19 02 2009

It’s only February and already this year and I already know of 3 Christian couples that are separated and in the process of getting divorced. The latest one came via an email announcement this morning. Each time the news has stopped me dead in my tracks, and forced me to do some soul searching. What do you say to  someone who tells you that they’re getting divorced? In New Zealand the divorce rate is about 1 in every 3 marriages (according to Statistics NZ).
In America that rises to nearly 1 in every 2 marriages. In the UK 1 in 5 people who divorced in 2007 were doing so for the second time. What are we doing wrong here? Why is this such a rampant problem? There is no easy answer. We have some common targets. We’re a generation of people who want instant gratification, or we’re a generation of people who don’t take committment seriously. We want everything to be easy. When it gets tough we’re out of here. While there is more than a grain of truth to these claims, they seldom tell the whole story. Jesus responded to the Pharisees question on Divorce by going back to Moses. It was a concession to keep the peace socially, but given because of the hardness of their hearts (Matt 19:1-12).

I was a late bloomer when it came to relationships. I met my first girlfriend when I was 17. It was beautiful infatuation that lasted 4 months. One fateful day after a youth camp I got the call that changed everything. No matter how much I tried to convince her otherwise, in the weeks following, her mind was made up. What hurt the most was how quickly and easily she got on with life. As they say, the first cut is the deepest. It took me a long time to get over it. Number two was a mutual parting with no pain. But number three was more serious. We were engaged, and renting a house together. We had many plans but something wasn’t right. To put it mildly I hated my life at that point. I felt trapped and lonely. Forced to be someone I wasn’t. I had given up everything to keep the relationship alive. Friends, my music, even going to Church. I was living a lie. I pulled the plug and it got nasty. I had dashed her hopes and it took me 6 months to get back on my feet again. The hardest part was the embarassment of failure. Thats as close as I have come to divorce. So if you’re looking for wise pearls of wisdom, you’re probably barking up the proverbial wrong tree.

The only thing I can do is strees three important things when an event like this takes place. Firstly, these events remind us that the world is not how it is supposed to be, and that one day Jesus will put all things to rights. Divorce, among other things, reminds us that Sin is still a very real problem in the world. We are the firstfruits of God’s new creation, but the old age still continues alongside the new age. There is still a very real enemy clamoring for its last dying breath. An enemy that knows its time is up, and is trying to take as many things with it as it goes down.

Secondly, this is not a time for quick and simple answers, or to play the blame game. Nor is this the time to go blaming God. The Bible makes it abundantly clear why the world is the way it is. We have only ourselves to blame. But that doesn’t mean we ostracise people who are struggling as if they were defiled with some contagious disease. No, this is the time for the body of Christ to show that following Jesus actually works. We have opportunities not only to talk about Grace, Love, and Faith, but to actually model them to our brothers and sisters. Scriptures like Romans 8 take on a whole new meaning when we are faced with actual problems. No longer are they some nice abstract theoretical theology. They are the source of truth for the hope that is in us. God does and will work all things for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. We hold fast to Jesus who says “Behold, I make all things new”.

Lastly, for those of us who feel helpless or don’t know what to do, the best thing you can do is pray. While this is not the time or place to expound the purpose of prayer, it is certainly a way to help. Paul commands the Phillipians to pray and petition God. Why? Because of the peace of God that will guard your heart and mind. When times are tough it’s easy to go crazy. Prayer can help stop that. It’s not a talisman, but it does help. Prayer helps us to grieve. If there is one thing the Psalms teach us, is that it’s ok to lament. It is ok to be honest with God about our doubts, and struggles. God wants us to pour out our hearts to him. It’s not a sign of disrespect and it’s not a sin. It’s a sign of love. It’s  a way of telling Satan, Sin and Death that they do not have the final say.

For those who are suffering from divorce, separation or a relationship breakdown my heart goes out to you. I grieve for you. To those who are in a healthy relationship I pray that you would use your relationship as a springboard for outreach. Who knows what may happen, you might just save a marriage. Never be afraid to make that phone call, or drop by to see someone. Let the love of God ooze from every pore in your body and overflow to every person you touch.




9 responses

19 02 2009
Topics about Christian life and Bible readings » Archive » Divorce

[…] Flesh is Grass put an intriguing blog post on DivorceHere’s a quick excerpt  It’s only February and already this year and I already know of 3 BChristian/B couples that ar… […]

20 02 2009
Divorce « A Worthy Discussion | www.seperation.ca

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21 02 2009

Really well written post, especially for so difficult a subject. You definitely have my sympathies for the challenges you’ve faced relationally, I can very much relate. I do think that a big part of the rise in divorce is because so many today are obsessed with being ‘happy’ if they are happy it’s good and worth sticking with, if they are unhappy then the situation is bad and a detriment to what they want their life to be like, so they bail instead of working on the marriage to get through to the point of a deeper love and joy.
The root of that though is not just cultural, it’s just that today’s culture allows the fallenness of the world to show through that way more often than it once did. I don’t think that marriage has ever been easier since the fall, but I do think that in todays world it is easier to get out, so people do.
As for the later points, not to blame God and to pray, I don’t disagree, but while you are enduring the situation both are pretty hard. I can face something like losing a job and focus on what God is trying to teach me there, but something like divorce is in a whole other category, and its difficult to see how God can rightly allow such things in his sovereignty.

I liked your point about our need to lament. It’s sad but I so rarely have heard this in church. When you go to Psalms or Lamentations though you see God’s people crying out to God not just for help, but for answers, and even to voice that they feel God is mistreating them. We shouldn’t leave it there, but that is part of faith as well.

22 02 2009

Mason you bring up some excellent points. It’s not that culture is the problem. Sin is always the problem. It’s just that our culture is more adept at displaying it than previous ones. That is a fantastic insight! One to keep in mind. It’s too easy to let this slip into an “evils of this generation” type discussion.

I agree on the happiness thing. My pastor and I went out for lunch and discussed the same thing. People today are overly experiential. The sad thing is that if a bad experience means they bail, they end up missing out on that deeper love that comes from sticking with it when times are tough.

I feel your pain on the prayer and blaming God thing. It’s hard not to do it, and tying it with the lament thing I don’t think God actually minds if we do blame him. He looks at our hearts and sees the true cause of our anger. He knows us better than we know ourselves and is seldom shocked by anything we do. On the other hand, when we start saying or thinking these things, it’s time to seek wise counsel. Divorce is definatley in a whole other category. Why? Because it strikes at the very heart of who we are. Marriage is a mystery like the trinity. Two people living as one. Divorce never leaves both parties clean cut. Part of you is always left with them, and part of them will always be with you.

I think I’m getting a little too philosophical here LOL!!

24 02 2009
Dan Martin

Hey Grant,

Tough subject, I’ll agree. Thanks for the courage to bring it up. Here’s my question:

We know Jesus said divorce is actually adultery (as I blogged related to homosexuality a couple weeks ago). Normally, the church rushes to condemn sin they see in other people; not so much when it’s closer to home. I feel, as a lot of others I know do as well, that we need to be a little slower to condemn sin in others while being more careful about calling it out in ourselves.

Problem is, how should we address–in the church, where there are hurting people who confront it–the very real fact that divorce is in the same category with cheating on one’s spouse, and any other form of extramarital sex (here I include gay relationships), and all of them are biblically adulterous? I don’t think the old paradigm of bible-thumping, damning them to hell is right. But on the other hand, I don’t think that it’s loving for us to simply hold their hands and fail to acknowledge sin. What I can’t figure out is how to bridge that gap.

I have been blessed with a wonderful wife (19 years this past December) and we still genuinely like each other as well as loving each other, so I also find myself compelled to be gentle about a subject I clearly don’t understand. . .I wish I could somehow share the joy of our marriage (which hasn’t been without bumps, to be sure–we are definitely human) with those who have struggled more. But we haven’t yet figured out how to do that either.

So how do we bridge that gap of lovingly confronting sin while humbly loving the sufferer?



25 02 2009

Divorce is one of the most dreadful evils of our society. When two people make vows and break vows, this causes pain and usually has systemic results; especially with children. I am the son of divorced parents, and although some healing and restoration has taken place in recent years, there is no excaping the pain that I went through as a child. Marriage is difficult, but for some reason culture has taught us that it should be easy because of love… this could not be furthur from the truth! I have been married almost two years. And to be honest, i have had moments when it would have been easy to question everything, but God calls my wife and I to work through frustrations; to be a couple that reflects His image into a broken world.

Also, I HIGHLY recomend a sermon by Greg Boyd on his Woodland Hills Church Podcast on Divorce from about a month or two ago. http://www.whchurch.org/content/page_910.htm

28 02 2009

Hey Guys, thanks for the comments. Sorry for the late replies. Been on holiday all this week and havent had much time for blogging. Tommorow is my one year anniversary of being married. Dan I take my hat off to you for 19 years of marriage. I’m sure you understand a lot more than you give yourself credit for. Every married person I’ve spoken to says there are times when the feelings dissappear and when they feel like throwing in the towel.

To your question – how to bridge the gap between loving the sinner but condemning the sin, to be frank I don’t know. There is no quick fix answer. The Church is not a babysitting club, nor is a perfectionist society. Both are extremes, and both are wrong. Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5 give us good advice for dealing with sin in the body. Stanley Grenz says we should be welcoming but no affirming. The problem comes in when we want to have a definitive position on the issue, and a canned way of dealing with the problem. As if everyone’s problems were the same. But they’re not and thats the beauty of it. We are called as Christians to improvise faithfully to the text, in the drama of life. I can’t call it any other way. There is no hard and fast rule for dealing with it. Sometimes it means being blunt. Othertimes it means soft and gentle rebuke. Other times it means shining the love of Jesus with a smile and a hug.

28 02 2009

Kurt, I like the points you raise. How often are people getting divorces based on feelings that have dissappeared, or “irreconcilable differences”. I saw a movie today where the couple split up because the man wanted to “live his life”. I thought it was the worst excuse ever. A life with God is not a life free from frustrations and problems. While Jesus was conceived of the Spirit, Mary still had to endure 9 months of pregnancy followed by a painful birth. Followed by a crying baby, who had to learn to eat, sleep on his own, speak, walk, read, write etc. The work of the Spirit in our lives never overrules our humanity. The Spirit always works to make us reflect the image of God and to help us persevere. I guess you can tell my fingers are itching to blog again. I fear I’m on ly going to have time to blog on monday…*Sigh*

28 02 2009
Kurt Willems

Thanks for you comments back to me. great added points!

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