However your marriage ended and for whatever reason, there is life afterwards. God has plans for you, there are many, many verses about this.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 NLT
God is not done with you here, or He would have called you Home. Tell yourself that as many times as necessary until you believe it. He uses everyone who is willing to be used.
For me, the actual process of getting divorced resembled a daily, mental, emotional, and spiritual beating due to the choices of my former spouse. Regardless of the choices of others, however, you can control yourself – how you react or not. It is critical to grow in your relationship with Jesus. This is true whether you are divorced or not; consider this the mission of our days. We must be close to Jesus so we can fulfill the command He gave us.
“Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'” Matthew 28:18-20 NLT
How we can go and tell others about Him if we do not know Him? Put as much as energy as you can into knowing Jesus – pray, read the Bible, fast, seek Him with all of your heart. Disregard what others say and do, and keep your eyes squarely on Jesus. He goes before you, walks alongside you, and goes behind you.
“You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.” Psalm 139:5 NLT
“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT
I was a wounded butterfly, very wounded. In every sense of the word: physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, mentally, and any other way you can contemplate. In many ways, I allowed my spouse to take who I was created to be in God and mold me into what he wanted me to be instead. I own that – I needed to seek deep within to begin to see the places where I put my spouse above who I am in God.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24 NLT
Once I started to see, I fell into the arms of Jesus and asked Him to please take over every piece of my life – and I had to mean it. I faltered, there were and are times that I seized back decision-making. When that happens, the quicker I realize I have done it and turn it back over to Jesus, the better off I am.
God has been working on my heart and my kids – healing us and restoring us to who we buried to appease my former spouse. God is bringing back who we are in Him and highlighting new pieces of ourselves that He created. It has been freeing to give Him the chisel and step out of the way.
The way God works is beyond human comprehension. Sometimes, we can figure out what He is doing and other times, not. I believe in the Bible, so I firmly believe that no matter what is happening to me, God will use it for my good.
Yes, I was a severely wounded butterfly, but that never changed the fact that I am His masterpiece.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT
At my most wounded points, I kept fighting to keep my eyes on Jesus – many times, that meant collapsing on the floor in a puddle of tears. But He is always there. He is always before our eyes.
Focus on Him.
He has worked on me and is still working on me. He has repaired my wings and sent me on new journeys that I never could have imagined. He has used me and my story to help others in ways that I could not have envisioned in my wildest dreams. If you seek first the Kingdom of God above all else, He will move in your life. Give Him everything – your wounds, your hurts, your shame, your secrets, your regrets, whatever – give it to Him. I now have blessings that I can barely describe in words.
In a future post, I will share one of the most incredible blessings Jesus gave me. One I was definitely not seeking. He sent another wounded butterfly to help me soar even higher in Jesus.
I was married for over two decades. Neither of us were believers in Jesus when we got married. Twelve years into our marriage, I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I became a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”). I no longer cared about material things and keeping up with the Joneses. Instead, I suddenly cared about tithing and giving away money to causes that I felt led to support. I now wanted to pray and read the Bible daily.
As a family, we had been sitting in church every Sunday for seven years prior to me being saved. We went to church because once you had kids, “that is what you do” – take them to church. During this time period, my friend invited me to her church. I thought I would go with her to be nice. I did not realize it at the time, but that decision would be a turning point for everyone in my household. After that first visit, I knew that my kids and I needed to attend this new church.
My husband was not saved, so I believed that the Holy Spirit was leading the family to this new church through me. My spouse did not care if or where we went to church, so we started to attend the new church every week. Two years after making the switch to the new church, my spouse chose to get baptized. I was so excited, thinking that finally we would be on the same page with handling our finances, raising the kids, going on mission trips, etc. Some of that happened, but most did not.
Years went by, and the marriage spiraled downwards in a big way. After many years of prayer and fasts, one final incident led me to take the kids and leave my spouse. At that time, I made the decision to be Christlike – no matter what. I placed this verse in the bathroom mirror to see it daily:
“Be Christlike” is a phrase we Christians like to throw around. For me, it meant initially trying to collaborate with my spouse and work through the separation agreement together. This would protect the kids, save time and money, and perhaps provide a healthy example of how to divorce like a Christian.
My spouse chose a different path, which unfortunately has resulted in a lot of money, time, and attorneys. Being Christlike does not mean you refuse to defend yourself or your children. Jesus defended the defenseless. I asked God to show me the attorney He wanted me to have to defend my kids and me against the onslaught. There are Christian attorneys out there, I know a few. Whether you choose a Christian attorney or a non-believer, God will use you to draw that person closer to Him. Conduct yourself in a manner that exalts God at all times, regardless of how the other parties are behaving. You represent Christ. Pray for your attorney, and let him or her know you are doing so and that you are praying for your spouse, too.
Being Christlike for me became praying before responding to lawyers, after my spouse chose the path he did. I would daily bathe my actions and words in prayer; I would spread out legal letters before the Lord like Hezekiah and seek the Lord’s will in all that I do. Every time my spouse tried something, I would “spread it out before the Lord.”
“Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: ‘LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, LORD, and hear; open your eyes, LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. It is true, LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, LORD, are God.'” 2 Kings 19:14–19 NIV.
I kept these verses as a screenshot on my phone and would literally read them whenever I saw an email from my spouse or his attorney. I would then listen for the Lord. This helped me hear Him and be Christlike before responding. It also took my focus and energy off of whatever latest game my spouse was trying to play and onto God and how to bring Him glory.
My spouse came after me and every asset that ever existed whether he had a legal right to it or not. The one item he never once brought up was the kids. He never asked for visitation or custody of them. He only wanted access to their money.
I was dead set on being like Jesus throughout the divorce process. I prayed daily (and still do) to be Christlike to my spouse. My divorce has been going on for over a year now. Some of that length is because I chose to be Christlike. For example, I could have had my spouse served by the sheriff. I chose not to do that, but instead I try to be as collaborative as possible. I also could have filed abuse charges to move things along. I chose not to do that, either, as my spouse did not want the kids, so there was no concern about custody. In addition, the kids would have had to relive what they had endured, and I wanted to shield them from any further harm.
My priority was and is my kids. My abusive spouse knows this, so he would attempt to poison the kids by accusing me of committing adultery or other things that were not true. How I handled this game of my spouse is if I learned of a lie that he told them, I discussed it with my children factually and injected truth. I never called my spouse names or told them anything bad about their father. As the divorce progressed, my spouse came after money that belonged to the kids. I fought to protect their assets.
I am honest with them. If they learn things and they ask, I respond one of two ways: With the truth and only the truth – no emotion or opinions because I view that to be the Christlike approach; the other response is if I do not know the truth, I direct them to ask their father.
There are times that my spouse will plant lies with friends or family with the intent they get back to the kids. I do not pretend to know or assume the truth, so I again point the kids to their father.
They never once have reached out to him in these scenarios. Kids are smarter than we sometimes give them credit for being. When they have one parent belittling the other and not wanting to spend time with them except to pour them full of negativity, the other parent being Christlike is a stark contrast.
In addition to lying and trying to steal from the kids, my spouse also used my social security number at multiple banks without my knowledge or permission. Again, I could have filed charges. My prayers led me to conclude that pressing charges against the father of my children would achieve nothing. Instead, I closed all the credit cards he ran up, and I froze my credit. I went to the banks and reported the incidents so they put flags on all of my accounts and cards. I informed my spouse that I knew what he did and let him know he needed to get his own credit cards as the ones he used in my name were closed. He also stole user accounts like eBay and assumed my identity in those ways as well.
As the attorneys worked to share documents to determine what was fair, even more things turned up where my spouse had stolen from me or the kids. I chose not to focus on the past, as all money is God’s money. God will deal with my spouse as He sees fit. (Romans 12:19 NLT: “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the LORD.”).
The kids to this day still do not know all of the things their father tried to do to them. I challenge myself with every conversation as to whether it is gossip or edifying and necessary. Every tactic against the kids has failed because God has protected them.
I take comfort in this verse when I find myself wishing I could share things with the kids that are not edifying and necessary to protect them:
“For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” Luke 8:17 NLT
Being Christlike, does not mean being weak or avoiding fights for what matters. It is about focusing your energy on God and what brings Him glory. Defending the weak is Christlike. God does not condone anyone being abused physically, spiritually, financially, or any other way.
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:6 NIV
To be clear, I do feel hurt or anger about the awful things my spouse does. However, I quickly take those thoughts captive and hand them and my spouse over to God. My thoughts, words, and actions are what I can control and force to be obedient to Jesus. I gave my spouse over to God and pray for him multiple times a day to have a closer relationship with Jesus.
“It is written: ‘”As surely as I live,” says the Lord, “every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.”‘” Romans 14:11 NIV
Just like my spouse will have to stand before God and account for all that he did and said, so will I. I am not perfect, but I am trying the best I can to be Christlike and show my kids there is a way to behave like Jesus in the face of adversity. God knows my heart and my intent.
Your actions and words are speaking volumes; what are they saying to those observing you? No matter what fiery darts are thrown at you, you need to look your kids (or whomever) in their eyes and be able to say, “I acted as Jesus would.”
It takes patience, walking in the Spirit, a ton of prayer, and trust in God for everything. The end result will be you will draw closer to Jesus and stand before God having tried your best to reflect His Son.
I had to learn forgiveness. I needed to forgive my abuser, the same one who abused my kids.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.” Matthew 6:14 NLT
It took time to forgive. I learned that praying for someone daily is a great start on the road to forgiving that person. I started to pray daily that is how I would behave towards my abuser.
“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32 NLT
Please take note that forgiving someone does not mean that you agree with or condone their behavior. Forgiveness is for you, not the one you are forgiving. When you harbor unforgiveness towards someone, you are giving that person control over you. You are better than that.
When I saw how hard it would be to forgive the abuser for what he did to my kids, I knew only the power of prayer, a strong support system, and spending more time with Jesus would enable the forgiveness to flow. There were days I absolutely did not want to pray for my abuser, but I did it anyway. After about a year, I finally let it all go. I let go of the hurt, the resentment, and whatever else I felt. It was very freeing to say to God, “He is yours, deal with him as you see fit.”
I know God does not condone abuse; we are created in His image. I also know He does not take kindly to people who abuse kids.
“And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” Mark 9:42 KJV
I now faithfully pray for my abuser multiple times a day, and I mean those prayers with all my heart. My prayer has been and continues to be, “Let today be the day that (spouse) walks closer to You than ever before.”
I realized recently that specific prayer is something I want, too. Each day, I want to be closer to Jesus than the day before. Therein lies the key – pray a prayer for your abuser that you would pray for yourself, too.
And the other key is that a relationship with Jesus is all that matters. There is nothing else in this entire world or lifetime that will be more important than a relationship with Jesus. If you know Jesus as your Lord, strengthen your relationship everyday. The closer you are to Him, the closer you are to having the wisdom, strength and discernment you need to live in a way that pleases God. Every day, I pray that God will help me to be Christlike to my abuser.
I am learning that being Christlike does not equate to weakness. My therapist says to be “aggressively Christlike.” I am very much still a work in progress in this arena. I treat my abuser as Christlike as possible because I have three kids watching me. They know Momma loves Jesus. I must set an example for them.
Throughout my divorce and the time leading up to it, my spouse did and said many things to try to hurt me or the kids. And as he ramped up his ugliness, I ramped up the Light.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:5 NLT
This verse came to life before my eyes. I was praying and fasting and studying the Word so much that my abuser could not stand to be in the same room with me for more than 90 seconds. The light makes the dark flee. This was a huge unexpected bonus for me.
Jesus is the only One that can help my abuser. It is freeing to let him go. Put that energy towards deepening your relationship with Jesus and showing the fruit of the Spirit to everyone around you.
As a single Mom, my identity has completely shifted. I have to look my kids in the face everyday knowing that they witnessed how I treated their earthly father: The words I said and did not say, the actions I responded to and did not respond to. I worked daily at being Christlike, and I continue to work daily at it.
The abuser is still in my life, although in a much more limited way. Due to prayers and the strength from God to be as Christlike as possible, I walked away knowing that I did everything I could to treat my abuser as a child of God, as a person made in the image of God.
You must stay strong in the Spirit, do it for Jesus, and do it for your kids. Do it for yourself.
I refused to stoop to his level and engage in mind games. Because of my relationship with Jesus, I had and have daily peace. Recently, I asked my abuser how I could pray for him. He asked for “peaceful sleep.”
While I am sorry he is having trouble sleeping, I sleep just fine.
I prayed for my abusive spouse for over a decade, but things became slowly worse until they imploded at the end. Not everyone will agree with my decision, and that is fine because I know I bathed my decision in prayer and fasting.
I believe that God blessed me with the children I have to protect them with my life, even if that means stepping between them and their earthly father. I finally left and took the kids with me.
Leaving took planning and a ton of prayer and so much help from my support system. I am grateful to God for His protection and provision. Now, as a single mom, I pray every day that He will show me how to lead these kids in a way that brings glory to His name. I pray for their relationships with their earthly father to one day be healed, as I focus them on their Heavenly Father.
For me, when I made the decision to leave, I needed to be ready to lose everything, and maybe even my kids. Our legal system is a mess and does not protect the ones needing protection. Hindsight is 20/20 – it would have made my life easier later to call the cops when my spouse did what he did. But, you know what, it would have made my life worse at that time had I called the cops when he did what he did. I chose not to call the police and yes, that made it more difficult from a legal perspective on the back end. But when you are afraid of what will be done to you and your kids, the police are not always the first call you make. When the abuser is in control of everything – bank accounts, cell phones, cars, etc – it is not that easy to “just leave.”
I have learned there is life after abuse:
Tell your story.
Find a way to help those still in abusive situations – donate time, money, a car, professional services, etc.
Remember, God is love. He will be your Protector, your guide, and hold you when you’re alone or scared.
Focus on your relationship with Him; this needs to be your priority.
Don’t give up on love.
Don’t give up on trust.
Find someone who loves Jesus more than you (some of the advice I gave my kids came from learning things the hard way with their earthly father).
Find someone who does not care whether your bank accounts are “joint,” which may become a foul word to you.
In addition to being an abuser, my spouse was a narcissist with an incredible talent to hide who he really was to everyone not living with him. In next week’s installment, I discuss why I needed to forgive him.
Several weeks after I left my abusive spouse and moved out with the kids, our pastor of fifteen years left me a voicemail. He said that he had just found out “there were problems between” my spouse and me. He offered us counseling again. [We had one session ten years ago, which I discussed in the Beloved Walks post “Spiritual Abuse” (December 2019).]
To be frank, I was floored that the Senior Pastor had no idea one of his own deacons had been going through a divorce for over a year. Between the out-of-touch pastor and my lying spouse, the ruse of a happy family was alive and well.
I prayed about how best to respond to the pastor. I replied via email and shared that I appreciated him reaching out and that the kids and I were now safe in a Christian home. I also shared with the pastor that I pray for him and will continue to do so.
Shortly after sending my email, I received a reply. The Senior Pastor reprimanded me for not including him in my decisions and further chastised me by saying that he believes God wants a pastor involved in such marital decisions. He further encouraged me to come tell him the issues.
A few things jumped to my mind:
I did come to you for counseling years ago. You told me to submit.
You assume I do not have pastoral counseling. You are wrong. I have two pastors, one a close friend (and his wife) and the other a licensed psychiatrist who is also an ordained pastor.
I have a personal relationship with my Lord Jesus. It is possible, and should in fact be, that people have their own close relationships with Jesus. I prayed and fasted for a very long time. On my knees, so many tears shed crying out to Jesus. I am obeying Him, and I walk closely with Him. I do not and should not “need” a pastor to tell me what God thinks. I should have a daily, deepening relationship with Jesus, so I know as I walk in the Holy Spirit what He is telling me.
The invitation to come tell you all the issues appears to be a desire to obtain gossip. The decision has been made, I am in His will, and gossiping about issues achieves nothing. I have an amazing Christian therapist, who has been walking with me for months. I tell him my issues.
In the end, I decided to delete the Senior Pastor’s email and not reply. My broader point in sharing all of this in today’s post, though, is that if you are a pastor, consider the following:
Stay involved with your deacons. Know them closely and ensure the best you can that they are and remain honorable (1 Timothy 3:1-12).
Do not just tell wives to submit. Ask the husband, “Do you pray with your wife daily? Do you read the Bible with your wife daily?” If the answer to either of these questions is, “No,” then stop – you have found the root of most marital problems.
If your long time parishioners do not engage you in their huge life decisions, perhaps ask them why instead of chastising them.
Please do not assume that one of your parishioners will not have a close enough walk with Jesus to make huge life decisions. We should be walking with Him, and we are commanded to grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18).
It should be perfectly acceptable if another pastor is assisting your parishioners. Again, perhaps seek to understand why versus belittling.
As for me, I did not and do not believe it is my responsibility to inform my spouse’s friends or family members of our divorce unless I am faced with one of his lies, in which case I clarify with facts. I feel the same way about my spouse’s pastor, who I no longer consider my pastor.
I still have plenty more to share about surviving abuse, and this series will continue here next week. As I said in the initial post, this is a chance for me to share what I have learned and observed so far on my journey, but I’m certainly not here to say, “I figured it all out.” Thank you for reading.
We lift up the pastors of the world. Open their eyes and fill them with compassion, wisdom, and discernment. Help them to go beyond the “easy answers” and, instead, seek Your voice to enrich the spiritual journeys of their parishioners.
We also lift up all the survivors. May they realize Jesus is walking with them.