It’s okay to not be okay…

(continuing the series on separation and divorce. You can find previous posts here, herehere, here and here.)

You don’t feel okay.  You don’t look okay.  You may manage to put on a happy face to fool folks in public, but the truth is, you aren’t okay.  And that is okay.  Confessing that is actually great!

Support is good and necessary.

God designed us to live in community.  There can be much shame felt when a marriage is crumbling and, as a result, we resist the very thing we need most – other people.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

One of the purposes for trials, any trial, is so that we can learn to comfort others.  Which means that others have already endured such trials before you, and those very people will be God’s means of providing you comfort. Do you follow?

This book is one example, but there are people in your life, who know your personally, who are in your circles, in your church, that can, should and will be God’s hands and feet to bring you encouragement.  They will walk out that verse above by comforting you with the comfort with which they were comforted.  And guess what?  One day you will be comforting another, going through what you now are going through, with the comfort with which you will be comforted in the coming days, weeks and months.

All of that is part of God’s design for the church.  Do not forgo this means of grace due to pride.  And do not miss out on the blessing of being a provider of comfort to someone in the future because you have wasted this opportunity to be ministered to now.  Your God desires for you to receive comfort from fellow believers now, and to provide comfort for fellow believers in the future!

Alright, I get it, but who should I confide in?

Good question.  Not just anyone.  Caution and discretion are necessary.

In an ideal world, every person in your church would be equally equipped to walk with you, but if we lived in an ideal world you wouldn’t be enduring what you are currently enduring.  So discretion is required.

In short, support is good:

From the right people,

who are theologically grounded,

and will not engage in senseless bashing of your counterpart,

nor excuse your sins in the matter,

but neither will they blame, as in, “if only you did/didn’t do x,y,z.”

Allow me to offer some suggestions on how to find the right people.

Hopefully, your pastor is a trustworthy man.  He is the Lord’s under-shepherd, positioned in your life to care for your soul.  He should be one of the first, if not the first, person you seek council from.  If he is not trustworthy, if he does not offer theologically sound council, my heart goes out to you.  That makes your position even more difficult.  Pray that the Lord would fill that gap with theologically sound friends.

 

THEOLOGICAL

Theologically grounded.  You need TRUTH, not human “wisdom.”  A sincere person who is not grounded in scripture may alleviate your pain temporarily with words that sound nice, but the only thing that will provide true, lasting healing and understanding is the Word of God.

You need ladies that are sober in their thinking.  They are slow to speak. They hear a matter before they answer (Proverbs 18:3).  They are not gossips and will not make your confidence an opportunity to male bash – both your husband and men in general.

You need ladies that are willing to speak the truth in love.  There will be times when you will need to be confronted or challenged in your thinking – you need a friend who is willing to do that, even though it is uncomfortable.  (“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” Proverbs 27:6)

 

NO BASHING

You need ladies who will not use your situation as an opening for senseless male bashing.  They will not use your situation as an excuse to complain about their husbands, or their fathers, or other men they know.

And your aim as well should be to avoid male bashing or husband bashing.  That does not mean you have to speak only flowery words when in reality there is much sin needing to be worked through and dealt with.  It does mean that you do your best to chose your words carefully, recognizing that due to the intense emotions there will be times when you blow it and totally husband bash and say things that should not be said.

Recognize those moments as sin, confess them as sin and receive the grace that the Lord offers you.

 

NO EXCUSING SIN

You need friends that will not excuse your sin.  They will not give you a false assurance that you are 100% right, he is 100% wrong, and you are free to do and say whatever you please because you “deserve better.”

The truth is you have sinned because you are a sinner.  The truth is you will still sin; in your thoughts about him, in your words to him, in your actions towards him.  (This truth shouldn’t come to you as a surprise.  The cross already gave it away.  The cross already tattled on you, that you are sinful.  Christ died to pay the penalty for your sins; the Lord already knows the extent of your sinfulness, don’t let pride and lies of the evil one convince you any differently).

That truth in itself does not mean you are 100% responsible for the situation you are in.  It does mean you are 100% responsible for YOU, for your sin, and for your responses.  You need counsel from folks who see that difference and can lovingly and gently help you to see that difference.  A true friend, a gospel friend, will not gloss over your sin — that is not in your best interest. A gospel friend will seek your highest good and your highest good is a recognition of your sin so you can deal with it before the Lord and with anyone else affected by that sin.

 

NO BLAMING

At the same time, you need friends that will not run though “if only” scenarios with you. They are not helpful and it is not biblical to do so.  This happens in different ways; either pointing out sins of omission (not doing something you should have done) or sins of commission (doing something you should not have done) or offering mere opinion after the fact (even though no sin has been committed) because clearly the tactic didn’t work the way it was done the first way.

Let’s see if we can break that down.

Sins of omission: you failed to meet all his needs (whether legitimate needs or felt needs or selfish wants that get categorized as needs).  Let’s get real practical: you didn’t provide him with sex as often as he wanted, so he went elsewhere, and now his affair is your fault because you didn’t provide all he wanted in that area.

Now, in reality, it may be true that you sinned in your lack of responsiveness to him in that area of your marriage.  But with or without that sin on your part, any affair is the fault of the person committing the affair.  He made the choice to seek something outside of his marriage.  He chose a sinful solution to his frustrations.  He is 100% responsible for his affair.  Any sin on your part in regards to sexual intimacy may need to be addressed, but not as a fault finding endeavor.

There will be people in your life, even well-meaning people, who, like Job’s friends, seek to identify the golden ticket sin that caused your husband to walk away or have that affair, thus it becomes your fault and thereby something you could have prevented.

Nothing forced him to do what he is doing, other than his own two feet moving him in that direction. We will most definitely address how to deal with your own sin, but this fault-finding method is not biblical.  It is placing a guilt on your shoulders that you do not bear in the sight of God.

 

Then we have sins of commission: you said sinful things that you shouldn’t have said.  In that last argument you told him how horrible he is and how you wish he would just disappear.  See, if you didn’t say that, he wouldn’t have left.  It is your fault he is divorcing you.

You may hear that from him directly.  You may hear that from your mother, or sister, or friends at church, or sadly, even your pastor.  Once again, it is an attempt to place the blame for HIS actions upon your shoulders.

He chose his own actions, not you.  You cannot force him to do anything.  (if you could, he wouldn’t be doing what he is doing).

He opted to leave, not because of any isolated thing you said or did, but because it was in his heart to pursue selfishness and sin.  Those same sinful words said within a different marriage would have produced a different response and would have lead to increased communication between husband and wife, humility in both that lead to a greater desire to love and serve one another.  So if those words would not

If those same sinful words said within a different marriage would have produced a different response, then it isn’t the words alone, but the response to those words.

In another marriage, that same scenario would not have led to him bailing but rather would have led to increased communication between husband and wife, fueled by a humility in both parties leading to a greater desire to love and serve one another.

So if those words would not cause a different husband to run, then clearly it is not the words themselves, but the man who heard those words.

Now, we have already established that you have and you will continue to sin throughout this situation. Hopefully you have already repented and sought forgiveness from the Lord.  If you have, you are free from the guilt of that sin.  “There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”   It is wrong for anyone to seek to hold you in a place of guilt for something that God does not hold you guilty of.

In addition to being wrong, it is simply not helpful.  Sure, you can and should learn from your sins.  Hopefully you are learning and growing throughout this whole experience, including learning how to better respond to stressful situations.  But what is done is done and you cannot undo any of it.

Moreover, what is done was foreordained by God.  He allowed it, He allowed your sin.  He uses your sin sinlessly to carry out His will in your life and in others.  To stay in a place of regret over sin for which you have been cleansed and forgiven is sinful in itself.

So who do I seek out and how do I do it? 

I pray that the Lord will give you the people you need for each part of this trial. Ultimately He is your heavenly Father who knows your needs even before you do and cares for you more than any earthly person ever could.  I am trusting in His sovereign care on your behalf.

On the human side of things, wise choices and wise actions are required of you.  From my own personal experience I would say that having 2-5 trustworthy people is ideal.  You need multiple options for who to go to for council, advice and a listening ear depending on what specific scenario you are facing.

You may not have anyone at the moment that you deem trustworthy.  Start praying that the Lord would provide such a person.  You need community now more than ever, and yet the idea of community can seem daunting and completely undesirable now more than ever.

Or you may read 2-5 people and say, I have 10 easily.  Fantastic!  That is a tremendous blessing.  Praise God for that.

 

Parameters

It is important to set up parameters and keep very clear communication.  I will tell you, despite what anyone may be saying at the moment, you absolutely have the ability to burn them out and you likely will, unless both parties are intentional and offer honest communication.

Your friends are (hopefully) sincere when they say they are here for you.  But most likely they have no concept of just how needy you feel and how needy you may become.  That is a humbling thing to admit.  The idea of being needy was abhorrent to me, yet it was the reality.   I was in a place of great need, and so are you.

You may want to forward some of these articles to those friends so that they can see what you are experiencing and what you are likely to experience going forward.  Understanding is the first step in their ability to help you, and these posts may articulate emotions and situations that you are not able to communicate at the moment.

Start to categorize your needs in regards to friendship and support.

There will be times when you simply need to vent.  You need an ear to listen. You need to verbally process.

You may need to decompress after an incident or interaction with your husband; a fight, a threat, a conversation about logistics, etc.  You need someone to help you process what happened.

Maybe you blew it big time and sinned in anger; you need help to plan a better response next time.

There will likely come a point where you need help with making practical decisions.  There came a point when I was flat out tired of making decisions and truly wanted someone to simply tell me what to do.

Scriptural encouragements will be needed all day every day.  But there may be times when you are especially needing to hear the truths of the Gospel; the forgiveness found in Christ, the love of the Father for His own, the future glorious return of our King when every pain and every tear will be removed.pa

What other categories of support and encouragement might you need?  Knowing what you seek will help your friends to know how to help.

Let me let you in on a little secret, your friends, even your best of friends, even the most spiritual friends, they are sinners too.  And there will be times when they misspeak. There will be times when they are harsh instead of patient.  There will be times when, despite their best intention, they miss the mark in their comments to you and say things that are off base.  There may be times when you misunderstand them.  Decide right now that you will always assume the best.  You will take the default position that your friend are for you, they love you, they desire the best and highest good for you and for your children (if you have children).  Assume their motives are FOR you and not against you.  Assume their words are meant to encourage you, even when you are left feeling discouraged.

Assume the best.

 

Saturate with scripture

The Word of God is the ultimate source for all wisdom and comfort.  We were made for community, but our first source of community should be God.  “For my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in” Psalm 27:10

People will fail you, but God never will.  Make Him your first and last source of all comfort.  Make Him your first and last thoughts of the day.  Make Him the first Person you talk to, the first Person you seek.  I know there will be times when you have zero energy to open your Bible.  I know you will try to pray and absolutely nothing will come out.  Take comfort in Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

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