Going through a divorce is never a “club” one aspires to be a part of, but it happens.
Oftentimes, friends and loved ones very much want to help and ease the pain, but are either at a loss for what to do, or they try to fix the brokenness. Having gone through a divorce twelve years ago and having the privilege of leading in the national support group DivorceCare for five years, I have heard and seen a lot! So, here are some practical do’s and don’ts of helping friends who are navigating the painful road of divorce.
1. Freezer meals
As a single parent, working and having to think about making dinner and just planning ahead is beyond difficult. Stocking your loved one’s freezer with already-prepped meals is especially helpful so that on the hard days there is a no-thought-required meal ready and waiting.
2. Gift cards
If you don’t like to cook then a gift card would be great too. Choose places like Boston Market so that they can stop and get something on the way home from work.
3. Fill the empty time
Take your friend out for coffee or lunch on the weekends they are without their children. Going from being a full-time parent to being alone for two days is very hard at first. All that extra time gives them a lot of time to think about the divorce and to worry about how this is going to affect the children. Your loved one now has time to fill their mind with “what-ifs” because the dream of what they saw for their life is over and they can’t see a new dream yet. They are in the deep stages of grief and will be there for a while.
4. Be their family at church.
If you see them at church sitting alone, ask them to sit with you. Everyone in my DivorceCare class has a really hard time going to church. It is beyond painful to see all the “happy” families and hear all the analogies of families/marriage in sermons, etc. Even though most people don’t notice, it’s easy to feel like everyone is looking at you and wondering why you are alone.
5. Encourage them.
Text them and let them know you are thinking about them, praying for them, and maybe send a verse about God being an ever-present being.
1. Don’t try to force them out of their feelings.
Did you know that if you are in an active healing process (counseling/group therapy) for every five years someone was married it generally takes a year for them to heal? So don’t rush them into feeling better.
2. Don’t encourage them to start a new relationship. This can delay healing and actually create more pain to heal from.
3. Don’t say, “I saw this coming” or bad-mouth their former spouse. Even if that is true, it compounds the hurt and emphasizes in their mind the failure they feel.
4. Don’t try to give advice unless you have been in the same situation. You can be a friend by listening and being there, but encourage them to seek counsel from someone who is further down the road, a professional, or a support group.
These are just a few things that I hear over and over from people who are going through this process. It is a marathon and not a sprint. Above all: be patient. The healing process is painful but possible and it helps so much to have loving people walk alongside you.
If you have experienced divorce, what was encouraging to you?
As a new year approached, many people were reflecting on the peaks and pits of the previous year. Many of us are cultivating our hopes, dreams, and goals for the year that lies ahead. In a previous post, I wrote about the seasons and landscapes that my faith walk has journeyed through. Some may have had an amazing year where their faith flourished. Others may have struggled to keep their faith intact through the last year.
Religion or Faith?
I think it can be very easy to confuse “religion” with our faith and feel let down by God when His people let us down. A few weeks ago our minister shared this verse in a sermon and I could feel the tears well up in my eyes.
Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
A Spirit of Courageous Perseverance
So, with the fresh beginning of a new year I hope this verse can encourage you. Maybe it will ignite a spirit of continuing courageous perseverance for those who are feeling tired and weary. For without those years which test us, our faith will not have the years of abundant growth.
In what areas of your life do you need courageous perseverance?
I am a person who hears God loudest through music.
It always seems that no matter what is going on in my life, God always finds a way to speak to my hurting heart through the musical gift of others. This song has spoken to me so much over the last week, especially the words:
And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
So many times I keep myself from peace by trying to control and hold onto things God never intended for me to fix or take responsibility for. This song really helps me to see those things in my life and brings me back to a state of surrender and peace.
Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on
And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held
If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will
And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands
Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who wont let go.
Usually, when I want to change something in my life it is either a behavior I want to start or a behavior I want to stop. For years, I struggled with feeling weak and that I just didn’t have any “willpower.” However, I have discovered that willpower is a myth. I once heard willpower described as “God’s will and power in my life.”
Isn’t that a great description?
I got it all wrong when it came to stopping behaviors in my life because I did not change my focus. I did not replace the behavior with something else. Whatever I focus on I will want and will probably give in to. For example, if I am trying to stop eating chocolate cake and just tell myself over and over, “Don’t eat chocolate cake. Don’t eat chocolate cake. Don’t eat chocolate cake,” I will probably eat chocolate cake. It is not enough to simply resist the chocolate cake; I need to replace the thoughts and behavior with a different one. Otherwise, we often will replace one unhealthy behavior for another one. Jesus speaks about this concept in Matthew 12:43-45:
“When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”
Changes that Last
Replacing old behaviors with new ones can be hard. When I had my third child, I was thirty-six years old. Just like with all my pregnancies, I gained more than I was supposed to. I finally decided that I wanted to make a real change so I did two things that have worked for me in the past.
1. I asked for accountability. 2. I created small, obtainable goals.
I texted a good friend of mine and asked if she would be my accountability partner. Then I set a list of goals for that week. My first goals were to walk 5,000 steps daily, journal all my food intake, and do some kind of intentional exercise for fifteen minutes three times a week. Every other Friday I would send a picture of the number on the scale.
Gradually, I worked up to 10,000 daily steps and continued journaling my food. I also added goals of drinking 64 ounces of water each day and thirty minutes of exercise five days a week. And, I continued to send a picture of my number on the scale to my friend every other week. Having to be honest with another person by texting her each day whether or not I reached my goals really made me think about my choices and kept me motivated to reach my goals each day. I lost twenty-five pounds before I found that I was pregnant again!
This idea of strength in numbers is also rooted in scripture. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says:
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Proverbs 27 also contains words of wisdom about a friend’s counsel in verses 9 and 17:
9 The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense… 17 As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.
How do you bring about changes that last in your life?
It feels like the longer I am a mom, the more I learn that I have very few answers. I have a high schooler, a middle schooler, a toddler, and one coming in February.
Being someone who struggles with control and a mom has not always been the best combination. My prayers for my children have been very much about telling God what he should do, how he should do it, and when he should do it. The last seven years I have really worked on my control issues through the twelve steps in the Christ-centered recovery program called Celebrate Recovery. One of my dear friends summed up the first three steps for me as:
I will let him.
As a person who lived a life in the illusion I had control, these were hard for me. After working on these steps, it became apparent that peace in this life requires a total surrender to God. And that includes me surrendering my children.
One day, a seasoned parent told me that when her daughter was going through a time of rebellion, she threw out all her prayers. Instead, she just began praying this scripture over her daughter while inserting her name. At first, I prayed this over my daughter as she struggled with processing a lot of hurt in her life. Then, I started praying it over all my girls daily:
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower CHLOE, ALLIE, & EMILIA with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in CHLOE, ALLIE, & EMILIA’S hearts as CHLOE, ALLIE, & EMILIA trust in him.
May CHLOE, ALLIE, & EMILIA’S roots grow down into God’s love and keep CHLOE, ALLIE, EMILIA strong. And may CHLOE, ALLIE, & EMILIA have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May CHLOE, ALLIE, & EMILIA experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then CHLOE, ALLIE, & EMILIA will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within CHLOE, ALLIE, & EMILIA, to accomplish infinitely more than CHLOE, ALLIE, EMILIA might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21 NLT)
This verse just seems to have everything I could ever dream for them. The only other prayer I pray daily is:
If Chloe, Allie, or Emilia are doing anything that would keep them from you, then please reveal it to me or someone who loves you and them.
In His name,
I don’t know if these will only be my prayers for them, but they have been for the last two years. It is so freeing to know that God knows better than me. Any hurt in their lives is His to heal. One thing is for sure, God is a much better God than I could ever be!