I am convinced, divorce is one of the darkest and loneliest trials a person can face. Counseling others through separation and divorce, I’m often reminded of the deep hurt and pain that’s inflicted during the process. The anguish can be all-consuming, making simple tasks like eating, sleeping and getting dressed feel impossible. God created Adam a helpmate suitable in Eve because His design for marriage was life-long companionship. When marriages crumple and one or both spouses head down the path towards divorce, there is a ripping away of the one-flesh covenant. The pain is excruciating, and at times the suffering seems almost unbearable.
Thankfully, we have an ever-present Father. He hears us when we bury our heads in the pillow each night and silently cry ourselves to sleep. He’s alert when we shout out in desperation pleading with Him to save our marriages day after day. Our Savior longs to hear from us, and tells us to cast all our burdens upon Him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Perhaps you are crying out to the Lord, but have you released your worries into his hands? Have you surrendered everything? God’s greatest work begins in us when we recognize we have nothing left to offer and nothing else to give but ourselves. Our fully surrendered life is what the Father is after.
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
Surrender is not a once and done task in the life of a believer. It is to be lived out daily, hour by hour and minute by minute. We must actively choose not to withhold anything from God. Unconditional surrender means to completely release control, trusting that the One to whom we surrender has a better plan for our lives than we do. Right now your marriage may be topsy-turvy, and your future may feel uncertain. If you find yourself fighting for control or feel overwhelmed by fear and anxiety, that’s a sign you need to release your situation over to the Lord and turn away from doing things your way.
When we release control, that’s when we find healing. For freedom is not obtained by our control, but through our surrender. We must trust and believe our loving Father’s promises from scripture, especially when we walk through life’s valleys.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
God will not waste your season of suffering, friends! He uses our trials for our good and His Glory!
Tommy and I get a number of inquiries from readers asking my perspective or what we often refer to as the prodigal’s perspective on certain topics. One of the more common questions is, do you think my prodigal is open to the possibility of restoration. More than likely, if you are asking this question, the answer is yes!
During our pause, it was evident to Tommy when the Lord was working on me and softening my heart. We began having more meaningful conversations and spent quality time together with our children. That doesn’t mean there is no hope of restoration if your spouse (or ex-spouse in some cases) doesn’t desire to speak to you or spend time with you, but it may mean you have a longer road ahead if the latter situation is one you find yourself in currently.
Below are some practical tips along with biblical guidance that greatly impacted my life during our separation and divorce.
Show your prodigal sacrificial love without expecting anything in return.
Nothing demonstrates Christ’s love like sacrifice and selflessness. Find ways to love and serve your prodigal without expecting anything in return. If you are not sure what to do, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and don’t be surprised if He reveals something that is outside your comfort zone. Stepping outside your comfort zone forces trust in the Lord and growth in your spiritual walk. That awkward and uncomfortable feeling also produces authenticity. Your prodigal will sense if you are attempting to serve with an ulterior motive so the more authentic, the better.
There are numerous examples I’ve shared in our podcasts where Tommy went above and beyond in his pursuit to love me well. His acts of service displayed the love of Christ in ways that were not present during our previous ten years of marriage. Over time, the seeds he sowed took root and began to grow. His sacrifices did not go unnoticed. It did not happen immediately, but in time, God revealed the fruit from his labor.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:1-5
Ask if you can pray with your prodigal or if you can pray for them.
It’s important to use discernment when addressing your prodigal. Some days there may be more of a reluctance to talk about spiritual matters than others. But, when you recognize there is an openness and willingness, ask if you can pray with your spouse or pray for them. Not only will this create a healthy dialogue, but it will also shine a light into what’s happening in the life of your prodigal.
I don’t recommend this every time you speak, but perhaps monthly or bi-weekly depending on how often you talk. Also, be sure to prepare your heart for their response. Don’t take it personally if they do not request prayer for your marriage. When you spend quiet time with the Lord, you can pray for your current situation.
If your prodigal is agreeable to prayer, that is a great sign that God is at work! Desiring your prodigal to have a restored relationship with the Lord should far outweigh the longing for a restored marriage. Keep in mind, only the work of the Holy Spirit can transform the heart and mind so be patient and loving when approaching your spouse.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. Matthew 18:20
I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. Jeremiah 24:7
Take responsibility for any sinful behaviors, habits or actions that you may have contributed to the marriage.
I recognize this may be very hard to hear, and you may be wondering why you should take the initiative if you’re the one being wronged. This difficult question has a very simple answer. God took the initiative to love us when we were unloveable and we should do the same for our covenant spouse. Repentance is necessary before reconciliation can occur and God’s Word calls us to reconcile relationships. You have no control over your prodigal’s actions or inactions, but you can take personal responsibility for yourself.
I remember vividly every time Tommy came to me to apologize for past sins and ways he had wronged me. At first, I thought he was using his sins as an excuse for his bad behavior. With time, I came to understand that God had transformed his heart and his godly sorrow was sincere.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Do all you can to live in peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:27-28, 36
For those that have little to no contact with your prodigal, there is still hope! We did not always communicate well or communicate often. It takes time. God hears your cries and understands your desire for healing and restoration, so don’t give up on the process. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I pray these steps come in handy.
Do you feel like a stranger in your hometown? Or maybe even a stranger in your own home? I know I felt that way when I returned to the states after living overseas for several years. The community that was once very familiar was not and the people I thought I knew had changed. Where I imagined I would feel safe and at peace, I felt overwhelmed and lost. It was difficult to communicate those feelings with people that hadn’t lived or experienced that “strangeness” before. I remember trying to describe my situation to family and friends, but often they didn’t understand. I recall reading Luke 4:16-30 and taking great comfort in knowing Jesus understood what it felt like to be a stranger in His hometown.
The same passage was preached by our pastor this past Sunday, but this time, the story resonated with me in a completely different way. If you are not familiar with this passage, it is the story of Jesus’ return to his hometown of Nazareth. In verse 18, he identifies himself as the prophesied Messiah, but unfortunately his message was not well received and he was rejected by the locals. The villagers that had grown up with Jesus did not accept that he was anything other than the son of Joseph and an ordinary carpenter. Even his own family did not believe him initially. Those that had admired him, rejected the truth of his claims. Scripture goes on to say that the locals were filled with wrath and drove Jesus out of his hometown. I can imagine he felt like an outsider!
When I listened to the message Sunday, it brought back memories of when Tommy and I were separated. I know during that time he felt like a stranger in his hometown. Friends and a few family members thought he was crazy for holding onto hope of a restored marriage. By all accounts, it appeared as if the distance between us was far too great to be mended. His stand for our marriage seemed like a lost cause and sadly, I was no different than the villagers of Nazareth. When confronted with the truth, I too rejected the message as well as the messenger. My heart was embittered and hardened after years of marital setbacks and disappointments. I didn’t want to hear the truth and chances are if you are standing for your marriage, your prodigal spouse does not want to hear it either. But, oh how my heart swells with gladness knowing Tommy did not give up! Although he endured pain and suffering as he withstood the trials, he continued speaking the truth in love. Over time, my hard exterior softened as God’s Word penetrated my heart.
“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Oh friends, I’m extremely grateful for messages like these because I never want to forget the grace that God poured out on me. Likewise, I stand in amazement at the strength of the Father’s hand as He upheld Tommy during his time in the valley. Perhaps you are facing loneliness and harsh rejection during this difficult season of life. Remind yourself and those around you of the truth from God’s Word.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Stand on God’s promises in times of difficulty, knowing and believing that God has the power to do great things, far greater things than you can even imagine! He is working behind the scenes weaving together a beautiful tapestry to be revealed in His time. Speaking as a previous doubter who didn’t believe Christ was capable of being the Savior of my marriage, He proved me wrong! He showed me He is THE Savior to all and in all circumstances.