Things Not To Say To A Divorced Person #3: Why The Spouse Is Gone

Should we avoid speculation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Why? It’s one of the most common questions out there. Consider the lyrics to the classic Beatles song Yesterday.

“Why she had to go?
I don’t know. She wouldn’t say.
I said something wrong,
Now I long for yesterday.”

Sometimes, we ask the question and we want an answer, but we don’t. If anything, we hope God would give us an answer to explain our suffering. However, when others who aren’t God, which are abundant around us, can attempt to answer our question, it doesn’t help.

The good intention:

If a divorced person is asking why they lost their spouse, many people want to come up with an answer thinking it will help the person emotionally. After all, if they knew why they were suffering, it could make the suffering all the easier for them. Besides, isn’t this the problem of evil and aren’t we supposed to give answers?

Why it’s wrong:

With the problem of evil, one can give general answers, but one cannot give specific answers without a divine word revealed to them. This is often given with events we’re not directly tied to. If someone is emotionally invested in some event, the last thing to do is to give pat answers.

I have told many a man in apologetics that if you’re ever serving in a church and a woman in the church comes crying to you because her teenage son died in a car accident just now and she’s wondering why it happened, you’d better not become a philosopher at that moment. She may ask why, but that is not the question to answer. The point needed at the time is that she needs a listener and a friend. Bottom line: She needs a pastor.

Now it could be that when she’s gone through the grief process that she can meet with the pastor and they can discuss the problem of evil generally. Even then, it is best to not try to give specific answers to the question as we do not know the specifics. Unfortunately, in our day and age, nearly everyone in Christian circles and their mother thinks God is talking to them and are more than ready to tell them what God says on the matter.

Someone going through a divorce can still be in the grieving process. They may ask the questions, but it is more of a venting process than anything else. Remember, Job’s friends were excellent friends, when they were saying nothing. When they spoke up, they actually added to Job’s sufferings and blamed him for what he was going through.

Not only that, but theologically, many of us take claiming to speak for God way too lightly. Even in things that seem mundane, such as when people say they are doing what they feel like God is leading them to do. I get concerned when a pastor says before a sermon that “God put this message on his heart.” Am I supposed to accept that this sermon is from God then and every word should count as Scripture?

Also realize that even if the marriage they left was a bad one, they are still grieving and do not need the pat answers. Very rarely is any marriage entirely bad. There are many good things that can be remembered. I remember yesterday on the job sorting through items people left behind and seeing a cross-shaped object with what looked like a small nativity scene on it and the saying “God bless this home.”

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good sentiment and something wonderful to share, but for me, I just thought immediately, “I used to get items like this and we had them in our house.” That was painful. One of the worst aspects of divorce is that good memories become bad ones. If a spouse is widowed, they can remember the good times, but the divorced person sees the good times tainted by a rejection the widowed person doesn’t.

When a person asks why then, don’t give vain speculation. That will do more harm than good. So what should you do instead?

What to do instead:

It’s simple.

Be quiet.

Seriously. There’s no need to answer the question. Instead, just be a friend to them. Take them out for a meal or a movie. Have a game night with them. Go for a hike. Do something fun and active with them. If they want to cry or even angrily rant, that’s okay. Just listen.

One of the oddities in our society today is we think we always have to say something. We don’t. Sometimes silence can be one of the best gifts you can give someone. It tells them they can talk to you without getting platitudes and without judgment. For the latter, rest assured people who are divorced get more than enough judgment.

Speaking can many times make matters worse. People who are going through divorce or have been divorced have questions, but not all questions are seeking answers. Giving wrong and/or hurtful answers can just lead to more questions which leads to more wrong and/or hurtful answers. It’s a vicious cycle.

Best thing to do then? Just be quiet and listen. It will be appreciated a lot more. Again, be Jesus to them. Don’t think you speak with the authority of Jesus. You don’t.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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