“Moving Forward after My Second Divorce,” Liahona, Apr. 2022.
I was in complete darkness in the spare bedroom of my parents’ home, buried under a pile of bedding. It could have been noon or midnight; I had lost all track of time. Everything I owned had been thrown into moving boxes that were now stacked in a wobbly tower next to my bed. I was getting divorced for a second time within four years, and it was too much to handle.
The end of my second marriage was an awful period packed with anxiety, uncertainty, and staying in various hotels. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t feel able to do much of anything other than lie under the covers and try not to feel feelings anymore.
I had faced hard times before, but this day was different. I didn’t want to go to church or read the scriptures—or even pull myself out of bed. Even praying took more out of me than I felt I had to offer. I lay in bed and prayed that I would want to pray, and that was it. I was unmistakably caught in despair.
My family and others who cared about me wanted to help, but they simply didn’t know how. They tried cheering me up, bringing me food, or assuring me that things would be all right. But I wasn’t ready to hear that yet. It was nearly impossible for anyone to help because even I didn’t know what kind of help I needed. It’s one thing to feel overwhelmed when you know everything you must do to overcome hurdles in your way. But it was very different for me when I couldn’t even begin to understand what to do next.
My first divorce was a devastating blow, and it took me a full year of exhausting effort to recover. But somehow, I pulled myself up and was eventually able to function again. That wasn’t the case this time. I didn’t have another “starting over” in me. At this moment I was completely depleted mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Suddenly, I was struck by a memory from years before.
I had left the Church as a teenager because I didn’t believe it to be true. I even stopped believing in God. Then in my 20s, I had an experience of conversion, and I knew the Church was true. I remember feeling the excitement of realizing the truth of the gospel. That excitement lasted only about a minute before my stomach turned with the sobering reality that my whole life would require an overhaul because of my conversion. How do you change nearly everything about your life and become the person you know you should be?
On that day in my 20s, I called my grandpa. I knew I could trust his direction with this problem. He listened to my concerns about how to change my entire life when I was unsure how to do so. Then he said, “Just pick one thing. Pick one thing, work on that, and when you’re ready, pick another. That’s all you have to do.”
I don’t know what I had expected to hear, but that wasn’t it. I needed to be so much better than I was, and I thought that changing one thing at a time wouldn’t be nearly enough. But somehow, in some fleeting moment of spiritual maturity, I decided to follow his advice. With such a staggering number of changes I was facing at that time of returning to the Church, what one thing should I choose first? The weight of this list that we all know (go to church, read scriptures, pray, pay tithing, serve in a calling, etc.) was overwhelming all on its own.
There were so many things I knew I would struggle to change, and I hadn’t felt strong enough to tackle them yet. So I decided to choose something I could do—something important but small. It would put me on the road I wanted to be on, and I’d be able to build on that success.
Years later, when I lacked the strength to offer up a simple prayer after my second divorce, the Holy Ghost brought that memory to my mind.
As I continued to lie motionless inside my cotton cocoon of bedding and recalled that counsel, I knew the Spirit was providing me direction I could apply to my present circumstance. Maybe I could do one thing. It didn’t have to be anything major; it just had to be something. The first thing I needed to do was get out of bed. So that’s what I did—after a few minutes, I pulled back the covers and stood up. Then I went back under the covers. But that was OK because I had done the one thing that I picked. I kept that as my goal for a few more days before picking my next thing, and I continued to build upon that.
I now understand that Grandpa’s direction was more than just good advice. The scriptures teach, “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more” (2 Nephi 28:30). I tried it because I trusted my grandpa. It works because it’s a gospel principle. Learning how to become better by changing one thing at a time is how we learn and grow.
This would usually be the point in the story where I would tell you how great my life is today. The truth is things are better, but that’s not the only point. The point is that the Lord expected me to simply do the very best I could in each moment with His help. He understood that on some days my best was literally mustering up the strength to get out of bed. As Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught: “God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord.” 1
I felt love and acceptance from our Father in Heaven. My offering to continually improve myself line upon line is acceptable to Him. The effort, no matter how imperfect, is still acceptable if it’s my best effort. President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) taught: “Do the best that you can. That’s all we ask of you. … The Lord doesn’t expect you to do more than that. Just do the very best you can.” 2 I didn’t have to flip a switch and completely transform overnight. We progress line upon line.
Whether I’m striving to be better at ministering to those around me or just trying to stand up, it matters that I’m trying.
From my efforts to recover from two divorces—and from everything else that life has challenged me with—I have learned two key lessons. First, the Lord loves sincere effort of any kind. 3 Second, the Lord will meet you where you are. Regardless of where you are on the road to recovery and healing, if you’re on that road, He will be there.
Because the Savior has taken upon Himself all our pains and sorrows, He knows what we need no matter what it is. Even if we don’t know it ourselves, He does. And He will help us move forward.
I often hear others expressing their gratitude for the challenges in their life. I want to feel thankful for adversity. I’m not that person yet, but right now, that’s my one thing. I’m working on that, and when I’m ready, I’ll pick another.
The author lives in Utah, USA.