Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1.3-7
Divorce is a kind of desert, especially if you are religious. Even if you’re not religious, though, divorce leaves you exposed. Just as travelers in the desert endured harsh conditions and meager provisions, recent divorcees have little to fall back on. Their primary companion through life is no longer there. Despite the fact that, in their particular circumstance, that absence might be a good thing, it is always difficult to be alone after you have been with someone for a time.
The conditions of divorce are harsh, too, like the desert. Advice comes from everywhere, usually well-meant, but still misplaced, usually more hurtful than helpful. People will say all kinds of mean things about your ex, just to show they love you. Sometimes you will want to hear those things, and sometimes you will recognize that more hatred is not likely to help you move past the wounds of your marriage. Other people will side with your ex, displaying coldness, anger, or impatience toward you. That, too, is harsh. But it must be borne. There’s really no way around it. You must pray for grace and peace, knowing that what others say cannot define you. True, you have some things to be sorry for, and there is much for which you must undoubtedly repent, but the Spirit ought to convict and heal you, not the patrons of your past life who are themselves hurt and betrayed by your absence.
This is where you tend to feel the lack of provisions most keenly in divorce: not so much the financial lack (though that stings), but the relational lack. You’ve lost part of your family, both intimate and extended. Your couple friends no longer feel comfortable around you, so you wander from couple to couple, trying not to feel like a third wheel and trying not to make them choose sides, though you want them to. You are also without his friends or her friends–friendships that belonged to your spouse and preceded your marriage, but that you have come to cherish. These losses are inevitable, but still cause pain.
If you are religious, then you know that divorce has its own special stigma within the church. It’s a super-sin in the eyes of many Christian people. As a rule, churches don’t do a good job of helping people recover from divorce, let alone work through the grief, loss, and resentment that inevitably accompany it. We are too busy reminding everyone what the Bible says about divorce instead of helping people find what the Bible says about healing and hope, about new beginnings, and about second chances.
Divorce is a special desert for Christians, made more miserable by the exclusion and the labeling from within the community.
People say divorce is a sin. Is it any wonder why? The pain is so great, so diverse. God, in His mercy, tells us to keep marriage sacred and to avoid divorce in all but the bitterest circumstances because He loves us and is trying to spare us all this. But if you are divorced, the time for prohibitions against divorce has already past. It’s too late for you not to get divorced; you must now journey through the desert of divorce and come out the other side. You must learn how to be a divorced Christ-follower. You must re-learn your Christianity. You have to start over, with a new paradigm in which the Spirit shapes you. This can be good.
Focus less on the fact that you are divorced and more on the fact that God’s Spirit is cooperating with every new opportunity to help make your life better. There is much to be done, as there is in all of us, but you will get used to your new journey and will come out the other side.
Deserts always end. You may not remarry, you may not want to, but there will come a day when you are no longer labeled and defined by your divorce but by your love. That will be a good day.
This post is from Seasons of Christian Spirituality.