Do your church members take dinner to a family when there is the death of a marriage?


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When my husband had cancer, our church group poured into our lives emotionally and spiritually. They prayed for us and laid hands on us as they prayed with us. They brought in food. They sent cards of well-wishes. His cancer treatment was in another town, and he had to be hospitalized ninety miles from our home. Our friends handed me cash to help pay for the travel back and forth and to pay for parking. Every time we went to church, our friends asked how he was doing. I felt they genuinely cared for him and for me.

After he passed away, meals were brought in, and again I could feel and sense their loving concern for my well-being.

Several years before my husband’s death from cancer I had experienced a different kind of death. That was the death of my first marriage.

In the death of my marriage there was grieving and unbelievable pain that was experienced. However, that death experience was totally different. No one brought in meals. Oh, people prayed for us, but not really ever with us. Instead of feeling a loving concern for my children and me we felt more or less shunned.

Have you ever thought about the question “Do your church members take dinner to a family when there is the death of a marriage?” Since my divorce I have asked that question many times to pastors, church leaders, and children’s ministers. When I ask it, I mostly get blank looks. However, I keep asking it partly out of curiosity on my part and because I want church leaders to seriously consider the question and to think how the church should respond.

In the article How Divorce Affects Young Adults’ Religiosity, author and researcher Elizabeth Marquardt explains it like this. “When death happens, people gather in support. When divorce happens, people flee. [They] don’t know what to say or what to do, and so they don’t say or do anything.”

The problem with divorcing people

I understand there are many variables when a marriage dies. And I know what some of you are thinking

  • I didn’t know they were having any problems in their marriage.
  • The couple never let on anything was wrong. I would have called when I found out she moved out, but honestly, I just didn’t know what to say.
  • I really wanted to help, but I don’t want to be around divorcing people. I mean, what if she comes on to my husband? (You wouldn’t believe the wives who have expressed this to me over the years.)

Divorce is messy. I get that. Still, isn’t it our responsibility as God’s family to care for and love the hurting people in our midst? And a divorcing family is a hurting family. Allow me to share a personal story that still impacts my adult son to this day.

Several years after my divorce, I got a call from a woman at church. She said, “In my prayer time today the Lord showed me that if your husband had died, I would have brought in a meal. I want to apologize for not being there for you and your kids during that time, and I want to bring in a meal tonight.”

When we pulled into our driveway that evening my son said, “What’s Mrs. Harmon doing here?” I explained that she felt bad about the divorce, and that the Lord had told her she should bring a meal to us. He said, “Well, isn’t that nice!”

The meal consisted of macaroni and cheese, Jell-O, a vegetable, and something else. It wasn’t anything special, but let me tell you, it greatly impacted my son. The fact that someone thought about our family and did something about it was incredibly comforting to him.

What you can do

  • Be available. You don’t have to be a counselor or a biblical scholar. Most of the time a divorcing person just wants someone to listen to them. They want to know they still matter to someone.
  • Don’t give advice. Everyone thinks they have the answer.“Call a lawyer! Change the locks! Don’t  talk to her or text her! Block his text!”On and on the bad advice flows into the ears of the divorcing. This gets very confusing as to whom to believe and what one should do.
  • Mail a “thinking of you” card and write a short message on it.
  • Find out if they need food, clothes, help around the house with repairs, help with yard work, help purchasing school supplies, etc.
  • Respect confidentiality. If something is told to you that is private, keep it confidential.
  • When you see a divorcing person ask them if they would like a hug. Sometimes I would say yes to
    a hug, and other times it was all I could do to shake my head no. I was afraid if anyone hugged 
    me I would crumble and melt into a puddle of tears.
  • Listen to the Lord. Several years ago I felt a very strong urge to call someone in our church. They were leaders in the church and appeared to have a strong marriage. The minute she answered the phone I knew something was wrong. All I said was, “What’s going on?” and with that she opened up and explained her husband had moved out. I just listened. She came over several times just to talk. After a few months he moved back in. No one except one other person in our church knew. Their marriage was reconciled. To this day she is appreciative that someone was there for her in her time of need.
  • Take in a meal or take in several meals.

In Psalm 147:3 we read, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Have you ever wondered if the Lord might be using you and others in your church to reach out and help bind up those wounds? Perhaps taking in a meal when there is the death of a marriage might just be the first step to binding up the wounds of those experiencing a divorce.


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4 thoughts on “Do your church members take dinner to a family when there is the death of a marriage?

  1. Wonderful article. As parents of adult children who divorced, we too were hurting. For our children, their children, for the death of their hopes for their marriages.

    Church became a huge black hole. It also became another death. I don’t think we know how to respond to divorce. It is considered sin, not disagreeing, but very difficult to have the women who aborted a child share her testimony, or the man who struggles with porn stand and share and hear praise and admiration for these people. It was a pretty dark journey, still is, but thankfully we can keep our focus on Jesus and remember that our plumb line is Christ not the people we attend church with. Note I did not use the word fellowship. Fellowship really was not extended.

    • Aretha, what a great attitude. I think you are right when you say we don’t know how to respond to the divorcing. Maybe in time by writing articles like this one and allowing others to share we will slowly educate the loving people in our churches. I always say people don’t know what they don’t know. We can’t blame them but we can teach them. 🙂 Pass this post along.

  2. The church I was attending at the time of my divorce really didn’t know what to do with me and my four kids. Some practical help would have been so appreciated. I remember someone saying, ” We missed you at the spaghetti supper”. Did they think as a single mother I would have the money for 5 of us to attend the church fund raiser? The pastor asked if **** would be coming to church. I said, he didn’t come when we were married, I don’t suppose he’ll come now. I asked if that was a problem, and he responded by saying, No, but we prefer a whole family. Suffice to say, I didn’t stay at that church. This was in the 90’s. I am so pleased to see programs like divorce care etc to help with the healing. Great article, thanks.

    • Carol it is sad what many divorcing people have experienced in the past in our churches. I’m sorry you and your kids had to experience the loss of your intact family and then had to experience the feeling of not being wanted in a church family. I’ve been noticing the past several years that we have a lot of young pastors and other church leaders who experienced their parent’s divorce. They are sympathetic to the plight of single moms and dads. Churches are changing and I also praise God for DivorceCare. Besides helping people survive the divorce it also educates and brings attention to the fact that there are many hurting divorced adults in every community. DivorceCare can be a bridge into the community and bring many people into a church. Thanks for commenting.

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