Dr. Aryn Ziehnert
All relationships involve work. Marriage takes work. Your sibling relationships and friendships also require work. When you place value on healthy working relationships you know that you must be there for the good and the bad in order to avoid divorce.With the prevalence and ease of divorce in modern society, there is a good chance that you will experience divorce. It may not be you and your spouse. It could be a sibling or a dear friend. There is also a high chance of interaction with acquaintances or co-workers going through a divorce.
Being prepared to handle these situations is a necessary part of interacting with your community. You want to be compassionate and helpful. You do not want to cause further damage to an already painful and difficult experience. Avoid probing and gossiping, and learn to be a sympathetic listener. The level of relationship will determine how much information you need to know to be helpful.
When a friend or family member is going through a divorce. it is important to avoid being judgmental. You have your beliefs and opinions about marriage and divorce. You might disagree with divorce. Choose to refrain from expressing these opinions at this time.
Even asking a question of what they have tried to avoid divorce can come across as a criticism. Many people who tell you they are getting a divorce have explored and tried all the options for repairing their marriage. Your disagreement with divorce as a practice is not helpful.
Help, don’t hinder
Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2
When Christians get a divorce, it is a sad, messy, and complicated event. You are called to help your brothers and sisters in Christ, not judge them for this difficult choice. When they choose to announce it the first question you can ask is: “What do you need from me?”This will guide how you interact with someone. You may want to give advice; you may want to do all the research and have a ton of answers. It could be that you have a whole system of things you want to suggest they implement. Restrain yourself by understanding what they are asking from you.
If they are looking for practical help, consider what you can do. Do you have a room that could help during a transition time? Maybe arrange a meal train for a working mom or dad. Ask if they need help with any research or practical tips. Is childcare something with which you could help?
If someone is confiding in you, take time to understand just what they need. Do they need a shoulder to cry on and a box of tissues? Do you need to give them a hug and some one-on-one visiting time? Perhaps they want to vent about things. Allow space for the emotional process. It takes time. There is grief, anger, and a slew of other emotions to work through at this time.
It is important to consider your relationship with both parties in the divorce. Within close communities like a church or your family, the divorced parties may be sharing information to ruin your friendships with the other. Try to stay out of the fight as much as possible. When friends divorce it can wreak havoc on your friendships. If you feel that you must choose a side, then you may be most helpful by not getting involved in the situation.
There are situations where the best choice you can make is to step back and pray for the parties involved.
Pray, don’t gossip
Praying for others is a wonderful gift. Yet it is an easily abused tool by Christians. Under the guise of requesting prayer, many people will spread information that may not be public, or just does not need to be known by many people. It is possible to pray for others without any details about a situation.
Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. – Philippians 2:4
A perverse person stirs up conflict, and gossip separates close friends. – Proverbs 16:28
When a Christian friend tells you about their divorce, it is good to ask them first, may I pray for you? And second, may I ask others to pray for you? Establish an awareness of who knows what and how much the primary parties want others to know. People may speak to you in confidence and are not ready to have things broadly known.
Speculation feeds the rumor mill. If you become the confidant of a friend, it is important to know how much information that friend wants to be known. Other friends may come to you in the guise of prayer seeking information on the situation. You need to dismiss any rumors and irrelevant information. Again, you can tell someone to pray for their friends without telling them details. Gossip only causes further divides and harm in an already difficult situation.
God sets the lonely in families. – Psalm 68:6
Going through a divorce can be a lonely process. Not only is there separation from a partner, but there can also be a loss of family and friendships along the way. When there are children, there is separation for them as well. Recreating a family is a slow endeavor. Being available, by text or phone call, if not in person can be a way of showing hospitality to a lonely friend. You can provide comfort with your presence
Children in divorced families go through a lot of heartaches. When parents are in the process of divorcing, they may not always be able to give their children the attention and love that is necessary for a child’s emotional development. Taking time to love on the kids could be helpful to all parties. Children need safe and loving places to retreat to in times of chaos and upheaval. Consider different ways that you can be a safe family for children of divorcing parents.
You may find yourself in a situation where your children have friends whose parents are divorcing. Modeling hospitality by welcoming your children’s friends into your homes could be a way to be helpful to parents in the divorce process.
Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home. – Romans 12:13
Divorce in the church has a difficult stigma around it. Men and women who are divorced often feel uncomfortable in church situations. They fear being judged and condemned. They may be neglected if they do not neatly fit into an assigned group of married persons. Creating a hospitable environment is part of your role as a compassionate Christian.
This is my commandment: Love each other just as I have loved you. – John 15:12
Regardless of what you may personally believe about divorce, as a Christian your highest calling is to love your friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc. Being a hospitable and prayerful person will make you a trustworthy source for those people in your life who are navigating a particularly difficult time in their lives.
Divorce is a sad position that can leave a man or woman feeling that they are unloved or even unlovable. Jesus has taught that he loves no matter what horrible things have happened in your life. Spreading that love with your presence, your prayers, and any practical help is going to bring healing and hope to the divorced parties.
Displaying the love of God to the divorced is an act of charity and humility that comes from a heart in tune with the heart of Jesus Christ.
“Committed”, Courtesy of Zoriana Stakhniv, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “I give you my heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Flowers in Greyscale”, Courtesy of Thomas Allsop, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sunset over the Water”, Courtesy of Quino Al, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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