A few years ago, I and millions of other TV watchers gasped in horror as a giant tidal wave swept over the Indonesian town of Banda Ache. It hit the coast and rolled inland mile after mile, destroying everything in its way. Ships, cars, and entire houses were picked up and swept away helplessly against the mighty surge of water.
That’s how I described the loneliness of divorce. One day I was a married woman with a nice family, pretty house, cute kids, and good reputation. The next, my life was picked up and swept away. People looked at me. My friends didn’t know what to do. The wave came in and shattered my dreams and nothing was ever the same.
There were several kinds of loneliness: The practical loneliness of not having another adult in the house. No hubbub of activity as I got home from errands. No porch light. No one to watch the kids so I could take a shower. No pair of hands to man-handle the giant recycle bin to the street. No one mowing the lawn or changing the tail light on the car. Everyday brought a new shock. Then there was the emotional loneliness. There was no one to share the ups and downs of caring for small children. No one to sit with in church. A lost reputation, the betrayal, the numbness of realizing I’d been lied to for many years. Changing my status from a respected wife and mother to a person slinking into the back row of the church, going through the shame of a divorce.
Loneliness does terrible things. Late at night the fears creep in and threaten everything in your world.
I felt as though there was a big “D” for divorce on my forehead–emotionally branded.
The sense that I’d lost every hope and dream.
The black cloud above my head.
The fear that I would never be happy again.
The terror that my children would be hopelessly dysfunctional juvenile delinquents.
The financial black hole.
I grabbed my Bible, and found some key verses:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” Psalm 73:23
“…you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.” Psalm 71: 20
At first I just read the verses, but then I read them over and wrote them out longhand in my journal. I memorized them. I wrote them on cards and stuck them all over my house. I tucked them into my purse.
At times I prayed very desperate prayers as the ache of loneliness overcame me, “Please Lord, you’ve got to hold onto me, because I’m falling apart.”
Many times I reminded God of his promises, “I don’t think I can go on, but you said your strength would be made perfect in my weakness. I really need your strength…RIGHT NOW.”
In my mind’s eye I could see myself clinging onto Jesus arm, hanging on for dear life. I would get down on my knees and beg for help. And the waves of loneliness kept coming.
After repeating the Bible verses over and over, I noticed a change, a glimmer of faith. I was growing confident that Jesus was with me. I started having hope. The terror slowly left me over the next six months. Although I feared the wave, now I knew that it wouldn’t hold me down forever. I started lifting my head.
I found another single mother at church. At first she wasn’t sure about being friends since we were from opposite backgrounds, but the Lord found a way. One day we found that we both loved ministry and felt our church needed an outreach for women like us. What a delight! From that 5-minute conversation sprung a friendship of more than 15 years, and a ministry that has helped many women.
Loneliness is unavoidable, but giving into it is a choice. Hanging onto Jesus’ precious promises was the key to breaking the power of the loneliness tsunami. Jesus promised to give me strength, and he did. He promised to restore my life again (Ps. 71:20) and he did. He said he would “bring me up from the depths of the earth,” and he did.
Even though there were tears and tough times, God was faithful. I was able to raise two delightful children, both of whom love God, went to college, and are emotionally healthy. We talk about the tough early days of the divorce, and marvel at God’s faithfulness to us all. The loneliness surge still hits me, but now I lean into it, knowing that it will hurt a bit, but it has no power over me anymore.
Next time I will write about loneliness-gone-wild: The self-pity monster and how to tame it.
–Single Mom, Torrance, CA