What I Learned About the Impact of Divorce
The Emotional Impact of Divorce
Having lost both of my parents, a sister, many other relatives, and friends to death, there's a part of me that believes the death of my marriage and subsequent divorce resulted in a longer, more agonizing period of grief than the death of my loved ones. When someone we love dies, while painful and debilitating on many levels, if we have confidence they walked with the Lord Jesus, there's comfort in knowing our aching heart will one day be healed as we're reunited with them.
When the one to whom we've pledged our life-long devotion chooses to walk away and be joined to another after more than 20 years (yet, because of children or other extenuating circumstances, remains in our lives), initially, it's almost like going through the agony of death every time we see them again.
The separation caused by death, at least from a clinical viewpoint, is "clean," final, and complete. "Death" by divorce, for me, was an ongoing reminder that part of my life was gone. And while from a biblical perspective, Jesus was and is my life, my wholeness, there was a sense in which I felt incomplete, broken, and defeated.
I remember in the days following my divorce, caring friends, in an effort to comfort me, told me it would be "okay," that I'd "survive." I asked one of them how long it had been since their divorce, and they told me five years. I know they meant well, but I needed to know how to get through the next five minutes. Five years seemed an eternity in that season.
It's now been nearly thirty years. And true to His Word, God has sustained and healed me, but I carry with me to this day the scars of my divorce. What did I learn? How has the Lord redeemed the tragedy of my broken marriage?
The Financial Impact of Divorce
The most powerful lesson for me was learning when you have nothing left but God, He's enough. I was a staff pastor when my wife left. However, emotionally, I wasn't able to continue in that role, so I resigned my position. The house we owned was bought with our combined incomes, so it had to be sold. I had no job, thus no income, so I couldn't support my two teen-aged children.
Divorced pastors aren't exactly "hot items" in the job market, so the only employment I could find was commissioned sales. Believing my income potential would allow me to deal with our indebtedness and not, in good conscience, being able to consider bankruptcy an option, as part of the divorce agreement, I accepted nearly $60,000 in unpaid bills.
I love cars, so I decided to take a job selling cars. How hard can it be, right?
Rebuilding was a long, slow process, littered with eviction notices, and overdue billing statements. The low point of my life was the day I opened the envelope with my two-week pay statement. After my child support, taxes, and everything else was deducted, I had less than $20 to survive until the next payday. I was driving a new Cadillac provided by the dealership but didn't have money to put gas in it.
Rebuilding Your Life After Divorce
Robert Schuller often said, "Inch by inch, anything's a cinch." How did the Lord put the broken pieces of my life back together? Inch-by-inch, moment-by-moment.
He taught me He can be trusted to give me what I need, not when I want it, but when I need it. Ironically, I never actually got evicted, the Lord always made a way for me to keep a place to live. And, though it took me ten years, every debt incurred while I was married was paid in full. He even let me win a contest at the car dealership that enabled me to take my 16-year-old daughter to the Bahamas.
At 70, my faith is stronger than ever. My growing love for and devotion to my Savior is more real and alive, and my desire to use whatever measure of influence I now have to help others find Jesus is the driving force of my life. There's a sense in which the Lord resurrected me from the death of my divorce and has enriched my life in ways I never could have imagined.
My new bride of 24+ years is the delight of my life, and she's more beautiful to me today than the day we met. Have we had issues? Is the Pope Catholic?
Jesus assured us that in this world we "will have trouble" (John 16:33). Not "if." Not "maybe." Dealing with conflict and resolving it respectfully is the glue that holds our marriage together, but dependence upon the Lord is foundational.
As Solomon noted in Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT): "...a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." Faithfulness and trust are the keys to a happy marriage. In my mind, they are the two key ingredients the Lord brings to our lives when we yield our allegiance to Him.
May I sum up what I've learned, in these few verses? It has been and continues to be an inch-by-inch, moment-by-moment process enabling me to...
"Trust in the Lord with all [my] heart; do not depend on [my] own understanding. Seek His will in all [I] do and He will show [me] which path to take." -- Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)
His path has led me to peace and confidence in my relationship with Him, to the woman of my dreams, and to the best church on the planet. It doesn't get much better than that this side of heaven.