Divorce is painful. There is nothing that will make your grief, rejection, and broken heart disappear; these are things you have to work through. Taking away the pain would mean that you would miss out on the growing process that is so necessary to healing. Plus, you might risk getting into a rebound relationship.
Now is the time to work on your personal growth and life stability. The grief you feel is real and normal, and it’s OK to give yourself time to work through this transition. You don’t have to crumble underneath the weight of it. You can learn to grieve and grow.
“I still love my spouse and prayed their heart would change.”
It is normal to love your spouse. After all, you took vows until “death do you part.” Unfortunately, you can’t make your spouse change their mind. And you wouldn’t want to force them to love you, anyways.
When you think about it, you want someone to freely choose to love you. That’s what real love is. Rejection and betrayal are painful, but would you want your spouse back because they felt pressured or obligated to be with you? No. In fact, what you rejoiced in when you were first married is that this special person freely chose you and loved you. As much as you might want to, you can’t make anyone love you.
“I feel betrayed and rejected.”
Your ex-spouse’s rejection does not change who you are and how valuable you are as a person. Their rejection is a choice they have made — and that choice does not determine your worth. You are still a person unique and important: someone with purpose, talents, and opinions who can be used to make a difference in the world.
The rejection you feel will cause you to feel angry. You will need to work through the anger and the resentment. Anger will help motivate you to work on improving your life — but beware, because it can also cause you to fall into the trap of bitterness.
“Nothing I do seems right anymore. My life feels like a mess.”
Processing your emotions uses a lot of energy. That’s why you feel confused, troubled, and why you constantly question yourself. Your self-esteem has plummeted. To top everything off, you feel cut off from people because friendships change when a marriage breaks up. You lose some of your couple friends and you feel left out. You feel depressed because of the divorce, which makes you want to isolate yourself. You may even face employment and financial difficulties.
I encourage you to fight the depression that tells you, “I am not worth anything, my life is meaningless, nobody cares about me — I may as well give up.”
Start making choices that will keep you growing in the right direction, working through the grief, and getting on with your life.
Proverbs 3:5-6 reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”
What are the choices you can start making?
- Get counseling and support. Find a counselor in the AACC directory. Find a Divorce Care support group.
- Journal your grief and feelings.
- Start a job search if employment or finances are an issue. Get some help with your resume from someone you know who has some expertise in this area. Get some career guidance from www.crown.org.
- Make one goal a week that will help your life improve. Exercise regularly. Eat nutritiously.
- Accept that life will be a challenge. Try and see the challenges as opportunities to grow in faith, character, and new skills.
- Accept the reality that you are divorced. Read how to make the best of your life after divorce, such as Jim Smoke’s Growing Through Divorce.
God will help you persevere and mature in the midst of this trial. James 1:2-4 reads, “Consider it pure joy… whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Larry Crabb states that the goal of Christian maturity is this: “Christ wants us to face reality as it is, including all the fears, hurts, resentments and self-protective motives we work hard to keep out of sight, and to emerge as changed people. Not pretenders. Not perfect. But more able to deeply love because we’re more aware of His love.”
You can experience contentment with Christ. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13, “… for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
You are dealing with various issues: the reality of the death of your marriage, the loss of your spouse, feelings of rejection and betrayal, a broken life and dreams. This is huge! This is hard! But, this crisis is one you can get through to the other side. This loss is one in which God can bring hope and in which you can become strong in the brokenness.
There’s no way to work through the pain of divorce quickly. But through this journey, you will be amazed how your character develops, how God answers your prayers each day, and how hope and strength will grow slowly back into your life. The foundation in your life and spirit will be stronger. You can discover new blessings, new treasures, and even a new you if you trust God for each today and each tomorrow.