When I crafted the last blog post about “Are Divorcees Disqualified from Ministry?” I was overwhelmed by the response. Sure, the public comments sections were incredibly affirming, but the real eye-opener was the number private messages and emails that came flowing in from people who wanted to share their own post-divorce pain with me.
Many responses were in the form of their own “Open Letters” to their personal tribes – usually never sent out of fear of feeling even more alienated and isolated than they already did going through their divorce.
Some folks who shared their stories I know personally, but most I do not. Their experiences were absolutely heartbreaking. I felt incredibly honored to have their trust after how deeply they’ve been wounded by intimate friends and church members. In this 5-part series, I’d like to at least TRY to give those people a voice, if I may, so that we can LEARN from them and GROW in our ability to respond appropriately to people wading through the trauma of a divorce.
Before sharing the wisdom I gleaned from their writings, I’d like to interject a helpful analogy here. When there is an accident, two kinds of people rush to the scene – ambulance drivers, and ambulance chasers – and their roles are very different.
The ambulance chaserwants to know, “What happened? Who’s at fault? Did anyone break a law? Does anyone deserve to be sued?”
The ambulance driver doesn’t care about any of that. He/she just wants to know, “Is anyone hurt? Is there bleeding that needs to be stopped? Does anyone need oxygen? Does anyone need to be rushed to the Emergency Room?”
When someone confides in us that they’re going through a divorce, what kind of friend/Christian are we? An ambulance chaser? Or an ambulance driver?
These stories that people passionately shared had One. Common. Theme.
They were incredibly HURT by ambulance chaser Christians.
They were deeply HELPED by ambulance driver Christians.
So in the interest of helping us ALL become more effective healers within the body of Christ, here’s my assessment of what our divorced friends really need from us to ease their pain rather than exacerbate it…
AVOIDING THE 5 MOST HURTFUL EXPRESSIONS
1. “But God Hates Divorce!”
What the hurting husband or wife might hear is that “God is going to hate YOU if you go through with this divorce!” Nothing could be further from the truth! God could never hate His people, only the pain they are in. My dear friend and fellow author Leslie Vernick showed me that if you properly exegete that passage of scripture (Malachi 2:16), you’ll find that it’s not referring to our modern-day type of “no-fault, irreconcilable differences, 50-50 split” type of divorce. It’s about physical and financial abandonment without an actual legal divorce. This made it impossible for uneducated women to care for themselves unless they remarried, which they couldn’t do as long as they were technically still married to the man who had abandoned them. Yes, God hates THAT, but He is slow to anger and abounding in love toward the couple who for various and valid reasons can no longer maintain the sacred vows they once made to one another.
2. “Just hang in there and pray and it will get better!”
An about-to-be-divorcee’s immediate response to this Christian cliché? “Really?!? As if I haven’t been doing that for a very l-o-n-g time!?!” is most likely what’s going through their mind as they try to craft a convincing comeback. While it’s true that prayer is incredibly powerful and that most situations do improve over time, relationships can be very complex, and they sometimes get far worse over time. This takes a huge emotional toll on the person who’s been living it for years or even decades. Trust the person’s judgment that if they’re sharing this “news” with you, the Love Boat has already sailed. Accept that it could potentially be a done deal, and find out how you can encourage them NOW rather than trying to drag them back into a bad marriage.
In the next blog post, I’ll continue unpacking a few more of the most hurtful expressions we need to avoid, and eventually journey on into what I believe to be the most HELPFUL expressions, so stay tuned[NB1] …