“I’m not happy.” “I’ve changed.” “They changed.” “They stayed the same.” “They have addictions.” “They are emotionally abusive.” “They are physically abusive.” “They cheated.” and “They just left.” After hearing hundreds of reasons why people get divorced, I have come to one conclusion; it’s not ours to judge. We will have to be responsible for our own decisions and most people will never understand what a divorced person goes through unless they have to travel that road.
There are too many variables when you talk about divorce. It’s as individual as each heart and mind it affects and it takes an infinite God to really understand where you are and who you can become through divorce. Some people actually become incredibly awesome after going through divorce. They would have never been that way otherwise. Others fall into a repeat of past events because they never took the time to heal.
The biggest weight of condemnation is laid on those Christians who want to please God and stay married but by some choice on their part or that of their mate, find themselves divorced. Let me alleviate some pressure for those of you who find yourself in that situation; you are more important to God than the union of marriage. Jesus didn’t die for marriage; he died for you so you can have LIFE and have it in abundance. Don’t allow scripture, taken out of context, to force you to believe anything different. No mistake, no sin, is bigger than God. Religion likes to provide “rules”, and if you fit into the rules, then you are “okay.” But if you’re trying to fit into a set of rules, then you are walking a hard road of trying to make yourself worthy, which is impossible. Jesus already walked that road for you and won your worthiness. A great book on this is Jesus > Religion, Why He is so much better than trying harder, doing more and being good enough by Jefferson Bethke.
Here are three single rules for helping and not hurting your divorced family or friends:
1. Just Listen
2. Set Boundaries
The easiest thing we can do for our friends or family members that go through divorce is to listen. It’s not your job to discover why. They will tell you the why’s and how’s. In most cases you will have to ask them to stop talking about it. Also realize that as you listen, there are always two sides to every story. Listening doesn’t mean you have to agree with their choices, the situation, or their current emotional state. It just means you are giving them the space to build trust with you. Once you build that trust, truth is much easier to speak into their lives. I had one friend, who as he went through his divorce couldn’t talk about anything else. It real important that you realize those situations that you will need to set boundaries.
The one thing I have found that holds true with many hurting people is they need boundaries. Most people going through divorce, and even years later still talk about the divorce. Some obsess about it. You need to set the right boundaries which include talking positive about the hope we have in God, encouraging self-growth, and the removal of blame from anyone other then the person that stands before you in the mirror. Divorced people, of which I am one, have a way of turning things into a blame game. We don’t start to grow and change until we take ownership of the situation and what we can do to change ourselves. It means having hard conversations with our divorced friends and family to focus on themselves rather than the other person. On many occasions, as I traveled through divorce, I had to shut others down with respect to their comments about my former spouse. My well-meaning family and friends thought that by transferring focus to the other person it would help me recover. It didn’t. Only through prayer and applying the focus for change to me individually did good things happen in me.
At the end of the day, the only thing we can actually do from an action perspective for those going through divorce is to pray for them. I mean real prayer, where you imagine you are in their shoes and you sincerely intercede for God’s help on their behalf. The things a divorce person most deals with is fear, the lack of peace, and loneliness. One of those three things (or all of them) drives a divorced person to do many things outside their character. It’s why many men marry within a year of their divorce only to see a second divorce. It’s why many women will sell their bodies short doing things that they never thought they would do. Or why some will engross themselves into their work to lose all feeling.
Over and over the bible talks of the “condition of the heart.” It’s what we should be most concerned about with our friends and family that are traveling through divorce. Hard hearts mean no growth or change. Following the general rules above will help you to not hurt, but help those closest to you in need of encouragement through divorce.
If you are going through divorce, join our discussions, ask the hard questions. Also listen to this great song. It reminds me that there is a God who is engaged with me daily.
“Your love never fails, never gives, and never runs out on me…
Grace and Peace be yours!