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"My husband and I have been separated for six months. He said he is done working on our marriage. Every day has brought a world of pain and hurt for the kids and me. All I want is to win him back!" —Nancy
Nancy's predicament is all too familiar. Each day we hear from desperate spouses who are living the nightmare of a marriage gone awry. Some are in the first few hours of a crisis or find themselves suddenly abandoned by their spouse. Others have watched helplessly as their marriage has spiraled toward divorce.
No matter what has broken your relationship, God can restore your wounded heart. What follows are three grains of truth to help you thrive in the desert of an unwanted separation or divorce and begin the healing process.
Pursue God, not your spouse
For the abandoned spouse, an unreconciled marriage ignites a frantic rush to find an immediate solution. Understandably, you want God to provide that one instant fix. However, contending for your marriage is not about pursuing your spouse or trying to single-handedly save your marriage. Instead, you must choose to believe that you've been entrusted with a high calling that few hear and even fewer obey: Pursue God and wait for Him, not for your spouse or your circumstances.
That being said, prolonged waiting without visible change in your conditions may tempt you to do anything and everything to move up God's timeline. For example, you devise a plan to initiate contact with your spouse. Perhaps you plan to leave something on his or her porch or send a loving text. More often than not, these actions only backfire.
Instead of exerting that type of fruitless energy, your relentless pursuit of God can affect not only your marriage in a positive way, but it can affect your children's lives and the lives of every other person in your sphere of influence as well.
Pursuing God means making your relationship with Him your first priority each day. If you aren't currently doing so, start each morning by reading one psalm and one proverb. As an added challenge, open your Bible to Psalm 119 and grab a stack of index cards. As you read meaningful verses, copy each one onto a separate card. Over time, do the same thing with Psalm 18, 40, 63, 69 and others. By doing so, you're creating a spiritual survival kit to strengthen and sustain you.
In addition, here are three more ideas to keep your spiritual compass pointed heavenward:
- Attend church regularly even if your spouse won't go with you. If you're uncomfortable at your present church due to the marriage being unstable, try a new congregation.
- Find a prayer buddy. Ask God to provide a same-sex prayer buddy who'll be an advocate for your marriage. Meet with this person regularly and keep track of how God answers your prayers.
- Maintain normal routines. Separation or an impending divorce can create overwhelming chaos and stress. As much as it's in your power to do so, keep routines in place (or create new ones) that provide a sense of peace, security and well-being for you and your children.
An unwanted separation or divorce elicits grief
Though you haven't lost your spouse through death, absence is still associated with your situation. Something as simple as hearing his or her favorite song can result in a complete emotional breakdown. You're grieving, and your grief is valid. When King David and his bravest warriors realized their families had been taken hostage, they wept uncontrollably (1 Samuel 30:1-4). Together, these mighty men expressed their pain.
Like the grief of David and his warriors, your grief must be expressed. Although you may not believe it right now, grieving in healthy ways can actually create a personal oasis of peace. Over the years, we've spoken with many hurting spouses who discovered their oasis by writing in a journal. Write letters to your emotions such as "Dear Grief ..." or "Dear Sadness ..."
If writing doesn't work for you, hit a bucket of golf balls at the driving range. Physical activity boosts your metabolism and releases hormones that have a positive effect on your overall health. Visit the gym, plant some flowers or walk the dog. In addition to reducing stress, a physical outlet uplifts your mood, provides a sense of accomplishment and increases your self-esteem.
Some people express grief by creating something with their hands. One simple idea is to select pictures and words from old magazines that express your emotions. Cut them out and glue them into a collage. Repeat this activity over time. Or, contact your local community center or art store for creative workshops. Overall, choose ideas that best fit your personality and be willing to try something new.
What's happening in your life is more about your faith than it is about your marriage
Often as the events and emotions of a marital crisis unfold, your perspective becomes skewed. Instead of viewing this present situation in the landscape of your entire faith journey, you focus on the problems and pain this crisis has created. Like your view when sitting in the front row of a movie theater, the drama seems so massive that you can't see the entire picture. As a result, your faith becomes distorted and ineffective.
Prayer is one of the most effective ways to mobilize your faith. Use these powerful one-sentence prayers to forge ahead on your journey through the desert.
- Lead me to verses, songs, podcasts, books and other resources to nurture my faith.
- Grow my faith in remarkable ways during this difficult season
- Restrain me from sins or distractions that will roadblock my faith.
- Guard my heart and mind against discouragement and doubt that will keep me from believing that You can do impossible things.
- Connect me with other believers who will spur on my faith.
Remember, healing is a process that requires both time and faith. God's time. Your faith. And even though you can't control your spouse's heart, the good news is that God can work miracles and wonders with the one heart you give Him — yours.Clint and Penny A. Bragg are authors of Your Marriage, God's Mission: Discovering your spiritual purpose together and Marriage Off Course: Trusting God in the desert of unwanted separation or divorce.
A variety of marital issues can lead to challenges or even hopelessness for one or both spouses in a marriage. Gaining a sense of hope and direction often requires understanding the underlying issues and relationship patterns which may have led to the crisis. Reach out to well-trained helpers even if you are the only person in the marriage willing to take action at this time. We can guide you as you seek a referral and take your first steps toward recovery. You can contact us Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain time) at: 855-771-HELP (4357) or