Divorce, if it were rightly done, would be done as an act of love and done for the honest good of the people involved. Such divorce, though rare, remains nonetheless possible and may be necessary. — Dallas Willard
Call the world if you please “The vale of Soul-making.” –John Keats
For Christians divorce, much like abortion or addiction is a shameful experience, one that carries with it the stigma of personal, moral and spiritual failure. Thus divorce is a topic that most Christians avoid at all costs. On any given Sunday, approximately one-half of all attendees at church services have been divorced. Yet few have really had the opportunity to fully grieve this loss and to discover the gold that lies within the dross of pain and suffering that divorce brings with it. As Christians, we believe that God is in midst of suffering. Through his incarnation, we understand that God knows the pain that we feel. He wept at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus. He was crucified and died on a cross. But the grief and suffering that comes with divorce seems to challenge this assumption. After all, the Bible clearly states, “God hates divorce.” For many divorcing Christians, the logical extension is that “God must hate me”. As a result, grief in divorce is given short shrift, if it is acknowledged at all. It is as though divorcing individuals do not have the right to grieve, let alone call upon God in the midst of their suffering. Consequently, grief in divorce becomes transmuted into anger and resentment. The price we pay is an increase in suffering for all concerned. Divorce courts that are clogged with cases; children caught up for years in custody battles; friends and relatives who feel pressured to take sides all bear witness to grief that has gone underground. But centuries of Christian writings and contemplative practices attest to the fact that, in the words of John Keats, this life is the “vale of Soul-making”. Pain and suffering, whatever the cause, can be transmuted into a deeper and richer experience of God. That is the premise of The Grace Filled Divorce, that much like any other unwanted experience – cancer, mental illness, chronic illness – divorce can be redeemed. By fully experiencing the grief of divorce, individuals can move through this time of suffering into a richer relationship with God, themselves and others. In much the same way that John Eldridge brought the love story at the center of Christianity into the consciousness of millions of Americans with The Sacred Romance, Dallas Willard called for Christians to rediscover the true meaning of following Christ in The Divine Conspiracy, and Brian McLaren in Finding Our Way Again presents the value of a return to ancient practices, The Grace Filled Divorce will shine a light on the grief of divorce and present it as an opportunity for spiritual formation. Through my doctoral research, and in my work now as a Christian psychologist, I have learned that individuals can recognize, honor and navigate the grief process of divorce and respond to the presence of God in each stage. Centering on the real-life stories of individuals who traversed the journey of grief after divorce and discovered a deeper and richer experience of God as a result, The Grace Filled Divorce will show readers how the willingness to confront the pain of grief can result in a transformative experience. As one contributor explains, “When I look back at where I have come from, and the person I used to be, it still amazes me. That all I can say. It still amazes me.” This book will combine the insights of relational psychology with centuries of Christian writings and spiritual formation exercises to assist the reader in learning how to move toward a richer life and more nuanced spirituality. Each chapter features a lesson highlighted in a sidebar with quotes with exercises that address both the interpersonal and spiritual topics discussed in the chapter. These are designed to assist the reader in learning the lessons grief in divorce has to teach. The Grace Filled Divorce is a book about finding God in the midst of suffering, even the pain of divorce. It is about learning to use the experience of grief to let go of old ideas, assumptions and perspectives and embrace a new life. Readers will learn how conscious grieving will eliminate resentment and bitterness, assist in creating a more positive relationship with the ex-spouse and allow God to work a good work in order that His love may be more fully revealed. This is the pathway that lies before each divorcing Christian. It is the journey from loss to transformation that comes from actively seeking grace even in the midst of divorce.