{October 15, 2017}

 

October 15 – 21, 2017

 

LOVE(MATH): Divorce

By Caylen Sunderman

As a marriage and family therapist, many come to me as an attempt to salvage their marriage. Most of the time, that attempt results in marital success. However, at times, it results in divorce. As Dan writes in Heartland’s position paper on divorce and remarriage, there are a few biblical reasons for divorce. But there is always reason and hope for reconciliation, which is where we begin.

I have spent the past six months walking through divorce with a Christian couple. They came to me with a hunger for clarity, and a desperation for support. They were experiencing profound confusion and pain, and their Christian families voiced loud objections to the idea of divorce. Why was this confusing for them? It was difficult for several reasons. First of all, both being Christian, they struggled with what divorce might mean about them, and if they’d be unworthy of God’s love if they pursued divorce. Second, there wasn’t a destructive event that would justify this in their minds, such as an affair or an addiction. Third, there was the fear of judgement by their friends, families, and colleagues.

My priority is always about seeking healing and repair in every marriage and in all relationships. It was no different with this couple. As they sat in my office reminiscing on both the good and the bad, evaluating their numerous attempts at repair, and discussing the circumstances under which they wed, it became clear that this couple had worked hard. They’d involved their church, their pastor, their family, their friends, and they’d even attended marriage retreats and seen multiple therapists. The only thing keeping them together was the fear of judgement by their families and communities.

This is the part that breaks my heart. They needed to experience a loving presence, an empathetic ear, and a deep compassion. It hit me in that moment that my role with them was to love them in this process. I offered challenge and we "dug in" to how they were feeling. Above all I supported and loved them through it. They did divorce, and it was a surprisingly beautiful process. Because they wrestled through the fear of judgement, they were able to be compassionate towards each other. They acknowledged each other’s pain, they cried as they thanked each other for the dedication and the love they offered each other, and they promised to always care for each other.

After a couple makes this decision, I shift to a new focus of grace and helping them walk out a path to their new normal. We often think that we have to understand or agree with decisions in order to be supportive. It seems we hold back empathy and care if we can’t make sense of a situation. This is counterintuitive to the message that God’s love follows us wherever we roam. If we want to live like Jesus, with the understanding that we do not have His capacity or power to heal, then we must learn to join the weak and weary without judgement.

How do we withhold judgement and cultivate an authentic, loving presence? We first remind ourselves over and over that we are loved before we begin. I often reflect on Matthew 3:16-17:

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Before Jesus did anything, or healed anyone, God’s voice boomed from the heavens professing his total love and acceptance for Jesus. From that love, Jesus healed. When you find yourself questioning the decisions you’ve made in your divorce, or you want to support someone who is struggling with divorce, remind yourself this: you are loved and accepted regardless of the choices you’ve made, or those of the person you support. God loves us, but doesn’t like divorce for us. God loves the person, dislikes the sin.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

This is what we’re called to do as the body of the church. We are called to sense pain and brokenness, and not turn away. We are meant to be connected and designed to walk through brokenness with each other. One way that I make sense of sin is that, although God hates sin for us, he can use even our sinfulness for redemption. One example: the power in connection. I obviously don’t encourage sin, but I can’t deny the healing power of connection through sin (when that connection is built on the goal of health).

I spoke a few weeks ago about suicide, and had many reach out to say, "I felt heard." Because I have familiarity and compassion for suicidal people, I was able to reach people who feel unheard and uncared for. I hate suicidality for people, but I have an enormous empathy for it, and that is enough to reach the brokenhearted and connect them with the help they need. What we know about shame and fear is that they continue to grow and can reach devastating levels when we isolate ourselves. These uncomfortable feelings MUST have connection and empathy to resolve. Although it is vulnerable and scary, we must find connection.

If you’re experiencing a divorce, a potential divorce, or any other painful life event, here are some questions to consider:

Are you isolating yourself because you fear judgement from others? What label or what negative response are you afraid of? How can you proactively neutralize your fear of judgement?

Have you felt the nudge to connect with a small group member, a pastor, or a mentor? What preconceived ideas about divorce are you carrying that prevent you from being open with your journey?

How can you increase the compassion and grace you offer to yourself? Who do you have in your life who is guided by faith and has a large capacity for compassion? How can you lean into this person(s) and learn from their presence and their compassion?

 

{sunday 10.15.17}

Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Observe, Reflect, Apply: If you have ever experienced the ending of a relationship, consider how God met you in that space. How did he provide comfort? How did you experience the easing of grief or distress? How might you be able to offer the same comfort to a friend who is experiencing this? (We are praying for and with you this week as we all wrestle through these questions of pain, comfort and connection in relationships.)

 

Join us over at the LOVE(MATH) podcast and listen in on conversations about relationships, God, community and more. CLICK HERE to subscribe on iTunes. CLICK HERE to listen on Soundcloud.

 

{personal reflection and bible reading plan}

As you read the verses each day, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the reflection questions below. Grab a friend or two to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

As we move from Hebrews to James, CLICK HERE to check this great summation from our friends at The Bible Project.

{monday 10.16.17}

Read James 2:1-13

Observe, Reflect, Apply: This piece of scripture is pretty straight forward. Don’t show favoritism! However, as people we seem to fail at this all the time. Where is your weakness in showing favoritism? Who do you tend to lean in towards? Who do you tend to pull away from? What will you do to lean in towards those who you don’t care for?

{tuesday 10.17.17}

Read James 2:14-26

Observe, Reflect, Apply: Faith without works is lifeless. Again, this isn’t complicated to understand but the actual execution is difficult. What are your works that are a symptoms of your faith? It feels awkward to put this on display. Put it out in the light and put some accountability on it for yourself. Do you have a desire to do more works born out of your faith? What are they? How are you going to accomplish this? Who is going to hold you accountable for this?

{wednesday 10.18.17}

Read James 3:1-12

Observe, Reflect, Apply: If I were to re-write this piece of scripture for today’s world I would title it "Taming The Keyboard" or "Don’t be a Facebook Troll". People spend so much time fighting through Facebook comments! I’ve gotten into a few of these myself. Afterward I realized how silly and unproductive it was! This is no different than taming our tongues. Taming our tongues/keyboards is something we are fully capable of and should do. When do you struggle to control your tongue? What about it makes you feel like you can’t hold back? What is your plan to prevent yourself from doing this in the future?

{thursday 10.19.17}

Read James 3:13-4:6

Observe, Reflect, Apply: "Wisdom that comes from above is first holy, then peaceful, gentle, compliant, filled with mercy and good fruits, unbiased, sincere." This sounds pretty counter cultural to our society. It seems as though we think the loudest and most quick witted comments are wisdom. Who do you know that you believe is wise? When you think about what they say that inspires you, does it measure up to these standards?

{friday 10.20.17}

Read James 4:7-17

Observe, Reflect, Apply: We tend to think we are in charge of our own lives. We aren’t. We don’t control our futures, God does. We really just participate in our lives with God. What plans do you have for the next year? Have you prayed about them? How will you feel if something happens to derail them?Does God factor into this plan?

{saturday 10.21.17}

Read James 5:1-12

Observe, Reflect, Apply: Don’t be greedy and have patience. Sounds like something I tell me children on a regular basis. There is definitely more nuance to the scripture than that, but it’s a good place start. People, myself include, want what we want and we want it now! This is not how life or God operates. What does God want for you? Not sure? Pray. Share your desire to know with someone else. Have them pray with you.

 

{community discussion questions}

We weren’t meant to experience the life of Jesus alone, so we encourage you to rally a few others to discuss what you are hearing, reading, and reflecting on together. Whether you are meeting as a Journey Community group, talking with a few friends throughout the week, or bringing up spiritual conversations around your table at home, feel free to use some of these questions as conversation starters on your journey.

  • Can you name a takeaway or challenge from the Sunday message?
  • How has that been relevant, challenging, or meaningful to your life this week?
  • What have you observed about God, Jesus, yourself, others, or God’s plan for you from these readings?
  • Where do you need a breakthrough from God this week?
  • Who do you need to share what you’re learning about God with?

 

{extra journey resources}

CLICK HERE for more on how to use the observe-reflect-apply approach to getting the most out of your Bible reading.

The Bible App Get a free Bible for your phone, tablet, and computer. Experience the Bible anywhere, with options to highlight, save notes, and share what you are reading with others.

Bible Gateway Provides advanced Bible searching capabilities, which allow readers to find passages in scripture based on keywords, phrases, or scripture reference.

 

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© 2017 Heartland Community Church 12175 S. Strang Line Road, Olathe, KS 66062 (913) 341-5820.

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