A Christian Response to Divorce

by: Larry Davies | Jul 22, 2010

Sherry was married at sixteen and is now the mother of two children under twelve. Abandoned by her husband, she must work outside the home for the first time. She is hurt, financially strapped, depressed, overworked and desperately needs help.

“I hate divorce…” (Malachi 2:16) is God’s response to divorce. But I constantly find it necessary to remind the people who attend our divorce recovery workshops: “God hates divorce, but still loves divorced people!” That message needs to be heard. The price for marital breakup is always high.

John’s wife left him after 11 years of marriage and took the two children to another state. He cannot see them but once every few months when he makes the thousand mile drive. He is angry with her, with the system, and even God for allowing this to happen.

The statistics are cold and clear.

· Fifty percent of those who marry today will divorce.

· On the stress scale, divorce and separation are ranked 2nd and 3rd. Only the death of a spouse is rated higher.

· More than 80 percent of those who are divorced will remarry within three years and 65 percent of those marriages will fail again.

· More than a million children each year are involved in divorce and more than 13 million children under 18 live with one parent so that single parent families are growing at a rate twenty times faster than two parent families.

Phyllis was trapped for 24 years with an alcoholic and abusive husband. She struggled for years trying to decide what to do. Years ago, she went to her pastor who advised her to “stick with it.” Now she is divorced, estranged from the church and doesn’t know how to get on with her life.

Divorce profoundly effects children, in-laws, friends, businesses, churches and even society itself. The stories of tragedy are numerous. The pain is real. What should be our response?

A recent Gallup poll seems to indicate that people who experience divorce often draw closer to God by praying and reading the Bible more frequently. However, the same poll also found that those who are separated and divorced feel alienated from their church. The common complaint is that churches are focusing on the needs of intact families and ignoring the divorced.

So many divorced people find a stronger faith in God, yet so few belong to the church. Look at your own church. Of those who have experienced divorce, how many are still active? As a divorced and remarried pastor, I have seen this to be tragically realistic for two reasons.

1. We have simply not learned how to offer ministry to those going through the emotional, financial and physical pain of divorce.

2. Those experiencing divorce often mistakenly assume the church will only judge them and therefore avoid any contact with their church family.

The Gallup poll goes on to say, “From the standpoint of the church, divorced people are an intriguing and challenging group to try to serve. Their lack of church involvement may make them appear to be alienated or hostile to religion in general. But their private religious practices — frequent Bible reading, regular religious television and radio exposure and dedication to prayer — show that they are far from being a lost cause.”

With so many people experiencing divorce… isn’t there something we can do to help?

1. Offer Forgiving Love! When someone dies, we know what to do. It is one of our rituals. We visit, send cards and bring food. There is a visitation where everyone has a chance to say good-bye and finally a funeral service where the deceased is remembered and the family is comforted.

When a couple separates we really do not know what to do. There is no ritual. We don’t visit for fear of taking sides. Divorced people receive few cards and little food. There is no visitation or funeral. There is only silence and our silence condemns us!

During my divorce, a neighbor came over and quietly listened while I talked, cried, yelled and talked some more. I don’t remember his words, but I will never forget his presence. The children and I received phone calls, food, offers to baby-sit and most of all prayers. It’s often the simplest gestures that offer the most reassurance. We can extend our forgiving love.

2. Offer Understanding Patience!
Most experts list four basic stages of recovery for divorce:

· Survival: There are more responsibilities but less income: more demands but less energy. The pace is often frantic and filled with the anxieties of learning to cope. One person must now fix the car, balance the checkbook, do the laundry and prepare the meals.

· Grief: A precious relationship has died and divorced people must grieve. We can’t sleep. We lose weight. It is often difficult to concentrate. An old song on the radio often brings tears.

· Identity: This is also known as the crazy stage. It could be as subtle as redecorating the house to buying a new car, jumping out of an airplane, going back to school or diving into a new relationship. It can be an exciting but dangerous time of discovery.

· Directions: We are becoming more comfortable with who we are as single adults and beginning to think about our future.

All of these stages take time and it is so important for us to be patient and ready to offer help.

3. Offer Continuing Guidance! Divorce is clearly a sin against God and the sacred covenant of marriage, but it is not an unforgivable sin. Your church has a unique opportunity to become a source of healing and encouragement for the separated and divorced. Many churches sponsor divorce recovery workshops each year. I don’t completely understand why the workshops work so well, but I am certain God is wonderfully present amidst the stories of intense loneliness and suffering providing comfort, strength and much needed hope for the future.

Jesus said to the crowd: “If you had one hundred sheep, and one of them strayed away and was lost in the wilderness, wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine others to go and search for the lost one until you found it? And then you would joyfully carry it home on your shoulders. When you arrived, you would call together your friends and neighbors to rejoice with you because your lost sheep was found. In the same way, heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” (Luke 15:4-7)

Like sheep lost in the wilderness, the divorced among us need to know about the loving God who is willing to go out and actively search for them and will joyfully celebrate when they are found.


8 responses to “A Christian Response to Divorce”

  1. B :) says:

    Thank you for this b’ful article. plz pray for me..

  2. Stephanie says:

    I am looking for ways to help my children through the divorce of their grandparents, who both claim to be Christian, but who have no Biblical grounds for divorce, and would not even try marriage counselling after 39 hard years of marriage. None of their “Christian” family would grieve the divorce, or encourage them to try, for the sake of their (then 21, now 23) grandchildren. Every article seems to say “ignore this covenant breaking!” But my children have greatly felt the loss of relationship, the loss of certainty, they realize now how little their grandparents care about them (i have always worked to make relationship happen,). How do i lead my little ones through the grief and rejection of their grandparents’ divorce? I have teens and younger children, and i fear this will make them cynical about the power of Jesus to enable us to choose not to sin…

  3. Al Vi says:

    I was a Church leader, small group pastor and worship leader when my ex-wife, which was all of those things as well asked me for divorce. The reasons to the divorce were mainly financial and me not taking my place as the one home provider. When that happened, I came closer to God. My faith grew thinking God was in control and we would get over this. As the months passed and divorce became a reality I just stopped believing. How is it that God did not intervened?? I asked myself. The most sacred covenant of marriage?? Family being the most important institution created by God?? Ask and I shall provide!! Says the bible. What happened?? To this day I don’t understand. I don’t want to believe in God. Call me a rebel. Cause how is it possible he allowed this to happen!! To his son and daughter!! I lost all my faith. I don’t go to church and the thought of going to church pisses me off. I lost friends. I lost everything. Explain to me… Why?? If divorce is never gods will then why?? 2 years have passed and I’m still in pain. In my depression I had sex with my first attempt at dating and she got pregnant. Now I live with her and there’s not one day I don’t think of my divorce, my ex wife and church…

    • larrydavies says:

      I am so sorry for the pain you have experienced. I don’t know any easy answers but I do know in my case when I through separation and divorce, I experienced many of the same feelings, including depression. Somehow in the midst of it, my story changed however and I was able to connect with God on a different level. I was in seminary at the time and found the passage in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 1:3-7 that described God as a God of comfort who comforts you in all your troubles so that you will comfort others.” I started teaching divorce recovery over the next few years and still do occasionally. I pray that God will offer you the same opportunities. I don’t know any easy answers but I pray that you will rediscover the God that was lost to you and that you will feel the grace and love that is there.

    • John kirlew says:

      All Via
      I feel your pain like no one else. Like you my wife decided she wanted out. I was not the best husband but I did not drink, abuse, cheat or have any terrible traits. We had our ups and downs and for me the divorce was out of the blue. My wife said she was tired of trying, needed to be independent and strong and this was the way it was. My family and her family were close but none of that mattered as soon as she said it was over I lost her and my extended family. I feel after 14 plus years I was just a guest and once she said it was over they cut me out. It has devasted me but I am drawing closer to God because I felt my wife and her family were righteous but realized I trusted to much. I wish I had been closer to god before because maybe I could deal with the loss and devesataion better.

      My prayers go out to you. It has been almost a year for me and I still think about how much my life and my kids life will change.

      • larrydavies says:

        I am so sorry. I want you to know that my life has radically changed and that I have been married again for many years now. The children are grown and doing well. As bad as divorce can be, it can also lead to something better. Have faith that God will be in the midst of it and see you through. I cling to 2 Corinthians 1:4-7 even today. I pray you will find comfort in the verses too.

  4. John kirlew says:

    This is more difficult than it seem, it is not a straight forward answer. By engaging with the divorce are you then creating an atmosphere of understanding and promoting. Unlike death which you can’t control it becomes hard to provide support. Do you support the spouse who is being left or the one leaving. If it were any other sin would you still provide support?