Photograph by Brennan Hamrin
I think we would all agree: as followers of Jesus, we are called to “love one another”, just as Christ loved us (John 13:34). Unfortunately, we don’t always know how to carry out this command. Too often, it is the very seasons of struggle that we are called to love others through, that we unintentionally isolate and hurt our sisters in Christ. Help Wanted is a series designed to shed light into just a few of those specific struggles and how we can help, not hurt, the ones experiencing them.
By Becky Abrams
Divorce can be such a taboo word! The when’s, how’s and why’s are a whole ‘nother blog post—today I want to share a little of my experience and how to be supportive of someone going through divorce—regardless of whether or not you agree with the circumstances.
Due to my (ex) husband’s persistent infidelity, I became a divorced, single mother of three toddlers in 2006. And survived! ☺ Seriously, though, that was the hardest season of life I have ever been through to this point. The Lord used the deep hurt, pain and difficulty to bring me to a deeper understanding of Him and a closer walk with Him.
It was the weirdest thing when I would tell someone (often at church/Bible study) I was going through a divorce….often, they would withdraw and become very quiet. The conversation wouldn’t last much beyond that and it was clear that I had made them uncomfortable. I guess it didn’t help that my nature was the spew whatever the most recent nasty details were and the poor women were probably knocked out of their socks with the depravity I was describing. Furthermore, God was still (and continues to be) working on me to not get SO WORKED UP about everything, so I know I was a little ball of fire just waiting to breathe on anyone willing to listen. If you can picture that, go one step further and add to the picture three boys, ages 1, 3 and 4-1/2, spinning around like little tornadoes completely demolishing everything and everyone in their path. It’s a wonder—more like a miracle—that any of us survived!
A second response I found fairly common was that of sympathy. True sympathy and understanding was always a blessing, however, more commonly, it was sympathy that sounded like this: “Oh, I hear you! All men are PIGS!!!” Or this: “You are so right, we should go slash his tires!” While, admittedly, that sounded like a great idea at the time, that wasn’t exactly helpful. The Lord was CLEAR as could be in this time that HE is the God of justice and that He rarely needs me to take action to defend myself. And even then, He never asks us to do something in haste, revenge or vengeful anger. So, while these types of responses were very natural, they weren’t helpful in my effort to get through that season in a way that would bring honor and glory to the Lord.
Occasionally, I would receive a third type of response. In those couple years, the Lord graciously brought a few different people into my life who weren’t afraid to challenge me- to challenge the things I was saying and thinking. At first, I didn’t really like these people. Ha—just being honest. These people didn’t let me rant and rave for very long. They would actually interrupt me in the middle of my venting (Psh!) and ask me pointed questions like, “What is God telling you to do?” “Did you spend time with the Lord today?” and “Do you really think that response would bring honor the Lord?”! What nerve! They often took the fiery wind right out of my bright red sails. Which was, of course, exactly what I needed.
These people dared me to be “above” the situation and not to stay down in the mud…the drama…the mess. These people followed through when they said they would pray for me—they prayed with me on the spot, in weird places like the parking lot and grocery store. And even their prayers challenged me.
They would call me during the week to pray and encourage me, and even take me out to lunch. They offered to watch my kids so I could go to counseling appointments or just have an hour to myself…I think the ones that followed through with that must have actually been angels. These people weren’t afraid to offend me (aka my pride), but underneath their confrontation, I also knew how much they really cared about and loved me.
Now someone reading this may say, “I could never be that way—that’s just not my personality.” Well, I don’t know. Yes, I believe that we are all individuals and more naturally inclined towards certain personalities and, yes, some are more confrontational than others (ahem, me). However, I also believe that as believers we are called “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10). We shouldn’t be afraid to challenge and encourage each other in doing just this… Especially when it is clear that a brother/sister is spiraling in a tornado of drama. We must not be afraid to “ground” someone for just a minute and remind them of what the Lord has to say about their situation. Lovingly, yes. With great compassion and understanding, yes. With fear, no.
That said, be prepared that many may not want to hear it at that time and they may decide they don’t like you for not joining the pity parade they were on. Don’t worry. We know that the Word of God does NOT return void. I can tell you from personal experience that when you speak truth into someone’s disaster—those words of truth will stand out like pillars in the sand and the Lord will continue to bring them back to the forefront of their minds.
This doesn’t mean they will choose to obey—we all make our own choices—but, in my case and many others I know, it was the challenging words of truth that slowly brought me up out of the spiraling pit so I could stand on the Rock. So don’t give up, don’t be afraid. “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Tim 1:7). Furthermore, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We are ALL fully equipped to rebuke, correct and encourage. Now, am I saying you need to be an insensitive, Bible thumping, permanent confronter? No, of course not. Be sensitive to the Lord’s leading of course. Keep in step with the Spirit and don’t be afraid to be “one of those” people! We need you! I love you, sisters.