“Positive thinking seems to be mandatory in the breast cancer world, to the point that unhappiness requires a kind of apology.” ~ Barbara Ehrenreich, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America
As a Christian woman, do you ever feel the need to apologize for your midlife divorce sadness?
When the reality that I was going to be divorced set in, I was devastated in every way. I thought my “good life” was over. I couldn’t stop crying. And somewhere deep down I felt guilty about that.
Through the divorce process I kept thinking to myself, “I’m a Christian. I shouldn’t be feeling so sad. I’ve got God in my life, so I should be able to say, ‘Your will be done,’ and just move on.”
In her book, Ms. Ehrenreich says that when she discovered she had breast cancer she was immediately thrust into the ultra feminine world of cuddly teddy bears and everyone telling her to put on a happy face. My neighbor also had cancer. She said it used to make her really mad when people, especially Christians, would say things like, “God will use this to make you more appreciative or a better person.”
She was flat out angry about getting cancer and about people telling her she should somehow be thankful for it. No matter how you spin it, cancer sucks. There is nothing good about cancer, and there is nothing good about divorce. But what are we to do?
Whether you’re an atheist like my neighbor, a Christ-follower, or just mad like Ms. Ehrenreich, we all have to reach a point of acceptance. You don’t have to like it, but it is a reality. So how do we live day-to-day in the face of that reality?
I agree that positive thinking, per se, doesn’t change the diagnosis (even though it may make me a bit easier to live with). But here’s what I do believe: I believe there is a God in heaven who cares about me. I also believe that God did not cause my divorce, and has promised to use my suffering for His glory and my good.
I can both fully grieve what I lost, and celebrate what I’ve gained: a new acceptance of the wild nature of life on this earth. In my heart, I know more than ever that this earth is not the final destination. I can say without a doubt that I am a more appreciative, more sensitive, more free, more loving, and a more generous person than I would have ever been without my divorce experience.
And more than ever I believe that God continually keeps His promise to “work all things together for good to those who love him and are trying to live his way.” For me that’s not positive thinking, that’s a positive reality for a Christian woman.
“And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.” ~ Romans 8:28 (The Living Bible)