Loving Through Divorce: Obedience to Christ Leads to Healing and Restoration
To the outside world, Barry Vaughan’s marriage was the picture of perfection. Barry and his wife, Karen, were actively involved in their church community, raising three wonderful boys and closing in on their 20th wedding anniversary. As task-oriented people, they functioned well as a team and would often go out of their way to help others.
But behind closed doors, their relationship was on rocky ground. For years, Barry and Karen had been drifting apart. They were spending less and less time together due to the demands of parenting and pressing work obligations from Barry’s job. What’s more, they both had childhood trauma that deeply affected their relationship from the start. In time, they became roommates rather than husband and wife.
“We were very happy for the first eight years of our marriage,” Barry says. “But the trauma from our pasts permeated and wounded our relationship. And after our third son was born, Karen became depressed and never really recovered. I was busy trying to climb the corporate ladder and didn’t cherish her like I needed to. Her heart became closed to me–but we pretended everything was fine in front of others.” Eventually, the slow deterioration of their marriage culminated in anger, pain, and depression for both of them. They tried to restore their relationship through counseling and intensive marriage retreats, but nothing worked. After 10 years of turmoil, Barry and Karen finally divorced in the fall of 2010.
Trusting God to Lead the Way
Despite their unhappiness, Barry and Karen remained together for years before divorcing through Karen’s breast cancer diagnosis, treatments, and beyond. Although they both saw little to no hope for the marriage, Barry clearly understood the Lord was calling him to love and care for Karen and remain faithful to her instead. Barry also received biblical counsel from his uncle, a godly man who had been through divorce himself. He encouraged Barry to be cautious with whom he shared details and to be generous with his time and resources, advice that was counter-cultural to the opinions of many. Barry listened.
He stayed obedient to the Lord and leaned into his uncle’s advice, adopting God’s posture of mercy and grace towards Karen throughout their marriage and, ultimately, their divorce–but it was a time filled with heartache.
When they finally parted ways, Barry was left with deep pain, isolation, and a strained relationship with his oldest son. He knew he needed help to navigate his new life. Fortunately, a friend of Barry’s recommended Divorce Care at North Metro Church.
To Barry’s relief, he quickly found a community of trust, care, and understanding. “My entire persona was broken apart,” Barry says. “I felt embarrassed, lost, and unlovable. It was gut-wrenching to tell complete strangers about my marriage–but I’m so glad I did. They were just as shell-shocked as me because of their own experiences and could understand what I was going through. Having their support and encouragement was invaluable.”
Throughout the 13-week course, Barry studied various topics that were important to his journey through divorce. As he grew more comfortable sharing his story, he developed a deep bond with his group–one that has lasted for years. Slowly, his heart began to recover.
“Along with the support from my friends, family, and counselors, Divorce Care was an important catalyst to my healing,” Barry says. “The community played a pivotal role in alleviating the isolating impact of divorce, while the course materials were invaluable tools that helped me embrace a new version of my life. Through Divorce Care, God assured me I wasn’t alone, and my life would be meaningful again.”
A Gift of Forgiveness and Love
In the years following Barry’s divorce, he and Karen worked hard to maintain a healthy relationship–for themselves and their children. They co-parented exceptionally well and continued to support one another through various milestones and challenges, eventually developing a deep friendship of love and respect.
Barry’s relationship with his son was also restored. In fact, Barry now works alongside his oldest son in men’s ministry, supporting others who have experienced divorce. But Barry’s decision to surrender to the Lord throughout his marriage and divorce had an even greater purpose than he could have known.
Karen eventually became sick again, this time with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Within months, her health declined rapidly. Although Karen was remarried at this point, Barry continued to love her through it and remained a big part of her support system–a choice that also helped his boys emotionally navigate the eventual loss of their mom.
“I was not a perfect husband by any means,” Barry says. “But loving someone is not an emotion. It’s a conscious decision of your will. Even though a lot of our memories weren’t good ones, above all, Karen was my sister in Christ. She’s the mother of my children. And for a time, she was my wife. The Lord was incredibly faithful. He helped me pull above my woundedness and see Karen how He saw her. By the end, we had true, pure love and forgiveness for one another. That was a beautiful gift for all of us.”
Sadly, Karen died in April 2021, less than a year after her diagnosis–but her legacy lives on. Barry’s sons make it a point to honor Karen consistently, even recently remodeling and dedicating a waiting room at Kennestone Hospital in memory of her impact as an oncology nurse.
A Future of Purpose and Promise
For the last 8 years, the Lord has used Barry to minister to others walking through divorce. He co-leads Divorce Care at NMC and frequently advises friends and colleagues experiencing separation or the divorce process. He’s dedicated to helping people see the love of God and creating a safe community for them to heal.
But most notably, Barry’s commitment to Christ and his relationship with Karen taught his own children a profound lesson–that forgiveness, restoration, and deep love are possible when broken people choose to lean into the Lord.
For Barry, it’s a fulfilling ministry rich with purpose and promise. “My divorce brought me to my knees in a whole new way,” Barry says. “But God met me throughout all of it–from the collapse of my marriage to my ultimate healing. Through Divorce Care, He assured me, He loved me and He had a plan for my life. Feeling His love, grace, and mercy during that time was life-changing. I learned my life was going to look and feel different, but it wasn’t over. The Lord was faithful to heal me–and now He uses my story of recovery and restoration to impact others in a powerful way.”