It’s sad to think about the hurt and ostracization of divorcees. Sadly, many divorcees experience this pain at the hands of the church. God indeed hates divorce; Malachi 2:16 tells us so, and no one wins in a divorce. Friends, family, and the divorcees experience insufferable pain. The church may feel tempted to tell a divorcee that they should’ve stayed married, but that’s not what they need to hear. Here are some ways the church can help and comfort divorcees and show them Christ’s love.
Stop avoiding them.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but many divorcees feel that the church deserted them when they found out about their divorce. People wouldn’t make eye contact and leave the room hurriedly. When Jesus approached the Samaritan woman at the well, who lived with a man that wasn’t her husband and had been divorced numerous times, He didn’t shame her. Instead, He chose to see her humanity and give her hope. Even if you don’t know what to say, don’t avoid divorcees. Instead, try to be like Jesus by encouraging them and seeing their humanity.
Make them laugh.
Both parties will suffer in sorrow in the aftermath of divorce, no matter who initiated it. Everyone knows what happens to a friend when they go through a terrible breakup; now add that to a marriage. Whether someone has been with their spouse for one year or 25 years, they fostered a closer connection with this person than anyone else they know. Now that the link is broken, that separation brings a horrific amount of pain. So do what you can to cheer them up, whether it’s sending them a funny meme, telling jokes or reminiscing over funny memories.
Don’t make assumptions.
Though Jesus had strong stances on divorce, He also gives instances when divorce is acceptable. Whether a divorcee followed the biblical path to divorce or not, we shouldn’t make assumptions because we don’t know the full context of their situation. Maybe they left an abusive relationship, or their partner committed adultery, and they’re ashamed to share that information. Instead of assuming the divorce is their fault, comfort them and let them know everything will be okay.
Avoid cliché phrases.
Many Christians might feel tempted to tell you that God is doing something extraordinary for your life, some good will come from your situation, or remind you to focus on the blessings in your life. These phrases often ignore the hurt the person is going through, make them worse, or both. If you’re unsure what to say, try being a doer instead of a sayer. You could start by getting coffee with them, buying them groceries, and spending time with them. They’ll certainly appreciate any time you spend with them, which will cheer them up.
Invite them to functions.
Try your best to make your divorcee friends feel included. Oftentimes, divorcees feel like a third wheel when they get invited to things. Unfortunately, people treat divorce like an infectious disease and avoid the divorcee because they’re afraid of catching it. Instead, try treating a divorcee like you would treat a grieving friend. This is when they need you more than ever, so try to be there for them and show up. Also, try your best to ensure they don’t feel abandoned or forgotten.
Avoid telling them you know how they feel.
Even if you’ve gone through a divorce, divorces are like snowflakes: each is unique. You can tell them you’ve had a similar experience, but that won’t help their situation. For example, perhaps you suffer from depression. The agonizing depression that makes it hard to get out of bed most mornings. You have different coping mechanisms and symptoms. So, if a friend tells you “they know how you feel,” you’ll know they don’t because depression manifests in different ways. Similarly, divorce manifests itself differently, and no divorce is the same.
Be their confidant.
You may have a divorced friend who received so much exclusion from the church that they only have one person to stand up for them. Seeing them return to the congregation was challenging when they constantly received the evil eye and felt shunned. Romans 3:23 reminds us that we all sin and fall short of God’s glory. Divorce is more public, but if everyone had their failures broadcast to the congregation, they would have more compassion. If you know a divorcee in your community, reach out, befriend them and love on them. They’re probably aware of how the church feels about divorce, so don’t take the role of judge and law. Instead, we should be more like Jesus when He dealt with the hurting and broken.
Why does this matter?
Typically, the church doesn’t know what to do with couples outside of their 20s-30s who have biological children and those who fall outside of the nuclear family model. God indeed made the family model, but unfortunately, we live in a broken world and a broken church filled with people who go astray. We should stop allowing this and shunning people who fall outside the perfect family mold through small groups, sermon series, and church activities.
The early church had plenty of people who didn’t fit today’s church mold, including women leaders, single people and the elderly. The church should consider going back to its roots, remembering 2 Corinthians 1:3, which reminds us that Christ called us to comfort the hurting and love. Outside of God, no one is perfect, and we’ve all fallen short of God’s glory. However, God still loves us as His children and looks past our faults.
A divorce is an unfortunate event that many families go through. However, instead of shunning divorcees in our church community, we should attempt to welcome them and remind them that they are still God’s children. Dealing with divorce is already challenging enough, so the last thing divorcees need is people judging or shunning them from society. Instead, try to model Jesus’ behavior by embracing them and letting them know that we all fall, but it’s possible to get up again.