A Note from Chris Adams: As a part of the “messy series” we can’t ignore a huge issue that continues to occur with women in our churches—divorce. Sometimes it’s the wife’s choice, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes she’s been encouraged to leave because she’s not happy and she walks away from husband, home, and children to begin a new life. Other times, she feels she has no choice or she and her children are in physical danger. No matter the reason, divorce is never easy. Dr. Deb Douglas, First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA offers us some wisdom on how to help women in the tough place of broken marriage.
Divorce is messy. From the outside, it may look civilized and smooth, but the reality is down in the depths, divorce is messy. It is the pulling apart of a bond that is woven together for eternity. It is going to get messy. And ugly.
Most women go into divorce thinking it will be quick (think snatching off a band aid), but divorce, no matter how long the actual court case lasts, continues to have an impact for the rest of one’s life. Divorce does not end with a decree. There continues to be challenges, hurts, and adjustments.
How do we comfort women going through the messiness of divorce?
- Pray with her.
- Don’t assume to know the whole story. Divorces and marriages are complex. Often we only hear one side, and we do not hear all the details. Speaking negatively about her soon to be ex is not helpful.
- Present biblical truths (avoid pushing personal opinion or giving advice) in a nonjudgmental tone.
- Prepare women for the reality of divorce. Knowing the realities of the difficult challenges of divorce will help prevent unrealistic expectations.
- Divorce is going to hurt.
- It is going to be complicated.
- It’s going to be expensive.
- And no one is going to be a winner.
In the midst of the messiness of divorce, women need a break, a little bit of sanity. Whether that is best provided by spending some quiet time talking over a cup of coffee or by providing childcare so she can have some time alone to process her loss will depend on her needs.
What are some practical helps for ministering in the messiness of divorce?
- Don’t forget her. Divorce takes time, so be there for her. After the divorce, continue to include her in activities and events.
- Meet practical needs. Help her navigate the logistics of becoming single. Help her move, find a new home, find childcare, etc.
- Allow her to grieve her loss. Divorce is a loss and as such it requires processing and grieving for healing to occur.
- Don’t play matchmaker. That’s not our role!
- Introduce her to a prayer partner or mentor who can walk with her through this difficult journey.
- Encourage her to join a divorce recovery group or seek counseling.
- Check on her often.
We’ve already said it, but divorce is messy. When a bride is walking down the aisle in her long white dress, she is not dreaming of her divorce. But divorce happens. Often the divorce is in process before we have an opportunity to counsel with a woman. While we may not agree with divorce, we can still minister to her. She needs our help as much as any other hurting woman in the midst of the messiness of life.
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.