Some Pharisees came to Jesus and tried to trick him. They asked, “Is it right for a man to divorce his wife?”
Jesus answered,”What did Moses command you to do?”
They said, “Moses allowed a man to write out divorce papers and send her away.”
Jesus said, “Moses wrote that command for you because you were stubborn. But when God made the world, ‘he made them male and female.’ ‘So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one body.’ So there are not two, but one. God has joined the two together, so no one should separate them.” Â Â Â Mark 10:2-9 (NCV)
This is a passage that if you are divorced and Christian, it is difficult to go to God and say, â€œWhat about me, Jesus? What do I do?â€ In the interest of full disclosure, especially for those who don’t know me personally, I am divorced and I have remarried. I’m going to share with you today some of my story and what I’ve learned.
Is divorce ‘right’? The Pharisees notoriously asked questions that they hoped Jesus would answer in such a way that would show His lack of knowledge of the Law and go against tradition. The question was a weapon; Jesus saw it as an opportunity to teach God’s truth and maybe even get in a rebuke to the Pharisees as a side benefit.
Divorce was never in God’s original plan. He saw His covenant between a husband and wife as a gift from Him to two of His children. But this fallen world is very corrupt and our hearts are hard. And so divorce was created to dissolve what was no longer (or maybe never was) God’s covenant.
When a marriage doesn’t last. I believe most Christians go into marriage with a conscious belief that it will be forever. Most of us know that the divorce rate in the Church is the same as it is outside the Church so we know that marriage isn’t â€œeasyâ€. We just figure it will never happen to us otherwise why would we ever do it. What I did not realize was the battle and the hard work that marriage was going to require. From all three parties involved in this covenant. Now I knew that God would hold up His end of the deal faithfully but there’s where the â€œknowingâ€ ended. And so there is where the unraveling begins.
- God in the center of the marriage. If God is not the one that you as a couple turn to every day, then you are walking on slippery ice. This was the root of the downfall of my first marriage. We were both Believers, went to church, and were â€œgoodâ€ people. But our decisions, our relationship, our every day life and even a crisis were handled by us. The only time we prayed together was at meals. Is it easy those first times to suggest prayer and reach out and hold hands and pray together? Nope. In the philosophy of this world it may even seem silly or dumb. But if you are faced with job jeopardy, illness, child rearing â€“ don’t you want to ask advice from someone really wise?
- Intentional, daily â€œworkâ€ to build your relationship. It’s not a 50-50 deal but 100-100 deal. There’s no excuse like â€œhigh pressure jobâ€ that gives a spouse a â€œpassâ€ from helping their partner in little and big ways, remembering special occasions, creating special occasions, and listening. You may have days when life is crashing down but I know couples who have had to deal with long-term illness and the one who is ill is still able to look for ways to encourage their mate and be a helpmate. They are working together to navigate through this life. And your children need to learn early in their lives the importance of marriage and see how their parents treat each other and spend time together, without children.
- A marriage is worth saving. (Note: An abusive, life-threatening marriage is not part of this discussion. Get out and get you and your children safe!) When (not if) a marriage hits a tough stretch, push in closer to God. This is not the time to give up. It is the time when grace and mercy are needed in huge, God-given quantities. And He will provide. I have four friends who went through â€œseasonsâ€ in their two marriages that by anyone’s evaluation, they would have walked to the court house and been done. But with prayer, much work that included God-amounts of grace (undeserved love) and mercy (undeserved forgiveness) these two couples are married still today. Victoriously married today! When they were too weak to hold on, God held them. Do we really want Satan to rack up more points at the expense of our marriage and children? NO! Then fight back! â€œHumble yourself under God’s hand and He will lift you up!â€ (1 Peter 5:6)
What next? If you are divorced, then begin with forgiveness. No divorce is one-sided. It was so easy to identify my husband’s part in the divorce. But one day when I was weeping out my hurt to God, I heard Him say, â€œJody, I do want to forgive you.â€ What??? Me??? And God gently but firmly brought to my mind times when I had the opportunity to show His love instead of criticism, speak His truth instead of yelling, and teach, not self-righteously, but in humility what He was teaching me. Oh I wept then for sure. But it was the beginning of my healing and my living in victory after divorce. I believe there was also a period of grace when my marriage could have been restored. Sadly, that did not happen. I am so grateful to God that my former husband and I were able to speak forgiveness to each other before he unexpectedly died five years after our divorce.
Next, know that you can live with joy and victory without marrying again. It can be very hard in the first years to be alone. And if you have children, it is more difficult. But I truly believe, both from my own experience and many others who have shared their experience, that it is vital to come to the place where you know that Jesus is all that you need. That may sound like a Sunday School sound byte â€“ but it is the truth. Because in a â€œGod marriageâ€, your spouse is not responsible for your happiness. God is. And you are not responsible to make your spouse happy. That’s God’s job. Learn to have your day-to-day joy come from God so that if it is God’s plan for you to marry again and your spouse does something that brings a smile â€“ that’s just extra blessings!
Divorce happens. Our hearts are stubborn. Divorce doesn’t have to happen. We as Believers should be part of the Spiritual Health Team that promotes healing when injury occurs. We should create an environment that doesn’t condemn a couple with troubles but restores. There should be small groups for couples to study God’s Word, pray together, and encourage each other. Start one! You don’t have to be a counselor. Just be willing to be used by the Counselor.
The Wedding Song written and sung by Paul Stookey