I do not profess to be a great theologian. However, I will proclaim to be one who has found Jesus in the midst of a great storm. I have walked through the devastation of divorce and I have my own thoughts on what it looks like to be a Christian dealing with divorce.
I have walked the road. I have experienced the pain, the rejection, the humiliation, the feelings of abandonment and betrayal, the loneliness, and the feelings of complete failure. I have spent time searching scripture for answers while yearning for healing. I found that “the church” in and of itself in not a “nice” place for women suffering through the devastation of divorce. Through my struggle and journey, though, I have learned that it is not the church’s place to heal my hurts. Only One can heal. He is the One I must seek to find true healing, but to get there I have to understand where I have come from and where I ended up.
Being someone who has personally dealt with the issue of divorce, I can tell you that there is a lot of “preaching” and finger-pointing that take place as a marriage begins to crumble. There is a lot of blame placed and excuses made but in the end, there is only ONE reason why a marriage fails and that is the absence of God in the marriage. He is the only One that holds things together and without Him, marriages fail. He IS the tie that binds. When two people stand before God and a room full of witnesses, promises are made of a solemn and binding relationship meant to last a lifetime. This covenant is the single most important human bond, which holds God’s work together, and is based on His covenant with us.
What happens when that covenant is broken? What happens to the broken mess left behind? Searching out truth in this area is tough. People are quick to give opinions of their own and I have learned to avoid those who pay a lot of lip service to things that they do not understand or fail to live out in their own life. Instead, I have sought out to discover the Truth of God’s word from the One who was willing to sacrifice His life for mine. This is where I found hope and truth!
I began in 1 Peter, Chapter 3, where it is broken down into two separate messages, one for wives and the other for husbands. It is simply written and easy to understand. This chapter has been beneficial, as it has allowed me to better understand the breakdown in my own life. The first part of the passage addresses wives and says, “Wives must accept the authority of your husbands.” I know many a women who shudders at that thought but it does not mean we become our husband’s doormat but instead we choose to take God at His word and trust Him in obedience, which allows us to follow our husband’s leading. It is a big request but takes faith and trust in a perfect God who knows what is best for us.
Next the passage addresses husbands and says that “husbands must give honor to your wives…Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.” Again it is simply written and straightforward on how husbands are to treat their wives. But then we read on to verses 8-12 which are harder to read when you have been hurt or are hurting:
“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. For the Scriptures say,
“If you want to enjoy life
and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
against those who do evil.”
1 Peter 3:8-12
I do not know about you but the idea of submitting comes much easier than the above passage. Our sinful hearts are full of wickedness and pride and the thought of allowing those who do evil to continue to do evil while we sit still and stay quiet is a bit maddening, but if we choose to disobey, there is destruction. The breakdown of a marriage comes from the focus shifting from God onto ourselves and we become our spouse’s persecutor instead of their defender. When we feel rejected and hurt, our instinct is to fight and protect ourselves, but that is not what God calls us to do.
Marriage is tough. There are many crappy things that spouses do to one another, but Paul wrote, “Love bears all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) What exactly does that mean? Stego is the Greek verb for bears, which is from the root word steg meaning to cover and conceal. The idea behind the verb stego is that first we are to cover and then to conceal. It is the idea of covering over by maintaining silence. WOW! That is a large pill to swallow and very difficult to do. So we are to bear all things and do what is necessary to defend and protect the covenant made to our partner by maintaining silence. AAGGHH! Our love should cover, conceal, and protect our spouse, meaning we should maintain silence instead of exposing their fault. We should do nothing to embarrass or disgrace our spouse. Impossible! Right?
Not exactly. When we follow Christ, we are given the power of the Holy Spirit, which allows the genuine ability to carry out this action. It may not always be a two-way street with your spouse but you must do your part. Ephesians 5:25 states that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church, which seems like such a huge request to make but it’s not when husbands are fully submitted to following God first. The same can be said of wives in submitting to their husbands. Everything comes back to the same source, God being the center of our marriages. Without Him, we end up broken.
You can look at stories throughout the Bible and see hurt being healed when God was the center. I think of Ruth and Boaz. Ruth refused to accept the rejection that kept her from following hard after God. Then there are Mary and Joseph. They were to be married when it was discovered that Mary was pregnant. What a disgrace. This could have ended so badly for Mary but because Joseph was a righteous man, he obeyed the angel of the Lord and married Mary. Joseph defended and honored her. What a beautiful picture of love and obedience.
God’s convicting definition of love says, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” It is so simply said, yet we fail. How often is our love conditional?
God’s love is unconditional and we are called to love in that way. I have come to rediscover His love throughout my circumstances. I had to. Believe it or not, I was told countless times that because I am divorced, God will no longer bless me. Yes, you read that right. I have been told by God-fearing, Christ proclaiming people that God will no longer bless me. Astonishing, to say the least, but thankfully there is truth and His truth has changed me. In the beginning, I believed the lies. In the beginning, I did not recognize the lies to be attacks straight from the enemy and I allowed the lies to turn my world upside down and doubt God, until I met the same Jesus that the Samaritan woman met at the well.
Just like the rediscovered love of Christ, I have also come to rediscover stories in the Bible, like that of the woman at the well. We have all heard the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, in which Jesus offered His living water. To me, this story used to be about Jesus revealing He was the Christ to not just a woman but to a non-Jew. Through this story, I saw His love for all people no matter their gender or race, but I have now discovered something more. My perspective has changed and for me there is now more to the story.
Back to divorce. Divorce does cause us to miss God’s best but I have also discovered that so do other areas of our lives where sin resides. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin. Paul wrote, “Where sin is increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Romans 5:20) Read that again. “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.” Sin is in the world but because of Christ, we are no longer condemned.
God made a provision for all our sins by placing His Son upon the cross. Any new marriage, remarriage, divorced person, abandoned person can be born again and made new again in Christ. Think what this story about the woman at the well is saying. Jesus specifically went out of His way to minister to this particular woman. Why? Why did He choose her?
Jesus specially pointed out she had been married five times and now lived with another man. (John 4:18) Jesus did not tell her to go back to living with one of her other husbands but instead told her what she needed to do to get her life together. This story is not about Jesus approving of her past marriages but instead about Jesus seeing her as a person damaged by sin. He did not look at her and say, “Well, I’m sorry. You’re going to have to go to the back of the line behind all the “good” people who have only been married once and wait until I’m done blessing them, and then I’ll bless you.” NO WAY!! Instead He simply said, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” (John 4:10) He was all she needed. She just needed to discover this fact.
You see, it ALL points back to God. We all need God. Marriages need God and we all need Him at the center. We need His abundant flow of living water. The love of Christ transcends all other loves and for marriages, it is its truest strength. The love of Christ is the only love that bonds a marriage. It is the only love that heals the broken life of a broken marriage. Whether you stand within the walls of a marriage, healthy or not, or on the outside dealing with the mess of divorce, grab hold of Him. Drink of His living water and focus your attention on His face. When we cling to Him, He alone is what holds all things together.