A POW’s Story Shows How Your Suffering Can Be A Gift


When I was growing up, I heard my father recount the story of a friend he worked with, Joe, many times. Joe was a Vietnam war veteran who had survived four years in a prison camp as a POW.


He had been separated from the few men in his company that had survived an enemy air attack. On that fateful day as he searched for his brothers-in-arms, he walked right into an area crawling with Viet-Cong troops. Terrified, Joe ran in the other direction, outpacing his enemies. When he thought he’d distanced himself, he dove down under the shallow waters of a rice paddy to hide. The water was only about 3 feet deep bet he was able to remain completely hidden. He stayed alive by breathing slowly and steadily through a tall reed, maintaining perfect stillness.


After three days of hiding Joe finally stood up, feeling certain the enemy had grown tired of looking for him. But as he rose out of the water, he found himself surrounded at gunpoint and was a prisoner of war for four years. When he was finally rescued in 1978, he emerged from his captivity a staunch atheist.


Some years later, he came to know my father as a co-worker where they worked in the computer engineering field. My father, being a man of great faith and desire to bring others to know God, had many vigorous discussions about the existence of God with Joe during their lunch hours. Joe’s decision to believe there was no God came from a simple statement: If there was a God, He would have saved me, but He didn’t. Therefore, there can be no God. It was a simple equation and was the only way Joe could reconcile his years of suffering. But my father hoped their discussions might open the door for the Holy Spirit to break through Joe’s pain and show him the depth’s of God’s love and Dad never missed an opportunity to be friendly and chat with Joe.


I don’t know if Joe ever converted from atheism, but I do know my father helped him in ways no one else had – through his sincere interest to help, his persistent friendship, and willingness to listen when there was nothing in it for him. My father, himself, had been through great hurts and was compelled by those experiences to lend compassion and understanding to this man who was hurting so much.


Many people who experience the tragedy of divorce can relate to Joe’s shocking disbelief that a loving God would allow such pain and devastation to take place. Divorced Catholics leave the church in droves because they are angry with God, or they assume they are not welcome in their parish. Many are too embarrassed and ashamed to show their faces at Church. Others simply don’t understand how to reconcile the fact that they are both Catholic and divorced. Every day, more and more people are trying to rebuild their lives after divorce not realizing they have walked away from the very things that will bring about true and lasting healing… Christ, His Church, and His sacraments.


A Corporal Work of Mercy


In the New Testament, St. Peter urged us to share our faith with these words: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15). As a Catholic who has experienced the pain and anguish of divorce and is now moving on to a new, happier phase of your life, I encourage you to use your experiences to help others. Not only can you help someone through one of the toughest times in life, but you would be performing a corporal work of mercy, namely, “visiting the sick.”


Just like my father used his experience in dealing with his own painful events to help Joe, you could be the catalyst for helping someone else going through a divorce to stay close to their faith. Sharing your story of struggles in a hopeful and positive way with someone who is feeling lost and abandoned could make the difference in whether that person remains a Catholic or walks away.


I welcome your questions and comments at asklisa@catholicmatch.com. 



  1. Jenny-1047525 February 8, 2014 Reply

    I’m a 50-something, never had the blessing of marriage and children, and my parents were divorced. Believe it or not they are now back together. And I’m alone. I try so hard not to be angry at them and at all the divorced people. Having a 20 year relationship fail, primarily because there was no marriage; ok, I threw him out because he wouldn’t marry me, I understand so well. People feel bad for divorced people, but they don’t care about singles. I agree totally; I won’t get involved with any divorced or men with children. It means I’ll spend the rest of my life alone at this point. Stay true to your convictions, but try not to be so angry. Being angry only hurt you; it doesn’t hurt those with whom you are angry.

  2. Tessa-694373 October 31, 2012 Reply

    I wrote a comment about MY EXPERIENCE with Divorce people I have Personally met…and it seems like everyone with the Exception of One Person (Lois) jump all over me…
    This confirms as someone who has never been married yet…I stay true to my convictions Not to get involve with any Divorce men.

  3. Lisa-727959 October 29, 2012 Reply

    So sad to see the message of the article got lost in this debate.

    P. S. – Joe is a real guy and the story a true one. I don’t write fiction.

  4. Tessa-694373 October 28, 2012 Reply

    Thank you, Lois.
    Your understanding is refreshing.
    God Bless

  5. Evelyn-911074 October 28, 2012 Reply

    Tessa, we divorce people are not hateful, bitter, judgmental as you say. Read the words that you have just described a brother and sister in Christ. We are in the year of Faith and you seem not to understand human behavior. Being divorce is not easy but if you have faith in the Lord he will definitely hear your prayers. Read your words and look at how you have described people that are Catholics like you, One of the commandments is love your neighbor as you love me (GOD). So slow down on your way comments, describing and discriminating on divorce people. We are also part of the the Roman Catholic Church Community. Look towards Gods teaching and understand first what he is saying to everybody as a whole. God Bless You and may Gods light always shine on you.

  6. Lois-765906 October 28, 2012 Reply

    Hi Tessa, I understand what you are saying completely, I was single for a long time (before I finally married). Back then, while still young and a never married single, I had one guy who wanted to date me but he was a divorced Catholic with two kids. We did date briefly because he was really outgoing, handsome and so much fun to be around. However, I came to realize that there was no way I wanted to get seriously involved with someone like that. So I broke off our dates and he could not understand what the big deal was over him being divorced. I never wanted to be someone’s step-mother as a never married person because I did not want to deal with the angry Ex and then have his kids accuse me of not being their mother (which I had seen happen with other girlfriends). This was back when I was still Lutheran and had not discovered Catholicism as my fullness of faith. So now, as I have come full circle, and I am the divorced (now annulled) woman, I am really not at all surprised that a never married man would not want to get involved with me because I used to be that never married person who thought likewise. That’s okay. I admire you for standing firm. Let your light keep shining! Lois

  7. Tessa-694373 October 27, 2012 Reply

    people why don’t you read all my comments not just the last one….I’m not mad at anything….just confirms that DIVORCE people are bitter and hateful especially the one who did not want the divorce…I will pray for all your judgmental and hateful souls

  8. Evelyn-911074 October 27, 2012 Reply

    Tessa You sound very mad. I don’t know whether you have been married before and I am not the one to judge you for your comments ( I leave that to the one above who sees and hears everything you say). I am divorced and like William I had to deal with three adolescents who are the joy of my life. I am educated and the divorce has not change my views, values, morals in no way. God know what is good for everyone in this life. If he wants us to experience marriage, children, and family life he is the one that intervenes and sends the right person to your life. When divorce happens its because one of the two lost interest or just found someone else. These are situations we have to live with and our main goal as catholics is to hold on with all your might to your faith and never forget what was taught to you as a cradle catholic. God will always provide and he never loses sight to your needs. Some one special will one day show up and that person will be sent to you from above. God Bless You and may you mediate on your comments. Divorce people have a right to hurt and feel depress it is something natural, like losing a loved one. Understand that first and then move on to your next comment.

  9. William-527364 October 27, 2012 Reply

    I had more luck in Vietnam than on Catholic Match. I caould not buy a date on this thing. And by the way, only a few enlisted guys ever became prisoners of war. The VC and NVA did not take prisoners and the men they caught did not die quickly. So, i might be a little scheptial of the lead in story. Teresa slow down girl, cafeteria Catholics. Does that mean donuts and coffee ? sign me up for that. My marriage was annuled by the church as my wife had a boyfriend and I raised my children as a single dad. In addition, I was divorced in my state for legal reasons..
    Girl, you need to come on down to my farm for awhile and have a few scessions and relax. Its a big world out there and sometimes the children are better off in a divorced family than they would be if the union stayed together. There is no training manuel for how to get along as a coupple. Therapy is good and i am good at what i do, but sometimes stuff just does not work and people get mad a bitch about it.
    Girl i have seen Catholics kill themselves because of lost love. People do not have control of divorce or the actions or behavior of another. Some women go with a guy then he teaches them a few things and then they come across lets say a doctor and the woman descides to upgrade. Happens to us all. My wife thought she was upgradding and left me with the children. Life was pure Hell. I worked full time, went to a medical school full time, cooked the kids meals helped with home work and then i started on my homework. Never once complained even when we had nothing for christmas but we ate and they went to a good Catholic school. What was there to complain about.
    What people should do is be careful where they put their sexual organs. Sometimes the guy is walking to the kitchen naked and trips and falls and low and behold he accidently lands of the girl next door who just came over to borrow a cup of suggar. Things happen and they lived happy evfer after.
    you come across as being very mad – thats not good – people are complicated and it is not my place to judge. I personally live a good clean and honest live. I live by very strict professional rules that priests dont even follow. I am not bitter and i leave judgement and gossup to GOD.

  10. Tessa-694373 October 26, 2012 Reply

    They don’t want to follow the Church’s teaching…that’s why they leave.
    I’m guessing you all “cafeteria Catholics” that’s why you feel the need to blame or attack me.
    I’m guessing you ladies are probably pro-choice too.
    How sad!

  11. Alice-788574 October 26, 2012 Reply

    And it is comments like Tessa’s that show divorced Catholics the door. No wonder they leave.

  12. Tessa-694373 October 25, 2012 Reply

    AS I mentioned before this is my personal experience with people I know who are divorce…even on CM. I get verbally attack by Divorce men because I have NO interest in dating them….It is consider adultery for divorce people to date in the eyes of the church…why would I want to be a part of that sin…I would NOT and Never will be.

  13. Lisa-727959 October 25, 2012 Reply


    You missed the whole point of the article! Those who have suffered through their divorce should help others and bring them closer to God, not wallow in misery and be angry. They should use their suffering for the good of others, hence the Corporal Work of Mercy reference.

    For every selfish spouse that left the marriage, there is another spouse who fought to save the marriage and didn’t want a divorce. I fought to save my marriage. The no-fault divorce laws ensured I would not win.

    Blanket statements that portray all divorced people as purely being selfish are just not true.

    – Lisa

  14. Tessa-694373 October 25, 2012 Reply

    Well, I have not met one divorce couple that is was not of their own selfish making….woe me woe my is their state of mind….marriage and children are a gift from God that they chose to throw away.

    • Lesley-158563 October 25, 2012 Reply

      The article says divorced Catholics leave the Church in droves. This feature may be a good way of reaching out to those who might otherwise lose their faith and find ways to teach them how to find hope again. It’s evident by divorce rates that many people marry for the wrong reasons.

  15. Anna-671172 October 25, 2012 Reply

    Thats harsh Tessa. Surely most divorcees on here never dreamt their mearriages would end at some point in their lives. And we must never be judgemental for we cannot know for certain what they must have been through for the simple reason that we have never walked in their shoes before.
    Instead of being critical of divorcees, we should pray more instead for their hearts to be healed. Godbless

  16. Tessa-694373 October 25, 2012 Reply

    They should make a online dating site for divorce Catholics…this seems to be the topic 90% of the time on CM…I think people who are divorce should think and be grateful that GOD put marriage and most cases children in their lives…You don’t see the Single who have never been married complaining and crying and thinking their lives are over because they have not been blessed with marriage and family in their lives yet.

    Grow up people of divorce and learn and live on….after all divorce was something you had control of…you should of been more careful in choosing your spouse or your actions should of been different so you would not of lost your spouse…I hear stories all the time “I fell of love with him or her” THAT IS BS…. grow up own up to your responsibility!

Post a comment