I recently acknowledged the three-year passing of the day my ex-husband walked out on me.
For weeks before, I felt that anniversary looming, and had no idea what to do with it. I wasn’t exactly sad. After all, I’d released that and healed. On the other hand, I clearly didn't want to celebrate it, either. Neither tissues nor confetti felt appropriate, but ignoring it felt impossible.
It was akin to waving at a passing train. It roared by like a locomotive—you heard the whistle and felt the heavy vibrations in your chest—but you weren’t a passenger and had no interest in jumping on board.
So what do you do with the anniversary of a day that was the most painful you ever experienced? A day that changed everything in your life? A day you’ll never forget but don’t like to remember?
In essence, what do you do with retired grief?
I had no idea.
Until I realized that I was focusing on the shadow and not the light. See, I mistakenly believed I owed some sort of recognition to this life-altering, and in many ways, life-defining moment I had experienced. In that realization, I started to see that my confusion over the anniversary was less about my ex-husband, and more about me.
I realized that fateful day in February wasn’t the anniversary of the day my husband left me, after all. No.
It was the anniversary of the day Jesus showed up in my life in a tangible way unlike any before.
Now that’s worthy of celebrating.
I’d been a dedicated Christian for years before that event in my life. But nothing had ever really happened to me before to make me need Jesus in order to breathe. That day in February, I couldn’t breathe. I still vividly remember kneeling on my kitchen floor, face planted in the smudged tiles, struggling to draw air through my lungs until all I could exhale was one word: Jesus.
All that time, I had no idea what I was missing and no idea what He was capable of.
He can turn grief into glory.
In our darkest moments, He shines in and through us with joy, and hope, and the glory of His presence. No other “remedy” for grief can do that. In our pain, we all too often seek help in other people, in entertainment, in alcohol, in food, in all manner of options that leave us perhaps successfully distracted and numb, yet perpetually empty and raw. Eventually, the pain catches up anyway, and we either have to rinse and repeat or find the courage to break the cycle and turn to the Healer.
Whatever pain you’re feeling today, whatever hurt you’re confused about how to acknowledge, look through the shadows for the light. Look past the divorce papers or the tombstone or the scars, and focus on the One who held you in those dark moments. His fingerprints are all over our worst days. Not because He caused them, but because He observed them. And not from the front row or from the wings—but from center stage, right beside you.
Think how angry it must make the enemy camp when we transition our pain into praise. When we hold up our grief and say “I don’t understand this, but I’m going to thank you anyway”. When we give glory to God in the midst of those moments mean to destroy us.
Genesis 50:20 ESV “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many peopleshould be kept alive, as they are today.”
Here, Joseph is speaking to His brothers, who almost killed him and then sold him into slavery. Joseph experienced all manner of betrayal, rejection, persecution, lies, hurt and unfair circumstances—until God brought Him through it all for a purpose greater than Joseph’s personal comfort. Your pain has purpose too, that might or might not be revealed this side of Heaven.
You might be experiencing fresh grief right now, or possibly tossing around the old. But instead of throwing it away and brushing the remnants from your hands, consider refurbishing it into praise. Into gratitude.
Turn your grief into His glory.
We do this by focusing not on the pain of the dark experience, which leads to bitterness and unforgiveness, but rather by acknowledging, feeling, and sharing the way Jesus shone through it. This could be as public as a blog post, or as private as a teary conversation with your best friend in Starbucks. It could be as quick as a text or as lengthy as a phone call. It could be stated from the pulpit, or whispered privately in your prayer closet.
Wherever you are, whatever method you choose, turn your grief into glory by praising the One who came for you. Who never left you in your storm. Who bottled those tears that piled on your kitchen floor.
We turn our grief into glory when we take the focus off ourselves and what happened to us, and put the spotlight on what He did.
That February afternoon, I wasn’t kneeling on that tile alone. Jesus was right beside me, breathing for me, until I realized I needed Him more than oxygen anyway. His presence was real—startling real—and something I’ll never forget. So I’ll celebrate that. I’ll praise Him for His consistency in a world where nothing ever truly feels secure. I’ll thank Him for the fact that because of His wounds, I’m healed. I’ll continually speak gratitude that He died for my sins and provided me with an undeserved path to eternal life with God.
Every February, every day, I’ll give Him glory.
This article is part of our larger resource: The Christian Woman’s Guide to Starting Over after Divorce: 7 In-Depth Steps to Take Starting Today. If you’re going through a divorce or are already divorced and looking for more resources, be sure to visit our guide!
Betsy St. Amant has a heart for three things - chocolate, new shoes and sharing the amazing news of God's grace through her novels. She lives in Louisiana with her adorable story-telling young daughter, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance. Her newest novel LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES releases via Zondervan Fiction in June 2015. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to the Tangled soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing and can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. You can read more from Betsy at www.betsystamant.com and ww