The symptoms might be straight forward, subtle, or even hidden; there is a gradual decline or a sudden onset of excruciating pain. Either way, the pathways narrow, the heart becomes hardened, and the pain brings you to your knees.
Regardless of how it happens, when divorce hits, the heart aches. It is both physical and emotional, and it is imperative to find help.
The harm of divorce or separation is far-reaching and takes more than a six-hour surgery or a 13-week rehab program to repair. It is truly one of the most painful experiences in life, undermining our capacity — emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, and relationally — for months or even years.
Divorce places us under a microscope, magnifying our strengths and weaknesses. Through it we see how our personal history and the desires of our heart are critical risk factors. This can be overwhelming and leave us stuck in bondage to the past or paralyzed by fear of the future.
We must remember the wisdom of Proverbs 4:23:
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
There is hope even when our hearts are broken.
I found hope in recognizing the need for help and risking vulnerability. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can open our eyes to our own weaknesses and instill a longing for safety in something greater than ourselves.
I found hope in understanding the recovery process and listening to divorce care experts. Many of them are counselors, speakers, authors and licensed therapists who know firsthand the devastation of divorce having experienced it themselves and are now trained to equip and empower those who are hurting.
I found hope in a community with others who are suffering from the same kind of pain, even in different circumstances. Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us of the importance of fellowship so that we can encourage one another through good times and hard times. Community moves us from a self-centered space to an interdependent space, and that is God’s design.
And I found hope in serving others in the midst of my misery. By reaching out to others in small, caring ways, meaningful connections were created. Serving someone else shifted my focus.
But ultimately, true hope is found in Jesus Christ.
When I was in the midst of my own divorce, I wish I had known where to look. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” But instead, I was searching for financial independence, purpose, and identity in my career.
Then, to manage the emotional fallout of divorce, I did what was comfortable for me, keeping everything personal and private. My community was wrapped tightly around peers in the workforce, and any downtime was spent with my two babies or reading the latest self-help books. My symptoms were apparent, but I tucked them away as I filled my days with busyness to shield myself from pain and disappointment.
I forged ahead alone, and, unbeknownst to me, I was exhausted.
One year later, a friend gifted me a book — a Life Application Study Bible — and for the first time, I began to dig deep for answers. It turns out that the Bible didn’t tell me to persevere and help myself; instead, it pointed to someone other than me: Jesus.
In my brokenness, I felt guilt, shame, and bitterness, but through God’s Word, I discovered grace, truth and love. I began to truly understand what Jesus did for me that no one else would, or could, do.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
— Romans 5:8
Recovery wasn’t immediate, but over the years, my broken heart was slowly healed and filled with gratitude. My community grew to include people who genuinely loved God and desired to serve others. At last, my confidence was rooted in the character of God and the truth that is in Jesus.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
— Ephesians 4:22-24.
Even still, recovery is long and hard. The pathways are narrow and there are unexpected barriers and immeasurable risks. Recovery, and even non-recovery life, requires community, communication, and accountability. Others who have been through divorce will attest that the road of recovery includes progress, but also plateaus and setbacks, much like healing after open heart surgery. But everything suddenly changes when we invite Jesus — the Great Physician — into the operating room.
Jehovah Rapha translates to “The Lord who heals.” Except this healer heals us from the inside out.
Jesus inspects every aspect of our life and then removes all barriers between us and him. He comforts, restores, and grafts new pathways that are full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Jesus understands that recovery is gradual and slow. In fact, he allows us to benefit from his work over a lifetime, discovering that there can be beauty in the pain and process of it all.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
— Ezekiel 36:26
Lord, please draw near to those who are struggling with separation or divorce. Let them know they are not alone. Give them the confidence to ask for help and lead them to a community of people who point to you.