After my first marriage ended I suffered from divorce guilt, even though I was not the one leaving. It was as if there was a huge letter “D” tattooed on my forehead. Four years later I married again. Since most women outlive men, I anticipated that I would someday join the ranks of widowhood, something much more respectable. Fast forward twenty-five years and I found myself with a second failed marriage. That was not how I pictured my future with second divorce shame.
For many women, divorce guilt is huge, haunting them almost every day. Don’t be one of them. It doesn’t have to be that way. You are not a second-class citizen, used goods, or without purpose. God has a perfect plan for you in spite of your divorce. Problems can become possibilities, and burdens can become blessings. God never wastes anything in our lives.
What is divorce guilt?
This is a good definition that I found at Midlife Divorce Recovery.
“After divorce, we feel like a failure. We feel ashamed and embarrassed and guilty, either that we married the wrong person, or that we couldn’t keep our family together, or that we stayed too long or that we just weren’t enough, and hundreds of others things we feel guilty about.”
It is quite normal to feel regret after divorce, even for the one doing the leaving. When we get married, our feelings are so intense, we can’t imagine it will ever end in divorce. Most people promise to remain married until death parts them. Divorce means a promise has been broken.
Does God hate me if I am divorced?
Divorce is considered by many a failure as well as a sin. A blanket statement like this places many women into an imposed prison of shame by individuals who know none of the facts.
God created all of us and loves all of us. But He hates sin and the stranglehold it puts us under. Our personal sin or that of our spouse will hurt us and that is what God hates. But keep reading because you might be surprised about the subject of divorce in the Bible.
Why does God hate divorce?
Many women experience divorce guilt due to Scriptures that clearly state that God hates divorce. In order to really grasp what this really means, we must look at the culture of the day. If you have gone through an unwanted divorce, you should be comforted by WHY God hates divorce.
The most recognized scripture on this topic is found in Malachi 2:13-16, although there are others. It was addressed to men, not their abused wives. Ladies, don’t take these verses as written to you. He is telling men, “to divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty.”
Women were 2nd class citizens with no rights during the era when Scripture was written. They were more like property than people. They could be divorced for no reason. Men could throw their wives away like trash. This would leave her with no means to support herself. Can you imagine walking on eggshells knowing your marital status could change at a whim? God does not hate women. He hates the way men were treating those they were supposed to protect.
The consequences of divorce guilt
Divorce guilt will destroy your joy
Joy is a gift from God. Continued guilt after we are forgiven is not from God. The two are diametrically opposed. You can’t experience joy if you are guilt-ridden.
Divorce guilt will destroy your hope
“Without a vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). We all need hope for the future. It keeps us moving forward. But guilt will whisper in your ear, “you have no hope for a productive future. Look what you did. No one will want to marry you. No one will want to be your friend. No one will want to hire you.” If you are still struggling with guilt, you may have other versions of “no one will …”
Divorce guilt will destroy your purpose in life
The last thing that the enemy wants is for us to have purpose in life, especially if it is God given. Thus Satan will try to keep you trapped in shame and guilt.
When we know what God wants for us and are moving in that direction, nothing can stop us. Purpose from God gives us courage, strength, determination, and everything else needed to accomplish His will.
Bible verses about divorce
One of the most interesting passages in the Bible about this topic is found in the gospels where Jesus talks to the woman of Samaria (John 4:1-42). She was the lowest of the low. She had 3 strikes against her
- First, she was a woman.
- Second, her DNA was bi-racial which was despicable in the eyes of many people, an outcast.
- Third, she was divorced. Not once. Not twice. But five times. She was an embarrassment to her community.
The shameful woman of Samaria
Any respectable Jew of Jesus day would not even consider talking to this woman. She was even shunned by her town full of bi-racial individuals. Her situation was even worse than having five past marriages as she was living with a man who was not her husband. This woman was so shunned that she had to go alone, during the hottest part of the day to get water from a well which was outside the city. Talk about divorce guilt. This woman had it to the max.
Even Jesus’ disciples questioned His stopping in Samaria. But as scripture reveals throughout the Bible, Jesus came to save the outcasts, not the self-righteous. God has compassion for the underdog. He often chooses people with few qualifications, poor family roots, or the lowest of social status to do some of His most mighty works. This was the case with the woman of Samaria.
“This woman’s culture wrote her off, but Jesus did not.” Dr Steve Leston
Jesus does not despise sinners. He has compassion for them as they are stuck in a helpless place. They can not save themselves, and no one else wants to help them. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus did not condone this woman’s past. But he did not humiliate her either. Instead, she was the first to whom Jesus revealed the fact that He was the Messiah. When Jesus says to her, “woman …”, it is a term of respect, like, “dear lady.” He Knew her past yet did not shame her. He spoke the truth in love.
A story of hope from a changed woman
After a dialog about her past, the woman of Samaria went quickly back to town to let others know she had met the Messiah.
But why should they believe her? She was an outcast. She was a disgrace to their culture. The proof was that being a stranger, Jesus knew her past and that helped many to believe. Much of her town were converted that day. Her encounter with the “Living Water”, Jesus the Messiah, changed her life and spilled over into others.
That my friend is what He will do with your life story. When we realize that God has a plan to use our divorce in some way to benefit the kingdom of God, we can walk with our heads high. God can use anyone regardless of their history.
How to deal with the shame after divorce
Here is a guide to overcoming divorce guilt and shame.
- Tell yourself the truth
- Connect with other women who are recovering
- Journal your recovery process
- Realize your feelings are not always the facts
- Claim God’s promises about guilt and condemnation
- Accept what you cannot change
- Learn from the past and don’t make the same mistakes
- Ask God to help you develop a story of hope
Tell yourself the truth
Yes, you are divorced, but you are also forgiven if you know Jesus personally. If you have not yet made a decision to follow Jesus, you can talk, text, or chat with someone about it right now. (1-888-Need-Him or chataboutJesus,com).
Also, recall the ways you did try to make things work in your marriage. Furthermore, do not accept responsibility for what your spouse did no matter how hard they try to convince you it was your fault.
Keep remembering that God will make beauty from the ashes of our traumas and emotional pain. Look for ways that God might use your experience to help someone else.
Connect with other women who are recovering
These need to be women who love Jesus since He is the only one who can give you lasting relief from guilt. Recovery groups will help you realize that there are many stages to divorce recovery and that you are not alone. The marks of a good group is not in re-hashing the past. It is learning how to cope, move on and grow in your relationship with God.
Some good groups include, but are not limited to:
- Christian Coaching For Single Women
- Jen Grice – Surviving and Thriving After Divorce website, and Facebook
- Women Growing In Joy & Hope. This is a private group dedicated to women who have gone through many kinds of losses, including divorce.
Journal your recovery process
Journalling will help you see your progress, as well as remember God’s care and grace through the whole process. If you are not sure how to do that, a good book with journalling prompts is Your Restoration Journey: Rediscovering your faith and yourself after divorce. It is an eight-week Bible study.
Realize your feelings are not always facts
Feelings can be intense and seem real, but can also change in the blink of an eye. They can make you a prisoner unless you learn to understand them and what they really mean. Just because you feel guilty does not mean you are. Learn to challenge your feelings just like you learn to challenge your thoughts and tell yourself the truth. Only God’s truth will set you free.
Claim God’s promises about guilt and condemnation
“Now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:18
Accept what you can’t change
You can’t change the past, but you can change the future by kicking “I should have” and “If only” to the curb. Don’t ever let these phrases be a part of your vocabulary.
“Forgetting the past, I press on to the goal for the high calling of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
Learn from the past and don’t make the same mistakes
Dr. David Jeremiah has said that there is a reason that cars have a small rearview mirror and a large windshield. The mirror is for glancing at what is behind, while the windshield is for paying attention to what is ahead.
We can learn from the past. For instance, were there red flags about your now ex-spouse that you overlooked before you were married? This is important to know in order to prevent repeating the same mistakes in the future. Do you have a fixer-upper personality that needs to fix other people’s problems? Was he always needing your affirmations? Did he seem jealous of your female friends? These are only a few of the questions you need to ask yourself.
I have noticed over the years that the thing that attracts us to a person can also be their downfall if not channeled correctly. This was the case in both of my marriages.
- A very outgoing, friendly guy can easily win your heart, but can also be misread by other women once you are married.
- A very empathetic and self-learned phycology want-to-be can also turn it against you, manipulating you into thinking he knows your thoughts and motives when he really doesn’t.
- A funny, always-make-you-smile type of guy can easily come across as not taking anything seriously down the road. It can be his way of not having to deal with tough situations in life.
Learning from the past is hard work but well worth the effort. However, it might require professional help. Sometimes we can’t see our own flaws for what they are.
Ask God to help you develop a story of hope in spite of divorce guilt
When you reach this point in your recovery process, you will be filled with joy that you never thought was possible. Being able to tell others how God brought you through the desert of divorce guilt, into a life of hope and joy is exhilarating. It gives you purpose. I know. I have been there.
My story of hope is why The Creator’s Classroom exists. I am not glad that my divorces happened, but I am thankful that God is using them for good. My friend, sharing with you makes it all worthwhile.
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