Thursday, April 17, 2008

Facing suffering and grief during divorce

There's an interesting post on the Stuff Christian's Like blog today about "Painfully named divorce ministries". I was going to post a comment there, but I got too long-winded so here tis:

I think calling divorce ministries something honest about where people are actually at is providing a service. Our society is so blaise about divorce and so ignorant about how to deal with suffering. We are taught to run from it, ignore it, put on a happy face and repeatedly say "I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine" until we believe it. So sugarcoating divorce recovery with a nice title isn't really going to heal/help anyone if they are in the denial/avoidance mindset. I would argue naming ministries something like "Divorce Sucks" or "ARRGGGHH! Jesus please rapture me now!!" would be most appropriate.

My experience is you need to embrace the grief to move through it. It can seem like an endless ocean and you feel that there cannot possibly ever be an end to it. You feel that if you step into those deep waters of grief that you will be dragged along in a current forever, and that's if you don't drown. You can't see how you will ever be 'ok' ever again. Your heart feels like an onion, where the layers have been peeled away betrayal by betrayal. And you can't be sure what hurts the most, the other person betraying you, or your own failure and complicity in the failure of the marriage, or the complete sense of hopelessness you have because you don't have complete control over the circumstances and so cannot "fix it", and you don't understand why God isn't doing "more" when He so clearly states in Malachi 2:16 that "I hate divorce".

The only way to deal with it, so that you don't keep carrying it for the rest of your life, is to honestly face it. To dive right into the grief, to embrace it and face it honesty. You let Christ be the lifesaver that dives in with you and pulls you across to the other shore, remembering that "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering..." (Is. 53:3) and so He deeply, deeply identifies with our pain. More than that, He "...carried our sorrows... he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Is. 53:4-5) So we can leave all of it beneath the cross. All of our sense of failure. All of our anger and hurt towards our former spouse. ALL OF IT. This healing doesn't come if you aren't honest about it all, because if you aren't honest about it all then you cannot leave it all under the cross.

Some of the comments on the the Stuff Christian's Like post belittled people expressing their pain during divorce. This seems to me to indicate an underlying fear that the people don't really know what to do when others are really suffering in this way, they don't know how to respond, and they really really do not want to have to deal with it. They do not want their nice little world invaded by genuine hurt and suffering. This is in stark contrast to Jesus' attitude as portrayed in Luke 4 where He quotes Isaiah 61:1-2, declaring His "mission statement". This mission statement included two key phrases, "to bind up the brokenhearted" and "to comfort all who mourn". This was part of Jesus' mission, it should also be part of each Christian's mission. Divorcees are brokenhearted and mourning, and they need the love of Christ, and they need the support of the Church.

God bless,

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