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First Thoughts

Hope and Healing After Divorce

Psalm 137—God Heals the Brokenhearted

Divorce is one of the most heart-wrenching difficulties that life can throw your way. Dreams are smashed. Families are divided. Homes are sold, and children wonder if they are the cause. Money becomes tight, and bitterness grows. I know precious people who have not seen their own children for years and grandparents whose hearts ache to be with grandchildren they are not allowed to see. In the last few years, this reality has been experienced by many as the extra pressure of a pandemic revealed the weaknesses already present in relationships.

Does God Care About Me?

Does God care about this pain, or are the promises of Scripture only related to gospel truths that happened in the past while we painfully wait for their fulfillment?  Are we all on our own as we face the present tense of life? The resounding answer of Scripture of whether God cares about our suffering and if the Bible relates to present circumstances, like divorce, is a resounding Yes!

This is clearly evident in Psalm 147, where the Psalmist writes, “Yahweh… gathers the outcasts of Israel. He is the One who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”(verses 2 and 3). This would have been a precious promise for the people of Israel who had experienced captivity. They would have been ripped away from their homes, and their families would have been divided. Family members would have been killed as well.

This Psalm bluntly describes outcasts who are brokenhearted. Maybe your spouse has rejected you, and you feel shattered and deeply wounded. The Hebrew words combined to make the one word, “brokenhearted,” literally mean to be shattered like shards in the inner person with its thinking, decisions, emotions, and desires. In other words — shattered thinking, shattered emotions, shattered decision-making, and shattered desires. I know this is an excruciating experience for many.

How Does God Heal the Brokenhearted?

How does God heal the brokenhearted, though? Is this a healing that magically happens, or are there objective truths that we see in this Psalm that tell us how? I believe there are truths stated here that explain how He heals.

First, He gathers and restores (verse 2). This is part of the core of this Psalm. The captives of Israel are restored. Joel 2:25 is a precious promise for those who feel like they have lost years of their lives to divorce. “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” There is a future, and it is bright. It can bring healing to your broken heart to believe that, like Job, God can restore what the locusts have eaten.

Second, He keeps the record books and will judge. Verse 6 proclaims, “He casts the wicked to the ground.” This truth can be very liberating and healing as you choose to believe that you do not need to judge and prosecute your former spouse. God is a God of justice; what others have sown, they will reap. I have learned through much counseling that people remain bitter because they want to be mad and punish others. This is dangerous for many reasons and will keep a heart from healing.

There is truth to the adage, “Bitterness is the poisonous pill we swallow hoping it will kill someone else.” You can decide to forgive based on how much you have been forgiven by the Lord (Ephesians 4:31-32). The Lord keeps the record books and will hold people accountable. It is so liberating to realize you do not need to remain bitter. It can bring great healing to your broken heart to choose to forgive.

Are These Empty Promises?

Are these just nice promises with no power behind them? Does God truly have the ability to fulfill what his word states?

The resounding answer in this Psalm is Yes! “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure” (verses 4-5). It can bring healing to your broken heart to believe that God is all-powerful.

Maybe you feel hopeless and overwhelmed in the midst of a divorce or as you reflect on a divorce in the past. According to this Psalm, what are you to do? How do you make these promises that light up like a neon sign on a pitch-black night come true? Again, Scripture is clear. “…The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (verse11).

Your job is to live in awe of the all-powerful One and to trust him. This would imply that you are reflecting on him and fighting with your soul to believe these truths. The power of these promises is unleashed not by merely reading them but by telling your soul they are true. This is a discipline to learn and practice rather than just believing everything your soul is saying. Be encouraged because scripture says He takes pleasure in you if this is how you are endeavoring to live!

It can bring healing to your broken heart to choose to fight with your soul to believe scriptural truths.

My heart aches for you if divorce has been your experience, but I know the Lord can heal as you believe he will restore, as you choose to forgive, believing he keeps the record books, and as you choose to believe he has the power to fulfill these promises.

Dr. Ernie Baker serves First Baptist Church as Pastor of Counseling and Discipleship. He has been in ministry for 41 years as a pastor in Virginia and as a professor at The Master’s University (Santa Clarita, CA) where he continues to serve as the chair of the online biblical counseling program. He is the author of Marry Wisely, Marry Well: A Blueprint for Personal Preparation

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