I stopped breathing. Anxious blood pounded through my veins. The room literally spun as my mind tried to comprehend the word I thought I would never hear. Divorce. Surely he couldn’t be serious. Had we not just told each other a couple months ago that divorce was not an option for us? I had trusted those words.
The yellow walls of the counseling office started to close in around me. The small, silver clock on the side table ticked away the silent seconds as my mind spun. I knew he meant it. The course was clearly set and would not change.
I thought my days of loss had been silenced for a while, but suddenly a new season of loss was just beginning.
I drove, heart racing, down the highway toward my house. The darkness of the November night wrapped itself around me as the rain hit the windshield. I swerved to stay in the lanes of the construction zone, gripping the steering wheel as if holding tightly to it might save me.
After fifteen minutes of silence, my shocked mind trying to process the nightmare I had just experienced, I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Lord!” I cried out loud, “What are you doing?! What is happening? Where are you right now?” But there was only the sound of raindrops on the windshield.
“I can’t. I can’t handle anymore. I can’t take one… more… thing. Three days ago I mourned the one-year mark since Tage died, and now this? How could You let this happen right now? I don’t want this! I want our marriage.”
At the stoplight, I let my head hit the steering wheel, my shoulders heaving at each sob from the overwhelming sense that life was once again being ripped from my heart, and I was powerless to stop it.
The future in front of me appeared hopeless. Divorce is not something I would ever choose. Nothing in the world – not fertility concerns, lack of children, communication issues or otherwise – would ever make me give up on my marriage. I made a vow I intended to keep “til death do us part.”
My two deepest desires were to be married and to have children. The child dream was already gone, and now the marriage would be, too. If I was ever close to taking my life, this was the moment. The escape of death sounded so sweet.
By some sweet mercy from the Lord, I did not take my life that night. Instead, I went outside and walked and talked with God. He met me on Amkey Way with a blazing orb in the sky. I wrote about that life-changing night here. He made it clear He would never leave me, and He would be right next to me during whatever was headed my way.
The six months that followed that rainy, November night have been some of the darkest hours of my life, but thanks be to God, the darkness never lasts long. God has proven Himself to be trustworthy, tender, and true to me. He has become my defender and my friend. The verse He put in my mind on the night of the shooting star was,
“The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14
It has been a constant reminder – when life is out of my control – to be STILL. Just sit. He will do everything. And He has.
I had never lived alone. I went straight from a family of six, to a college dorm, to a house full of girls, back to my family home, and then to marriage. I am very happy as an extrovert. Coming home to an empty house with no one to process my day with was unbearable in the beginning – let alone the “unloved” feeling that comes with it.
There was an emptiness, ache, and many tears. It appeared satan, the enemy of our souls, was ordering an all-out raid, ambush, and sabotage of my marriage, some friendships, and my future. For the first time in my life, I felt true anxiety. The kind that keeps you up at night. The kind that sets your heart pounding the moment you see that name coming in on your phone. The kind where just the thought of food makes you want to gag. It’s the kind of adrenaline-induced panic you feel when everything is falling apart and you have no control over it.
But losing Tage had prepared me for where I would take my anxieties and concerns in the future.
As I read His Word, Psalm 18 was to be the perfect game plan and playbook God wanted me to study as I entered this battle and continued to fight for our marriage for the next six months:
I love you, Lord;
you are my STRENGTH.
The Lord is my ROCK, my FORTRESS, and my SAVIOR;
my God is my ROCK, in whom I find PROTECTION.
He is my SHIELD, the POWER that SAVES ME,
and my place of SAFETY.
I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and he saved me from my enemies.
Psalm 18:1-3 (capitalization mine)
Notice all those words about who the Lord is and wants to be for us! Are you afraid? He will be your fortress. Do you feel weak? He will be your strength. Do you need someone to lean on? He will be your rock. Are you in the midst of an attack? He will be your shield. He will save us when we call on Him, it says.
In the midst of all the questions I had about why my husband would leave me, where he was, what he was doing, and what my future looked like, I started praying about being alone and about this newly felt anxiety. “I know You say You never leave us, Lord, but I just don’t feel You. I need You, Lord. I’m afraid about what’s coming next. Help me.”
And the Lord came rushing in. For the next four months of living alone in my home, I never again felt alone. I can hardly explain it in words, but there was a physical presence like I have never felt before. I was not afraid of the sounds or the darkness or the loneliness. He was there! I talked to Him out loud while unloading the dishwasher in the evenings and while putting makeup on my very puffy eyes in the mornings. While folding laundry on the kitchen counter, I talked to Him as if a friend was standing in the kitchen with me. The early nights of winter encouraged me to spend many nights in front of the fire with my Bible, consuming His words, which jumped off of the page to me like never before. We were buddies, God and me. He became my Rock in a way I had never known before.
But let me be clear, being buddies with God did not automatically mean all the anxiety went away to never return. It just meant that when I felt the tense, uneasiness of anxiety creeping back in, I knew Who to turn to. When I felt the rush of anxiety, I knew it was not time to hurry-and-come-up-with-a-plan, but rather time to slow down, so I could hear from Him.
As I weighed the balance of whether to communicate with my husband during this season or not and how to best fight for him, I continued to hear the Lord say to me, “The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14). But could I trust Him? My marriage was unraveling before me, so surely He would need me to do something here, right? But we, mere mortals, are powerless to change the hearts and minds of men. Only God can do that.
“The ropes of death entangled me;
floods of destruction swept over me.
The grave wrapped its ropes around me;
death laid a trap in my path.
But in my distress I cried out to the Lord;
yes, I prayed to my God for help.
He heard me from his sanctuary;
my cry to him reached his ears.
Then the earth quaked and trembled.
The foundations of the mountains shook…”
Psalm 18: 4-7
I love how this says “my cry to him reached his ears. Then…” The very moment He heard my cry, He acted. He did not waste a second.
To all who long for a brave, triumphant soldier to rescue them from the enemy’s attacks in our lives and in the lives of those we love. To all who feel empowered and emboldened by a fearless hero. To all who need someone to save them, picture this and take heart:
“Then the earth quaked and trembled.
The foundations of the mountains shook;
they quaked because of his anger.
Smoke poured from his nostrils;
fierce flames leaped from his mouth.
Glowing coals blazed forth from him.
He opened the heavens and came down;
dark storm clouds were beneath his feet.
Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew,
soaring on the wings of the wind.
He shrouded himself in darkness,
veiling his approach with dark rain clouds.
Thick clouds shielded the brightness around him
and rained down hail and burning coals.
The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded
amid the hail and burning coals.
He shot his arrows and scattered his enemies;
great bolts of lightning flashed, and they were confused.
Then at your command, O Lord,
at the blast of your breath,
the bottom of the sea could be seen,
and the foundations of the earth were laid bare.”
Destruction. He destroys everything that opposes Him – every tool our enemy uses, every lie our enemy tells us or our loved ones. He does whatever it takes to save the ones He loves, which is all of us, including the ones who are doing the leaving. Even if any of us should continue in a path He would not choose for us, He will never stop fighting. That is why we can trust Him to battle for the those we love.
My anxiety reached its pinnacle in January as I continued to be powerless against the war waging around me. Divorce is messy. I know that personally now. There is the ripping apart of what “God has joined together,” leaving a shredded heart now exposed and vulnerable. Oh, how it hurts. There may also be anxiety to be battled as materials are divided, anxiety over abandonment by the spouse and by people you thought would never abandon you, and anxiety over untruth being told which you are refused a chance to defend.
Yet as I made a deliberate choice to call on the Lord, He did not disappoint. Then, at the pinnacle of my panic,
“He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemies,
from those who hated me and were too strong for me.
They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress,
but the Lord supported me.
He led me to a place of safety;
he rescued me because he delights in me.”
Because He delights in me. Do you know, dear friend, that the Lord delights in you? Even if people around us are saying harsh, manipulative, or unkind things and we feel a desire to “set them straight,” we can let that go, because the God of the entire universe, the King, the powerful warrior described earlier, delights in us, and He will rescue us. He will take us to safety. There is a tenderness in His smiling eyes when He looks at you. There is a grin of pleasure on His face when He thinks about you, which allows us to say as David did,
“I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?”
Throughout the winter, I continued to pray for specific things – for comfort, for wisdom, for hope, for truth, for answers – and the Lord gave me all of them, though many of the stories involve other people, so I do not feel I should share them here. However, I can say, even the difficult answers to my prayers, He kept hidden until it was appropriate to answer me. What a tender God He is to only reveal something that would hurt me once I told Him I was ready for it and asked Him to reveal it to me.
He fought. I stayed still and stayed in His Word. I also found an incredible counselor who continued to speak Truth to me. Never be afraid to seek counseling, friends. We are not meant to journey through suffering alone.
When the reality that the marriage was ending set in, I realized what I would lose next: my home.
I loved that home. I had spent countless hours and dollars crafting our home into the coziest place I could and loved its warmth and comfort. I loved the thousands of precious memories in the kitchen laughing with friends, on the couch crying with sisters, in the nursery rocking Tage, and in the sun room talking with Jesus.
I loved the way the rain sounded on the master bathroom skylight and the silly song the oven played when it was preheated and the way the crab apple trees arched perfectly over the fire pit on summer nights.
Though my husband no longer lived in it anymore, I loved my home.
I did not want to leave my home.
“Lord,” I pleaded with Him once more. “Not my home, too…please. You know how much I love it.”
But as my dear friend, Tori, and I looked at my paychecks compared to the costs to maintain the house and yard, it was clear that it would be wise for me to sell.
“Tor,” I told her once the decision was made, “Apparently, everything I love gets taken from me. So, just be sure you’re looking both ways before you cross the street and taking your multi-vitamin, okay?” We both laughed, but I was kind of serious.
In The Biography of George Mueller, (the real story of a man who started orphanages with no money but simply on the faith that God had brought him to this task and would provide for every need), the introduction asks,
“Do I really have permission to commit all my little concerns to a God of infinite wisdom, believing that He will take charge of them and direct them according to His boundless love and absolute omniscience?…(Mueller’s) prayers were offered in simple language with a humble and fervent spirit. Because he knew his Father was so rich, benevolent, and forgiving, he was free to ask for and obtain great blessings.”
Did I trust that God would care for the minute details of my life, too?
Once more, He showed me how much He cares. It was an unusually sunny and mild Saturday in late January when my sister, Ellie, suggested we go looking for apartment options for me. I knew I didn’t want to do it alone, so I begrudgingly agreed to go.
But as the sales associate walked Ellie and I through the apartments, I was having silent conversations with God. “God, I do not like these. In fact, I hate them. They are small and dark and old and cramped – nothing like my current home that I love. I know You know how much I love my house, and I know You are with me in this, so could you please help me to feel more excited about these? Give me some indication about what I’m to do. I know I won’t live here forever, but You know how much my home means to me. The florescent light coupled with the dead-end galley kitchen makes me want to cry. Change my heart or else help!”
Ellie and the associate could see the disappointment on my face. There was one other apartment she thought I might like better on the other side of the complex. As Ellie and I drove together, my emotions got the best of me, but little did I know God was about to blow my mind.
“I just need to say this once and get it off my chest,” I began as I took a deep breath. “I hate this. I hate everything about this. I don’t want to move out of my house. I hate the reason why I’m moving out of the house. And I hate these apartments. It just makes me so sad to think about leaving the home that I love so much. These apartments are so dark, while my house has so much natural light. I love living on a cul-de-sac where there is not a lot of traffic. And I know this sounds so bratty, but I don’t want to have to share a washing machine with a bunch of strangers when I have a perfectly lovely laundry room in my house. And that drying rack for my clothes I just hung, I love it. I will miss the open kitchen – I don’t want a galley kitchen. How am I supposed to host people when we can’t even pass each other?! No one will want to stand and talk to me while I cook in a galley kitchen! And I know this is ridiculous, but I like not having to scrape my car, and I’m really going to miss my garage…okay, I think that’s all. I just wish I knew what God was doing.”
“I’m so sorry, Mol,” was her perfect response.
Just then, we turned onto the street the associate had mentioned. To my surprise, the building was at the end of a cul-de-sac and was newly repainted with a light, warm, welcoming color.
We got out of our cars and walked into the building. The lobby was filled with the natural light from tall, three-story windows. I glanced over at Ellie and raised my eyebrows in interest.
The associate opened the door to the apartment, and the entire space was flooded with natural light, too! It had windows on both sides of the building! The kitchen was small but a walk-through, and it included a cut-out in the wall so that people could easily stand and talk to me while I was cooking. Standing at the sink, I could look right into the large living room, perfect for hosting small gatherings.
A smile inched its way onto my face. This was looking better.
“Back here in the master bedroom, you have plenty of closet space,” she said. “And, as you’ll see in this closet, this apartment is one of the few we have with a built-in washer and dryer.”
My mouth dropped open as I came around the corner to see for myself. Not only did it have a washer and dryer, but there was a drying rack – the very same one I had just installed in my laundry room at home!
“Ellie! Look at this!” I shouted. We were both dumbfounded.
“Oh, and I almost forgot,” the associate added, “this apartment comes with a complimentary carport.”
Someone pick my jaw up off the floor!
I could hardly contain my excitement. I think I started jumping. “I’ll take it! Where do I sign?!”
God had heard my prayer. Ellie can testify that the very six things I had just said I wanted, God answered with, “Sure! Now do you believe that I am with you? That I hear you?”
Small things like this continued to happen to me over and over again as I prayed. I began keeping a list of them in my journal so that I’d never again think God doesn’t hear me when I pray, and better yet, so that I could KNOW that He cares about me, even the little trivial things that mean something to me.
Once again, I saw there was no reason to panic. And what a lesson to learn – that the Lord would reward me with His peace and complete provision as I continued to faithfully seek Him and His ways.
“The Lord rewarded me for doing right;
he restored me because of my innocence.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
I have not turned from my God to follow evil.
I have followed all his regulations;
I have never abandoned his decrees.
I am blameless before God;
I have kept myself from sin.
The Lord rewarded me for doing right.
He has seen my innocence.”
Let me be clear: I am not perfect, and I did not do every right thing or think every right thought during this season. Far from it! But I can see that as I desperately sought to obey God, even amidst my anger and sadness, He continued to show me He was with me and going before me – including as I sold the home I loved so much.
I asked Him to make the process go quickly, so I wouldn’t have to ride the emotional roller coaster of selling a home for long since there were plenty of other emotions to deal with. I also asked Him if the buyers could be a Christian family who might appreciate the home I loved so much.
God answered by providing TWO offers within six hours of the home being on the market! One family sent me an e-mail telling me about themselves – the husband is a pastor at a church, and they loved how I had decorated and were excited about the possibility of their family living there. They made a generous offer, and I said, “Sold!” that very night. The house was on and off the market in less than 24 hours! Additionally, their requests for repairs were so minimal, which I was grateful for as I’d never done this before.
I also asked God if there would be a way for me to keep the house “put together” as long as possible before moving. He answered that by having a friend suggest a packing party, and wouldn’t you know that on the evening of March 18th (Tage’s 2nd birthday), ten of my girl friends came over for Pizza, Pinot, and Packing (I couldn’t help myself). We packed up my whole house! They even brought Happy Birthday plates, balloons, punch, and cupcakes to celebrate Tager’s birthday with me (and boring plates as an option in case I wasn’t feeling celebratory). We laughed, cried, screamed, and laughed some more. My friend, Candice, spent the night with me, too. Then, the next morning, they brought their husbands and dads with them, and we moved everything to my apartment by noon! It was incredible.
The house was literally packed, moved, and unpacked in 20 hours. Wow, Lord. Wow.
It’s been two months since I’ve lived here now, and I can say that I love my new, little home. It’s simple and cozy, but I do love the natural light, the non-galley kitchen, the washer and dryer, the hanging rack, my carport, and being on a cul-de-sac. I have also come to love the new walking route I take through town with my dog Marty and the smell of the blooming lilac bush outside my living room window, the enormous trees on my street, and the way my furniture fits just-so in this space.
I’ve hosted birthday parties and sleepovers, and just this week, I got to welcome 18 of my co-workers into my apartment for the first week of a summer Bible study on the fruit of the Spirit! I’ve learned my neighbors’ cars and their typical work schedules (does that sound too creepy?). But it’s comfortable here now. Like home.
The Lord is here with me. He is up to something. He has shown Himself to be more faithful than I ever knew before. I now know even more deeply that with Him, I can do all things. In the midst of great darkness, He brings so much light.
“To the faithful you show yourself faithful;
to those with integrity you show integrity.
To the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.
You rescue the humble,
but you humiliate the proud.
You light a lamp for me.
The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
In your strength I can crush an army;
with my God I can scale any wall.”
What about you? What areas of your life are inducing panic and anxiety? Do you want to learn how God wants to use that very area of your life for GOOD? I invite you – urge you, really – to do the opposite of what you think you should do. Don’t try to fix it. Don’t try to figure out why it is happening. Just take your anxiety to God, and cast your cares on Jesus, because He cares for you so much. Let Him fight the battle for you, and let Him lead you to a place of safety and rest. He never says no to that request.
“God’s way is perfect.
All the Lord’s promises prove true.
He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
For who is God except the Lord?
Who but our God is a solid rock?
God arms me with strength,
and he makes my way perfect.
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
You have given me your shield of victory.
Your right hand supports me;
your help has made me great.
You have made a wide path for my feet
to keep them from slipping.”
In May, the Lord continued to make His presence and guidance clear to me as I signed the final divorce document. And so it is that divorce has become another part of my story that I never, ever wanted. There are moments, especially when I’m alone, that the fear and anxiety tap me on the shoulder again, but now I know Who to run to with them. And because of Jesus’ promises, I continue to experience an absence of panic.
I do not know what is coming next for me. I don’t know my plans for next Saturday night, and I don’t know how long I will be teaching fifth grade. I don’t know how long I will live in this apartment, and I don’t know if I will get married again or have more children.
But I know God is with me. My heart is calm now, and I wait eagerly and with expectation for what He’s going to do next. I know that He will give me what I need and arm me for whatever battles may come as long as I look to Him. I know He has proven that He takes such good care of me, and He answers my humble, earnest prayers, even for the little things. He has kept my feet from slipping. And I trust whatever He is doing.
And because of that, no matter what comes — good or bad — I know one thing for sure: there is no need to panic.
He’s still got this.
“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”