How to Divorce Like a Christian

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:

“And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.”
2 Thessalonians 3:13 NIV

Never tire of acting Christlike.

“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.

Credit: JC

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.

Restoring the Faded

Today’s post serves as a sort of epilogue to JC’s multipart series on surviving abuse. However, abuse recovery is an ongoing process, and she will likely provide further updates down the road. Below are links to all of the installments in the “Nobody Knew, Yet Everybody Knew” series:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

If you are being abused, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline on their site or by phone at 1−800−799−7233.

Credit: Snow

My kids and I are now safe – we moved out and are beginning the long, arduous healing process. You never know how badly you were “damaged” until you are out of a situation. Once my kids were freed, I began to see how much they had lost themselves to survive in that environment.

It was such a slow fading away of ourselves that none of us saw it. We would tone down our laughter or our jokes for fear of being too loud and causing an outburst. We stopped having people over because we were ashamed of what my spouse might say to embarrass us or the guest. We stopped going out because there were so many hurdles to get “approval.” Not to mention trackers were on all our phones so we could be hunted down when desired.

It is now easy to see how much control my spouse asserted over us. The weapons that were used against us were sometimes subtle, sometimes not. When my therapist said I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I thought, “no way.” But the more I live out of that environment, the more I see that my kids and I definitely do have PTSD.

My spouse continues to attempt to control me and the kids, even though he is not physically present in our lives. Just this week, he stole more money from the kids and then came after me again. The games continue weekly, sometimes daily.

Here is the secret to continued survival and, even better, for you to flourish: Peace – and perspective from that peace.

In John 14:27, Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (NIV).

I either believe Him or I do not. If I believe Jesus, then I have His peace, and I need to focus on that. He also told me not to be troubled or afraid. If my spouse wishes to steal from his kids, there may be nothing I can do about that. But – this I know – God loves my kids even more than I do. He is their Father in Heaven and nobody will be successful messing with His kids. Sure, things may temporarily appear that way – but God is justice. We tend to focus on God is love, and He is, but God is also justice.

There is nothing I can do sometimes to protect my kids against the attacks launched by their earthly father, so I pray daily for their father and rest in the knowledge that God is justice. Sometimes I do not even know what to pray, but the Spirit does (Romans 8:26). My role is to pray for their earthly father daily and, in God’s strength, to best protect the kids God has loaned me. What God does with those prayers and what God does with someone who does such terrible things to his own children is up to Him.

It is very hard to heal the wounds when you keep getting attacked. I have had to learn that my healing is not contingent on the attacks ending – because they may not. My spouse lives to hurt me and the kids – so I needed perspective. I turned to the Bible, and God gave me this verse:

“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Matthew 10:28 NLT

This does not mean we are barred from defending ourselves or our kids when physically attacked (as mentioned in Part 2). It does mean that there may be people who live to hurt you. Abusive spouses may make it their missions in life to hurt you, especially once you leave them. They may not relent, and you need to be prepared for that.

You need to understand that God is your Protector. God has made it clear we are to fear Him and not be afraid. We are to take everything to Him in prayer and not worry about anything. He is in control. This perspective can be hard to maintain at times when it seems like your abuser is constantly coming out on top. But, make no mistake, God sees all, and God is justice.

Your path to healing must be rooted firmly in Jesus and Jesus alone – not whether your spouse stops the mind games, the manipulation, the hate, the theft, the lying, or other forms of abuse. Once you have removed yourself and your kids to a safe environment, expect the hits to keep coming in new forms. Surround yourself with your support group, get a good therapist, do not be afraid to call the police, and above all, anchor yourself and your kids to the Protector, the Savior, the Creator of all things – Jesus Christ.


Heavenly Father,

Please bless all survivors of abuse. May You fill them with Your strength, Your peace, and Your resolve.

May You restore what slowly faded away, so Your light may shine ever bright through them.

You are love. You are justice. You are our Protector. We love You.

In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.

Amen

Credit: Snow