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How the Pain of Death and Divorce Led to Praise, Gratitude and Healing by Bob Williams

I want to praise God and to share a time He has worked in my life. The experience shows how God used my emotional pain for my growth and answered my prayers only when I was ready and in a way that was best for me.

My first wife and I came to Asheboro so I could work with Thad Moser and Wes Moser in their law firm, starting February 1, 1976. The office was in the Trollinger Building on Worth Street in Asheboro.

My father died May 27, 1976. The funeral was at First United Methodist Church in Asheboro. He was buried in Asheboro. I helped mother as much as possible. I handled the estate. I missed Daddy’s advice and common sense. I did not deal fully with his death for years, not being able to cry or talk fully about it when I needed so much to do so.

The senior partner in our firm, Thad Moser, died February 14, 1977. He was at his desk in the office when he slumped over. There was some confusion as to what to do. He was rushed to the hospital and cared for by the best local surgeon. Wes was very upset at his brother’s early death. Their father had died at an early age. I was upset also. Wes Moser decided to merge the remainder of his firm with two other attorneys. I was given an opportunity to work with the new firm for at least a while, but told there would be no assurances of a future for me there.

Knowing that my wife was pregnant and that I had to provide for my family especially after the birth of a child, I started my own law firm on February 1, 1978. I rented a first floor office space at 125 Worth Street, the corner of Worth Street and Lawyer’s Row. Another lawyer shared office space with me helping with the expenses.  Our son, John, was born in June 1978. After living in an apartment for months with a new baby, we purchased our first house in November, 1978.

I worked hard to promote my law practice and was an active member in many civic clubs and other organizations. I tried to meet as many people as I could. However, I neglected home and did not fully understand or appreciate my wife’s needs to continue her degrees and career elsewhere. She had obtained her masters degree after we married in Chapel Hill and before we moved to Asheboro. I thought I was being supportive and found out she felt otherwise. She taught college level classes at RCC and later continued her Ph. D. in Chapel Hill driving back and forth. I did not appreciate how hard it was on her because I was so busy.

Our marriage became estranged with us growing apart, separating within our home and finally her leaving. I prayed much during this time for healing for our marriage. I sought help from the church, from business men’s religious groups, from counselors and others. She continued her Ph.D. degree in Chapel Hill and moved there. God did not seem to be answering my prayers.

Our son, Matt, stayed with me until the end of the school year. He then moved to his mother’s apartment in Chapel Hill.  He attended the nearby elementary school and stayed in the afternoon program at the school. He visited me every other weekend, during alternate holidays, and a month in the summers.  For a long time, I drove to Chapel Hill to visit him on the week that he stayed with her during the weekend. I tried everything I could to reconcile with her. However, it seemed the harder I tried, the madder she became and the less pleasant the visits. I became convinced the only way I was going to maintain my relationship with Matt was to give up his mother. I reasoned maintaining one relationship was better than completely losing both.

I was suffering emotionally from my father’s death, my senior partner’s death, from the stress of starting a new law practice and establishing a new home, from the breakup of my marriage and from the fear I would completely lose my son. At my lowest points, it helped me to write about the positive ways God was acting in the world. Each new section I wrote, pulled me up a level in my feelings. One of the things I wrote, I later used as a column in the church newsletter and as the basis for a letter to the High Point Enterprise. It had ten sections. I will share part of it with you:

  • Praise and thank God who created light, the sky, the land, the seas, plants, natural laws and mankind;
  •  Praise and thank God who created mankind in His image, giving us intelligence, a soul and Freedom of choice to believe in Him or not;
  •  Praise and thank God who acts through history, who provided a message of righteousness, justice, love and forgiveness through the Old Testament prophets, who gave His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ to tell and show by example God's love, and who provides the Holy Spirit as a comforter in our lives so we can grow on the path of Christian perfection;
  • Give thanks for the faith, diversity, inclusiveness, and commitment to Christian service to others (especially the elderly, widows, the sick, orphans and strangers) found in our churches and society today;
  • Give thanks for those who share the fruits of the Spirit in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self‑control;Give thanks to God for those who are known as His disciples by the way they treat each other and strangers;
  • Give thanks to God who uses our weaknesses and adversity for our growth and for God's glory; and
  • Give thanks to God for the Scriptures, reason, tradition and experience that guides us in our faith.
    Bob participating in worship at home

I attended various seminars provided by churches for divorcing Christians and benefited. I attended Parents without Partners Programs and a friend there told me about a singles group called Positive Singles Connection at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in High Point. The group met at the church for two dinner meetings a month on Tuesday nights. There was also a Sunday school class at the church on Sunday mornings. The dinner meetings and activities attracted people from throughout Guilford, Randolph and Davidson counties.

Inattention to a marriage partner, pursuit of personal career goals, physical or emotional separation of the spouses due to different interests, religious conflicts, conflicts regarding the expenditure of money, conflicts regarding rearing children and a "newfound love" by one of the spouses can be some of the reasons for separation and divorce.

I do not believe that anyone expects to become separated and divorced. It is my personal opinion that the person who is most psychologically involved and fulfilled by a marriage is often the one who is hurt the most by separation and divorce. It is also my personal opinion that most of the time the person who wants an end to the marital relationship will minimize the effect on any children. The person who does not want the marriage to end may worry the most about the effect on the child or children.

 People going through divorce and separation can experience many of the same stages that others who grieve experience. There is certainly a loss involved. These stages can include shock, a need to express emotions, a feeling of loneliness or depression, possible physical symptoms of distress, a feeling of panic, a sense of guilt about the loss and anger and resentment. Often we resist the realization that we must move on and continue to grow. In most instances, gradually hope comes through and we confirm or work out the new reality.

During the period leading up to my separation and immediately afterwards, there was a particular scripture that had meaning for me. That scripture is Romans 5:1‑5: 

"Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us."

Although no normal person seeks or enjoys suffering, we can grow through suffering which produces endurance and character.

I came to the realization that God would not repair my marriage, but that He would repair my life if I first sought the kingdom of God and allowed Him to use these unfortunate circumstances to help me grow. God can use broken lives, but you have to give him all the pieces. Broken clouds yield rain, broken ground yields plants and a broken seed yields growth.

Sometimes you come to a situation where the reality you face simply hurts too much for you to go on. At that point a person can, in effect, create a new reality by controlling their own behaviors, looking for positive growth and turning win/lose situations into win/win situations. It is not easy. You need God’s Guidance and help.

I have learned that you do the best you can under the circumstances that you are given and forgive yourself for not doing better. I also learned God will sustain you in bad times.

One of my first realizations was that we had created a successful family because we both loved and cared for our son and provided for him. Our family was a success, but our marriage was not. After many efforts to make repairs, change the circumstances, and appeal to reason, I realized that I was not capable of fixing something that was now dead. No matter how painful it is, the acceptance that a marriage is over, is one of the first steps towards rebuilding.

After more than a year of physical separation in different towns, my first wife and I divorced May 7, 1985.

Even when a marriage ends, there is a degree of freedom to conduct yourself in a Christian manner, to take actions that will help the child or children not only survive the divorce, but continue to thrive, and freedom to rebuild a life based upon faith in God and the future.
One of the most important lessons that I finally learned is found in Mark 11:24‑25:

"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you will receive it, and you will. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."

I also learned that there were many ways that I could show love and care for my son. One of the best ways was not to burden him with my feelings of neglect, hurt and anger toward and from my ex‑wife. One of the kindest things I could do for him was to treat her with kindness. I learned that telephone calls, letters, hugs and simply long conversations together could show my love for him most effectively.

I learned that communication involves much more than simply words. It involves attention, eye contact, energy level, posture, tone of voice, facial expressions and words. These all must be congruent to show respect, compassion, understanding and love. Unexpressed "contracts" or ways of conduct learned in formative years carry over to married life and need to be recognized, discussed and acted upon.

I have found that stress and hurt can motivate growth. I have also found that there are many sources of help. There are many helpful church people as well as some church people who did not show understanding or forgiveness.

            In 1987, Mike Cockerham introduced me to Marty Shore. Ann Cockerham encouraged Marty to go out with me. God used First Baptist Church and the many good people here, such as Ruth Jackson, Carolyn Prevo, Belinda Helms and many others, to care for Marty and her boys. While God prepared me; God also prepared them.

God waited until I had grown due to my suffering about the breakup of my first marriage. He waited until I was ready for a new wife, a good Christian woman. God also prepared Marty and her children, Robert and Timothy. Praise God for his timing and for the good answers He provides. He allowed my son to return; He also provided me with two fine stepsons, whom I love and who teach me new things every week.

            God used First Baptist Church, John Rogers, and the rest of the ministers and staff to help me grow in Christian love. I took the course on Jesus, on Leadership, How to Be a Servant Leader. I learned the spiritual gifts God has given me, the personality traits I have, and the way of Servant Leadership. I also attend the Monday night Community Bible Study conducted at our church and have studied The Man God Uses course taught by Dick Stratton at our church on Wednesday nights.

            My hope and prayer is that God will use me. I am preparing myself to be open to his call. I hope you are also preparing yourself and that God uses you in a mighty way for the spread of his gospel and for His glory.

"Let us seek to share the fruits of the Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self‑control. Let us remember that against such as these there is no law." Now, as it is stated in Romans 15:13, 

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing "so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Declining health and stamina led to a diagnosis of a large benign brain tumor. I had surgery to remove the tumor, an operation that led to almost three months in Baptist Hospital. I still have to deal with some lasting side effects. My wife has remained devoted and helped me in every way. We have grandsons and granddaughters.
Bob volunteering in Multi-Housing Ministry

And so it goes. God helped me learn things through the good and bad experiences. I learned your relation with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit is the most important. I learned that prayer involves sharing all with God, listening to his word and relying on fellow Christians.

I have found that stress and hurt can motivate growth both mentally and spiritually.

I have learned that prayer and faith promote recovery. Others showed us grace and love without asking or seeking refund because of a shared belief in God. God loved us first and we share love with each other. Family, friends, and church family prayed for me and my family. Our Sunday school class, deacon and church friends helped us in numerous ways. They sent cards, made calls, visited and gave timely gifts. They built a ramp, brought food, did yard work, did housework, and stayed with me when my wife cared for our grandson or needed relief. They provided encouragement when it was needed and continue to do so. Their care and attention constantly reflect God’s love and shows Christian love in action. They used their gifts of the Spirit to share the fruits of the Spirit with us. They shared with us their joy in Christ, peace, and goodness while strengthening our faith. God uses even bad times to create good for those who believe in Him.

I have learned that joy shared is multiplied and that difficulties shared are divided thus become bearable.

One of the most important lessons that I learned is found in Mark 11:24‑25:

"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you will receive it, and you will. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that our Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." 

We give thanks to God who uses our weaknesses and adversity for our growth and for His glory. We give thanks to God for His Son, Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, was resurrected from the dead, reconciled us with God’s holiness and gave us the hope of eternal life when he returns. Our prayers are heard; we can have joy in our hearts. We are glad for this is the day the Lord has made. He is present everywhere for those who have heard the Good News of the Gospel and follow the way of Christ, our Lord and Savior. 

Faithful church member, Bob WIlliams


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