Christian Men Spiritual Growth and Christian Living

9 Ways Men Can Support Christian Brothers through Divorce

  • Chris Bolinger Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
9 Ways Men Can Support Christian Brothers through Divorce

Unless you recently relocated to the 1800s, odds are good that some of your Christian friends are divorced. And, unfortunately, odds are almost as good that some of your currently married Christian friends will be divorced in the future.

According to U.S. surveys, of all current U.S. adults who have ever been married, about 45 percent have been through at least one divorce. The divorce rate among evangelical and mainline Protestants is about the same as the national average, while the divorce rate among Catholics is a little lower, at around 37 percent.

With U.S. women initiating seven of 10 divorces, many men are caught off guard when their wives announce that the marriage is over. And these same men often feel a lack of support at church, where a “good husband” is expected to love his wife as Christ loved the church. If the wife is initiating the divorce, then the husband must not have been a good husband – at least, not good enough. As a result, about three in four divorced Christian men leave the churches that they have attended. Tragically, about 30 percent of these men never find another church home.

Your divorced Christian brother never wanted to be in the situation in which he finds himself, and he may feel that he is struggling alone. How can you support and encourage him? I consulted with Martha Flemming, a licensed professional clinical counselor with New Source Counseling, to arrive at these nine recommendations:

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  • 1. Reach Out to Him

    1. Reach Out to Him

    Slide 1 of 9

    When your friend goes through a divorce, it’s like a bomb has exploded in his life. Everything is affected, including:

    • His hopes, dreams, and plans
    • A large part of his identity
    • His children, his role as a father, and other roles in his extended family
    • His relationships with family members, friends, co-workers, fellow churchgoers, and others
    • His finances
    • His health
    • His self-esteem, confidence, emotional well-being, and ability to focus at work and elsewhere

    Worst of all, the divorce breaks the covenant bond with his wife, the one who was to be his partner for life. In many cases, the one who was his trusted teammate now is his opponent.

    His life is a mess, and he suddenly is on his own. He would like to talk with someone about his situation but, in most cases, he has no idea whom to contact. He probably doesn’t have a counselor – except maybe a marriage counselor whom he saw with his wife – and he is not comfortable baring his soul to a complete stranger. He can’t expose himself at work. His extended family members may be several states away. And all of his male “church friends” are married, probably to women who are friends with his wife.

    Even if he is not in this exact situation, he probably won’t reach out to you, or anyone else, for one simple reason: he’s embarrassed and feels like a failure. After all, he’s a Christian man going through a divorce.

    That’s why you need to be proactive and reach out to him. Send him a message to say that you’re thinking about him and praying for him. Invite him to breakfast. Invite him to an activity that he’s likely to enjoy. If he doesn’t respond to your first attempt, then try a few more times.

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  • 1. Reach Out to Him

    2. Be Available

    Slide 2 of 9

    Once you connect with your friend and he expresses an interest in speaking with you, try to be as flexible as possible on how and when those conversations will occur.

    Sure, you’re busy. You’ve got a demanding job, lots of family responsibilities, and plenty of other demands on your time. But your friend…well, to be blunt, your friend doesn’t care. He feels like someone who just got thrown into the ocean in the middle of a raging storm. He’s angry, confused, disoriented, and fearful. The stresses in your life are pebbles; his are boulders.

    It may take him days to reply to a text message from you. When he does reply, it may be at 3 in the morning. If you schedule a breakfast meeting, then he may show up 15 minutes early, 30 minutes late, or not at all. When he talks to you, he may go on a meandering monologue for 15 minutes or clam up and stare at the floor for a loooong time.

    Hang in there with him. He’s drowning, and you’ve thrown him a lifeline. He’ll grab on…eventually.

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  • 1. Reach Out to Him

    3. Let Him Take the Wheel

    Slide 3 of 9

    Most of us men are problem-solvers. We pride ourselves on being able to analyze a situation and determine the best course forward.

    Your friend may ask you for advice on what to do. And if you take the bait, then you may try to guide the conversation in such a way as to optimize your ability to analyze his situation and make good recommendations for him.

    Don’t.

    Your goal is not to solve your friend’s problems. It’s to help him during this difficult time in his life. He will tell you what he needs, if you let him set the tone and drive the conversation. He may need to vent. He may need to grapple with what he has lost. Or he may want you to distract him so that he doesn’t have to deal with his situation for an hour.

    Sometimes, it may seem like you’re not accomplishing a lot. But you are. You are being a steady, caring friend. And that’s what he needs you to be.

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  • 1. Reach Out to Him

    4. Grieve with Him

    Slide 4 of 9

    Singer/songwriter Jason Gray aptly describes a divorce as a “death without a funeral”. There’s no grave or headstone. No eulogies are offered. No songs are sung, no memories shared. But there has been a death.

    And all involved, especially the former husband and wife, may look down the road and fear that they never will feel closure or an ending to the hurt.

    The marriage of your divorced brother has died. He needs to grieve that death.

    Don’t push him to grieve or try to steer conversations in that direction. But give him opportunities to mourn the end of his marriage. For example, rather than meeting in a public place every time, suggest that you go on a walk or hike. That will give him the privacy to grieve as he needs to.

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  • 1. Reach Out to Him

    5. Be Trustworthy and Steady

    Slide 5 of 9

    Once your friend starts to open up to you, he may start sharing some deeply personal stuff, including stuff that he has never shared with anyone else.

    It is critical that you keep this information completely confidential. Don’t share it with anyone else – not your wife, not another close friend, not even your pastor – unless your (divorcing/divorced) friend is showing signs of being suicidal.

    Sharing your friend’s personal information with anyone is a breach of trust that will damage your relationship with your friend and, worse, damage your friend.

    Do your best to stay objective. As your friend talks about the actions of his wife/ex-wife, keep in mind that you are hearing only one side of the story.

    And as your friend describes the mistakes that he made in the marriage, remember that he may be beating himself up or blowing things out of proportion. Stay steady, and encouraging.

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  • 1. Reach Out to Him

    6. Be Encouraging

    Slide 6 of 9

    OK…so what does it mean to be encouraging? Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean:

    • It’s not filling your friend with a bunch of patronizing platitudes – “Time heals all wounds”, “All you need is Jesus”, etc. – that you hope will make him feel better.
    • It’s not telling your friend that his divorce is really the best thing ever and that there are better women out there for him.
    • It’s not minimizing the divorce and its effects on your friend by telling him that there are a lot worse things going on in the world.
    • It’s not empathizing with your friend by relating his situation to something that you went through…even if you went through a divorce.
    • It’s not changing the subject to something more cheery.

    Being encouraging is reminding your friend that, even when it seems like God is distant or absent, God is right there, supporting and loving your friend, and God will get him through this difficult time.

    Find some Scripture passages that will encourage your friend. Start with the Psalms.

    Many Psalms share the gritty reality that life can be tough, even for a committed follower of God. For example, in Psalm 37, David states from experience that God’s followers sometimes fall: “The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.” (Psalms 37:23-24)

    Your friend has fallen, and the emotional wounds he has suffered may scar him for a long time. Even when he is able to “get back in the game”, he may not want to, because he could get knocked down again.

    But God is at your friend’s side and has softened his fall. God has kept him from going off the cliff, shielded from the jagged rocks, and kept him on the path. God will help him back to his feet and stay at his side the rest of his life.

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  • 1. Reach Out to Him

    7. Pray…and Follow Up

    Slide 7 of 9

    Your friend wants your prayers. He needs your prayers.

    So, pray for him, often, and with purpose. Whenever he communicates or meets with you, ask him for specific prayer requests. Pray those requests, right then – via text messages to him, over the phone, or in person. And repeat those requests to God during your personal prayer times.

    In addition to praying for your friend, follow up on prayer requests. Text him for an update on something that he requested prayer on. Ask him for prayer updates when he calls and when you meet with him.

    Make prayer an ongoing and active demonstration that you are supporting him and submitting to God at every opportunity.

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  • 1. Reach Out to Him

    8. Be Alert

    Slide 8 of 9

    As you meet with your friend over a period of time, be on the lookout for two things: lack of progress and depression. Lack of progress should be pretty obvious. You’re not expecting everything to be all sunshine and roses overnight, but your friend should have a more positive outlook, at least in some areas, within a few months.

    If he seems stuck, and if you hear a repetitiveness in what he discusses and how he describes things, then you may want to suggest that he start seeing a counselor.

    Depression is a bigger deal. If you observe personality changes, such as persistent despondency or irritability, especially in a guy who used to be upbeat or even-tempered, then don’t just suggest counseling.

    Urge your friend to get some help, from his family doctor or a Christian counselor. If you don’t know any Christian counselors, then talk to your pastor or some other people who might be able to make a recommendation.

    Don’t identify your friend unless he is sending clear signals that he is having thoughts of suicide.

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  • 1. Reach Out to Him

    9. Lead Others to Support Him

    Slide 9 of 9

    I’ve heard horror stories from guys who, before they got divorced, thought they had great friendships with other guys at church. As soon as they got divorced, however, they were abandoned by their church “brothers”.

    With the first eight recommendations above, you are demonstrating to your friend that, even if everyone else fails to support him, you will remain a steadfast friend.

    But you can do more than that. You can lead other men to step up and lift up a battered and bruised brother.

    Invite your friend to activities and events where other Christian men will gather. Go there with your friend, and demonstrate by your actions that you are standing with your friend, just as you hope that others would stand with you if you were going through a rough time.

    30 percent of Christian men drift away from the Christian faith after a divorce. Don’t let your friend be one of them.

    If you want to share your thoughts on this topic, feel free to email info@dailystrengthformen.com.


    Chris Bolinger is the author of Daily Strength for Men, a 365-day daily devotional of encouragement from BroadStreet Publishing. The book is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors, DailyStrengthForMen.com, and other retailers.

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