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I Can Do This on My Own, Right?

Updated: Feb 16, 2020

How Divorce Led Me to Rely on the Savior, Jesus Christ

By Claire Gilliland

There is a lot ugly about divorce. I know. I came from a home where my parents split up when I was starting college. Even as an adult, the long- and short-term consequences rocked my world. As an adult child I was often put in the position of having to “choose” between parents; I didn’t feel I could please both, even though I loved both parents deeply. I hated hearing how the other parent was not a good person. I dreaded the traditional family events and holidays- Christmas, Thanksgiving, graduations, weddings, family vacations – because we were no longer complete. Laughter was strained, chairs were empty, and the elephant in the room was real.

I had grown up in a home where going to church was an important part of our lives. My dad was a minister. I was taught to love God and to serve others. What I was not taught, however, either

by words or example, was that I could trust God because He loves me and always wants the best for me (and He knows what is best for me in the long run!). I grew up to be a competent and confident young person, successful in most everything I attempted. Life was sometimes hard, but with a bit of work I was able to handle anything that came my way. I finished college, got a good job as a nurse, bought my own home and car, and settled into the good life. I was doing well on my own, and God was not really a necessary part of my life. Sure, I believed in God, but even in the tough times I felt I could deal with the problems without divine help. I rarely prayed, mostly because I didn’t have a real relationship with God, so why pray and spill my heart to a casual acquaintance?

At 26, I married a young man who was self-sufficient, hard-working, and – very important to me – had an intact family with loving parents. Life continued to be good, with the birth of three wonderful children. Money was tight at times, since I had chosen to stay home with the kids, but other than that, we rolled along a pretty smooth road. I could handle this!

Until the day I will always remember… when I learned that the distance that I was beginning to feel growing between my husband and me was actually being fed by another relationship. It was a gut-wrenching experience to find him with someone else. He moved out that day, and never returned. That makes it sound as if I didn’t want him back, but that was not the case. I too well remembered the pain of being a child from a broken home, and I was not going to have that for my children, no matter what. I pleaded with him, begged him, and even got down on my knees and tearfully entreated him to come home and promised that I would learn to forgive him.

That didn’t happen and I was shocked that he chose to leave us. Here I must interject an explanation for my reluctance to believe that he wouldn’t come home. I felt that God would want a family united, and that my willingness to try to forgive my husband should count for something. Wasn’t it a righteous desire of my heart to have an intact family? Why wouldn’t God give me that? I was angry with my husband and took it out on God. He could change this, and He didn’t!

Then I went through the hardest years of my life… the financial stress, the unending legal papers, the heartbroken children, the single-parenting, the feelings of inadequacy, the loneliness, the anger and the grief. Instantly, and with increasing depth, I felt so alone. I cried constantly and couldn’t eat. My response was to find three jobs and go back to school to become more marketable. That meant driving 100 miles to school and back twice a week. The children and I learned to live on very little, to work very hard, and to support each other. We found joy in Whopper Wednesday at Burger King, where we could feed the family for $4 on the way to youth activities. We weeded the yard every morning for an hour in the summers to stay ahead of chaos. I woke them to a cowbell alarm every morning at 5 am in order to read scriptures before school.

I also learned something else. I learned that I was not as competent and confident as I thought. Looking back, the gospel of Jesus Christ taught me that I could have a close and meaningful relationship with a loving Heavenly Father and His divine Son. I knew this in my head, but it wasn’t until I traveled the road of divorce that I knew it in my heart. I learned that I had to lean on God and my Savior Jesus Christ to survive. I learned that they loved me, and they saw my pain and my insecurities. They recognized my weaknesses and my shortcomings and loved me anyway.

In the chaos of my life, when I felt the storm closing in and sinking my little boat, I felt like His disciples did in Mark 4: 37-40 as their boat was sinking in the storm: “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Tearfully, time and time again, I asked, “Heavenly Father, do You even care that I can’t pay the bills, or find time to tuck my kids in at night, or wonder if the car will run well enough to get me to school?” Like his disciples, I heard His calming words, “Peace, be still,” and felt the winds of my life cease and peace enter my heart. I could do this. I could do this! With His help, I could do this. I learned to trust that He would be there for me. He wants me to lean on him, and to find the comfort and peace that He so willingly gives. He wants me to draw closer to Him and to find joy in the journey through every trial.

Divorce is ugly and hard. So are the loss of a job, poor health, infertility, death of a loved one, abuse, addictions, estranged families, mass shootings and so many other things in our world today. We can try to go it alone, because we always have and because we think we can manage. Or we can choose to lean on Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. They are there for you. I know that, because they were there for me.

One of my favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon clearly teaches this truth. Helaman, a well-known prophet in the Americas, taught his sons, Nephi and Lehi, by sharing the following:“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (Helaman 5:12, Book of Mormon). These words have proven true in my life!

Claire Gilliland retired from practicing and teaching nursing in 2017 and now spends her time gardening, camping, and loving on her three children and six grandchildren. In 2018, she and her husband served a mission for their church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and look forward to serving another in 2020.

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