In previous blog-post, we’ve already established that Unknown Avenue is the lonely road we walk after divorce. The road we didn’t plan for, the one that doesn’t seem well-lit and is cluttered with landmarks that blow-up like booby traps every step we take.
“The enemy is doing everything he possibly can to keep you from being in relationship with Christ, including composing a defining moment to create doubt in your mind.” -Pastor Chris Hodges, Church of the Highlands -Birmingham, AL
When you are walking along Unknown Avenue, there is nothing more carefully orchestrated by the enemy than the guilt he attempts to snare you in. That’s the problem with guilt. It is a “booby trap”, it’s land-mine set by the enemy to cause destruction within our lives and, somehow, we step in right in the trap over and over again. It is disguised in so many ways that sometimes we don’t even recognize it and we jump into it with both feet! Even when we do recognize it, it’s just against our nature to tell ourselves are “feelings” are wrong. But they are – and when we follow our feelings we usually end up ensnared in a trap that was set just for us.
Romans 5:3-5 English Standard Version (ESV)
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
God intends for us to rejoice in our sufferings. He doesn’t intend for us to lounge around obsessing over what we could’ve – should’ve- would’ve! We don’t need to lug guilt around and bear the burden for sins that have already been paid for. So let’s breakdown some the ways that guilt presents itself in our divorces and in our relationships with our exes.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced guilt and that gut wrenching feeling in our stomach. The funny part is – we can even feel guilty for things we know we didn’t have any part in. Guilt is truly one of Satan’s biggest weapons. It can actually induce the anxiety and need for approval we talked about in the last two posts. Guilt is wildly prevalent in the hurting heart. It morphs itself into a new shapes and sizes daily. If we don’t get a grip on guilt, guilt will wrap its nasty hands around us and literally steal the life out of us.
Guilt had a hold on me.
Since I’m always pretty transparent about my struggles with y’all, I’m gonna breakdown the ways it manifested in my life after my divorce – even if it seems a little crazy!
Guilt and shame are the enemy’s way of making you feel like you don’t deserve the grace that God sent His son here to die for on the cross!
Guilt is feeling bad about our behavior and our choices we have made. There are five types of guilt. Guilt about something we did, guilt about something we did we didn’t want to do, guilt about something we “think” we did, guilt about not doing enough, and guilt about having more than others. When we experience guilt, our nature wants to “fix-it”. Even if we are prideful and don’t carry-out the behaviors necessary to repair what went wrong, we still have the internal drive to “fix-it”. We often create battles within ourselves trying to fix what we feel guilty for. The problem is, the guilt was a trap from the beginning.
I felt extremely guilty for my divorce, I felt guilty for betraying my vows, guilty for ruining my daughter’s “family”, and guilty for not trying hard enough to stay married.
But was waking up everyday and wading through these feelings really what God wanted for me?
Feeling ashamed –
Shame is very similar to guilt, however, shame is associated with a sense of who we are. When we experience shame – we feel bad about who we are, like we are now tarnished and no longer pure. Shame shows up in number of ways but our fleshly nature is to mask it. Hide it. Cover it up and move on. We all hide emotions differently but here are a few common shame-driven behaviors – striking out at others in attempt to feel better about ourselves, becoming perfectionist in order prevent any future shame, seeking to become powerful in order to increase our “value”, diverting blame so we can avoid responsibility, people-pleasing to increase our worthiness to those around us, and sometimes withdrawal so we can completely escape the consequences of our feelings.
To be honest, I did all of these. I often spoke out against my ex to friends or family, I would put him down for his behaviors or things I thought would make him appear inferior to me or less of a parent than I was. I became obsessed with doing things perfectly and portraying to others that my life was in perfect order. If anyone thought anything about me was less than perfect they were wrong and I became super defensive. I didn’t necessarily seek out ways to become powerful in society but I certainly developed an instinct for control so I could be powerful in the things I did. Blameless, that was my middle-name. I did no wrong, it was all my exes fault. If anyone didn’t already know that fact then I assure you, I informed them. Withdrawing was actually the very first thing I did, I withdrew from everyone and everything associated with my marriage – our friends, my very best-friend, our little rock church in the backwoods of Alabama, my ex, his family, some of my family, and myself. It was my escape initially.
Did God intend for me live feeling like my halo had been tarnished and was now slightly tilted to the left with my two horns holding it up??
Condemnation, Feeling like a Failure, Depression, Indecisiveness –
These four are all directly linked to either guilt or shame. Condemnation left me feeling like I could never again be worthy. I felt like an absolute failure for walking away from my marriage. Why in the world would anyone find anything about me valuable. I stepped into a dark place where I literally rolled around in my “stinkin-thinkin” all day. Constant reminders of things I had done wrong and things I should’ve done differently. I had arrived at a place where I was completely unable to make the smallest decisions because it overwhelmed me with fear of making more bad decisions.
This became a cycle in my life. Sometimes the cycle would start in the morning and by night, I had been through all four phases. Sometimes each phase of the cycle would last for days. But, none-the-less, this cycle was stuck on repeat and I desperately needed it to stop.
This was not only influencing me and my life, but it was controlling my ability to parent my daughter in the best way possible.
Could this really be how God wanted me to feel?? Was this my consequences for my sins?
When we realize we are stuck in the middle of the Intersection at Unknown Avenue and Guilty Street, where do we turn to get back to our purpose?
In 2010, I had been divorced for a few years and had just started attending church on a regular basis. I began journaling things that spoke to me from sermons I heard at church. I’m going to share a few things I had highlighted in my journal. Things that I know changed my way of thinking and helped free me from some of the guilt and shame I carried.
Failure to let go of your past can destroy your destiny!
I’m so far from the broken-ness I felt inside at that time, that can’t even imagine what I thought about when I wrote that down. But I scribbled it in ALL CAPS across the top of the page. It makes perfect sense to me now. Something about the way I underlined it tells me that at that time, I had never heard or believed that. So just as a reminder – in case no one has ever told you – LET GO OF YOUR PAST! Let go of your rights, your wrongs, your mistakes, your could’ve – would’ve – should’ve! LET GO and LET GOD!
Anxiety marks the spot where we are doubting God.
I didn’t have a clue that I couldn’t be anxious over something and give it to God at the same time. If we truly give something to God – we must completely trust Him with it. ALL OF IT. We need not hang-on to any little pieces that we think we can fix ourselves.
Worry is Satan’s way of making you think you can control something God NEVER intended for YOU to handle.
Pastor Chris Hodges, Church of the Highlands, Birmingham, Al
I’m sure most people know worry is wasteful. But, in my journal, I wrote this down and next to it scribbled – WOW! I must not have realized my worrying wasn’t fixing anything. NOPE. WE CAN’T. If we could fix whatever we are worrying about, we wouldn’t have ever been worried about it to begin with. We would just go out and fix it…right? We only worry over things we can not control. Instead of worrying – we should just know God didn’t intend for us to handle those things – He’s handling them and He doesn’t need our help.
Don’t disqualify yourself.
We are all on a path to a purpose. Even if we have screwed up tremendously, God can still use us for our purpose. But so often, we disqualify ourselves. We see all of our mistakes and all of our wrongs and WE decide we are not good enough. DON’T FALL VICTIM. YOU ARE VICTORIOUS. YOU ARE MADE NEW AND WHOLE IN HIM WHO CREATED YOU! You are more than qualified to carry-out the purpose God has planned for your life! I’m assuming I wrote this down because I had dis-qualified myself from the life of joy that God intended for me.
Wisdom is the ability to apply what we already know.
Ha! Self-explanatory… right?? We already know the end of the book, Satan fights battles but God wins the war! Apply it to your life. Don’t wait around to be proven innocent to start living like you are worthy. Live like you are worthy now! Because you are! If you believe all the promises that God has given us in the Bible, then start living like it NOW!
The Holy Spirit brings CONVICTION – not condemnation. Satan brings condemnation.
If you are feeling condemned. It’s the enemy, AGAIN. He is still out there prowling around looking for weaknesses to prey on. Clearly, I was weak and he preyed on me in this area. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt. But that was a trap! Put on your armor and fight back! Conviction is a sense of needing to repent and correct our steps in the future not feeling like we’ve messed up so bad we are no longer worthy!
Retain peace in your heart REGARDLESS of what the other person decides to do.
Pastor Chris Hodges, Church of the Highlands, Birmingham, AL
This was written in huge, girly, bubble letters. Haha. Ladies, you know exactly what kind of letters I’m referring to. I actually remember this sermon. I remember the change in perspective and it marks a change in my life. REGARDLESS of what your ex decides to do – you live in peace. Don’t wait for them to validate you to forgive yourself, do it now. Don’t wait for them to apologize to forgive them, do it now. Don’t wait until they are nice to quit living in turmoil, do it now. DO IT NOW. LIVE IN PEACE! It’s my motto, it’s God’s motto – He is a God of peace – Yahweh Shalom… I have it tattooed on my wrist as a reminder – don’t wait for someone else to bring peace. God is peace. Decide now to live in that peace!
When we hold onto anger and bitterness we give the enemy access to our soul that belongs to Christ.
Don’t leave any doors open for the enemy. I am an old pro at holding onto anger and bitternerss. I would love to say that this is not a battle I still fight, but that would be a lie. I don’t struggle with it for my ex any longer but it just moved over to another area. I have to pray and let go daily! Satan knows how to stop us in our tracks. He is searching for a way to distract you, to isolate you, so he can thwart the plan God has for you. But we serve a God whose plans cannot be thwarted. We can’t serve God and the world at the same time. Let go and Let God!
Jesus didn’t “feel” like hanging on the cross – He said “not my will Lord, but yours”. Choices lead – feelings follow…
Don’t rely on your feelings. Just because you “feel” less than doesn’t make it true. Just because you “feel” angry doesn’t mean you should act on it. God’s own son taught us that God’s will is more than how we feel. Jesus didn’t follow His feelings, He followed His Father’s will and we should too! He made a choice to serve God’s purpose, don’t let your feelings steal your opportunity to serve God – it’s about His will!
You see the world differently from your knees
We can change our perception of every situation through prayer. Hit your knees and you will see fears turn to confidence, anger turn to joy, and your enemies will become smaller as your God becomes BIGGER!
Some of our greatest battles in life are not external, but internal.
YESSSSSSS!!!!!! Some of the hardest things I have fought in my life have been my own thoughts. Imagine if we had always listened to every thought we’ve had about ourselves?? I think back to the night I gave my heart to God in 2010 in a funeral home – yes, seriously – and I remember my head battling my heart. I remember raising my hand and putting it down and then raising it again and the preacher saying “just leave it up young lady!”… How could he have known what kind of battle was going on inside of me? He couldn’t – but God knew. We battle ourselves and our thoughts daily, we battle good and bad, right and wrong.
Joy doesn’t come from EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES it comes from INTERNAL FAITH.
If you didn’t already shout AMEN, then you should – RIGHT NOW! It doesn’t matter what kind of hell you are walking through, your joy comes from your faith in GOD. No situation around you can change the truths and we, as christians, live by the truths written in the Bible. If your ex is acting like a crazy fool and refuses to cooperate with you on anything – it doesn’t change the fact that God is still God. That He created you for a purpose and no person can deter you from your destiny. Sometimes we meet people walking through unimaginable pain and suffering, yet we still see hope and joy in them. We don’t understand how or why? It’s because they get their joy from unwavering faith!
Somethings we can do if we are struggling with guilt or shame or condemnation?
Praying brings us closer to God and intensifies our faith.
When we fast it helps us unplug from the world and our earthly dependencies
DECLARE OUR DEPENDENCE ON GOD
Write down or say aloud what we are depending on God for. Give it to Him completely and let it go.
ASK FOR FORGIVENESS
Repent and ask God to help you change your heart and your ways.
RE-FOCUS ON THE ETERNAL
Don’t just live in the present. Keep your eyes on the prize. The end of your story is beautiful. Focus on that.
INVITE THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD INTO YOUR LIFE
Ask God to fill you, your home, and everywhere you go! Tell Him you want Him there and you NEED Him there!
WRITE DOWN AND MEMORIZE SCRIPTURES
Replace worries or bad feelings with scripture and promises from God.
ASSOCIATE WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE A LIKE PURPOSE – NOT WITH THOSE WHO ARE MOST LIKE YOU….
Find other people who are looking to walk with and serve Christ. Join them and help them in their purpose. Don’t be distracted by choosing to be with people who just like you.