When the Wheels Fall Off Your Life

Encouragement for Hard Times

An Island Family, By Grace

Up until now, I have mentioned  that we are a family, by God’s grace, but I have not explained what I meant by this. In fact the reason that I chose the name An Island Family By Grace is because 7 years ago, our family went through a very dark time indeed. The fact that we are still a family at all is, we believe, due to God’s grace alone.

I am not going to go into a huge amount of detail about what happened, as I do not believe it would be helpful to anyone involved, least of all our children, but I hope that in sharing part of our experience, and how I coped, that it might be of some help or comfort to others who are going through a particularly difficult period in their life .

Let me add here that in saying that our family has been restored by God’s grace, I am not judging or condemning those whose marriages and families remain separated, or single parents, whom I think are some of the strongest people I know. I also do not presume to know what it is like to go through the specifics of other dark times, such as losing a child after birth, or a spouse, or personally enduring a chronic or terminal illness. However, it is my sincere hope that this post might be of encouragement to someone who needs it, no matter what specific trials they may be facing.

When the Wheels Fell Off My Life

Around the time I became pregnant with our fourth child, my husband began a series of choices and actions which led to him turning his back on God, and ultimately leaving me and our children a month after our daughter was born. The hardening of his heart had obviously begun before this, but it was soon worked out in ways that had devastating and lasting consequences for our whole family.  What I did not know at the time, was that though I hoped our separation would last only briefly, it would not be until over 2 years had passed that my husband would return to live with us, and we would be reconciled as husband and wife.

Frankly, they were the worst 3 years of my life, our children’s lives, and in fact, my husband’s life. But God’s Word is true, and we can already see as a family that He has used that awful time for good, just as He said that He ‘works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28). He has already allowed us to use our experiences and what we learned to help others in a similar position, our marriage is stronger and closer than it was before, and though I would never have chosen this path, I am glad that some good can come from it all.

I am not a naturally strong or resilient person. When my husband first left, I wanted some way to escape, to pretend it was not real- maybe I could move far away, or bring it all to an end, I thought, on really dark days. But those would not have been real solutions at all, and would only have caused more pain, especially for our children. What God did over the following 2 years was to show His strength through my weakness. I really believe it was Him alone who enabled me to go on and not give up, though the pain did not go away, and in fact increased, leading up to the time when my husband finally returned home.

When the Wheels Fall Off Your Life - An Island Family By Grace

7 Strategies for Coping When the Wheels Fall Off Your Life

So if you are going through something so painful, whether it be severe marriage problems or any other serious trial, what can you do to cope? The following are things that helped me. They are not really new or original but they made such a big difference in how I coped.

1. Stay in the Word

When this happened to us, I had been a Christian for about 9 years. I had gradually been learning more and more about what the Bible actually said- before accepting Jesus as my Saviour I had had very little knowledge of what was really in there, other than parables and what I had heard secondhand from people who did not believe the Bible themselves. God used this time in my life to learn more about who He was and what He had done on the cross. Other than reading the Bible for myself in a daily ‘quiet time’, (which for me was easiest to do when the children were out playing mid-morning and our youngest was usually having a nap), and the children’s ‘Bible Time’, there were lots of other ways that I could be encouraged by God’s Word throughout the day. For example:

  • A dear friend gave me a daily scripture calendar, which I kept on my kitchen window sill to read when I was doing the dishes
  • I kept a transparent plastic card holder on our fridge which held cards with quotes from Stormie Omartian’s Just Enough Light For The Step I’m On
  • I downloaded Scripture quotes to set as the desktop background on my laptop
  • My parents kindly looked after the older children one morning a week so that I could go to a women’s Bible study.
  • In the evenings, I watched or listened to sermons or Christian teaching for women, for example from OnePlace , Revive Our Hearts, or Sermon Audio.

2. Pray, pray, pray

People who say that hard times drive you to your knees are right, in my case anyway. At times I felt like a broken record, praying the same things over and over again for my husband, for myself, for our children, but I was encouraged by Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18), where that lady just will not give up. I found that praying scripture was really helpful, and I would insert the name of the person for whom I was praying into the verse that was appropriate. Stormie Omartian’s book The Power of a Praying Wife and Charlene Steinkamp’s book The Spiritual Journey Towards a Healed Marriage were helpful in finding ideas for this.

I prayed throughout the day, not because I am a super holy person, but because it was the only way I knew I could speak to the One who knows the beginning from the end, while everything was so out of control.

Related to prayer, is gratitude. In our dark times, it really helped me to thank God for what was good in my life, despite all that was not good at the time. I wrote down anything I could think of that I was thankful for, often at the end of the day, and this was a way of ending the day on a positive note, and seeing that there was much that I could be grateful for, even though that didn’t fix the negative stuff.

I also cannot tell you how much it encouraged me when people told me that they were praying for me and our family, in some cases every day. Some of these people didn’t even know me very well. If you are not going through dark times yourself, but want to offer support to someone who is, letting them know that you are praying for them, (and doing it!), is so important.


When the Wheels Fall Offe Your Life - An Island Family By Grace


3. Have 1 or 2 Close Godly Friends that you Share with/ Get Support From

I had several close friends at this time who were very helpful in allowing me to talk about what was happening, one of whom prayed with me in person once a week, and often sent texts to encourage and uplift me.

I must add a caution that over sharing about some situations will not be helpful. In some cases over-sharing will just cause you to feel more depressed because you are spending so much time focusing on the problem, or if it involves a situation that involves your relationship with another person (which obviously applied to me), and you have bad-mouthed them all over your community, (or worse, blasted it on Facebook), it will make reconciliation harder. Yes, even though it might be their fault.

4. Seek Out Biblical Ministries to Get Support/ Learn From

Ministries and organisations which have been set up to help people deal with their particular situation in a biblical way can be such a help. For me, Rejoice Marriage Ministries were a massive help. They have real life experience to draw on, and offer daily emails, books and audio teachings which were a great encouragement and help to me. I also found some encouragement on the Focus on the Family website, which has support for people going through all manner of different trials.

5. Listen to Good Counsel But Don’t Let Others Tell You What You Should Be Doing

It is good to listen to wise counsel, but you should not allow others to control you into doing what they want. At any time in life we should check what others tell us against God’s Word- if it does not match up it is certainly not from Him- and this is even more important to check when you are very vulnerable due to trying circumstances.

As an example, during my husband’s absence, I had various people tell me that I should not be standing for the reconciliation of my marriage, or that I should put my children back into school. These were all extremely discouraging conversations for me, and it took an effort to remember what I already knew and had decided, both with regards to my marriage, and our children’s education. The people who said these things to me were trying to be helpful, but they had not thought about what I was already trying to do before they spoke.

6. Keep Doing the Basics

This was not a season of my life when I took on new responsibilities, or did any extra major schoolwork projects with the children. Focusing on our ‘normal’ routine- making sure the children were fed and cared-for, basic homeschooling each day and getting to things like swimming lessons and Church- was enough to be getting on with.

Something I did not do well at the time, despite the advice of wise older friends, was to make sure that I got enough sleep myself. The children already had a reasonable bedtime routine, and our baby daughter eventually got there, but I was not careful at all in looking after myself sleep-wise. I did not like going to bed alone, and for some reason I found it easier to be up on my own than in bed. If you are currently going through an awful time, learn from my mistake and go to bed when you know you should- it makes it so much easier to cope when you have had a decent rest.

7. Don’t Expect Yourself (Or Your Children) to be Perfect

In terms of personality, I am not a perfectionist. (Real life friends, stop laughing!) I naturally tend towards messiness, laziness and procrastination. But I know that some people are really hard on themselves if they are not able to maintain the standards of cleanliness, organisation, cooking or level of activities that they normally have, when they are facing a crisis. If this is you, please give yourself some grace. God will give grace and strength for whatever He does want you to do, even though it seems impossible from your human eyes. Perhaps you need to lay some other things aside for the time being, while you deal with your current situation. Sometimes when we accept that we cannot carry on a certain activity or ministry, our current circumstances allow someone else to step in, where they may not otherwise have done.

Dark times in families are very hard on our children, and they also need to be given grace. Despite the assertion by many that children are ‘resilient’ and ‘stronger than you think’, our children were hugely impacted by my husband’s actions. This pain was very evident in their attitudes and behaviour, and of course I, being the one at home with them, was the one who bore the brunt of it. I still tried to maintain strong boundaries and high expectations for them, but also constantly reminded myself that any extremes of ‘acting out’ or anger was a symptom of something much deeper than misbehaviour or disobedience. It was important for our children, particularly the older ones, to be able to talk to me about what was happening and to know how much they were loved, in the midst of all that was going on.

Further Resources That May Be Helpful:

The following are some links to resources which deal with differing trials.

Amy Roberts offers a free ebook for grieving mothers, in the Grieving Mother section on her website, and also has a section in her Large Family Homeschooling ebook on homeschooling though difficult times.

Kathy Brodock at Teaching Good Things has a post for mothers for whom Not Every Mothers Day is Happy.

Kelly Crawford at Generation Cedar has an excellent series of posts on how her family coped when their house was destroyed by a tornado.

Sandi Queen of Queen Homeschool has a book on her family’s journey through her son’s cancer treatment.

How Things Have Turned Out for Us

In our specific situation, as I have already made clear, God in His grace and mercy has reunited and healed our family, and continues to do so. It was not an overnight turnaround- my husband ‘tried’ to come home for months before he finally repented and we were reconciled for good. The first months together again were particularly difficult for all of us, but gradually what was destroyed has been rebuilt. My husband is now a loving and godly leader of our family, and although his return has not meant the end of difficult times for our family, we have now been able to face things together.

Free Printable

I have made free printable sheets of Scriptures to Pray or Memorise When the Wheels Fall Off Your Life. Please go ahead and print them out for personal use, or to give away to someone you think would benefit from them.

Do you have any other good advice for when the wheels fall off your life? What has helped you cope when you have gone through a very difficult time? Please let me know in a comment below.

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33 Comments on “When the Wheels Fall Off Your Life

  1. Amazing strength here. Marriages can be so difficult and sometimes they can’t be restored. But, the hope you wrote about will encourage many I’m sure to seek help. Always seek from God first and He will direct your paths. Linking from While I’m Waiting.

    • Yes, if this post can give at least one person hope or comfort, I will be pleased. Thank you for taking the time to post your kind comment Michelle 🙂

  2. It always makes me grin widely when I hear of couples who have not given up on their marriages. Often the resulting marriage after a testing time is stronger, happier, with a greater understanding of who each other really are. God really can make beauty from ashes.
    Good for you Gwen for not ever giving up hope.xxx
    Claire recently posted…Helping an Easily Distracted Child: Part TwoMy Profile

    • Hi Claire. Yes, it so good and so encouraging to hear of restoration. Thank you for commenting!

  3. Thank you Gwen for sharing your heart and your journey with us at Good Morning Mondays. I am sure that this post will be beneficial to those going through tough times and you offer strong advice – from experience. I am especially grateful that you stood on your marriage vows and prayed for the restoration of your family. I thank God that He has restored your marriage and you are able to help others. What a blessing. Thank you.
    Terri Presser recently posted…QUICK AND EASY NACHOSMy Profile

    • Hi Terri, I really hope the post will help someone going through something similar. Thank you for commenting!

  4. Hey Gwen,

    I found your site today through the “While I’m Waiting” link up.

    What a great post today! I’m very sorry that you had to live through this dark season in your life, but what wisdom you now have to offer.

    Thanks for your honesty and transparency. And, thank you for so much practical help for others who are suffering. This is a great post, and I’m going to share it on my Facebook page today: (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ministry-of-Hope-with-Melanie-Redd/1539488326339074?ref=hl)

    Blessings to you,

    • Thank you Melanie. I am hope that whatever experience I have gained from our own trials can be of help and encouragement to others. Bless you 🙂

  5. Finding your blog for the first time today at Faith-Filled Fridays link up! You’ve used one of my favorite metaphors for chaos! “When the wheels come off!”
    So thankful for your testimony of perseverance and God’s faithfulness.
    Michele Morin recently posted…He Sings Over You with LoveMy Profile

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment Michele- it was a bit scary for me to publish this post, but I hope it will encourage others.

  6. beautiful post, words from the heart, so helpful, such powerful strategies…thank you ❤️

  7. Pingback: THM: Getting Back on the Healthy Eating Wagon

  8. Gwen, I know so many in similar situations lately. It breaks my heart to see how marriage has come under attack in this day and age. I know my own marriage has had its dark moments, as well. So thank you for being brave enough to share these words here and with us at Grace and Truth this past week, as well. I’m sure that took a great deal of courage! I know the Lord will use the comfort you received from Him in order to comfort others going through tough times, also:)
    Jen @ Being Confident of This
    Jen recently posted…The Freedom of Asking for Help ~ Grace and Truth Week 32My Profile

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment Jen. I hope it will be of comfort and encouragement to someone.

    • Thank you Dawn- any wisdom in my post (or any of my posts!) definitely comes from God alone, and not myself! I hope, as you say that it will be a blessing. Thank you so much for your comment.

  9. Hi Gwen. Thank you for writing such a beautiful, heart-felt post. So much good wisdom in there. I particularly needed to hear today the reminder to evaluate the advice you get from others when you’re going through a hard time – that although well-meant, it may not be right for your family.

    • Thank you Catherine, I appreciate your comment, and hope whatever you are dealing with is resolved 🙂

  10. Hi Gwen, I found your blog via Pinterest & read a few posts when I saw you were in Scotland. I was born there but am now in Australia. Hoping to get back there for a visit – it’s like an ache in me that won’t go away. Love your honest & wise sharing here. God is good. Following your blog & when I make it back to Scotland I might get to meet you 🙂

    • Hi Carol, that’s really interesting- hope you do get to visit your native land again one day!

  11. Good morning Gwen!
    I’ve been following you for a while now and just came across this post and had to comment.
    Thank you for your ‘story’, I’m sure many will find hope and comfort in your words. Maybe it will bring someone to seek out God’s word, there are words of comfort and instruction for everything we may experience in life, in the Bible!
    Dark days really can be a blessing though you can’t see it at the time! With many tears and prayers you can get through it and come out stronger than you were before.
    We went through over 4 years of medical issues with a daughter, from the time she was about 9 months old to 4 1/2years old. That lead to a totally unplanned move to leave everything to move to Arizona where the weather was better for her. We left an excellent job my husband had for over 20 years and a house with only a year left to pay off, to making a quarter what we were making, and a mortgage we’ll never pay off before retirement! But it was a good move!
    We learned that life can be taken away at any time, so be thankful and let your loved ones know they are loved- many times a day! Never take each other for granted. And thank God. Always.

    • Thank you Deb! Yes, I hope this post will be a help to someone in that way. That is so great that you can now see your move as a positive thing, although I am sure it and the difficult health issues your daughter had must have been very hard circumstances to go through at the time. Thank you so much for sharing your encouragement here 🙂

  12. Marriage truly is extremely difficult. But it is through these hard times that our marriages and our faith is strengthened and deepened – when we work towards that. I appreciate your list of things to do – especially that a friend gave you a calendar with scripture on it. What a wonderful gift! Not many have friends like that!
    Thanks for sharing on Grace and Truth.

    • Thank you Aimee. I agree, the scripture calendar was a really thoughtful gift for me at the time, and even little things like that can be a blessing.

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