By Spencer D Gear PhD
This will be a very personal article. It will be 5 years on 30 November 2021 since my wife of 48.5 years announced in front of my 3 children and me that she was leaving me. I had loved her for over 50 years.
She committed adultery with the pastor of the church we attended. That was followed by marrying him. She sought my forgiveness for a “short-term physical relationship” she had with him. She did not call it adultery. Of course, I granted her forgiveness.
Seven weeks later she passed away from leukaemia. We knew the leukaemia was coming eventually after battling polycythemia rubra vera for 28 years. It is a type of blood cancer.
(image courtesy Wikipedia)
There was not a single person in the church – including elders – who visited with me to bring comfort. Two marriages were wrecked (although the pastor’s marriage was rocky at the time of adultery); two families were devastated.
Churches that do not care
The church was negatively impacted to the point where it has since closed and the members have dispersed to other churches in the region.
I was hurting deeply, but not one person from the church visited. There was no counsel or comfort from the elders of the church. I’m left to conclude, “Church people don’t care or don’t want to become involved in my life.”
Now I’m in another church but the elders have a similar disinterest in caring for me in my hurts.
What I’ve learned
What has my divorce taught me?
I have been sexually impotent since age 55 and could not take Viagra because of my severe heart condition. I’ve since spoken with my heart surgeon and his view was that Viagra, taken in small regulated doses, could have helped me.
There’s a Billy Graham rule I broke (my paraphrase): “Never leave your wife alone with another man.” Since I have a severe heart condition, I could not walk or run with my wife, so I encouraged her to do this with the pastor. She also was an outstanding pianist who spent the closing years of her life learning jazz and played with him as he played clarinet, flute or saxophone. They played in a jazz band. She spent too many hours alone with him playing music.
How to help with caring
Scripture gives clear examples of how to extend compassion to those in need:
- “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15 NET).
There are practical applications here for pastoral care. When someone is happy, rejoice with them. If someone has reason to weep, join with them in providing empathy. I would have appreciated people visiting with me and staying for short periods to weep with me by putting an arm around my shoulder. I remember feeling deep depression to the point of sending my children an email about the songs I want sung at my funeral. I had a visit from a relative who chastised me about doing that.
He didn’t know how to put his arm around my shoulder, pull me close to him, and comfort with speaking words of compassion. I don’t think he knew what to do. I wouldn’t have committed suicide but I sure felt that nobody understood.
- “He comforts us every time we have trouble so that when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us” (2 Cor 1:4 ERV).
This was an important verse for me. I had to be comforted by God Himself who would prepare me to comfort others.
- “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8 NIV).
What I’ve been through was an opportunity for the local Christian believers to love me. It would be a demonstration of love to have Christians bring me meals that I enjoy and give comfort when I wept.
It has taken 5 years to be able to write like this. I never believed the closing years of my wife’s life and my life would be so impacted by a failed marriage. I’ve had one visit from a former elder at the original church. There has been no follow-up care for me.
This may sound egocentric to you but it’s not. I’ve been hurting so deeply I’m only now able to write about the break-up and divorce. One of the shockers was what the new husband said in the obituary at the funeral: “We are ashamed of what we did” and his new wife was in the coffin.
He has not been anywhere near me to seek forgiveness.
A Christian couple has ministered extensively to me in my sorrow. I bless the Lord for them and pray more such people will be found in the churches.
Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 10 October 2021.