Healing after Divorce

06/09/2017 .
Clayton Heilman  .  Storyteller

“My midlife crisis was a little different,” Steve said. “In 1993, my wife of 24 years came in the room and told me she was divorcing me. I couldn’t believe my ears. She had hired an attorney. The papers were filed — she had made up her mind.” The questions raced in Steve’s mind, but he had few answers. The abrupt divorce was just the beginning of Steve's problems.

“During the divorce the court froze our assets. I was the owner of a small business, so this was devastating,” Steve recalled. “The next thing I knew, the economy in Southern California began to falter — I didn’t have the resources to keep my business afloat and I had to lay off my staff. It was heartbreaking.”

“I began to feel seriously depressed,” Steve said. “I suffered severe anxiety, along with dangerous spikes in my blood pressure.” In one visit to a local ER the Doctor told Steve that with his blood pressure numbers it was a miracle that he didn’t have a stroke. His physical and mental health crisis left him feeling further and further depressed. Steve felt his life spin out of control.

“When you’re depressed your brain lies to you,” Steve said, “I truly thought there was no hope. I thought my life would never get better. I thought God was too busy running the universe to be concerned with my problems. I felt alone, lost, and broken.”

Steve decided to get help for his depression and slowly began to adjust to his problems one day at a time. He knew he needed a drastic change of environment but was unsure where to look. He considered going to church but had never experienced a church that truly connected with him.

He had heard good things about Saddleback Church but had no idea where it was. One Saturday night, while driving down the toll road with his teenage son, he saw a building on a hillside with the lights on, filled with people.

“That must be Saddleback Church,” he told his son.

“It’s Saturday Dad, churches aren’t open on Saturdays, that must be a cult or something.”

Steve looked up Saddleback’s address in Lake Forest when they got home. He wanted to show his son it was a church, not a cult, and decided to check out a service following weekend.

Steve had heard a lot about God and religion growing up. He understood and believed in God, but the personal relationship part never made sense to him. His previous church experiences were more about ceremony and stale sermons he couldn’t connect to. But when he heard Pastor Rick talk about God and having a relationship with Him, it all clicked. “It was like Rick was talking right to me, reading my mind, addressing me right where my heart was.” Steve said.

After the service I heard about Celebrate Recovery and thought “I should give that a try. What did I have to lose?” Steve thought.

While he was going through the program, he learned that even in the midst of his problems he could use his experience to help others.

“I had come a long way since my divorce several years before that moment,” Steve recalled. “I saw other people wrestling with the same issues and realized with God’s help, I could do something about it. I began to see that my life wasn’t over and that God might indeed have a purpose for me.”

Steve felt, for the first time in his life, he had the opportunity to do life the way God wanted him to. Not his own way, not someone else’s way, God’s way. “God had been with me in my darkest moments and carried me out of it. As I began to heal, God gave me a passion to help others.”

In his healing process, Steve began to develop a workbook for others going through divorce. Along with a few other church members, Steve was given the incredible blessing to be on the ground floor of building the Divorce Care Ministry at Saddleback—encouraging other men and women that were struggling with some of the same struggles he had overcome. “I may have only been a few steps further down the road than everyone else, but I shared with them all that I was learning—we were on the journey together.”

He continued helping other divorced individuals for several years until he met Kathy in the Saddleback Singles Ministry. Steve had finally reached a healthy place in his life and was blessed to find a healthy partner who shared a personal relationship with Christ. She provided balance and excitement to his life, and challenged him in his faith. He and Kathy found that they shared many of the same interests including a desire to do life God’s way. A short while later they were married. Now, 17 years into marriage, they have a thriving relationship.

Saddleback Church has been a catalyst for Steve’s faith. Every step of the way, he has found the right resources and encouragement to keep going — to keep trusting God, with the hope that better things are always just ahead. “I constantly have purpose, I constantly have hope,” Steve said. “Even in my hardest days, I still can tap into that source of peace and strength. Pastor Rick’s gift of explaining the bible in practical ways has blessed me in all areas of my life, and has brought hope, purpose, and joy back to my life.”

He never expected to regain balance in his life after it went spinning out of control, but as he has learned to lean on God’s strength for healing—even when it was difficult and didn’t make sense. He hasn’t ever had a lot of wealth, but he has always had enough. Steve is now looking forward to retirement and being able to spend more time serving at Saddleback Church. “Somehow my bills are always paid and my life is always filled with hope and purpose now.”

To learn about Saddleback's relational support groups, click HERE.