Oh man, this one is so tough. It’s tough to live through and it’s tough for me to write about, for a handful of reasons.
One, I had friends get divorced before my divorce, and I was judgy and distant.
Two, I got divorced and had friends who were judgy and distant. (And it broke my heart.)
Three, since my divorce, I’ve tried to show everyone grace.
Four, since my divorce, I have had friends do things I disapproved of and have failed at showing grace.
Five, I have a couple situations going on right now where I don’t agree with a few people and their choices and I have either said my peace and/or put distance between us and things feel weird but I’m moving forward.
But specifically, what can you, as a believer, do or say when you have a friend who is divorcing?
I fully believe that whether your friend claims to be a Christ-follower determines how you handle this.
So, if your friend is not a Christian, you need to prayerfully discern whether to say something or not, keeping in mind that if she doesn’t believe what you believe, you may just be adding shame to her when she needs to see grace from you.
Also (and this is solely my opinion), I don’t think the same rules apply to unbelievers. What I mean is this: though God’s standards are the same for everyone, if your friend doesn’t believe what you believe or even know what you know, it seems odd to me to hold them accountable for something like this. Don’t get me wrong: God will. But if all you offer her is judgment right now, you may alienate her even further from Jesus. Right now, what she needs most is your support and your love. Think about how Jesus spoke to the woman at the well…pointedly, yes, but tenderly as well. He met here in her place of pain and went on from there.
However, if your friend is a Christian, here are steps I’d take:
As best as you can, determine her reason for divorce. Is she just plain unhappy? That is NOT a reason for a Christian to divorce. Is she being abused, is rampant addiction involved, has she been cheated on unrepentantly, has her husband outright left her? Those ARE biblical grounds for divorce (in my opinion).
If she is divorcing for biblical reasons, I am begging you to set aside your discomfort and be there for her, pray for her, love her, listen to her, support her, and a variety of other things.
But let’s get to the meat of the issue here…if your friend – who claims to be a Christian – is getting a divorce because she wants to and not for biblical reasons, you want to know how to respond. I have not mastered this, by any means, but here are some thoughts:
Pray. Pray for your friend’s heart to soften and be convicted, for the Spirit to intervene. Pray for her husband. Pray for their children, if any. Pray for other people to come into her life to speak truth. Pray for the right words to say to her.
Speak. But only once. I love what AlAnon says about this: that it’s okay to share your opinion, once. But anything beyond even one time is nagging and criticism. So, choose your words carefully. Choose the venue carefully (meaning, if at all possible, in person and in private and one-on-one). Choose the timing carefully. Be prayed up.
Start with telling her you love her and care for her and her family. Ask her to tell you why she believes divorce is the way to go. Truly listen. Then lay out – briefly – why you do not think she has biblical grounds to divorce. (Send her to my blog if you think she’d be open to it.) Tell her again that you love her. Then wrap it up by praying for her.
Live and let live. This one won’t be easy, especially if you’re at all controlly like me. But you have said what you felt you needed to say. And she has heard you. And she is a grown woman. And sometimes the best thing you can do for another grown-up – since you aren’t her mother or her Holy Spirit – is to let her make her own choices and then live with the consequences of those choices. Then, you live your own life and take care of your responsibilities best as you can.
If you find yourself obsessing, you may want to talk to someone impartial about all of it (if possible, someone who doesn’t know your friend) to get it all off your chest. And ask God to make the issue smaller in your mind so you can focus on your life and your family.
If you see your friend’s life spiral out of control, you will have to come to a prayerful decision of whether to move in closer for some kind of intervention or whether to put distance between you and her, as part of a natural consequence of her choices.
Something to keep in mind: we’ve all heard it said that we’re no one’s judge and that only God is our judge (yada yada yada) and yet, Scripture actually says believers are to judge fellow believers (ugh).
The Bible does talk about Church discipline involving treating someone who won’t listen to you as a “pagan or tax collector”. You will have to determine if you believe this applies to your individual situation, if you are to move towards or away during this season. I cannot answer this for you.
Lastly (and again, and still), keep praying. Keep praying for her and her family. Keep praying her heart and eyes will open up to the truth. And keep praying, asking for discernment regarding your continuing role in this difficult circumstance.
Life can be tricky and messy and hard. God gave us each other to walk beside, to support, to show love, to be Jesus – in all his forms – to each other. I believe the Spirit will guide you as you try to handle this with grace and truth.
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