Betsy St. Amant Haddox has built a career writing romance novels. But as a young mother, her own story took an unwanted turn when her husband packed his bags and left. She prayed for reconciliation, believing God would heal her marriage, but to no avail. In Once Upon a Divorce: Walking with God After “The End,” St. Amant Haddox candidly shares her personal journey. Writer Ericka Andersen, author of Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church and the Church Needs Women, spoke with St. Amant Haddox about persevering through an unwanted divorce.

At the moment you knew your husband was actually leaving, what was going on within your head and your heart?

In one sense, I knew it was coming. I had been living on eggshells for a year, waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I was still caught off guard, because in the back of my mind I still wondered if it would actually happen.

After he told me, he immediately started packing a bag. Then I just hit the floor of my kitchen. I was hunched over, crying, and hardly able to breathe. But in that moment, God’s presence was there in a surprisingly tangible way. It felt as though I wasn’t taking in any oxygen, but God was literally sustaining me.

In the immediate aftermath of the separation, how did you and your husband differ in your thoughts about the future of the marriage?

Once he was out the door, I think he was done. But I was ready to fight—for him, for our marriage. So I gathered prayer meetings with fellow believers and friends who knew and loved him. At the same time, I held back from communicating directly, not wanting to argue or push him away.

Meanwhile, I was just begging God to tell me something. There were days I felt sure the marriage would be restored—and days when I wasn’t sure at all. Looking back, I think God led me through that time of questioning, listening, and surrendering to grow my faith and trust. Sometimes we don’t get those answers. And sometimes we mistake God’s voice for the voices of our own desperate hearts.

How would you assess your spiritual life during this period of waiting?

Because I had grown up in a Christian household, I was very familiar with everything you’re supposed to do, spiritually, when you’re going through a hard season in life. But I’m someone who likes answers and explanations. I almost feel like I can deal with any hard situation if I at least have information. But in this season, I had none of that.

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Deep down, I was trying to reconcile God’s sovereignty with man’s sin, which is kind of a timeless theological question. If things really go the way God intends, as Scripture says, then how could he fail to put my marriage back together? Because it’s obvious, from Scripture, that divorce isn’t his plan for his children. I wasn’t angry, just genuinely confused.

At some point, the Lord released me from the burden of fighting for the marriage. I had to learn to surrender, to realize that just because God is sovereign doesn’t mean we’ll always grasp how he uses adverse circumstances in our lives to bring him glory.

In research for my own book, I found that divorcées and single moms are leaving the church at higher rates than other categories of women, in part because they don’t feel like they belong. How does that track with your personal experience?

From my perspective, getting divorced and then staying in your church is quite different from coming into a new congregation as a divorced person. I see the latter situation a lot, and in those cases I’ve seen the church try to provide love, help, and encouragement.

But when someone is established in a church and then goes through a divorce, it’s more common for the church not to know what to do. People get nervous, and they default toward a hands-off approach.

In my situation, the church didn’t really know what to do with me. The people there meant well, and I don’t have any hard feelings. But I do recall one staff member’s wife who asked me why I was fighting for a marriage with someone who didn’t want to be married anymore. At the time, I was in hardcore fight-for-my-marriage mode. And even though I didn’t know exactly what I needed, I knew it wasn’t an invitation to quit fighting. I didn’t have deep roots at this church, which made it easier to move elsewhere with a clean slate. I wasn’t trying to hide the situation, but I wanted to attend a church where at least some people weren’t aware of it.

How can churches better minister to people in your situation?

I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on so many factors, like the individual needs of the person going through divorce. If you’re a single mom, for instance, then it really helps to be seen almost as a widow, because this takes away the stigma of having it assumed that you’re living in sin if you’ve chosen divorce.

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It’s always hard, after all, to know someone’s full story. If you look at my court papers, for instance, you’ll see that I filed first. But I had to because I had been abandoned. You could look at those papers and conclude that I had initiated the divorce. But I was only trying to keep from going flat broke. So sometimes the first step is not worrying about who did, said, or initiated what.

And then, just show the love of Christ and ask what people need. Sometimes that need might be financial. Sometimes it involves practical things like babysitting or mowing the lawn. Those are the sorts of things I badly needed during my own experience with divorce, but never in a million years would I have thought to ask.

How would you describe your experience of getting remarried?

When you’re divorced, it’s tempting to believe that everything will be okay if you can only get married again. Logically, of course, you know that’s not true, because every marriage is a difficult matter involving two sinners.

One thing I wanted to emphasize in the book is not letting remarriage become your main goal. You can be completely fulfilled without it. It took me a while to get to that point. When my now-husband and I had planned our first coffee date, we both almost canceled. We were so tired of the try-and-fail relationships.

Over six years later, I’m grateful we’re still married. But remarriage is hard. Between you, there can be lots of baggage, trauma, and insecurity. But it’s definitely redemptive. I felt like our wedding ceremony was the most holy, anointed experience of my life. It confirmed God’s goodness and his redemptive work.

Overall, what is your message to women who find themselves in a situation similar to yours?

I want to tell them two things: First, you are not walking through this alone, even if you don’t have that friend or church community you wish you did. God still sees you, and he won’t turn his face because of the divorce label.

And second, going back to my “romance writer who got divorced” perspective: Know that this is just one chapter. It feels long and horrible, but it isn’t the whole story. Divorce doesn’t have to get the final say. Within the circle of loving family and friends—and especially within your walk with the Lord—you can enjoy a happily ever after.

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Once Upon a Divorce: Walking with God After
Once Upon a Divorce: Walking with God After "The End"
Kregel Publications
2024-01-16
200 pp., 14.54
Buy Once Upon a Divorce: Walking with God After
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