When I got married, I had lofty expectations of how it was all going to work. My husband, of course, would know my deepest longings and desires without me having to voice them. He would be the paragon of romance and thoughtfulness. He would love me sacrificially as Christ loved the church and he would lead our home with the wisdom of Solomon and the gentleness of Jesus Himself. Boy, was I disappointed! I was disappointed not because my husband isn’t a wonderful man; he is an amazing man! I was disappointed because my expectations were completely unrealistic. I was expecting him to be the lover of my soul and only One can fill that role—Jesus. What I have learned in thirty-four years of marriage is that my husband makes a wonderful husband but a lousy Savior.
What I know of divorce I have learned as a trusted confidant to many friends walking that painful path and as a sister experiencing the pain of divorce six times with three of my siblings. No, I have not been divorced, but in my lowest moments of disappointment I certainly contemplated it. I’ve come to believe that marriages survive (even the great ones) on the grace of God alone! And I’ve come to believe that the grace that sustains me in marriage is the same grace that will sustain you if you find yourself coming out of your marriage. As I counsel women who have experienced divorce, I hear four predominant feelings emerge: an inability to forgive and a gnawing sense of regret, shame, and guilt. All of these woundings require a supernatural healing and an outpouring of God’s inexplicable grace. Grace and healing are mysteries.
The Christian faith is based on staggering mysteries such as salvation, the Trinity, the incarnation, the resurrection, or the working of the Holy Spirit. In our current Christian culture we turn mystery into slogans and formulas. Instead of leaning into the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit, we seek comfort in quick fixes such as seven-step regimens, ten tips for fuller faith, thirty days to freedom, or four steps to learning to forgive, the list could go on. When it comes to forgiving yourself, and being released from shame, guilt, and regret, there is no formula.
If you feel buried under the weight of shame, guilt, regret, or unforgiveness from divorce, I am so sorry for your pain. All of those emotions are too heavy for you to carry alone and they do not serve you well. While there isn’t a quick-fix formula, there is hope in the mysterious ways of God, along with boatloads of grace.
We all need help navigating painful emotions, especially those surrounding divorce. My encouragement to you is to talk to a counselor or trusted mentor who will come alongside you to hold your pain and point you toward the grace and healing that only God can provide. This is not a formula to follow but a few thoughts that might help and offer hope:
How powerful is the blood of Christ? What are the limits of forgiveness? How far does the gospel of peace, the ministry of reconciliation, reach? Can it heal hatred between people? Can it make you reconcile to your ex, to yourself?
Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. It is also a supernatural action of the Spirit. We surrender; He supplies the power to see it through. I say this gently, but forgiveness is also commanded in Scripture. Bear in mind, there is also a distinction between choosing to forgive and then feeling the anger or associated emotions that come when we are triggered by a memory. Feeling the anger does not mean we haven’t forgiven; it means there is still a neurological connection
between the memory and the emotion. Choose. Choose again. Surrender. Surrender again. Easy? No way. Possible? With Christ, all things are. Remember, quite often the hardest person to forgive is yourself. Be curious and kind with yourself and offer yourself the same forgiveness you offer to others.
The promise of Scripture is this, “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5, CSB) God forgives your sin and the GUILT of your sin. Talk to Him honestly about how you feel. Confess, pray, surrender every emotion. On the cross Christ chose to bear our sin and the guilt of it. Choose to not carry around what has already been taken.
Shame reared its ugly head in Genesis and continues to do so. Conviction says, “I did something bad,” shame says, “I am bad.” It is the fingerprint of the enemy and a lie from the pit of hell. Crush it. Again, no easy formula, but a continual surrendering to the Lord. It requires living out 2 Corinthians 10:5 by taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ. When a thought of shame, guilt, or regret interrupts your thinking, determine the source (the lie) and replace that thought with a truth from Scripture. Arm yourself with notecards that will serve as “thought replacements.” We are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12). Use the Word as the offensive weapon that it is (Eph 6).
It’s hard to walk forward when your head is turned and looking back. Regret will never serve you well. It did not serve Lot’s wife well. It didn’t serve the Israelites in the wilderness when they looked back and remembered their place of captivity (Egypt) with fondness, it will not serve you when you look back either. Look forward. Fill your life with relationships and activities that are life affirming.
No matter the situation, please be kind to yourself. The pain associated with divorce is devastating and my heart aches with you if this is the path you are walking. You are forgiven. You are seen. You are loved. You are known. You are not forgotten or forsaken. You are not done. He loves you so. I pray you sense that today.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through Lifeway Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. “I was a wounded, lonely Midwest farm girl until the Divine Romancer swept me off my feet. I want to steward my story well so that others can find Him in their stories and be fully satisfied.” Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live on Florida’s West Coast and are both on staff at Bayside Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the Lifeway resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.