“I believe most Christians agree that marriage is supposed to be forever. But when you find yourself separated, divorced or going through the process, how do you deal with the aftermath?”
Musings Of A Divorced Christian Single Mum
Zina Arinze writes about the struggles faced by divorced Christians, and how the Church can support them and help them back on the road to wholeness
With Christmas 2012 over, the New Year well and truly in progress, and the children back to school in earnest, I come back to my reality of single motherhood with a bang. “God hates divorce” filters through my mind and gnaws at my soul, as I go through the never-ending list of household bills, repairs and lost school uniforms, books and equipment that need replacing yet again.
Christians the world over are familiar with Malachi 2:16, “For the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I hate divorce and marital separation and him who covers his garment [his wife] with violence. Therefore keep a watch upon your spirit [that it may be controlled by My Spirit], that you deal not treacherously and faithlessly [with your marriage mate]” (Amplified).
No one can argue with the infallible Word of God, but as we look around, we can see that Christians find themselves in situations contrary to God’s Word. Divorce is one of them.
As a divorced born-again Christian, I understand first-hand the pain and sense of failure a divorced Christian can experience.
There is the personal shame, the isolation, the confusion one may feel. Then, of course, there’s the condemnation you get from the Church, sometimes overtly but more often ever so subtly. If that is not enough, then there’s the church folk who, under the guise of providing you with uninvited counselling “after the fact”, spend time to imply that your marriage ended because you did not pray enough; were not submissive enough, and the 1001 other reasons they throw at you.
My view is that most divorced Christians have enough going on spiritually and internally with their faith and sense of guilt – without this judgmental, unhelpful and supposed well-meaning ‘advice’.
Divorce is the reality we find in our churches today. It’s on the increase in our churches, and this raises many questions, with the key ones being:
(i) How can Christians deal with the aftermath of divorce?
(ii) How can Christian divorcees heal themselves from the sense of brokenness and guilt that divorce brings, and become whole again?
(iii) How can churches support divorced people in their midst, particularly those who have children?
I believe most Christians agree that marriage is supposed to be forever. But when you find yourself separated, divorced or going through the process, how do you deal with the aftermath? You may feel shame, bitterness, confusion, hurt, disillusionment, unforgiveness towards your ex-spouse, and even unforgiveness towards yourself. You may even feel overwhelmed and lonely; you may feel it best to isolate yourself and therefore not know where to find the support or shoulders to cry on when you are at your lowest ebb.
How do you heal? Who helps you through this traumatic life experience?
Here are four key ways, which will help you navigate through this spiritual and emotional upheaval.
- Don’t isolate yourself – no matter how tempting it may be. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family, who are strong and positive, never allowing you to drown in self-destructive pity.
- Talk, talk, talk – Don’t lock yourself and your feelings away. Affirm yourself all through the day with positive affirmations based on the biblical promises of God.
- Start journaling – your pain, your hopes, your fears and plans for the future. Pour out your emotions onto paper. This has been clinically proven to be extremely cathartic.
- Set up a prayer support group with other Christians going through the divorce recovery process, too. As you focus on the needs of others, you will be amazed at how God will use the help and support your story, prayer and experience provide to heal fellow members.
Wherever you may find yourself on this traumatic journey, try your hardest to guard your heart. Do not allow anyone – including yourself or even church folk – to use your past to condemn, discourage and vilify you. Always remember who you are in Christ. What counts is that God has not condemned or discounted you.
With regards to how the Church supports divorced people, unfortunately it can react quite negatively to the issue of divorce, and can sometimes be quite unsupportive under the guise that “God hates divorce”.
Some denominations go by the strict letter of the law, while others operate using the spirit of the law and the message of grace. The question, however, remains: Who mops up the Christians who find themselves victims of divorce? Who provides them with support, encouragement and help? Who helps to rehabilitate them back into society?
A very practical strategy the Church can implement would be to, perhaps, hold divorce rehabilitation forums, led by spiritually-mature Christians who have gone through the divorce recovery process themselves, alongside single parenting support, and financial recovery classes specifically designed for this rising demographic within the Church. Currently, this kind of much-needed support is not widespread within the Church. This could be because the Church is still unwilling or feels ill-equipped to provide this support, or that churches do not know where to start. That may be so, but I believe that we (as a body of believers) would go a long way just by reaching out a hand of love saying, “Look, I’m not judging you. We’re not judging you. We’re all sinners. Come back into the fold.”
Zina Arinze is a Post-Divorce Reinvention Coach and founder of www.believeandliveagain.com, which helps divorced women to regain their confidence, self-esteem and start living again.