Like most people, I hate divorce; I hate what it does to every individual directly involved in it and to everyone else indirectly touched by it. Yet that hasn’t changed the fact that people in my life – relatives, friends, even fellow ministers and missionaries – have experienced the painful, unexpected, sometimes unwanted but always ugly, process of divorce.
It is especially difficult when divorce occurs within the Christian faith context that teaches that marriage is to be “as long as they both shall live.” (This is the Biblical position I believe and advocate.) The hurdle for me and other women who share this same conviction is learning how to respond and minister to our broken and hurting sisters in Christ whose marriages have been torn apart or are currently unraveling – especially when abuse is a factor.
To help us jump that hurdle, I’ve invited author Elisabeth Corcoran for a Q&A based on her latest title releasing today: Unraveling: Hanging on to Faith Through the End of A Christian Marriage.
IKH: What counsel would you give women living in an abusive or addiction-filled marriage?
EC: I would tell her that she’s not alone. Because being a Christian woman in this kind of marriage can be very isolating. I would advise her to do one if not all of the following:
- If she or her children are physically or sexually unsafe, to leave and find a safe place to stay.
- Find a Christian counselor.
- If not attending a Bible-believing church, find one.
- If not in a small group Bible study, get in one.
- Try AlAnon or Celebrate Recovery.
- Pray for a mentor.
- If there is someone on your church leadership team that you trust and that you believe understands the dynamics of your kind of difficult marriage, prayerfully share your story and ask for help.
- Be willing to do what they ask you to do. But also, test their counsel against Scripture and listen to the Holy Spirit. Getting varied wise counsel is a hugely smart thing to do, especially when you’re in the vulnerable place of being in a hard marriage, but remember that you have been given a spirit of a sound mind and you are allowed to make decisions for yourself.
- Make no decisions quickly or out of fear or anger.
- Stay close to God. Ask him to walk you through this. Ask him to bring people, groups and resources into your life that can help you. Ask him to give you a teachable spirit and a brave heart.
IKH: How can churches become a safer place for troubled marriages/divorcees?
EC: This is such an important issue to me. I believe there are two ideas that the Church must understand and embrace. One, that domestic abuse is not just a black eye, but that it includes emotional abuse, manipulation, control, etc. Abuse is not just physical. And secondly, that there is a huge difference between a regular kind of blah marriage or a normal marriage with everyday problems and a marriage that is abusive or fraught with addiction; and these kinds of marriages should not be treated with the same advice across the board.
Also, women need to be believed. For the most part, I believe that by the time a woman has come to her church for help, she’s tried everything else to fix her marriage, and that usually, it’s not that she’s exaggerating…she might not even be telling you the full picture because she’s afraid of what you’ll think of her or her husband. So if she tells you she thinks she’s being mistreated or her husband might have an addiction, take her seriously.
IKH: What is your view of marriage, and has it changed because of your experience?
EC: Ironically, I think my view of marriage has gotten stronger and sharper. I’m not just a proponent of Christian marriages staying together forever no matter what. I’m an advocate for Christian marriages to thrive and be beautiful because they are supposed to be examples of the relationship between Christ and the Church. I think we’re selling Christian marriage short, and we shouldn’t be settling for just slogging through it until we die.
IKH: What is the purpose of the book (why did you write it)?
EC: I wrote this book for every woman who finds herself going through a divorce, either one she initiated or one that has taken her completely by surprise. I want these women to know that they’re not alone, that there is grace, that they will make it to the other side, that beauty will come from their pain, and that God’s love for them hasn’t stopped.
IKH: How is God restoring you?
EC: There have been sort of two ways that I’ve seen God restore me. I think he has restored my heart in the ways that you would expect: time alone to cry or watch movies or reading the Bible or journaling or when friends would send me notes or bring me chocolate or whatever.
And I think that God has been restoring my life though by allowing me the seriously great privilege of reaching out to other women who are hurting. I led a small group of separated and divorced women in my home this summer, going through a book together. I meet with women one-on-one when they ask me to. I write on my blog. I moderate two private Facebook groups for women who are in difficult Christian marriages and who are separated or divorced. I just went with a friend today who got divorced…prayed with her before, sat with her during, cried with her and hugged her after. I still can’t believe that he lets me do these things…that he allows me the honor of coming alongside women who have been where I was (where I sometimes still totally am) and says, “Okay, I comforted you…now go pass some of that along…” It’s been a really beautiful season of my life, in the midst of the hard. Which is pretty much how God works, when we let him.
Elisabeth Klein Corcoran is the author of Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, along with several other books, who speaks several times a month to women’s groups, and is a member of Redbud Writers’ Guild.
During her time at Christ Community Church’s Blackberry Creek Campus in Aurora, Illinois she began and led their women’s ministry for ten years prior to moving to the city’s Orchard Community Church. She lives with her children in Illinois.
She is the moderator of two private Facebook groups: one for women in difficult Christian marriages, and one for Christian women who are separated or divorced.
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in joining.
Unraveling can be purchased at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/po3ek2w.