So, the big D is becoming a reality for more and more people in the church. The part of this sordid story that I’m noticing, though, is that it’s not typically a mutual decision. Further, it is happening to a lot more men, against their will. There seems to be a stereotype of men running off with some wild woman and leaving the wife and kids at home. I’m not seeing a lot of this in my church or community. In fact, I’m seeing the exact opposite. What’s more, wives don’t run off and leave the family. They find a replacement husband, justify their actions, file for divorce, and fight for majority custody.
The church’s reaction to this has been lackluster at best. I haven’t seen many churches or leaders take any kind of stand against this because it isn’t politically correct to do so and it’s much more common in the congregation than say homosexual marriage. But let’s put the institutional response aside for a moment and look at the body of Christ itself.
In the awkwardness of trying to comfort our brothers, we say some pretty stupid crap. You ladies in particular could use a lesson in how not to rip a marriage-grieving man’s heart out of his chest and urinate on it. So, here is a list of stuff not to say to a man grieving the death of his marriage.
There is a reason for everything. / God is in control.
To tell a man (or woman for that matter) that “there is a reason for everything” or that “maybe this part of God’s plan” implies that God did this to him. That is a seed of doubt and bitterness that the enemy is already trying to plant in his mind. Unless you really believe that God is going around breaking up marriages, ignoring the covenants He oversaw, and destroying homes, don’t say this.
Can God bring good out of evil? Of course. That’s Biblical. So is the sovereignty of God, but it is a profound and perplexing mystery how sin, free will, and the fallenness of man plays into this dynamic. Unfortunately, it is very easy to imply to the broken man’s heart that God is controlling evil and causing it to happen. This does not help his relationship with God when he needs that relationship the most.
You need to get a pet.
There is no phrase that causes me to want to punch you in the teeth more than this.
First, I don’t need one more thing to be responsible for. Yeah, I have so much down time between dealing with custody arrangements, legal documents, running a household solo, and dealing with frequent attacks from my prodigal spouse that I think taking on the responsibility of pet ownership seems like a great idea! Really????
Second, this somehow implies that a pet is an acceptable substitute for my one-flesh partner who decided to rip herself away leaving my life with a gaping hole. God noted that from among “all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals… no suitable helper was found” (Genesis 2:20) for man. Are you smarter than God?
If I tell you I am despondent, lonely and miserable, don’t suggest a dog. By the way, that’s really insulting on an epic level, but we won’t go into that.
Count your blessings. He has taken good care of you.
While this is profound and undeniable truth, it is not really what a man wants to hear when his world has been shattered. Yes, it is better to concentrate on the positive and to “speak victory” over our lives. Yes, being down in the mouth does make a horrible witness to the goodness and provision of God. Yes, He probably had provided a lot of protection, help, and support during this process. All in all, that doesn’t change the fact that this man is reeling from monumental loss, cold betrayal, and ultimate rejection. So, when someone has been abandoned and rejected in this way, he likely won’t feel like proclaiming the goodness of God from the rooftops for quite some time. Give him a freaking break. Shut up, and pray some blessings over him.
You need to focus on your kids. That’s what is important.
Yes, they are, but this implies that the marriage isn’t. In God’s hierarchy we have God > spouse > children. Don’t make light of how incredibly important this relationship is, or should be, to a man of God. This isn’t selfishness. He’s not unaware of what his children are facing. On the contrary, he wants to protect them as much as he can.
Having his home ripped apart and being rejected and abandoned by his helpmate affects every aspect of a man’s physical and emotional health. It is hard to sleep (or stop sleeping), eat (or stop eating), concentrate, and even do daily tasks like opening the mail. Don’t tell him to “man up” and focus on his kids. He’s not neglecting them or ignoring the blessing they are in his life. They just aren’t his spouse and they never will be.
This your chance to find someone better.
Yes, any marriage has its ups and downs, and people are always, in a sense, unequally yoked. It is however a covenant. It is supposed to be for life. Divorce can mean a clean slate in some sense, but that isn’t “God’s best for his life”. God’s best is always our original one-flesh partner. That relationship is not meant to be disposable, and this is not a “blessing in disguise”. Calling something that is is identified as a “curse” in Deuteronomy a “blessing” is foundation-ally and fundamentally wrong.
If there’s anything I can do to help, just call me.
He will never call you. If you are a close friend, come over to hang out and help with the kids. Come and spend the day when his prodigal spouse has custody and he is alone. If you are not a close friend, be diplomatic in what you offer, but be specific. Offer to grab a bite to eat, play a videogame, watch a movie or help open mail. Honestly, he doesn’t know what he wants or needs, and he is likely unaccustomed to asking you for help and companionship. Offering the vague non-committal “anything” will make you feel like you’ve done something when, in reality, you’ve done nothing.
God never gives us more than we can handle.
Oh, yeah! You are so right! I’m pretty sure I saw this on an attractive landscape posted to Pinterest. It must be true! How, in fact, do you know that God never gives us more than we can handle? I suppose the folks who have been beheaded by Isis were mentally and physically equipped to “handle” parting with their head…
The only scriptural reference relating to this at all is speaking of temptation, not trials and hardships. The God I read about in the Bible is constantly putting His children in way over their head. That’s the nature of faith, perseverance, and learning to trust God. I remember telling God multiple times that the one thing I could never handle was this… Guess what?
We need to set up your dating profile
“It’s been awhile. It’s time to get over it. Let me help you setup your dating profile.”
One, time is irrelevant when it comes to healing a broken heart. Two, do you really think he hasn’t thought of that? Chances are he has one already. Chances are he’s getting a heaping helping of rejection there as well. I have personally, in my own rebellion, sent out roughly 50 messages over two different dating sites and have received roughly seven views and three replies. One was a flat, “not interested”. Two fizzled out within a few days and turned into silence. I am not obese, scarred, or deformed in any way, but people flatly ignore me. Maybe God took the hedge of thorns I prayed for my prodigal and put it around me instead (thanks a lot), or maybe I am that worthless and disgusting…
The point is, the abandoned and rejected man is broken and fragile. Subjecting him the the shallow superficial world of online dating is like inviting a friend recovering from chemotherapy to participate in your MMA class. The constant rejection and flat-out dismissal that a man experiences on these sites simply cements the idea that “something must be fundamentally wrong with me. My wife chose someone else and none of these women like me either. Maybe I am worthless and disgusting”.