Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Overcoming the Regret of Divorce

O'Hare Airport, Chicago
One of the best books on overcoming grief is Jerry Sittser's A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss. (Thank you D.F. for pointing me to this.) It's such a helpful, healing, God-filled book. I recommend it to anyone wanting to understand the dark valley of grief and loss and how to find their way through it.

"Loss" comes in many forms. One of them is divorce. Even though divorce is not the loss Sittser focuses on, the principles in his book apply.

Linda and I have a great heart for struggling marriages. We have spent multitudinous hours meeting with couples who, in their hearts and minds, have come to the end of their marital rope. It is our belief, from experience and Scripture, that every marriage can be saved and made better. I have written some things on this here and here.

I'm thinking of this because I see, in Sittser's book, the following:

"Virtually every person I know who has gone through a divorce has regrets - regrets about selfishness, dishonesty, criticism, coldness, temper, and manipulation. They see how different it could have been, which only exacerbates their feeling of failure. Five years, ten years, even twenty years are washed away unnecessarily...

...Regret causes us to repeat a litany of "if onlys": "If only I had tried to make the marriage work...," "If only I had forgiven him...," "If only I had not spoken in such anger." (96-97)

We live in a world of failure and regret. It is inescapable. You and I have failed others, and been disappointed by others. Sittser says that there can be redemption, "but only under one significant condition: People with regrets can be redeemed, but they cannot reverse the loss that gave rise to the regrets. People can be changed by the unchangeable losses they experience. Thus, for redemption to occur, they must let go of the loss itself and embrace the good effects that the loss can have on their lives... In other words, they must seek personal transformation, which comes only through grace." (98)

"If I want transformation," Sittser writes, "I must let go of my regrets over what could have been and pursue what can be." (99)