Unless you air your laundry, divorce in the church is as isolating as a child’s temper tantrum during the Sunday morning service.
When my husband of 27 years suddenly and unexpectedly left, it was weeks before my large-church-pastors noticed I was missing from Sunday morning services. And even weeks more before someone called to check in.
I can’t blame them. I didn’t reach out. I was busy. I was inhaling and exhaling, managing shame, scrounging for hope, paying bills, and depositing what little emotional reserves I had to care for my devastated daughters, reeling family members, and befuddled friends. I was too busy facing the disappointment of opening my eyes in the morning, realizing that God hadn’t granted my nightly plea to take me in my sleep because I didn’t know how to live this way.
There were so many things I didn’t know about how to go through an unexpected divorce. There is no YouTube video, no manual, no to-do list for how to do it well. Yet, the one thing I did learn is that you won’t get a casserole from church when you’re in the middle of burying a marriage.
I realized this after the fact. A year after my husband left and before the divorce was final, my dear church friend lost her husband to a sudden heart attack.
Here is the thing I learned when Joe died that I hadn’t even thought about when my husband dropped off the face of the earth. There are dozens of casseroles in the church freezer.
When Joe died, the church stepped up big for Sue. She had meals for months while she figured out how to manage the house and budget by herself. She had lawn boys, free electricians, and pro bono mechanics when her cars broke down. She received hundreds of cards from church friends – we watched them overflow her mailbox. Women came to clean her house. Strangers did her laundry and folded her towels. And not one person asked what she could have done differently to avoid Joe’s death or suggested that things would get better because some new man would snatch her up in a second.
I am so glad. I love her and am grateful for each person who stepped in to meet her in her grief and need. One time, she gave me an extra casserole because her freezer was full. It was really tasty and I ate it for days after we wryly talked together about the differences in our experiences of the death of a marriage. We both acknowledged the casserole rules. The church didn’t give divorce casseroles – except for the one she gave me.
The very next summer, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I learned that you do get casseroles for breast cancer. Elders visit, people pray, your name gets mentioned from the pulpit. People call, email, and send cards. They rake your leaves.
I was grateful, although a bit bewildered. During those six months of diagnosis, surgery, and radiation treatments, I never once prayed for God to take me during the night, I never cried myself to sleep over breast cancer, never imagined what I did wrong to be so unworthy. There was no shame. Each morning, I was happy to open my eyes. Sometimes, I even longed for the phone and doorbell to stop ringing. I got free yard work for weeks. And, I got lots and lots of casseroles.
To be clear, this isn’t about a church, it’s about the Church. My church tried in the best way they knew how. I don’t blame them for any inconsistencies. I had never noticed them before either.
We can’t know our blind spots by seeing them, we must feel them.
It’s complicated, isn’t it? As people of faith, we are very good at meeting people in times of death and illness. There are no judgments around these things, and we do not need discernment about who was in the wrong. We don’t have to wonder about whether one’s grief is deserving of a casserole. The rules about other human conditions are not so clear. Casseroles for the death of a marriage? For a mental breakdown? For rehab? How can we know whose fault it is? We all learned that God’s favor falls on those who follow God’s good rules. Maybe then, it’s just best if we offer a sympathetic side-eye and let the chips fall. There are rules, after all.
Or maybe the rules are just misunderstood. Maybe, loving our neighbor is a rule that means need is need, and grief is grief, and a casserole is the love of God made real for all who suffer- no matter the cause. Maybe.
Jill English is an avid encourager of humans and lover of words. She is most at home out-of-doors, and in particular, while walking any beach. Her most magical moments involve being Grammy to two remarkable grandchildren, and Mom to their lucky parents. As a discerner of call in higher theological education, her favorite conversations involve connecting the sacred dots of every-day life and faith. Jill lives in Grand Rapids, MI with two small, elderly pups.
I was supposed to say closing prayer in our main meeting yesterday but I just couldn’t go. I have been struggling lately emotionally over my very recent divorce and just knew that I’d cry the entire 2 hours of church. I sent a text to my pastor telling him that I couldn’t make it because I wasn’t doing very well and I’ve not heard one thing from him at all. I’ve received very little support from him in this past year since my husband of 27 years left me. In fact the most he’s spoken with me was to ask me if I’d reconsider reconciliation with my husband, who’d been unfaithful by the way. After I more or less told him absolutely not and how angry I was at my husband all I got from him was “wow, you’re really angry. You’re going to need to forgive him.” That man was so lucky that I didn’t throat punch him right then and there.
My heart goes out to you! I am so sorry the minister was was not able to be a pastor to you. He needs a class in pastoral care! If there was a jury of your peers you would not be convicted if you punched his lights out. Rev. Gayle
Yes, I completely agree he needs a class in pastoral care. I train chaplains on-line, and have always, always thought every minister/pastor (shepherd, by the way) needs a class in pastoral care (Clinical Pastoral Ed. [CPE[}.
This is a wonderful article, thank you for this poignant reminder!
Hi I read the whole article and couldn’t help but notice your story too. There are many who are suffering like you but too few that understand your pain. It’s very painful because it’s a loss and all losses have to be worked through. You will feel numb, angry, lost but you will in time become stronger than before if you choose to turn to God for comfort and trust him. He will never let you down unlike humans. Your pastor has many flock and isn’t understanding your pain. When I’m in pain I Listen to Christian bands that write their music from pain and loss. Try 4 king and country or Toby Mac and cry 😢 Cry to the God of all comfort. Your experiences will one day be a way you can help others. Meanwhile I will pray for you
Many of us reading your words of pain, numbness, anger, and blatant disbelief have been there in your shoes. We stand with you holding your hand, because we’ve felt everything you are going through. When we point to God’s Word. I can tell you that no pastor, no friend, or relative can bring you out of this, other than God’s Word.
Begin with these verses…
Know that God is the one who states that VENGEANCE IS HIS… this means that we as hurting spouses must remain at peace with God while God enfolds us with His Love. When we take vengeance into our own hands, we always get into trouble… no matter what we choose to do.
Trust in God with ALL YOUR HEART and don’t trust your own thoughts as the above scripture tells us… Our thoughts will always cause us more pain than we need at this time.
Start a journal of ALL of your thoughts, and place that notebook in a place where you can get your hands on it and grieve out ALL OF THOSE OBNOXIOUS THOUGHTS. THEN PLACE THAT NOTEBOOK IN A DARK PLACE AND NEVER GO BACK TO THOSE THOUGHTS AGAIN… they don’t need to be in your mind because they will seep into your heart. Don’t allow yourself to hold on to that kind of pain. Then buy yourself another notebook and start “rocking yourself” through scriptures that come to you and that help you break through to forgiveness, grace, courage, strength, righteousness, and peace. Read though Galatians 5 to become familiar where we need to be in order to bring ourselves peace, instead of grief.
This is where your struggles will disappear. Trust me… Those dark notebooks are in the bottom of a cedar chest for me, but I realized that I didn’t need that kind of grief…only hope from God’s Word.
Tricia, you are a Warrior!!! I went through the same thing and got the same glib and heartless comments. If he had died I would have known how to deal with that. People would have held my hand and consoled me. Because my EX of 32 years decided he wanted a Do-over with a 30 something, I was just supposed to quietly evaporate and “Let them be happy!” Hell no! I fought for what I was entitled to, went back to college, got my degree, began a new career, and moved across country to a beautiful place where I can see my grandchildren every day! He is now stuck with a hugely fat wife and a couple of nasty preeteen kids!
THERE IS A GOD!!!
You’ve got it Sister!! Been there exactly, felt that exactly!
I think a throat punch would have been acceptable to Jesus right then. In fact, I think he might have done it himself. He had no tolerance for the money changers in the temple, and I’m quite sure he has no tolerance for ‘sacred judgement’.
I like this very much . I believed Jesus’s actions and words. I’m a mother of my daughter who is facing this horrible betrayal. I race my four children as my husband has been found dead at the age of 36 and a half years of age, when we where dreaming for our future.. has been hard but this one : how I wanted to hurt him and his mother and a pastor and others that pretend to be friends; New about it and never told my daughter, or me.., it hurts , but only Gods company sustains me. And kerosene from falling in tell them what I think. So Jesús at the Cross: did not saved them and became friends,he prayed:, Father : forgive them … ., and i realize that they will get what they deserve..,
I’m SO sorry for your pain! When my husband was unfaithful, it became clear to me when my pastor said staying is a choice, not a compulsion when a marriage vow has been broken. Either way, the rage is real and your pastor was wrong to handle it that way. Too bad theology school can’t give humanity. I wish there was more love and understanding of the truly devastating effect of betrayal in marriage. For a fellow sister, I hear you and fully understand. The church cannot handle anything off-script, as this article indicates. Thank you for sharing your heart. The road to healing is long so please try not to let the shame crush you and lean on God for your strength. He is your everything.
Thank you for sharing that story. I’m sorry you have gone through this. It is so painful
to struggle through and have anger dismissed. You are brave.
Appreciate the throat punch thought..lol..some folks including pastors really dont have a clue.
You had a right to be angry. And you forgiving your ex is something God will work in you to do. Sorry for your pain.
When my husband left me I finally had to change churches bc the church acted like divorce was some kind of contagious disease. This was not the Church of George Smith in some little burg, it was a mainline mid-sized suburban church. The best part was when I finally got the pastor to visit he asked me if I’d done anything to cause this, like gain a lot of weight. For real. Two weeks later the same pastor left his wife for another woman.
Oh my!! That was like a KICK IN THE HEART WITHOUT A JUMPSTART!! I’M right there with you hon!! I’m the pastor’s wife who’s husband was unfaithful to me since day 1, but he was so cunning, that I never knew that he was unfaithful until 20 years after we married and 3 children later. This is when we must cling to the Word of God, and claim His truth… THAT GOD WILL NEVER LEAVE US NOR FORSAKE US!! We also must understand that our pastors are NOT GOD, but mere men who, at times, fail miserably, therefore we must trust what God’s Word says… That GOD is the GOD OF TRUTH, therefore we place our trust in God and Him alone. May God wrap His Mighty Arms around you and bring you Peace and Hope!!
A friend shared this post with me after we talked about our church family’s reaction to my husband’s infidelity with another woman in the congregation (who used to be my friend, no less). My ex-friend and her husband are divorcing. My husband and I are hanging in there. I feel like people see husband/me sticking it out and think we must be doing okay. Uhh… I’ve been betrayed by my husband of 20 plus years and someone I thought was a close friend…definitely NOT okay over here. Full-on TRAUMATIZED. We’ve had a few friends walking the valley with us, but our church as a whole – the church leadership – has been really, REALLY disappointing.
So sorry Jana you have every right to be angry your husband has betrayed your trust and he will have to search his heart and mind to consider his ways and truest repent. (Think King David) Then he needs to work on proving his love ❤️ for you. Christian Counciling wouldn’t hurt. Marriage is more than just you two it represents the bride of Christ ( all faithful believers) and Christ himself who died for the Church. There is a greater picture and hope
Worthy of Her Trust is such a great book to help your husband become more trustworthy. I’m so sorry about the pain you are experiencing.
I read this article. I loved it. I am in the same boat, and I too found a new church. It’s not that “the church” doesn’t want to help. I believe that divorce is a taboo subject because it hits too close to home for most couples. Almost four years later, and having been on my own for almost three years, I feel God pulling me to do more than just speak words. We have to take action to help the wounded hearts of women who gave all they had, only to be betrayed. We have to do better. After reading this incredibly well written article, I felt a holy anger about the lack that we as Christ followers exhibit toward the hurting ones. I plan and hope to do something, with God’s help. ❤️
Like that part of comment REALLY disappointing. Didn’t expect to be applauded when walking into a room but didn’t need to be treated like I had some kind of disease.
We have a DivorceCare class at our church just for that reason (SUPPORT) I have been a facilitator for that class for the passed 17 years , when I went through my divorce over 20 years ago and took this class , I knew if I ever had a chance to give back what God gave me I wouldn’t miss the chance!
Divorce care saved my life!
Please, I am not making excuses, BUT we also need to learn how to talk about divorce. So often the church doesn’t even know what is happening. There are no casseroles because no one knows something has happened. The person is too shamed to talk about it. I get that. But…really we are not mind-readers. We lost a lovely family from church many years ago. Only long after they had left did we learn that the husband had been laid-off and the family was in need. There was no way to know. And they felt betrayed because no one came. We tend to be very private. We don’t intrude. When I was little I would receive a post card from my Sunday School teacher if I missed a week – NO ONE does that now. When someone dies it is obvious – out there – easily identified. Casseroles appear. I am sorry that the casseroles missed the souls who needed them that we didn’t know about. And I am truly sorry for the pastors who didn’t know what to say and who so often say the wrong thing.
Divorce is a difficult time in life. I still look at myself as
A bitter person. I have come along way but because of my church woman group I was involved with that helped me. The pastor never knew but even if he talk to me it wouldn’t have matter. Out thinking is such a mess. but it’s a long long process specially when you aren’t the one that leaves the marriage. I am better but am very callous to any relationship.
Jana, my husband also betrayed me with an affair with my close friend at church. I was destroyed by this double betrayal. My friend and I had served on the praise team together, I sang duets with her and accompanied her on the piano. Our. children were friends. I had to try to explain to my 8 year old why she couldn’t play with her friend anymore. It was a nightmare. Sadly, neither marriage survived this. My husband shortly after this moved in with a Jewish woman and has since married her. He had been an elder at our church. My 3 daughters were equally devastated and we were in counseling for years.
What an eye-opener. I agree that we are private people and divorce is not an easy subject to talk about. I hardly ever mention that word, such stigma attached to it and shame because we as Christians are “so perfect.” Thanks for all the thought provoking comments.
Thank you for your bravery in talking about your situation. I had never thought of the differences in the expression of a church with a death or a divorce. This has motivated me to work on looking closer to help all women however they loose their husbands. God bless you and if you write a book on the steps that we as a church should take in this problem, I would sure be interested in it.
I have written an unpublished training for churches who are looking to learn HOW TO MINISTER TO HURTING SPOUSES that are left holding all the stones. PM me on FB if you are interested. I’d like to share with you.
I’ve read through all the comments looking for encouragement! My husband of 30 years got involved with a young single woman who turned every old man’s head by the way she scantily dressed , not to mention she accepted consoling words from old married & single men when she complained about her aching back after falling off horses several times! She hugged all the men that would hug her back, and the wives looked on in amazement as to how their husbands became 30 year olds in her presence! 75- 80 year old men forgot their aching backs & even my husband of 75 started planning buying property to house a horse so she could come to ride whenever she could! Then she must have offered some non conventional sexual pleasures which haunts me to this day, two years later, while trying to stay in a marriage that he states “she is out of the picture” because she moved away and my husband found out she was sexually involved with numerous other men in our church no less! I’m trying to forgive , not forgetting tho, how vulernable men are to skinny, sexual young women! Men fail over & over, but the trusting issue is lost! So many suggestions are given to trust God & give your pain to Him! That does work when I can do that, but more often than I want to admit, Satan gets an upper hand & the thoughts cause such depression! I often cry out, “Please, God I can’t take it, let me die!” Because of my physical pain I chose not to seek a divorce, nor do I find comfort in seeking out comfort in another old man! My husband treats me fairly well and still provides financial security, plus we found a couple activities we can enjoy together! It’s a matter of how to move forward with the years we have left & trusting God to finish the work He stared in us!
On the day of my 55th anniversary I was sitting across the desk from a divorce lawyer. My husband had become a mean and abusive alcoholic. Just months before I had attempted to take my own life. I was discovered (obviously) and spent 2 weeks in a mental institution. The night before I was to be released he threw a big party at our home and to my dismay, the neighbors came. The celebration was for my homecoming. Would have been nicer had I been present. Friends of 50 years disappeared. My widow friends couldn’t see any comparison at all. It has been 3 years. I am in the process of downsizing immensely and moving to another part of the state. Get advice daily as to why that is a bad idea…..I won’t see any of them very often if I move. Well, what a revelation, just when do I see them now? After the divorce I changed nail salons, grocery stores, gas stations, church in another community where I could be anonymous. Joined a luncheon club. Big mistake. Mostly married or widowed and I don’t fit in. Before you say it is my fault, my attitude, check how you treat your friends that are divorced. Oddly, from my perspective it is the woman that gets such treatment when often it is the man who precipitates the action and he seems to get away sans any criticism or suggestion he woo her back. I have a friend in another state who divorced three years ago almost the same time I did. She has had the same experience…..no casseroles.
You’re right. Women are shunned, and men get sympathy and little criticism…but they do get “wooed” if you can call it that by every bad guy in town. (Saw this as a child when my mother could not get rid of unwanted males…but of course it was her fault that they thought they should get laid. Divorced women were accused of “luring” husbands away…nope. That’s what men say…because they don’t take responsibility for their own behavior. So much handier to put that responsibility on women.)
There *are* churches and congregations that understand boundaries and personal responsibility, but they’re not yet in the majority.
Yep! Totally agree on that note that divorced women get the blame for luring the men… even by pastors. My own pastor and the pastor I work for put up their own “hands off” signal towards me when both of them posted themselves and their wives on the very same day on Facebook… to let me know “they were taken” rather than pastoring me through my 2nd seperation…of my 2nd marriage. I was furious that they would even think of such a thing after I had explained the infidelity if my first husband. I don’t go to church there anymore, and I really have NO RESPECT for the pastor I work for.
I was kicked out of the Sunday School when I got divorced. I also found myself being shunned by people while my unfaithful, alcoholic husband was not held accountable, and was supported by our mutual friends. The truth about him came out, but the damage was done. I now belong to a fantastic, loving church–everyone there is my tribe and prays for me and my children. I hold my head high, knowing I am the daughter of the King.
All of this is so sad….but really, should we be that surprised or that disappointed? ALL of us are mere sinners who need God’s forgiveness and grace more than we can fathom. Yes, I admit to being disappointed in my fellow Christians and other church-goers (you do realize that not everyone who attends church is truly Christian, right?), but should I be? How many times have I meant to give comfort, only to be distracted by my own daily issues, or to say exactly the wrong thing from what that person needed at that moment? How many times have I rushed from church, busy visiting with my friends or preoccupied with the details of my busy life later that day or week, forgetting to notice who is absent or who looks sad?
I went through a seven year cancer journey with my husband who passed away 5 years ago. Believe it or not, dear ladies, I, too, was saddened and disappointed by some. And then I was surprised by my response! Because I remembered having thought it strange when an acquaintance told me she had to take a break from church after her husband died bc it was too hard and now I was feeling that way! I remembered having thought it unwise that another friend refused a grief support group but now realized that was not what I needed. I wondered how I had responded to their needs in those moments and if it was what THEY needed or what I had needed?
I determined at that moment that whether surprised or disappointed or even hurt, I would offer grace; choosing to believe that whatever people did for me or said to me or did NOT do or say, came from a desire to help or from an person wanting to help but felling inadequate.
Please don’t hear this as criticism…..but rather an encouragement to do what I believe the author is doing in writing this: to take a good look at how much we really share our lives in our churches…the good, the bad and the ugly….and how we can better share the love and forgiveness offered to us from Christ with those who are hurting.
Joanne, I totally understand where you are coming from…being a widow…and suffering grief from the loss of your husband. The death of your husband has presented more issues than you can imagine, all of which you emotionally feel as though you have been abandoned…an emptiness that is forever in your heart. My cousin expressed that to me when her husband died. They had been together for nearly 50 years…I was there at her wedding as her flower girl…at the age of 10. But she was bitter because her husband was gone forever…and she said at least your husband is still living. This is where both of us have to understand that both of us go through a grieving process that will affect us in very different ways. Your grief will and did spawn great sorrow, grief, abandonment, and loneliness that you had never felt before. My divorce on the other hand has spawned not only the pain of abandonment, but an emotional roller coaster that hasn’t stopped yet, because apparently he is still riding this emotional roller coaster, when I want to desperately get off the ride forever. Divorced people have to deal with the fallout it seems forever…if the other spouse continues to pound out the aftermath, such as my ex., even though he filed and I waited for him for 4 years to come back. By death, there is a quiet grief and a sense of longing for closeness to another person, but I believe the grief for me is the “unfaithful purpose” as to why he left, and the psychological scars and mental scars that he has left on our children and myself. Those who grieve because they lost a loved one to death is honored by the churches, however, in many churches across our nation, the divorced are left to fend for themselves in so many ways…even pastors’ wives that have been thrown away because of adultery within the pastor’s infidelity…such as mine….but again, as the writer suggested, there were no casseroles when the husband or wife left the marriage and divorced, especially because of infidelity. Infidelity brings about major problems, trust issues, and psychological abuse…and even death to the spouse that is NOT the infidel…so then, there is a great HURT with the ungodly infidelity. It gets uglier too, when the children are killed too…from the agonizing grief of the person feeling the pain of abandonment and unfaithfulness. I’ve seen it way too many times. And then, there are those divorcees who actually leave the church…especially those who were pastor’s wives, because they just cannot face the church crowd any longer…because the embarrassment of it all.
We all have our times of grief…even when divorcees experience the death of a loved one, but please, be careful with the light words that are shifted to divorcees…thinking that at least the spouse is still living and that we are all living through this thing called…grief. Divorce is an extreme of human unfaithfulness…we experienced brokenness and hopelessness, and betrayal beyond belief. It’s two very different kind of life situations…and the church should treat the bereaved and the divorced equally as the author stated, however, I never received any casseroles when I found that my husband filed for divorce. It got very ugly for my kids as well, and they are still dealing with those issues that crushed them. Some pastors that I know will never step into the middle of a divorce, and will treat both of us as a castaway, because they simply do not want to look like they embrace the divorced…but they’ll speak highly of the bereaved…and rightly so. But I still didn’t receive my casserole…did your church serve you well when your husband passed? I hope they did, because you are under such great sorrow. I have had to dodge death bullets and ugly words from the pulpit. in order to survive my divorce. BUT GREATER IS HE THAT IS IN ME, THAN HE THAT IS IN THE WORLD…
At this point, divorce will be my salvation. Not what I expected after 30 years. Starting over at a time when life should be slowing down enjoying grandchildren. Fun times together. But secret choices, thousands in counseling. And fake smiles to hide it at church. I’ll take anything. So painful to suffer in silence. The joy of the Lord is my strength. There will be a better day.
I can relate my husband passed no cassorals nope none
Just a hug from the pastor
A hug I felt violated
I felt dirty
The pastor came to icu and stood with his back against the wall never spoke
No prays nothing. And. At hospice no visits ugh
I could write a book, you too? Unfaithful minister husband has an affair with secretary…says ‘he wants to go out a journey, deactualize, test out his new relationship, bring closure to our marriage of 27 years’, bunch of BS! Very few people knew how to respond or care or bring casseroles. Friends made at divorce care saved me! If you are going through this hell, get in a support group, fast! Maybe I will write a book…
I’ll write one with you…are you serious? I’ve aleady written a book for hurting spouses. Now, I want to write a book for this very topic – training churches for comprehesive divorce ministries within churches along with pastord. It has been tagging me for a couple of years. If any of you are willing to share your stories within your own boundaries, then we could make a voice to churches, pastors and to those who want to help… “sound the alarm”. Anyone willing?
Great article and reminder for us to look out for our friends and neighbors! Death and illness aren’t the only reasons to reach out.
I do have to add that we shouldn’t take offense to the lack of a casserole from people who don’t know we need one.
I’m guilty of this, feeling like my struggles are going unnoticed and that I am not high enough on the totem pole to be cared about. But I also don’t share my personal struggles or make my needs known at all. People aren’t mind readers but at times I wish they were!
The real question is if you knew I needed a casserole for any reason, would you bring one? And would I do the same for you?
I have walked in your shoes in regard to divorce. A dear friend said to me that “Divorce is like a death but without a body.”You go through all the same stages of grief. Which in my case was true. Some of the women of the church I belonged at this time made it quite obvious that I was no longer included within the women’s activities in the church. They could not see that I was afraid, sad, grieving, deserted and just needed a kind word, a casserole or an offer of looking after my three girls for a breather. Some say these women acted this way because it was awkward for them to include me because they did not know what to say or that they were afraid of this now single women. I became a threat to some and I think it was a relief when I left the church and moved from that town.
I luckily found another church family that embraced me and my daughters. No blaming, no shaming, open arms and Christian love. In fact it was this church God lead me to after meeting the pastors wife at a Welcome Wagon event. God had lead my future husband from a church in the Netherlands where he was stationed, by a mention from a missionary about this new church her parents attended in the same town I moved to in the US. We have now been married 25 wonderful years.
What’s unsaid is the hidden grief and pain haunting many Christian women whose husbands live in the secret world of porn — husbands who are church leaders, small group leaders, Sunday school teachers. These wives sit next to their husband Sunday after Sunday, and no one knows her pain and shame. Definitely no casseroles for them.
This was so eye opening for me. Thank you for making me take a closer look at how we deal with (or choose not to deal with) divorced couples. I know that counseling and fellowship flow like water until divorce comes, then…nothing.
I don’t know, but it seems that perhaps the church takes it as a personal affront if a marriage ends in divorce. Do we view it as a failure to do what was necessary to ‘save’ the marriage? Maybe we forget we’re not the Holy Spirit and fixing things isn’t our job.
I don’t have answers, but I think I’m gonna talk with a few recently divorced individuals and ask what (in their eyes) we did right, what we did wrong and how we can do better now, with them, and with others in the future.
Try having your marriage end because your husband molested your daughter… It has been 12 years. I still have to remind myself to inhale. And then exhale. And I am still so angry about it all. Angry at him. Angry at God. Angry at myself. Angry at all the people who we attended church with who thought he was someone special. There were no casseroles. No yard work. Not even a word. It was all too filthy. I have tried to go back. I just can’t… I wish someone could fix it. But it can’t be fixed…
I’m so sorry, Lori. I have a different scenario that yours, but I wanted to share with you that NO one can restore your joy but the Lord. I know that will bring you no comfort and may make you even more angry but please sleep on it and consider telling the Lord exactly how you feel. He knows already, but it helped me to be gut honest verbally. I was molested by my grandfather at 12 years of age. I hated him and that one event made me a hard hearted, bitter person who in public was the happy, life of the party person. I was a poser. I went to church, but had no genuine relationship with the Lord. I had 50+ years of pent up anger and hatred toward this man. I could write a book, but I just want to tell you that at my lowest point, my husband leaving me and our 2 children for another woman after 22 years of marriage, I was desperate because I realized that I needed help and knew that all those years of me trying to fix myself was a complete failure. For the first time, although I had professed to be a Christian, I realized that I had never surrendered my life to Christ. I was lost and broken into tiny pieces and promised the Lord if He would mend my brokenness, that I would follow His lead forever. I knew I had to forgive my grandfather, because the Lord said that unless we forgive those that hurt us, He will not forgive us. I also had the task of forgiving my husband and his mistress. I could have NEVER done that on my own because I hated them both. I surrendered my all to Christ, I laid my broken heart at the foot of the cross that night and I have never been the same. For 50+ years my long dead grandfather had power and control over my life. Jesus rescued me that night, and I will never let Him get away again. I am totally focused on the hem of His garment and don’t let that hem get too far away. If He run, I’m going to chase Him. I will forever love Him for rescuing me and making all things new. He literally changed my affections. God bless you, Lori. Please know that I am praying for you and your family.
I am in this club. It’s an awful, lonely, shame-filled club that few will admit to being a member of. There is no fellowship. There are no casseroles. And though you can run, hide, move away from town, and change your name, you can never quit. I hate this club and I’m sorry to know you’re a member too. xo
I have said often that churches (& casseroles) are effective for death, short-term treatment/illness, and new babies. But for those things that are hard to speak of (divorce, still-born child, parkinson.als.dementia-type illness, accusation of criminal behavior, incarceration, bankruptcy or job loss, suicide, financial problems, child with life-changing diagnosis, sexual assault, mental illness diagnosis, addiction & recovery, to name a few) are hard for churches AND the world at large. Part of that is because most of these issues are marathons and we are all better at sprinting. Additionally, long journey’s do not lent themselves to resolutions and have many twists and turns (will folks reconcile–again? will the accused be convicted? what can anyone say when a child commits suicide?) so folks have a hard time knowing what to say and when. Should pastors do better? Sure, but no pastor is good at all things and bless congregations that offer professional Christian counseling services and well run/easy to find support groups. And I would LOVE to hear an annual sermon from the pulpit on issues of confidentiality and boundaries since both would make churches safer places to heal. But mostly we all just need to understand the blessings of gently and tenderly abiding with: maybe send a card or a supportive email or a “thinking of you” text; invite for a quiet meal to ask, “How are you?” or “If I can run errands or take the kids for a few hours, I’d love to do that.” (Note: Offer specific ideas because during the darkest of times thinking is a limited capacity). I had a dear friend whose son died not long before she was diagnosed with what turned out to be terminal cancer. Each month on the anniversary of her son’s death I sent a modest, “thinking of you” care with no reference to why I was sending it — really we know what is going on so there is truly no need to say anything more than I love you, I believe in you, I’m praying for you, I will not forsake you.
I think it’s pretty true. Not always, but it was true for me. When my husband left I called around to try and find a pastor to talk to and nobody would even meet with me. After giving my whole life to ministry as a pastor’s wife for over 20 years, I was shocked and very hurt by that. It’s not like I was under church discipline, I hadn’t cheated or done anything wrong – and they knew that. Eventually I did find a church I felt comfortable in (not one of the ones I had called) and my 2nd visit there, the pastor asked me to stay behind after church. I did, and after everyone else had left, he called me into his office. I didn’t know why, but was afraid he was going to reject me, too. But . . . he sat me down and said, (I’ll never forget this) . . . “I’ve heard about your situation and what you’re going through, so I called you in here because I wanted to ask what we could do to help you as a church, and what I can do for you personally.” – Needless to say, I burst into tears. THAT is how a church should act. That became my home church for many years. It was a great one.
😭😭😭❤️❤️❤️ Praise the Lord!
Thank you for this post! It’s both gracious and helpful.
So true. When my husband left I said it was I death no one else could see but me. You go through so many emotions. Trying figure how to move forward with finding work, paying bills, meeting the emotions needs of your children while you have no one to meet yours. Without the faithfulness of the Lord I don’t think I would have made it. Thank you for sharing.
Divorce is not your shame. I’ve received the same treatment from ministry members (ones I worked for many years) after my sister took her life, suicide last year, leaving four lovely children for us to care. Nothing, if it wasn’t for my close friends and husband, my Lord and Savior, I’d not be where I’m at, a point of healing through the outpouring of His love, prayer and word. Thank you for your courage and articulate writing.
When I went through my divorce, I was suddenly no longer invited to anything that had “husbands” in the mix. It was as if those women thought I was on the “hunt” for a new man!! SILLY!!!
I actually work for a church child child care and I was a member of another chuch in that area. When both of the pastors began to confer with one another that their employee and church member (ME) was seperated from her (My) husband, they both made it their “plight” to “protect their marriage” by posting pictures of them and their wives as married couples, so that I as a seperated spouse would not barge into their marriages!! I was furious with both of them because as a hurting spouse who was the “Infidel”, I was subtly being accused of interferring with their marriages… instead of praying for me and offerring their support for my marriage. I have since left my pastor’s church but my employment is still at the church of the other pastor. I feel your pain!
Oh, how I understand this article! My aunt was left for another woman, after 20 years of marriage to a gospel music singer. Her church did not minister to her as a widow, because her husband was still alive! But she had two teens to finish raising! And, a family I know once left a church because of being infested with head lice. Their leaving went unnoticed until fall enrollment time(6 wks later!!). They got a phone call asking why the children were not enrolled in all the activities. Then, there was my church! My deacon husband left me for another woman after 20 years and two children. People from all walks of life came to my side, dried my tears, prayed with and for me, and supported us financially in several instances. To them, I was a ‘widow’, because I was a single mom who had no husband. They showed us how to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Thank you for being so vulnerable and eloquently sharing your story. You told my story and the story of countless others. It and been almost 25 years since my husband left me for another woman. I am happily remarried to the most amazing man ever but tonight when I read your story I was flooded with emotions that I didn’t even know were still there. Shame and sadness overwhelmed me for a bit until I remembered that God used that time of loneliness to drive me deeper in my relationship with him. It also gave me a deep empathy towards others going through the same thing. Years ago I decided to change the “casserole rules” for how I deal with hurting people in my life
No one can change a person’s hell bent motivation, no matter how much faith we have. When I went through my divorce, I was part of a group that was standing for their marriage…no matter what, but I found tha GOD alone will restore us through HIS GRACE, no matter what takes place. We will be a forever changed person, but I was told not to ever instill bitterness within my heart toward my ex. In reading your story, I can tell you suffered greatly more than we will ever know. You don’t have to carry that kind of guilt from other people, and I’m sure Jesus gave you your ultimate grace. God bless you!! Msg me on Facebook if you can… I know of a webinar that you can have access to for wives who lost husbands due to gender issues. Would love to share.
I am going through a divorce and only 2 ladies from the church truly understand. Everyone else either doesn’t know how or doesn’t want to take the time to understand what’s going on. I put myself in their shoes and I think if a sister in the Lord is grieving no matter what the reason, I would reach out and do whatever I could to help whether it was a casserole, a phone call, a card, a visit, go out for coffee, whatever was meaningful to that sister. I am learning more about myself during this intensely emotional and often lonely time, but I know God is with me. Thank you for sharing.
Totally understand that shunning ftom churches. Share what you are going through right now and allow us to minister to you. We’re here for you. Lilly
I did not receive casseroles when my husband asked me to leave because he didn’t love me any more. He too had a girlfriend who was one of my “friends”. I didn’t really expect anything. I was just struggling to survive another day with my one year old son who began having seizures. My husband had never seen him have one and thought I had imagined it. I didn’t blame them. People don’t know what to say when that happens. It is private. It is embarrassing. What helped me was finding a new church. I was then a woman alone with a child who was considered at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We were invited to come to friends homes to share in their holiday. They cared for us. They helped us. Men in the church took turns taking my son to ball games, playing ball with him, and taught him woodworking as he got older. They invested time in him and taught him things men teach their sons. They brought us bags of groceries, fixed things that broke in my house. It wasn’t just for a season. It was for the rest of the time I attended church there. Maybe you need to find another church that ministers to the members when they need help. I discovered it is fun helping others when they need it…best feeling in the world. They were servants. That was 37 years ago and I will never forget them. I was broken and I needed help. They were there.
Excellent! Those are God’s kind of people. What a treaure!
Thank you for this, I wish we all got divorce casseroles. I mean, it really is not so different from dropping dead when a spouse runs off and leaves the family. Instead of life insurance the wife and kids are left in poverty, there ought to be divorce insurance!
WOW! Someone put my feelings into words. Thank you for that! It has been almost 15 yrs. since he chose his friends wife over me~ and going on 4 yrs, since he passed away. It was amazing how many from my home church offered their sympathies when he passed~ I didn’t quite have the nerve to ask where they had been the 11 yrs. before… But, I too have learned to live on my own – and also prefer to live out-of-doors as often as the Oregon rain allows. LOL, Thank you for your insight 🙂
This is exactly why I love where the Bible says our God leaves the 99 to go find the 1. I’ve been the 1; several times. That’s the nature of depression and anxiety. I was even a co-founder and front singer of the praise team in my church for years yet when I slowly slipped into the darkness no one came to find me. I’m not bitter but I do think the church needs to grow up and step up and be more Christ-like watching the fringes, looking at who’s not there, seeing who is there but is slowly dying inside. There are so, so many hurting people in this world. I’ve been greatly humbled in the darkness and I am way far from perfect but now I look harder and listen more closely for those quiet screams in people now.
This doesn’t only happen in a Christian church. I am Jewish and when my husband and I suddenly split up and I was left to deal alone with three teenagers and lots of bills to pay, I asked my Rabbi and later on his Rabbi for help to intervene so he would come back to his senses and turn an ugly court battle into a civilized divorce, I didn’t get any help. After 4.5 years of suffering both emotionally and financially we finally divorced, I was able to rebuild my life and pull my children through and now, 21 years later, I have a beautiful life, my own home, 4 happy and healthy children with their spouses and 4 gorgeous grandchildren. He, in turn, lives alone renting a basement apartment after two more divorces and has no contact with his grandchildren. As somebody else said here….there is a GOD and I will add: and she loves me.
I think people are more likely to help out in the case of death of a spouse and not in the case of divorce because people like to “mind their own business” and not interfere in matrimonial matters which are considered private. Death is final and it’s not private.
When we as Baptists pray, there is a time before prayers when the pastor asks for “any unspoken prayer requests?”
I used to just accept that kind of prayer request as… “It’s none of my business kind of prayer”, but when I went through my own divorce, I was dying inside just for someone to listen to me. I finally found a group of divorcing Christians on a conference call who were hurting spouses losing theur spouses through no fault of their own. Every night for 2 years, we clung to each other for prayer, encouragement, and stability in our lives. After 15 years, I am still connected with some of those people who stood with me through that very dark time. Why do we ask for “UNSPOKEN PRAYERS” in church? Shouldn’t the church be lifting up prayers like Psalm 23 or Psalm 64?
I’m right there with you… my Jewish sister!
Casserole rules really made me think. I hope it will change my thinking forever.
I think it is terribly sad that the church doesn’t either want and or address the needs of those who are going thru divorce. Pastors should know that the pain is just as much there considering the impact the divorce has on children. Divorce hardens those impacted and it’s hard to not have faith when it feels like others don’t know what to say or how to react. Just acknowledging that the person is suffering would be a start! Churches should have networks for those going thru divorce and have those they can seek help from relative to find childcare resources, jobs and transitional housing. Why not host a dinner for those going thru the major life change and give those an opportunity to speak to others going thru the same challenges?
Although I haven’t experienced my own divorce, I HAVE been experiencing the shame of depression/anxiety/shades of PTSD through work for several years … alone … and the embarrassment of “Christians” in my circle (several of whom are in the same profession) toss out “thoughts and prayers”, casual invites to “get together real soon”, sin-hunting, and … relative avoidance, when I reached out to family and friends for support in finding work. A couple of encouraging cards and surprise gift cards, but no consistent checking in to see how I am REALLY doing, or how specifically people can come alongside me. Those effects have left scars that still haunt me and impact my work to this day. Paraphrasing the original poster, sometimes the only thing I can pray is for the Lord to take me in my sleep because I do not know how to live like this.
“How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD? how long? For ever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from Thee?” (Psalm 12:1)