Divorce and Faith
Life Coach Zina Arinze talks about the conflicts between Faith and Divorce, if your faith says that divorce is ‘wrong’. How do you deal with that?
“I believe most Christians agree that marriage is supposed to be forever. But when you find yourself separated, divorced or going through the process, how do you deal with the aftermath?”
A Divorced Christian Single Mum, Zina Arinze, has struggled with this dilemma, and learned so much from the process that she now coaches other women in similar situations. Not just other Christians – any woman who struggles with the commons issues that beset us when our core relationship ends.
And these are interesting times. Even the Pope has shocked many strict Catholics with his comments about couples who cohabit.
I refer to Pope Francis’ remarks at a pastoral congress on the family for the Diocese of Rome on June 16 in which he said that some cohabiting couples are in a “real marriage,” receiving the grace of the Sacrament.
“I’ve seen a lot of fidelity in these cohabitations, and I am sure that this is a real marriage, they have the grace of a real marriage because of their fidelity,” the pope said. The Vatican provided both video and a transcript of the remarks.
As even the Catholic Church are becoming more enlightened about the lives of every day people and how to best support them, then is it not time that we all questioned the social edicts around such a common occurrence such as divorce?
So perhaps the way we view divorce – and all the guilt that can come with it – needs to change?
Zina writes of her early experiences of the shock of divorce with great clarity:
“With Christmas 2012 over, the New Year well and truly in progress, and the children back to school in earnest, I come back to my reality of single motherhood with a bang. “God hates divorce” filters through my mind and gnaws at my soul, as I go through the never-ending list of household bills, repairs and lost school uniforms, books and equipment that need replacing yet again.
Christians the world over are familiar with Malachi 2:16, “For the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I hate divorce and marital separation and him who covers his garment [his wife] with violence. Therefore keep a watch upon your spirit [that it may be controlled by My Spirit], that you deal not treacherously and faithlessly [with your marriage mate]” (Amplified).
No one can argue with the infallible Word of God, but as we look around, we can see that Christians find themselves in situations contrary to God’s Word. Divorce is one of them.
As a divorced born-again Christian, I understand first-hand the pain and sense of failure a divorced Christian can experience.”
It is all too easy for non-Christians to be judgemental about such strong feelings of guilt. But the fact is, everyone who takes that vow of marriage carries a sense of failure and guilt when the fairytale doesn’t pan out as planned.
“There is the personal shame, the isolation, the confusion one may feel. Then, of course, there’s the condemnation you get from the Church, sometimes overtly but more often ever so subtly. If that is not enough, then there’s the church folk who, under the guise of providing you with uninvited counselling “after the fact”, spend time implying that your marriage ended because you did not pray enough; were not submissive enough, and the 1001 other reasons they throw at you.
My view is that most divorced Christians have enough going on spiritually and internally with their faith and sense of guilt – without this judgmental, unhelpful and supposed well-meaning ‘advice’.”
With the onslaught of additional guilt piled on by judgemental friends and relatives, the first advice I often give as the UK’s Alternative Divorce Guide, is find some new friend for a while. It’s sounds drastic – but your mental health will thank you for some ‘time out’ to process what REALLY is going on for you.
Zina provides some practical advice:
“I believe most Christians agree that marriage is supposed to be forever. But when you find yourself separated, divorced or going through the process, how do you deal with the aftermath? You may feel shame, bitterness, confusion, hurt, disillusionment, unforgiveness towards your ex-spouse, and even unforgiveness towards yourself. You may even feel overwhelmed and lonely; you may feel it best to isolate yourself and therefore not know where to find the support or shoulders to cry on when you are at your lowest ebb. How do you heal? Who helps you through this traumatic life experience?
Here are four key ways, which will help you navigate through this spiritual and emotional upheaval.
- Don’t isolate yourself – no matter how tempting it may be. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family, who are strong and positive, never allowing you to drown in self-destructive pity.
- Talk, talk, talk – Don’t lock yourself and your feelings away. Affirm yourself all through the day with positive affirmations based on the biblical promises of God.
- Start journaling – your pain, your hopes, your fears and plans for the future. Pour out your emotions onto paper. This has been clinically proven to be extremely cathartic.
- Set up a prayer support group with other Christians going through the divorce recovery process, too. As you focus on the needs of others, you will be amazed at how God will use the help and support your story, prayer and experience provide to heal fellow members.
My personal belief is that Jesus mean’t what he said about forgiveness and not judging others. So if you judge yourself harshly in ways that disempower you, that’s not following the teachings of the New Testament. What you do have with a divorce is an incredible opportunity to learn about forgiveness in a way that you may not be able to learn that lesson in any other way. Far from being a ‘curse’ – divorce can be a (very painful) lesson in how to love. Because when you have children together, then unconditional love becomes important not just for the children, but for you Ex. Hard core stuff I know – and not a journey that it’s easy to travel alone.
I’ll end with Zina’s wise words of advice:
“Wherever you may find yourself on this traumatic journey, try your hardest to guard your heart. Do not allow anyone – including yourself or even church folk – to use your past to condemn, discourage and vilify you. Always remember who you are in Christ. What counts is that God has not condemned or discounted you.”
Zina Arinze is a Post-Divorce Reinvention Coach and founder of www.believeandliveagain.com,which helps divorced women to regain their confidence, self-esteem and start living again.
Contact Zina now for a no-cost no-obligation conversation about how she can help you to believe and live and again!