I want to be clear, I am pro-marriage, I believe in God, and I love my church. I have experienced firsthand the goodness and kindness of God & from those in church. Unfortunately, I have also experienced cruelty, judgment & disapproval from some well-meaning people in the church. This blog is for the ones who’ve been shamed, felt disqualified, and unloved at the hands of those in church, esp. if you’ve been divorced.
The Perfect Life
I don’t believe anyone goes into marriage with divorce in mind. We make a covenant with a person before God & friends. Hope-filled, we venture into a new life with the knowledge of the person we have known for X amount of time. We are dreaming of a future based primarily on who we are, the potential we see, and the person we have known up to this point vowing life for eternity. If you are in church, you have prayed, attended pre-marital counseling, and have the approval and support of friends and family. Two imperfect people come together dreaming of a perfect life.
The Perfect Wife
At twenty-one, I heard one of my heroes, Joyce Meyers speak about her marriage; “I have never said “No” to Dave. God told me that if I honor Dave, God would honor me.” She went on to say: “Ladies, if you are upset & pointing the finger at your man, remember, you’ve got 3 pointing back at you, so stop and ask God how you can change, and let God take care of him.” There are many who take those principles to heart only to be disillusioned with God and disappointed when our acts of service, prayers, and self-sacrifice don’t create the desired change. Freewill is a gift, we get to choose life or death; when one spouse is unhealthy, unavailable, and unwilling to shift, then what?
Does God Hate Divorce? Does He hate me?
I once had a family member tell me that “God Hates Divorce, it’s a sin; so you will never be blessed, and you & your kids will be messed up.” That statement cut deep, and it scared me. I realized that in the three seconds, it took her to speak, her words cursed me & my kids. I’m sure she was well-meaning, but the religious spirit is sneaky, like backhanded compliments that leave you dazed & confused.
Her words caused me to question everything. Would I really be cursed? Does God really hate me? Were my children going to be messed up because two broken people could not stay anymore? When you already feel guilt or shame, someone quoting scriptures with confidence will plant more seeds of doubt & unbelief. This lie I believed kept me from going to church for almost 3 years. My insides ached, and my heart grieved each time I drove by. I cannot articulate the utter despair I felt from the loss of what I once held so dear…grieving not just my marriage, but now the church, my tribe, and my relationship with Jesus, ..all gone because of a lie that I was shameful.
Some denominations deem divorce as a big no-no. You find yourself suddenly exiled, ghosted, unworthy to minister to others, facilitate, lead a Sunday school class, or even be a greeter without explanation. These behaviors without healthy conversations create shame. It confirms the lies we already felt and secretly feared; more rejection more embarrassment.
I have never read about Jesus shaming, ghosting someone, abusing, condemning, rejecting, or denying anyone! Not the Samaritan woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, or the men on the cross beside him. The Jesus I know is kind and compassionate. In John 4:8 he met a Samaritan woman who had “many husbands”. One encounter with Jesus imparted acceptance & released identity. She became the first female evangelist of her time. IN Mark 3:1-6, Luke 13:10 and in John 5:1-8 Jesus healed men and women and delivered them ALL on the Sabbath which was against the law.
When the church hurts.
Many have turned to the church for wise counsel, refuge, and comfort only to be disappointed. Each in varying types of abusive, dysfunctional relationships where infidelity, porn addictions, and affairs are known. The wise counsel to the betrayed spouse was “to pray more”, “have more sex” or “be more submissive or _____” They are reminded they made a covenant and not a contract. ‘In sickness and in health, richer or poorer, for better or worse.’ So, many remain in unhealthy marriages, committed & submitted with no real hope, solutions, or support.
I believe we must take humanity into consideration, and we must be moved with compassion, not rules, suspicion, or judgment. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:7-11 “The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love—love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God. Those who fail to keep to this point soon wander off into dead ends of gossip. They set themselves up as experts on religious issues but haven’t the remotest idea of what they’re holding forth with such imposing eloquence. It’s true that moral guidance and counsel need to be given, but the way you say it and to whom you say it are as important as what you say.”
Divorce by itself is hard, painful, and scary, then, if your church rejects you, you don’t just lose a spouse, house, and dream, you lose your trusted tribe. My friend says that she believes ‘divorce isn’t a sin, it’s the product of our sin and pain.’ Humanity is broken, imperfect, and fragile. Unresolved trauma and pain cause people to sabotage healthy relationships, self-medicate & do things they never thought possible. The person inflicting trauma is usually the one with past trauma, on repeat, creating new cycles of trauma for their spouse and family. Sometimes divorce is a necessary ending, and we as the church should put on empathy, and compassion and show grace to those hurting. That is what the Jesus I know would recommend.
It took me years to heal; to “feel” loved and confident. To believe I’m not a big disappointment to God. I went to therapy with a healthy counselor; and had a great tribe to support me. John 14 tells us that “Loving me empowers you to obey my voice. I also know that the more I know I’m loved by God, the more I became secure in who I am. Shame falls away, and regret, lies, and fears melt in the presence of His love.
There is life after divorce, I promise! God is not done with you! As to the words of the well-meaning family member, while divorce and singleness were an adjustment, we were not broken. My children & grandchildren are healthy and whole and I am happily remarried. If you’ve been hurt by the church, I’m so sorry, that was not God, it was humanity & legalism at work! Remember – God chose you. and still does! God will always choose the person over the institution, he proved that in the gospels time and again.
- YOU ARE VALUABLE,
- YOU HAVE A PURPOSE.
- YOUR STORY WILL NOT BE WASTED.
- GOD WILL RESTORE YOU
- HE LOVES YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN.
- GOD IS NOT ASHAMED OR DISAPPOINTED IN YOU.
- YOU ARE WORTHY, SIGNIFICANT, AND STRONG.
- YOU AND JESUS ARE THE PERFECT TEAM!
I love this scripture truth – NO- THING can separate you from His love! Romans 8:31-39 “Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.“
EXTRA: How do I heal from spiritual abuse?
I wish I had a magic pill for you. The biggest challenge to healing is learning to trust yourself, your judgment of others, and God. It took time to condition you, and it will take time to heal. Our core belief system has been deceived into a counterfeit version of who God is and who we are in Him. Here are some tips to heal:
- Ask the Holy Spirit, ‘What is the truth?’ HE IS the Spirit of Truth within you, so tap into that resource. He wants to shift the wrong view of God by the abuse instilled. There is absolutely nothing controlling or manipulative about Jesus, God, or the Holy Spirit. He has literally given us free will to choose Him…The Kingdom is so opposite of these broken people who cause so much pain.
- Your feelings and emotions are created to serve you and not rule you. We must learn to recognize and challenge them. The more we know the nature, character, and heart of God towards us, and we know Him personally, you recognize when manipulation is occurring. The healthier you become, the lies you believed, and the fears you feared will fade. You will know with certainty that you are not crazy and you make good decisions. God is for you and wants you to learn to trust & love yourself.
- Legalism trains you to not trust yourself. Choose to believe in yourself even when you don’t feel it. In the natural, you’ll ask 10 other opinions before decisions are made. A practical tip is to limit yourself to two choices and make yourself choose. This is taking back your power one choice at a time.
- Positive self-talk speaking out loud! Your voice is powerful, and manipulation and control silence us. Connect with yourself in mind, body, soul & spirit. Put your hands on your head or heart, and ask yourself what or how you feel about yourself or your situation. If what you hear, say sense, or feel is NOT rooted in love or grace, reject it. Life and death are in the power of the tongue! Your words are powerful and your heart hears them. Faith and confidence come as we believe, so if ‘faith comes by hearing’ listen to your words! Replace negative thoughts with positive words. Learn to listen to your gut and move from the place of peace it brings you. Always lean into ‘what’s the truth?’
- Taking back your power includes setting small healthy boundaries. Start small and remember, these simply allow you to say yes to the things that add value to you and bring you peace or blessing, but they also allow you to say NO to the things that do not bring you peace and actually detract from your life or relationships.
- Forgive yourself & release the other person. Because you didn’t know what you didn’t know. Extend grace to yourself & give your mind time to align with your heart. This was not your fault. Second, releasing the other person frees up your mental space to focus on you. It’s not being ok with them, having to be friends with them, but it’s saying God I trust you to be my defender, so I am not always on alert.
Part of the healing process will include getting back into your community; we get hurt in the community, but we also heal there too! You will meet new healthy friends, leaders, and pastors. It happened to me and I know He’ll do it for you! We have a saying “I know and perceive, so I will not be deceived.” You will recognize a counterfeit a mile away! It’s important to trust yourself, but also to seek support from trusted friends or professionals who can help you identify and address any pain from the manipulation or abuse. I’m sorry you were hurt, that was man’s humanity and not God’s!
I’m praying for you! –
"Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us."