Is There Hope After Divorce?
In some circles of the Church, divorce is equal to the unpardonable sin. People who’ve been divorced are treated as if they have the plague. They can’t serve in their church and they’re not trusted. Having suffered through a divorce in my own family, I have a very different perspective. Let me begin to process my thoughts on divorce with you:
1. I am totally against divorce! My wife Kathy and I have been married for more than 40 years. Marriage is a covenant you make for life.
2. Marriage isn’t something you try out to see if you’re compatible. Marriage is something you work at every day because you made a covenant. You came into the relationship to lay down your life for one another.
3. Psychologists say divorce is the second most stressful thing you can experience in life, ranking just below the death of a child. Wow! So getting divorced because you aren’t “happy” usually begins a descent into a pit so deep that it takes an act of God to recover from it.
4. My son went through a divorce and it nearly destroyed him, his children, and Kathy and me. I laid on my couch for six months, depressed and unable to function. The stress caused my son to have MS-like symptoms for four years, and even more, it did untold damage to my grandkids. Thankfully, five years later, we’re all recovering. Thank Jesus!
When God says things like “No” or “Don’t”, it’s always because sin hurts people.
God is not trying to control people. If he was, he wouldn’t have given us a free will or provided choices. After all, he’s the one who planted two trees in the Garden of Eden and gave Adam and Eve a choice.
The idea that I would EVER do anything to promote divorce is asinine, ridiculous and insulting.
I’ve spent my life helping to save marriages, restore relationships, and teach people how to live in covenant with joy and peace.
Here’s the challenge: there are millions of people in the United States alone who are divorced and remarried.
In my first three years as a pastor at Bethel Church I was our primary marriage counselor. I averaged seven appointments a day, three days a week, for all those years.
I began those years with dogmatic, black and white perspectives on many issues, but especially on marriage and divorce. The problem was my simple theological perspectives were irrelevant to many of the complex situations that I found myself trying to resolve.
For example, persons A & B get divorced for unscriptural reasons. Years pass and person A remarries and has two kids with person C. Meanwhile, person B remarries person D, who’s also divorced and her ex-spouse is remarried. Now persons B & D end up in my office with serious marriage problems and oh, by the way, they’ve had two biological children since they’ve been married. What does forgiveness and repentance for them look like? How can they lay a foundation to start fresh?
Do I tell them:
1. You’re both committing adultery. Ask God to forgive you. But you also need to understand that God won’t help you restore your relationship because you’ve both sinned against heaven so you’ll live the rest of your lives without the blessing of Jesus on your relationship.
2. The two of you must ask God to forgive you and bring forth fruit of repentance by divorcing each other. The only marriage God can bless is your first marriage, therefore you must convince your original spouses to divorce their spouses and reconcile with you. Then, we’ll help you figure out how to integrate your children into your families by sharing joint custody. Or, the two of you must make things right with God because you’re living in adultery. Therefore you need to get a divorce and share custody of your children.
3. There is no Godly solution to your problem. No matter what the two of you do, you can never be blessed even though you’re forgiven. You both screwed up and you must live with it!
JESUS HAS AN ANSWER
This is just one scenario I faced weekly as a counselor and pastor. If you think this is rare, then you haven’t done much counseling.
It’s easy to have dogmatic answers to problems that you don’t really have to solve! Unfortunately, the world is much more complex than a single principle will solve.
But one thing I have learned–Jesus has an answer for every situation. There’s no person, no relationship, no situation that is so bad or so complex that He cannot create a redemptive solution that leads to joy and peace, if people are repentant and humble.