By Laura Polk, Crosswalk.com
Divorce is an unfortunate reality in today’s church. The church is said to have a 30-50 percent divorce rate. And regardless of which side you stand on the issue, as Christians, we are called to reach out to those in need to show the love of Christ. And like any issue in the church or society at large, it is best handled when it is understood. With that in mind, consider the difficult things the divorced in your church have been through and what you can do to minister to them:
1. Unfathomable Grief
Going through divorce is an actual tearing of the flesh where two had become one. The tear is painful and slow and a literal death of everything we hoped for, dreamed about, and worked for our entire lives. Unlike other losses, it’s often compounded when lifelong friends avoid you, family walks away from you, and strangers you’ve never met discuss your personal matters as if they were privy to such things. While other tragedies result in people gathering to help, offer support, and stand with you, the opposite often occurs when a family dissolves through divorce.
What you can do: Offer condolences just as you would if a death occurred. Offer to bring a meal, or simply sit with the person who’s grieving. You will likely be one of very few who do so and it will mean more than you can imagine.
2. The Turning of an Ex
Some go through divorce as adults and are able to put the children first. Unfortunately, that is a very small group. For many, divorce becomes an unexpected battlefield where the person you once trusted with your life becomes the person who will stop at nothing to destroy your efforts to rebuild it.
What you can do: Check in on them. Too often, these situations can escalate to a dangerous level when others pull away and the person left to deal with it feels alone. Ask questions about how the relationship is going with their ex and encourage them to seek help if you think it is needed. When you are knee-deep in an overwhelming situation, it’s often hard to see or accept the gravity of it.
3. How Some Christians Respond
The way some in the church respond to divorce is mind-boggling. While they will offer up ministries to combat causes of divorce (adultery, substance abuse, sexual deviancy, physical abuse), they condemn those who remove themselves from these unbiblical lifestyles. As a result, many who are divorced or considering it as the only way to protect themselves and their children, will slowly fade from the church at the time they need it the most in their lives. It’s hard not to feel shunned by God when so many Christians are so vocal with their opinions about divorce. Just like anyone who’s suffered a great loss, the divorced often look at God and question His part in it.
What you can do: Show them extra grace. Be the one who follows Jesus instead of the crowd and show them what the love of Christ physically looks like without placing judgment on the person who is suffering. For someone who feels reprimanded unfairly, this can be one of the most healing moments in their walk and might pull them toward God instead of away from Him.
4. Our Children’s Pain
There’s nothing more important to a parent then protecting their children. So please try to understand that the vast majority of parents who choose divorce are doing so because the situation they were living in was causing greater harm to their children than they think the break up of a family will. No one goes into this lightly. This is especially true for those in the church. Many will stay in unhealthy or dangerous situations for years in order to keep their children with both parents. So understand that anyone who has decided divorce is the only option is still heartbroken at what their actions will do—even if their decision is actually a courageous one that will stop harmful situations and give their children a better future.
What you can do: Encourage us as single parents by noticing the positive things in our new version of family. Continue to include us just as you did before the family dissolved, no matter how awkward it may be for you momentarily.
There are a million emotions wrapped up in divorce. Sadness, anger, hopelessness, relief, insecurity, bitterness, and all of those (and more) can happen within a single day. When you are caught in a whirlwind, it’s hard to focus on the positive when you are struggling to simply take care of your children at the most basic of levels. Be a good example of God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness. You never know how your small efforts could make a huge difference in a suffering family.
Laura Polk is a writer, speaker, and textile designer residing in North Carolina with her three children. Since becoming a single mom, her passion to minister to this group has led her to encourage successful single mom living through The Christian Single Mom on Facebook. Follow her journey through her blog or get a glimpse into her quirky thoughts and inspirations for design and writing on Pinterest.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/kevron2001