As I walked through my church-led reconciliation attempt, through my separation, and then through and post-divorce, my church experience was ninety-five percent positive, and I will be forever grateful. I felt heard, believed, supported, and prayed for. I was given ample time, wise counsel, anointed with oil, and taken care of.
Yet, some things were said that stung. At the time, I thought they stung because I was already vulnerable and in pain, but looking back with plenty of time to let those words settle, I can say that some church family and fellow Christians hurt me. I moderate two private Facebook groups – one for women in difficult Christian marriages and one for Christian women who are separated or divorced. I hear stories all the time about churches that fully support these women, but also about church leaders who say horribly hurtful things that have made situations even worse.
I need to be clear that I believe most Christians in church leadership have good intentions. I do not believe they are plotting how to keep women oppressed or make them feel disapproved of or no longer useful to the Kingdom. But I think these things sometimes still happen, because others simply don’t know any other words to use.
Try to avoid use of some of the following:
“He didn’t cheat on you, so…”
“He didn’t hit you, so…”
“Of course life is hard right now…’God hates divorce’…”
“I know you’ve been serving in children’s ministry for ten years, but we’ll be taking you off the schedule until further notice…”
If any of this sounds familiar, there is grace for you. This is condemnation. But let this be a red flag that encourages you to dig deeper. Spend some time reading about abuse and difficult marriages in relation to divorce. Pain is pain. Hurting women need us. Please, let’s do better to take care of these that God has brought across our paths. He is entrusting them to us.
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick
No Place for Abuse: Biblical and Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence by Catherine Clark Kroeger
Elisabeth Klein is the author of Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, speaker and a member of Redbud Writers’ Guild. She led a women’s ministry in her church for ten years. She currently leads small groups, writes, and speaks to women surrounding faith, difficult marriage, domestic abuse, divorce and single parenting issues. She lives with her two teenage children in Illinois. Visit her online at http://www.elisabethklein.com.
The Life of a Single Mom is a national, faith-based, nonprofit that exists to see that no single mom walks alone. To date, we have worked with more than 1,500 churches & community groups to start or improve a single mom’s support group in cities throughout the U.S. and beyond. We have a large array of books, curriculum, training materials, and online instructional videos to support ministry leaders who lead single moms. Our single mom programs focus on empowering single moms to grow spiritually, emotionally, financially, and parentally through a number of projects including: Single Mom University, Single Moms Across America, the National TLSM Single Moms Conference, and a variety of programs throughout the U.S. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com