Sunday, June 5, 2011

you do not have to get divorced


i have noticed for a while the vacuum of silence on this topic.  it is a touchy subject.  many people have either been divorced, know someone who has been divorced, or are contemplating getting divorced.  many of our leaders and pastors have been divorced or are closely tied to those who have been divorced, and so they are silent on the issue.  we don't often get godly counsel on this topic.  i do not have all the answers about marriage and divorce, but i am here to tell you one thing:

you do not have to get divorced.

i am not being idealistic about marriage.  we are approaching 10 years of marriage within the next year, and though i am not a 50 year veteran i am also not a twinkling eyed newlywed with unrealistic expectations for life in a covenant relationship.

a history of sticking it out

my parents are still married (almost 40 years!) - their first and only marriage.  each of their parents were the same until the death of both my grandpas - faithful to their only marriage covenant until the end.  as far as i know, the story is the same many generations back.  i am not aware of a divorce in my direct lineage on either side.

this is not to sing my own praises.  this is not to say that i nor any of the generations before me haven't had problems and struggles in our/their marriages.  this is simply to state they did not give up.

just as i stated in my very first blog post about the reason this blog is called at the gate called beautiful, silver and gold have i none but what i do have i will give freely to you.  my hope today is to give you hope that you can stay married. 

i will be scattered i am sure, but once again let me make my whole point clear from the beginning:

you do not have to get divorced.

i had a dream...

a couple years ago i had a very vivid dream about two friends of mine who are married.  in the dream i was standing in the lobby of our church and this couple who i knew had been struggling in their marriage came up to me and told me that they were done and getting a divorce.  i looked into their faces and i knew they both refused to reconcile.  i instantly fell to the ground at their feet and wept and wept and wept.

when i woke up i have to say i was very shaken.  the dream felt so real and from what i already knew about my two friends i knew it was a dream from God.  i prayed about the dream and asked the Lord what it meant and what in the world was i supposed to do with it.  i felt very strongly like in the dream i wasn't myself, but instead i represented the Holy Spirit.  the deep grief i felt and the uncontrollable weeping over their feet let me taste of how grieved He is about the hopelessness people get to when they finally just give up on their covenant in marriage.

the grief was as if someone had just died.  this is the emotional investment i believe the Lord has in our marriage covenant.  for us to give up and get divorced - this is the death of our marriage and it isn't only between the man and wife.  marriage is between the man, wife, and God Himself.

what does God say about divorce?

in malachi 2:16 it says very plainly,
for I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of israel...

how does God feel about marriage?

the most powerful story of redeeming love in the Bible reveals to us how God feels about marriage and thus about divorce: the story of hosea.

God told the prophet hosea that his marriage would be a prophetic picture of God's relationship with His people israel.  God told hosea to go marry a prostitute.  
when the Lord first spoke through hosea, the Lord said to hosea, "go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord."  hosea 1:2
the story of hosea is amazing.  this wife, who he sincerely loves, cheats on him again and again and again.  he even has to go and drag her back home against her will.  she has a child that is not his, but another man's.  how painful did that have to be?!  yet through all of this he keeps taking her back.  it got to the dire point when God spoke to hosea again:
then the Lord said to me, "go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes." so i bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley.  hosea 3:1
hosea went and bought his wife back while she was in prostitution, so that he could bring her back home.  she was an adulteress.  she did not deserve his love.  yet, he loved her.  he did not leave her, nor did he let her leave.  he kept pursuing.  he remained in covenant, though she trampled all over it.  
...and God was the One who told him to do it.  

God loves marriage. 

God wanted to show through hosea that though His people did not value their covenant with Him, He would stay faithful to His covenant with them.  God is a God of covenant.  He does not take covenant lightly.  marriage is a covenant in the eyes of God, not just a contract in the eyes of men.  

God loves marriage.  God hates divorce.

it was never a part of the plan...

it breaks our hearts when those we love get divorced.  God  Himself weeps over the broken covenants.  He is not distant and unfeeling.  He is a God who weeps.  

you see, divorce was never in God's plan.  it is not the way He meant it to be.  even Jesus said when questioned about the instruction moses gave about divorce that it was only given because their hearts were already hardened.  the marriage covenant was never meant be broken.  in matthew 19: 
He said to them, "because of your hardness of heart moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.
"and I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."

this is a hard saying.  even for me to read, who hasn't been divorced and doesn't have a lineage of divorce, i still wince when i read Jesus's words.  these are not arbitrary words.  these are the words of the One who died to give us forgiveness of our sins and the promise of resurrected life.  i think many of us, if we were honest, would say in response the very same thing that His disciples said.
the disciples said to Him, "if the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry."

if we truly had a revelation of the importance of marriage to God Himself, if we had just a taste of the grief He personally experiences when two people give up on their covenant to each other, if we saw the tears He cries, then we would take entering into marriage a whole lot more seriously and soberly, just like the disciples who heard the serious sober words for themselves.

it was never a part of the plan.  divorce was never meant to be an option.  in a day and age when anyone can get a divorce for any reason without contest, it is hard to not think in the back of our minds when we enter into a marriage covenant that the option in on the table.  to God, it is not on the table.

isn't there a clause to that forever thing?

you may have noticed the "clause" in what Jesus said to His followers.  what if your husband or wife cheats on you?  i am in no way diminishing the pain of this type of betrayal because i have to say that my heart would be broken into so many pieces it is hard to think it could ever be whole again.  yet i am here to say, even though a "clause" exists, this too is only because of our hardness of hearts.  if we look to the example in hosea, the one that God said was a picture of His commitment to His bride, we can see that even unfaithfulness in marriage can be overcome.  

i believe when we come to marriage with our lists of if he does this it is over, or i would leave if she ever did that... we are setting our marriage up to fail.  we are subtly prepping our hearts to look for the way out instead of pressing through to the way to overcome.

God's plan for us is to be overcomers, not those who simply escape hardship. 

and isn't His promise that He will work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (romans 8:28)? 

all things.

even marriage, however unhappy and unfulfilled and unfaithful it has been.

as long as it is up to me...

i told my husband a number of years ago that as long as it was up to me, i was in this marriage for life.  now, you would think this was an obvious statement because we made wedding vows of i will love you as long as we both shall live... but you see, we were walking through a season when many people close to us were giving up on their marriages and opting for divorce (many because of marital unfaithfulness and affairs).  i had a series of nightmares where bill was cheating on me or leaving me for another woman.  i had one dream at the time where we split up and each took one of our sons (we only had the older two boys at that point) and i obviously took the baby because i was nursing.  i remember how real the dream seemed and how much i missed asher my oldest son.   it was terrible. when i woke up, i could feel the fear of what if this nightmare happens to us too?

instead of trying to "think positive", oh this will never ever happen to us, i decided to look the worst possible senario straight in the face and decide how i would choose to respond if i ever did have to be faced with it in my life.  i decided, after prayer and soberness, that if my husband were to be unfaithful to me, i would stay with him and work it out.  as long as it was up to me, our marriage would not end.  i would be faithful to my end of our covenant regardless of if he was faithful or unfaithful.  it took a lot of courage to tell him.  i vividly remember the evening when i told him that even if he left me, cheated on me, or wanted a divorce, i would fight for our marriage because i made a promise.

i am not saying this would be easy and i am not saying i wouldn't struggle with forgiveness big time, but i believe it is right and it is the way God intended marriage to be.  one partner for life.  a picture of His commitment to us and our commitment to Him. 

divorce is not an option.

marriage counseling

in our several years in full-time ministry and pastoring, and even before, we have had the privilege to counsel many engaged and newlywed couples.  the one thing that i have said the strongest above any other thing, (above money or children or love languages or intimacy or so much more!), is that divorce cannot ever be an option.  it cannot be a threat in a heated argument that is thrown out there to manipulate the other person into submitting.  divorce cannot ever be on the table.

what comes out of our mouths comes from our hearts.  what our mouths say influence what our hearts believe.  it is a cycle.  the darkness that comes out is strengthened by our agreement with our lips.

do not give the idea of divorce a place in your marriage.  period.

if you have, now is the time to repent and stop.  ask for forgiveness.  start anew.

this alone will be huge.  if you do not entertain the idea of escaping, but are faced with the reality that this is what and who you are stuck with for life, i assure you that you will be much more motivated to make it a better marriage instead of looking forward to someone else.  it is the way we as humans work.  if we know that we do not have a choice about leaving, we try to make where we are the most comfortable and bearable we can.

we want to be happy.  

it is possible to be happy in your marriage.

let me tell you, divorce will not make you happy.  the current problem may go away, but you will not be happy.

but you can allow the Lord to have the messed up, broken, real marriage you have and let Him have His work and bring true joy out of what you were almost willing to give up on.  that is how He works.  He works all things together... right?  even the ugly stuff.  He is personally invested in it.  He loves covenant and is a rewarder of those who are faithful to their covenants.  

the one who keeps his promise when it hurts

i know there is so much more that could be said on this topic, and i may have already offended many of those who read this, (though that is not at all my intent).  i want to leave you with this.  two years ago i was doing a study on psalm 15 which is about who can dwell in the house of the Lord.  there are a list of requirements for the one who can dwell with Him many of which got my attention.  one that jumped out at me was 
he swears to his own hurt and does not change;  

this could pretty simply be said the one who keeps his promise even when it hurts.  i believe this applies to our covenant in marriage.  there will be many times when it is to our own hurt and pain to keep our promise, but i promise you it will be worth it.  i am not saying that everything will magically be better and, honestly, you could be in a up and down marriage for the rest of your life.  but if you are faithful to what you promised, if you do not take the easy road out, if you do not opt for divorce, then i promise you He will be faithful to you because you were faithful to your word.  

i promise you.  

He is a God who rewards and He is watching.  i believe that your marriage can end up amazing on this side of eternity, but even if it doesn't, you do not have to get divorce.  

there is something so much greater - becoming like Him who keeps His word every single time even to the point of laying down His life and dying on a cross.  He didn't back out when it got hard... 

...and we don't have to either.

hang in there.  He is deeply invested in your marriage and if you ask Him, He will give you the grace to stay.

you do not have to get divorced.

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