By: Tim Sader
You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’ (Matthew 5:31)
While learning to mentor teens at Central Baptist my parents were growing tired of attending church only to have them fail. They still had faith in Christ but had gotten sick of church leaders letting them down. To fill in the space that used to be reserved for church activities my parents started finding non-church friends from work and in the neighborhood. My dad retired early from the National Guard after twenty some years of them influencing many of his career and private decisions. This new found freedom he felt made it easy to go out with friends to bars dabbling with alcohol and drugs. He seemed to be having fun going to races, being out late and feeling young again. He never did anything super horrible while intoxicated but made some bad decisions and started spiraling out of control. His business went under, he lost good jobs, failed a drug test to get back in the military and ended up getting a DUI. Mom was going along with him, hanging out with the same people and dabbling some but she never was out of control and remembered her responsibilities to us at home. Dad was always a hard worker and did anything necessary to provide for our family but wanted to have fun with any money left over. As his business failed I think he felt like a failure in life as a provider. Things seemed to get better when he found jobs but he never seemed fulfilled by them like he used to be. On a whim he decided it would be better for him to be alone so he told my mom he wanted out of the marriage. He admitted it wasn’t because he didn’t love her, he just wanted out so he could find himself again. I knew he’d be unhappy so I told him it was a stupid decision and that he would regret it. Never the less he moved out and regretted it after a few months so they tried getting back together. Despite their best attempt the day he walked out the door mom gave him what he wanted and let go of any feelings she had in regards to being married to him. It was too late, the damage was done and after being separated a year or so they got a divorce.
This was not a great situation to deal with in my early twenties and my brother a senior in high school but I am glad it happened after our childhood and adolescent years. Things between my parents were not good when distractions outside of the Lords will began to influence their lives. With the help of God they made it through problems in their relationship in the past but just a small shift from that and it couldn’t be salvaged. According to the law getting a divorce is just a matter of paperwork being submitted to the other spouse and a few signatures. To God the only real reason for divorce is unfaithfulness to ones husband or wife. If for any other reason it leads to forcing your ex to commit adultery, yourself commiting it or both partners if they choose to marry again (Mt. 5:32). That being said sometimes divorce happens when people feel unhappy, neglected or unfulfilled in a marriage. This turns their heart hard toward their spouse and in our human understanding divorce will fix it. Divorce is not a respecter of religion, race or social class it can affect anyone who is married. Moses made it law that a person could give a written notice of divorce and separate themselves from their spouse but that is not the perfect will of God (Mt. 19:7-8). There was a certain level of unfaithfulness as things spun out of control; one of my parents gave into it making everyone guilty of the sin. In their case both of my parents are believers but where their marriage was concerned at least one of them felt that even God couldn’t save it. In circumstances similar to these the believer is not obligated to stay with the one who don’t. There is no way to know if one can save things for both of them so if there’s no agreement it is better to part on peaceful terms (1 Cor. 7:15-16). After many years of being apart my parents live at peace with their divorce. My dad has remarried and mom gets along well with his new wife, she calls her a spouse in-law and even feels she is a better wife for him.
Divorce is always messy and someone almost always gets hurt but what matters is how we handle the aftermath. His word on this topic feels harsh and condemning when only seen through the microscope of us being divorced. These words are not to condemn but to protect his children from getting hurt or hurting others in a failed attempt to love like they should. In a world where marriage is not taken seriously we need to remember that if God is our focus there is a better hope than if we let distractions keep us from our mutual commitment. Divorce is often caused by sin and leaves guilt but God is faithful to forgive when we call on Him. Here is a great resource for anyone struggling with a seperation or divorce www.divorcecare.org .
Lord please help us if we have been, are getting or will get a divorce. Help us also who are married so we will not kick you out of our relationship by getting distracted in the world. When we sin in anyway Lord help us to be quick in confessing them to you and allowing your forgiveness to take away our guilt. Help us to love others and especially our spouse by remembering how you love us and hate to see when we hurt eachother. In Jesus Name, Amen!
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