In the last three blog posts, I unpacked 5 hurtful responses that those going through the trauma of a divorce do NOT need from us. These are based on the writings from those who shared their very personal stories with me in response to my January 17, 2020 blog post “Are Divorcees Disqualified from Ministry?”
Today, I continue the 5-part series with several HELPFUL responses we can rely on to help ease their pain…Although there weren’t nearly as many letters sent that expounded on the helpful responses that people received through their divorce, there were indeed some unforgettably supportive sentiments. And I can tell you from first-hand experience that MANY in my circle KNOW how to be wonderful emotional ambulance drivers.
(Friends, if you’re reading this, you know who you are. Thank you for helping me heal and move on with my life!)
EMBRACING THE 5 MOST HELPFUL EXPRESSIONS:
1. “I’m so sorry that you guys are hurting. We care about you both deeply.”STOP. That’s sometimes ALL that needs to be said. But it’s definitely the most important thing. They need to know that you do not plan to withdraw your love and care from their lives simply because they lose their partner. That would be a double-whammy! Go one step further, take the high road, and send a personal note as soon as you hear that there’s trouble in their personal paradise. Don’t wait until they approach you in tears with awkward verbal explanations, as it may be quite a while before that’s even possible. Be quick to offer your condolences and unconditional love and support immediately so there’s NO question in their minds that you care.
2. “I don’t need to know details, but I’m here to listen if you need to talk.”Often a divorcing couple has depleted their available funds in the professional counseling process, and may just need a listening ear. Unless you ARE a paid professional whom they are looking to hire, stick to playing the role of attentive and comforting friend. That’s a very valuable ministry in and of itself.
3. “I totally trust your judgment about what is best for your own life.”The reality is that none of us are experts on anyone else’s life. We do well enough to figure out and navigate our own. It’s okay to ask questions such as, “Will you be okay financially if you file for divorce?” or “What is your plan for custody of the children?” But leave it at questions, not directions, unless asked for guidance.
4. “If you can’t stay well, I hope you can leave well, but I’ll be with you either way.”Sadly, divorced Christians often face far more isolation than those outside the church. No one seems to know exactly what to do or say, so they often don’t do or say anything at all. Worse, they sometimes distance themselves entirely. Larry wrote, “I wanted to tell my church friends, ‘Hey guys, divorce isn’t contagious!’ I’m still here!'” Indeed, divorcees are still in need of being invited to outings, and offered warm hugs and healing touches from safe people. Please don’t treat them like they have the plague. They don’t.Debi, the wonderful woman who has been assisting me with workshops since day one, responded to my teary confession of separation and possible divorce with, “Oh my gosh, I had no idea you were in such pain! But our friendship isn’t based on who you’re married to. I love YOU, and I’ll continue serving alongside you as long as you’ll let me!” That was a balm to my broken heart, and an elixir to my soul!
5. “God’s GOT this. And He’s got YOU!”As the church, our job is to remind people that they are WORTHY of love, acceptance, and respect, and WELCOME to approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, no matter how many times they’ve been married or divorced! Church is not a country club for the perfect, or a travel agency for guilt trips. It’s a hospital for the hurting, and divorcees are some of the most (temporarily) wounded people on the planet. Remind them that they WILL be okay, especially if they stay CONNECTED to the body of Christ where their emotional health IS a concern and where their feelings DO matter.
To be continued…
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