I have a dear friend who is going through a trial in her life right now. She is going through a divorce after a 24-year marriage. She and her husband were almost divorced 20 years ago for a lot of the same reasons that they are divorcing now. He has had, in the past and now again, an addiction to pornography. Along with some substance abuse issues. My friend is a devout Christian and has always been very dedicated to her marriage, family, and most especially her Jesus. So obviously this came as quite a shock to me when she shared this news.
I, of course, prayed with her and told her that I would continue to pray for her and her family. She shared that her son is really struggling with it and she’s not sure how the whole custody thing is going to work out. Then she told me something that I don’t think most women in this situation would be thinking about so early in the divorce process. “He needs to respect his father still” is what she said. To me this shows just how spiritually mature she is. Oh, she’s not perfect, just like the rest of us… but she is more mature than a lot of Christians I know. I would like to think that I would be that mature should anything like this happen in my marriage. I don’t want to believe that I would cut his clothes into strips or take a meat tenderizer to his computer, you get the idea.
Then that got me to thinking… when I prayed with her, I prayed for my family as well. I thanked God for the husband I have and how grateful I am for my family. A strange pang of guilt came over me after reflecting on my prayer. Wow! Was I actually feeling guilt for having a husband who didn’t have any addictions? Was I supposed to have a husband that saw other women as his source of sexual entertainment? Could I really empathize with her if I didn’t have that kind of issue going on in my own life?
I often feel like the phrase “I know how you feel” is sooooo over used in our society. The truth is that even if we have gone through the same ordeal, we still don’t know how “they” feel. We only know how “we” feel. The only one who truly knows how we feel is God alone. But back to the issue of feeling guilty, did I really feel guilty for having a faithful hard working loving husband? Or was I feeling guilty for expressing my gratitude for him at a time when she was at the end of a marriage that clearly demonstrated that she did not have that. This is also how you can determine someone’s spiritual maturity. She simply said “Amen” when I praised God for my husband.
Why do we sometimes feel the need to say we know how someone feels or that we ourselves feel some sort of guilt when a dear friend or family member is struggling in an area that we have not had to struggle in? We don’t need to feel that guilt. Even if the other person rants and raves that we don’t know how they feel or we have never had to go through that or whatever. Hold fast to the blessings that God has given you and just try to be a listening ear when someone needs to vent. Don’t try to know how they feel, just validate that they are hurting and sorrowful. It seems kind of silly to feel guilty when you haven’t been through something you don’t want to go through anyway, but we do it. Our friend or loved one wants to know that there are good marriages or jobs or homes or whatever out there still. Otherwise there would be very little hope for them to recover from a trial. Show them that it’s possible because it’s right in your own home.