Restoration for Broken Marriages (Sanctity of Marriage, #7)
It’s been a while since I’ve touched the marriage series, but here it is. Once again we’ve come back to that touchy subject of divorce. We’re all touched by it, whether by your parents or grandparents, or your friends. It’s become so common that many fear bringing it up, because they don’t want to hurt anyone. We all know that divorce is hurtful, and that anyone who’s gone through a divorce will again feel that pain whenever the topic comes up. While my intention is never to hurt or offend those who’ve gone through it, I firmly believe that not teaching what the Bible says about divorce will inevitably lead to even MORE divorces. And that’s where my intention lies. If teaching God’s Word about this painful subject can help even one marriage, then I simply cannot leave it unsaid–or in this case, unwritten.
This week, iVillage Parenting put out a new article about Divorced parenting. The point of the article seemed to be for the empowerment of women, and the removal of any guilt that she may feel over her divorce. It assures her that she did the right thing. That the divorce took more courage than remaining married. That doing what was best for her own happiness was the best thing that she could do for herself, her husband, and her children. I cringed as I read it. I actually wanted to cry. How is it brave for me to put my own happiness ahead of the happiness of my family? How is it good? I don’t have children yet, but I can assure you that my children will not feel good about themselves if I choose my own happiness over what’s best for them. No, they would feel worthless. They will feel as if they don’t matter to their own mother. I know it isn’t popular today, but when I put my own personal needs ahead of the needs of my family, I have FAILED my family. When personal “happiness” is prized above Godliness, our families are doomed. A ‘family’ filled with individuals who each seek their own personal happiness will never be happy. They will be very lonely. They will wonder if they matter to anyone. It is when we choose to esteem others as higher than ourselves (Philippians 2), and choose to find our contentment in Christ alone, that our families can begin to THRIVE!
While the world has begun to praise the sinful act of divorce, God’s Word is firm on the concept. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 7, to see what the Apostle Paul instructed the church at Corinth.I Corinthians 7:10-16:
“Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” (NKJV)
Directly from these verses, we see that:
30. Don’t divorce. “A wife is not to depart from her husband…And a husband is not to divorce his wife.“ I promise I’m not just trying to start out harshly. But I can’t add much elaboration to this. Wives: DON’T leave your husbands. Husbands: DON’T leave your wives. It’s as simple as that when we look at Scripture. You’re not to do it. Period. If you value God’s Word and want to live in Obedience to the Lord, then this is a command that you must take seriously.
31. If you’ve been divorced, you are either to remain single or reconcile with your spouse.“But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.“ For those of you who find yourself in a position that you are ALREADY divorced, you may be wondering “Where do I go from here?” I’m sure many of your friends and family, who hate to see you hurting, will encourage you to “move on” with your life and try to find someone new. They want to see you happy, so they encourage you to date-in the hopes that you will find someone to love who will love you in return. They have good intentions of course, but you DON’T need to find someone new to love. There is already ONE who loves you deeply and desires an intimate relationship with you, and that is Christ. Find your joy and contentment in Him alone. Hope for reconciliation with your spouse, but don’t hang on to guilt if they refuse to reconcile. Regardless of the outcome, the Bible is clear on this. If you are divorced, you now have only two options that are pleasing to God. You may remain single, or you may reconcile with your spouse. Any other option is not of God, and WILL hinder your relationship with God. As hard as it is, and as lonely as you may sometimes feel–find your strength in the Lord. As you repent of your sins, and lay them at His feet, He will forgive you. God will be your guide, your comfort, your anchor. He will be all that you need.
32. If your spouse leaves you, you have not sinned. “But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.” In the world we live in today, I’m sure there are many who seek refuge in this verse! God has called you to PEACE. You were in a not-so-perfect marriage, yet you were willing to stay. You were willing to put in the work necessary to make your marriage better. But your spouse was not willing. Maybe he wasn’t a Christian. Maybe he was a Christian, but had believed the lies of the world that told him he had to put himself first. Maybe he just gave up. If that’s you, then go ahead-wipe away the guilt and shame that you bear. The Bible says “You have not sinned”! While the world may see a divorced person, God sees your heart. He knows that the sin of divorce was not planted in your heart. He knows that your husband has sinned against Him, and against you. Let God be your shelter during this painful and lonely time. He loves you, and does not hold you accountable for the sin of your husband. God has called you to the peace that can only be found in Him. Run to Him, and seek His peace.
33. A wrongful marriage is not an excuse for divorce. “If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. We all admit that some marriages never should have begun. Whether they married before one or both became Christians, or they married while one or both was backslidden, or a Christian married an unsaved person, or they just simply weren’t compatible; God’s Word still remains the same. As a Christian, regardless of how sinful your spouse is, you are still not to divorce them. (Granted–some women may find themselves in abusive situations, and I would always encourage them to find a safe place for both her and their children to stay. But these situations are not what I’m referring to here.) If you are married to an unsaved or backslidden man who makes poor choices with his life, does not love you as deeply as he ought, or has other negative qualities that poorly affect your marriage–you are still called to remain with him. You are not to divorce him. Just as we consistently fail Christ, and He consistently loves and reaches out to us–we are to do the same for our spouse. You’ve made a lifelong commitment that was not followed by the statement “if you always keep your side of the bargain”. You put no conditions in your vows. You promised to love him always. So, regardless of the state of your marriage, God calls you to remain with your husband.
34. Remaining in a marriage has the power to transform your spouse. “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy…For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?“ God is good indeed, and He will not ignore your faithfulness to obey Him in your marriage. I know many couples whose marriage has been transformed in this way. One woman specifically, who is one of my prayer warriors, was married to a man who claimed to be a Christian but showed no fruit. She came to church alone, while he either worked or stayed home. She taught her children about the Bible, while he did not show much interest. Many times she cried out to God to transform her husband, and one day–He did! After their children were both grown and married, he gave his life to Christ. Though he had professed Christ before, he had never truly known Him until that day. Wow! He’s in church with his wife every service now. He witnesses to co-workers. He serves in any way that he can. He even became a deacon! I’m convinced that his wife’s prayers, her submissive attitude, and her faithfulness to him were all used in bringing him to the conviction that He needed a relationship with Christ. Praise God for transforming this man, and this marriage! The thought of being married to an unsaved man who cannot be your spiritual leader may not be appealing to you, but this woman never complained to anyone. She has always been one of the happiest, most genuine women I’ve ever known. She found her joy in Christ. I’ve encouraged young women who are struggling in their marriages to talk to her, because not only is her obedience to God is inspiring, but she is able to give women the hope they so desperately need. She’s able to give them a small glimmer of a vision for the future–that their husbands will come to know the Lord and will be transformed by His Word. This is the hope that God brings. Again, know that He will be your anchor, your guide, your comfort, and your peace. And know that He is capable of transforming your spouse, and making your marriage new!
I know that these things are not popular today, and that many people are likely to be very defensive when presented with these truths. But I don’t write these things to condemn those who’ve been divorced. The world seeks to make those people feel better about themselves. The truth is, though, that someone who’s divorced isn’t likely to stop ‘feeling guilty’ because they’re told it was the right thing to do. Sin always brings pain, and guilt, and shame. The guilt may fade after many years, but more than likely it will just be suppressed deeper into the heart. True freedom will not come by believing their sin was ‘right.’ Freedom will come through Christ alone, through the repentance of sin, and through allowing God to heal the hurt and guilt and shame that lies within their hearts. Freedom comes through the forgiveness of Christ that follows repentance. This is the hope that we can offer–the hope of Christ.
Be watching for Part 8, where we’ll be looking at Marriage in I & II Corinthians and Romans. But in the meantime, check out my other posts on marriage here, and as usual–don’t forget to leave your feedback!