I am in Round Top Texas, the place where Joanna Gains from Fixer Upper from HGTV loves to find great antiques. I’m here for my yearly retreat with women I love. We’ve been gathering together for ten years now and it’s amazing the love and support a group of godly women can give. For the same reason, I love this blog community. I’m so appreciative of all your comments and how you pray, love, and support one another in this journey of growth. I hope you are all planning to attend the upcoming CONQUER Conference, Be Brave: Grow Strong on October 12-13, 2018 in Lincoln, Nebraska. I would love to meet you all in person and for you to meet and love on one another.
Today’s Question: I loved your newsletter, The Intentional Life I read recently. You asked what really matters? Well for me it’s family. But my question is what if what really matters is the very thing you need to avoid? Like liars and thieves right in your own family. From my husband to now my grown children.
I have given my all to my family for over 40 years. My husband left when his addictions were exposed within the church and family. Now the family is crumbling. My purpose is gone as far as I had planned. I know I can’t stop it. I can’t fix it; I can’t change anyone but me. Where do I begin when all I lived for is gone?
Answer: Life can be so disappointing and heartbreaking, can’t it? As women, we long for great connection with others, especially our family members. And when that doesn’t happen, it can play havoc with our identity as a person as well as our psyche.
Studies done on the psychology of women have shown that a woman’s sense of identity rests in her connection to those around her, especially her closest relationships. When those fail or are non-existent, a woman begins to question her value and her purpose. That’s what’s happening to you. I’m so sorry. But your question is now what? How do you begin to pick up the pieces of your shattered life and your sense of self?
What encourages me about your question is that you are embracing an owner mindset rather than a victim mindset. When bad things happen to us, it’s tempting to get stuck in self-pity and victim mindset. Please don't mishear me. People are victimized by other people’s sin such as you have been with your husband’s sin. But being victimized does not mean you have to embrace a victim mindset. In fact, one of the most powerful ways to move out of being repeatedly victimized is to embrace an owner mindset. In other words, you ask yourself the question: “What am I going to do with what has happened to me?” Do I need to learn to speak up more? Be less passive? Understand the red flags I missed when dating this person? Do I need to fight back, be more aware of manipulative tactics and how they hook me in?
This question of “what do I need to learn from this?” is powerful. Because once you ask this question, all kinds of possibilities open up for you. When we fall into victim mindset the only thing we can focus on is what has been done to us. How it has hurt us or robbed us or damaged us. And that is a downward spiral of hopelessness, anger, helplessness, and often leads to depression.
First, it’s important to give yourself adequate time to grieve. You have experienced a very real loss and right now a lot of your emotional and even physical energy will be taken up processing this loss and accepting it. There is a big gap between knowing something and coming to emotionally accept it. You know your marriage is over and your family is forever changed, but coming to truly accept that reality takes time and that process is called grieving. You grieve the loss of what you had. You grieve the loss of what you never had. You grieve for what you wished you would have had. You can’t wisely build a new life until you are able and ready to let go of the old. That’s grieving. It’s the emotional gut-wrenching process of letting go and saying goodbye. Don’t rush that process. Give yourself a lot of self-compassion while at this stage and hopefully you have some good support from girlfriends or your church too.
Second, it’s important that you not forget that your life is not over even if your marriage is. That means you still have a purpose because if you didn’t, God would take you home. So ask God, “What do I have to give you God in order to serve you and glorify you in the time I have left on this planet?” You may have given yourself 100% to your family and thought that was your entire purpose, but it was not. That was for a season and now it’s over. What’s next for you? Many women have to answer this question for themselves even if their family hasn’t shattered like yours has. Repurposing after the empty nest is important. Even if you have an intact family, kids grow up, get married, and move away. Perhaps grandchildren don't live close by or are busy with other activities. A woman has to find a new purpose or she will live her life without intention or direction. That is not God’s description of a life well lived. You don’t want to just exist.
Third, if your entire life has revolved around your family, my guess is you are lacking girlfriend support. This is crucial for you right now because God intends for you to have real people in your life who will encourage and support you. In addition, as people, we are highly influenced by the company we keep. Find some spiritually mature, grounded women, some who have walked this path you’re on right now. Remember, there is still a purpose for you and part of that purpose is forming new and healthier relationships. Get connected to a good church that has a robust program for singles or senior citizens. Move to a community of 55 and older where you can meet other people and may have activities and clubs you can join to meet other people.
I’d encourage you to stay away from dating or looking to remarry anytime soon. This is a season for you to find out more who you are, to work on healing and developing a strong female support system. I say this because every woman over 55 (and you say you were married 40 years so I know that’s you), needs to develop a good female support system. Chances are a woman will outlive her husband even if her marriage was loving and good. Therefore, it’s very important that a woman not revolve her entire life around her husband and their marriage because it is possible that one day those things will be gone. When she has other loving and supportive people in her life, it makes that new reality of aloneness easier to bear. Children may or may not be present or supportive and that’s why it is important for you to reach out and develop your own network of personal friends.
Last, not only does God have a purpose for you, he cherishes you and wants you to trust him in a deeper way in this new and scary season of your life. I know this isn’t what you would have wanted or chosen but God is always with you and holds you by the hand through this process of letting go and moving on. Guard your heart against bitterness and resentment which are so easy to feel when you have been hurt by others especially those who promised to love you. Don’t allow them take one more thing from you, especially your mental, emotional, spiritual or physical health.
Read Psalm 73. One of the things I like about this Psalm is that David is so real and honest with God. He questions why the bad guys seem to get away with things and the good guys suffer. He doesn’t understand what God is up to until he enters in the Presence of the Lord. Then he begins to see things more clearly. I'm not sure how long it took him to get from verse 3 to verse 17 where he was able to see things more clearly. I don’t think it was instantaneous. However, even when David knew he wasn’t in a good place, he wrote, “I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. I was so foolish and ignorant – I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. Yet I still belong to you, you hold my right hand…(verse 21-24).
That is who our God is. He knows life is hard. He knows we won’t always handle it well and he still holds our hand through it. Trust him as you rebuild the shattered parts of your life. He will show you how to do it and where to go (Psalm 32:8). Click To Tweet
Your life and purpose are not over, but you need to give yourself time to grieve and figure out what’s next. Surround yourself with godly people who will support you in this journey.
Friend, when your life has shattered, what were some of the first things you did to regain your sense of who you were or your purpose so you could rebuild your life?
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