So today…I’m going to tackle a new subject after an impromptu discussion on it Wednesday night during LEGACYouth.
The subject? Divorce.
Duh, duh, duhhh…
Now, before you panic and exit [p]age left, let me offer a few disclaimers:
1) By no means do I consider myself a marriage counseling expert; I’m just a youth pastor who knows what a happy marriage tastes like and what the Word says about it.
2) By no means do I want to come across as insensitive to what some readers may be going through. So please understand it’s my earnest desire to broach this post with utmost humility.
‘Cause truth is: There’s much for me to learn on the matter; however, I hope the little I do know can be effective, insightful and…dare I say enlightening.
With that said, as many of us are aware: divorce is both a relevant and prevalent issue in society today. And as a pastor of students, a quarter of whom are struggling/have struggled with divorce in the family, it’s an especial concern. Yes, I know it can be “taboo” to talk about divorce outside of closed doors (trust me…I balked initially at writing this); then again, I’m not one to feel ashamed of affirming God’s purposes. After all, how can the truth speak if it’s not heard?
Moving on…if someone came up to you and asked why divorce is such an epidemic…what would you say?
- Financial stress?
- Unmet expectations?
- Lost sense of meaning/identity?
I mean…if you were to start there, I’d certainly see why.
But I guess for me…I’d have to start with man’s dissatisfaction with what God has appointed him (i.e. everything we need for goodness/godliness, which for many of us, includes marriage at some point in our lives)…and his satisfaction in making conditional aspects of God’s nature we’re called to emulate.
To put it simply: I believe we, as a culture, have long lost sight of what covenant is. Even in the church, many have bought into the idea marriage is more about compatibility than companionship. Granted, there’s nothing wrong about compatibility. I just think if we’re quick to [ab]use a perceived lack of it as a means to separate ‘lifetime’ from ‘commitment’, then we’re flirting with unholy prioritization1.
Still, for those who’ve ever waked through marital turbulence, you know the tension is an entirely different animal in it than outside it. Thus, how we cope when the temptation to divorce knocks and how we encourage those holding onto their marriage for dear life are worthy discussions.
But before we dive in, we must first consider what God thinks…which leads me to my first truth:
1) God absolutely hates divorce.
Consider Malachi 2:16: “I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel.”
Pretty strong language, right? Then again, this makes perfect sense. After all, God is love and by nature contests his antithesis. Whatever the case, whenever we hear ‘God’ and ‘hate’ in the same sentence, it should arrest our attention, especially since fearing God means to love what God loves and hate what God hates.
2) God’s intends our vows to be unbreakable.
Consider Proverbs 20:25:“It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider his vows.”
After further review, I think it’s fair to say many of us don’t always weigh the weighty obligations of life before committing to them…and I submit part of the reason is our penchant to sub in our [largely subjective] conviction for God’s [absolute] conviction.
The crux here is: if we know the love/fallenness combo platter is a messy one, why then do we only consider the consecration of our vows after-the-fact when truth is: a) God has given us the commitment blueprint outline2 (i.e. consider your ways first and then hold true to them second) and b) God’s faithfulness and good intentions never waver.
Note: For some of you reading this, it’s not a matter of not considering your vows first before making them as much as it is you’ve grown numb to the magnitude of them. If that’s the case, then I encourage you: ask the Lord for fresh love for your spouse. Again, since God is love, the receiving is only contingent on your choice to accept it. Even the strongest couples in the world reach points when they must ask God for renewed devotion/passion for each other.
3) Apart from certain exceptions, divorce isn’t an option3.
Consider Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9.
“But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
“And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
Note how both passages raise up an exception clause (i.e. “marital unfaithfulness”) and subsequently the million-dollar question: Is it okay to divorce under the grounds of sexual immorality? Well, given such sin is an egregious breaking of marital covenant, I’d have to say ‘yes’; however, we must remember…
1) God is a God of grace who makes walking in repentance and restoration possible…
2) In God’s eyes, there’s no such thing as “irreconcilable differences”…
3) A one-time act of sexual immorality versus a pattern of sexual immorality are two [very] different things…
4) In the same way we’re called to be slow to anger, we must be [very] slow to divorce (hence the word “quickly” in Ecclesiastes 4:12). Regardless of the situation, divorce must be seen as a “no resort” before it’s treated as a “last resort”…
5) Achieving reconciliation is only possible if it’s pursued first; if the pursuit is one-sided, pray, seek counsel…and pray some more. Even if you feel alone, don’t ever underestimate the power of prayer…
6) Requesting help isn’t a sign of weakness…
7) As long as two people are married, they’re called to multiple a godly legacy. Sure, it may not be easy, but couples who fight the good fight together in sun and storm not only are more likely to stick together, but are more likely to inspire other couples to do the same.
But Cam, what about couples mired in verbal/physical/child abuse?
In these situations, I contend some form of separation is often a smart move if one side is unwilling to cooperate; however, if the abuser is willing to receive help, then it’s best both spouses walk in reconciliation hand-in-hand. ‘Cause again, the main objective is finding freedom from sin/strongholds together. Yes, be Spirit-led in setting boundaries and expectations; yes, do what’s best to preserve health and safety. Just remember to do these things a) trusting/relying on God every step of the way and b) resisting the urge to make self-preservation your default response to fear.
Anywho, I could say more, but given I’ve breached the 1,000 word barrier, I’m going to peace out and leave some questions for thought (see below). As always, feel free to comment or shoot a PM my way if any of this hits home.
‘Til then…have a blessed weekend and I’ll catch ya on the fry…
- What’s been your experience with divorce?
- Why do you think so many couples split?
- How has your concept of covenant changed after reading this?
- What truths do you abide by when it comes to being faithful in relationships (to friends, spouse, etc.)?What would you say is the best way to save a marriage? What are the absolute ‘musts’ when it comes to reconciliation?
1) Which in general hurts Christian community in many other ways…more on this in future posts…
2) Note: By ‘hold true’, I’m including prayer, verbal/behavioral expressions of commitment, setting goals, choosing joy, and integrating accountability into the mix.
3) i.e. There are no valid grounds for divorce.
Cover image creds: Wallpaper Access