Beating the Stigma of Divorce
Divorce can be a challenging situation that often carries an unwelcome stigma. Depending on the reasons and thought processes of the people involved, divorce can cause a great amount of emotional damage. Not only is there emotional pain, but there is the societal stigma of divorce that is particularly hard for Christian women. This may make surviving divorce even more difficult than it already is.God did not desire for us to experience divorce. In His ordination and creation of marriage, His design was for husbands and wives to remain together for a lifetime. We were supposed to know true love and pleasure without it being tainted by the world.
Contrary to what many in the church have formerly taught, this doesn’t mean that God turns His back on those who divorce. He hates the situation of divorce, not the people involved. He doesn’t want us to experience the damaging results and pains of divorce, and seeing His children walk through it breaks His heart.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. – Psalm 147:3, ESV
Practical tips to beat the stigma of divorce.
Release the guilt and shame.
Often, when people are caught up in guilt and shame, they don’t know where to turn for help after a divorce. Guilt and shame are tools of the enemy, used to thwart healing and restoration. These feelings often lead to isolation, self-destruction to one degree or another, and potentially the use of unhealthy coping strategies which only serve to increase and compound the original guilt and shame. Do not allow them to overcome you and initiate anxiety.
God is not a God of shame or guilt. He is a loving God who hates to see His children hurting. Rather than dwell in the negative feeling of shame, seek the hope of God’s Word. Take time to write out one scripture to encourage you each day. Affirm that you are worthy and loved.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-1, ESV
Acknowledge feelings of isolation and failure.The first step is to recognize that there are many others who have experienced the same pain you have experienced in divorce. You are not alone. Remembering this will combat the feeling of isolation that often comes with divorce. Finding other Christians who have experienced divorce can help you work through feeling alone; doing this can also help you battle the depression that can come from isolation.
Feelings of failure may also be consuming when you are experiencing a divorce. Again, do not let the situation define you. You are not a failure. Allowing these feelings to become your thought process can lead to anxiety and depression. Reaching for God’s Word can help you overcome feelings of failure and isolation. Grace is what God offers so that we don’t feel like a failure. Seek the Bible for more scriptures on the grace of God to help you know you have not failed.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16, ESV
Grieve your marriage.
Ending a marriage is an emotional change that for several reasons involves the process of grieving. Losing a way of life is not much different than losing a loved one. The pain is raw and deep. You may find yourself experiencing all five stages of grief. There is hope in the process. Grieving a marriage is very typical so know that anxiety, depression, bargaining, and anger are a part of the process. Work through each stage one by one, and contact a Christian counselor for assistance if necessary.
You may find comfort in writing out your prayers. When David grieved, he wrote a psalm. As you go through the process of grieving your marriage, read through Psalms to help you find peace in the process. Jesus tells us in chapter 14 of John that He leaves us with peace.
Not peace that the world can offer, but the peace that comes from knowing Him. As you grieve and write, seek to find this peace within your soul. Grieving takes time and that time is dependent upon your choice to step out of the ashes.
O grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness. – Isaiah 61:3, ESV
Don’t play the blame game.
Most of the time during a divorce spouses get caught up in the “blame game.” This can be associated with the anger stage of grieving your marriage. You want to understand what happened so you sit and replay every situation that can be blamed on your spouse. This is not a healthy aspect of healing after divorce.
On the contrary, it can create a barrier in trying to forgive and move forward. It is healthy to own your mistakes and learn that this too shall pass. God’s goodness comes from His love for us. It is by His grace that we understand forgiveness and healing.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. – Ephesians 2:4-5, ESV
Trust God in the process.
It may sound contradictory, but remember to trust that God will be with you as you navigate this process. Divorce is harmful to a family and carries pain that is sometimes difficult to release. Even though it isn’t something about which God is happy, He is not a God who will forsake you because you become divorced. He is loving and merciful. Trust His mercy. Grab onto His love. The result will be a release of pain that only leaves room for joy.
The action of divorce is not condoned by the Bible, yet the people involved are not condemned. Jesus paid the price so that we would not be condemned but rather redeemed. Condemnation is a tactic of the enemy. He gets pleasure out of stealing our joy. Keep your focus on the truth of the Bible and trust that surviving divorce with God is possible.
Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” – Isaiah 12:2, ESV
Grow new friendships.
During the years of marriage, you and your spouse have cultivated a group of friendships. These have been your people during your married life. Now you find that it is awkward to be around them. You may even find that because the marriage has ended the friendships have changed.
This is the perfect time to grow new relationships. You will find those true friends will still be standing shoulder to shoulder with you as you navigate surviving divorce. These are the friendships you hold onto and grow.
The best friends to have are those who meet you where you are and love you regardless of your flaws, much like Jesus does when we miss the mark. Godly friends are becoming a rarity in the “self” society of today. Don’t give up hope on your old friends. They may come around and decide to be friends with you and your ex-spouse.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV
Find a new hobby.
You may find that you have more time on your hands now that you are living on your own. Make a list of things you have always wanted to do and try them one by one. Maybe a painting class would give you the space you need to escape from the relentless feeling of failure. You may find that you can find more peace while you are fishing. Try whatever you think would pique your interest. Finding a new hobby can bring a sense of finding peace within yourself.
You could join small groups at church. Groups that exercise together, sew or crochet, go hiking, Bible journaling, or have a girls’ night are great places to find a new hobby and create new friendships. Surviving divorce doesn’t have to be done alone. Most often when a person connects with others the healing process becomes less painful.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. – 1 Peter 4:8-9, ESV
Realize it will get better.
Right now, in the middle of the pain, you may feel like life will forever be awkward and that there will be something missing. That is not true. It may be different but it will be okay. Your new routines will get better. Your new lifestyle will become refreshing. Life will have meaning again.
Jesus did not come to die just so we would never know forgiveness and peace. He came so that we could obtain restoration and hope even when we mess up. Understanding that surviving divorce is different for everyone will help you recognize your process.
There may be times that you feel you just can’t cope. When you face those difficult moments, feel free to reach out to me or another Christian counselor in our online counselor directory. Your counselor can help you overcome any anxiety or depression that is a result of guilt, shame, or anger.
“Broken Heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Artist’s Desk”, Courtesy of Sarah Brown, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Greeting the Sun”, Courtesy of Chang Duong, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Dry Flower”, Courtesy of Marcus Ganahl, Unsplash.com, CC0 License