Sadness. Anger. Fear. Loneliness. Despair. Depression. Being separated from your spouse sinks you into emotional quicksand. Your emotions will paralyze you if you let them. Instead of making progress, you’ll be stuck in the sand.
In the Bible, there are many examples of men and women who found themselves in desperate circumstances chock-full of emotion. For example, when they realized their families had been taken hostage, David and his bravest warriors wept uncontrollably (1 Sam. 20:3-4). Their city, Ziklag, had been raided and burned down by an enemy tribe. They feared for the lives of their wives and children. Together, these mighty warriors outwardly expressed their pain.
As with David and his valiant men, it’s normal for you to feel overwhelmed by emotions, which can change drastically from one moment to the next. You hurt, and while God created you with emotions to respond to life’s experiences, the searing pain feels as if it will burn clean through the center of our chest.
So what are you supposed to do with your pain?
Finding Your Emotional Oasis
Suffering needs an oasis to give your emotions intermittent release valves. An oasis is a place you can go or a healthy activity you can engage in that provides balance and keeps you from exploding or imploding.
For example, when Penny [my wife] left, I didn’t know what to do with all my intense feelings and no one knew what to do with me. Leaders in the church suggested I join the singles group again, but I wasn’t single; I was still married to Penny. I felt like I didn’t fit anywhere. Displaced and distraught, I didn’t know whom to talk to about what was happening. Like most men, I wasn’t accustomed to expressing my emotions, especially sorrow. Having spent two tours in Vietnam, I’d witnessed a great deal of trauma, but my military training taught me to emotionally disconnect from those experiences to survive. Unknowingly, I was trying that same tactic with my deep sadness over our failing marriage. Burying my emotions in busyness and white-knuckling it through all the difficult feelings seemed like the right way to handle things. Wrong.
When those tactics didn’t work, I made the crucial decision to find an emotional oasis–something that allowed me to process and express emotions and to find peace.I made the crucial decision to find an emotional oasis--something that allowed me to process and express emotions and to find peace.Click To Tweet
Begin by asking God to help you find your personal oasis. He wired you. He knows how you tick and what you need. Here are some suggestions.
Check with your church to see if they offer counseling services. If not, perhaps your pastor will mee and pray with you. Or ask your church for a list of reputable counseling resources or references you can trust.
Pain and be expressed and processed through physical exercise. Hit a bucket of golf balls down at the local driving range or go to a batting cage. You may find your oasis by going to the gym, gardening, walking the dog, biking, swimming, running, or hiking. Physical activity not only improves organ, muscle, and joint functions in the body but it also boosts your metabolism and releases hormones, which have a significant positive impact on your overall health. Exercise is mentally beneficial as well. In addition to reducing stress, physical activity can uplift your mood, provide a sense of accomplishment, and increase your self-esteem.
You may find your oasis by engaging in a service project. Perhaps there is someone in your neighborhood who has a need you can meet. This can be as simple as offering a ride or a run to the grocery store to an elderly or bedridden person. Maybe there is a community agency or organization looking for volunteers. Helping others helps you.
Ask a friend to read some psalms aloud to you, such as Psalm 23, 40, 86, or 91. Or listen to an encouraging podcast, sermon, or audio passage of the Bible. There are also many free music videos on YouTube. Find a comfortable space to lie down and soak in uplifting music.
Creating something with your hands can be extremely cathartic. One idea is to cut out pictures and words from magazines to create a collage that accurately expresses your emotions. Or check with your local community center, adult school, or art store for creative workshops and classes. You may want to try using a creative Bible study, such as Discovering Hope in the Psalms, that includes artwork to color.
Many people find that nurturing a pet makes them feel peaceful. Although you must be wise and cautious about taking on new responsibilities during this time, getting a pet may also bring unexpected joy and unconditional love into your life. If you can’t have a pet but you find being around animals is comforting, consider volunteering at your local animal shelter.
Many people find their oasis through writing in a journal. Write letters to God in your journal. Tell Him exactly how you feel. You may find it comforting to write letters to your emotions such as “Dear Grief…” or “Dear Sadness…”
God, help me! I can’t handle all these emotions. Help me grieve in healthy ways that honor You and express my pain. If I keep hurt locked inside, it will paralyze me. I need a verbal outlet, an emotional outlet, and a physical outlet to process what I’m going through. I’m looking to You to provide ideas that will help meet these needs. I’m grieving the pain of this dying marriage, and I can’t do it without Your help. Fill me with faith to believe that You will provide exactly what I need. Please soothe my sorrow with the presence of Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Excerpt taken from Marriage Off Course © 2018 by Clint and Penny A. Bragg. Published by Kregel Publications. Used with permission. It may not be excerpted or distributed without the express written permission of the publisher.