Divorce touches each of us, sooner or later. A friend, a brother, a co-worker, or perhaps, you. If you haven’t been affected by divorce, you probably will be-it’s one of the signatures of our society. In today’s culture, divorce lurks and leers like a predator surveying his prey.
What does God say about divorce?
What scripture-based counsel is available for those whose hearts have been broken by divorce? For those considering divorce, what guides can keep them committed to the marriage?
As we study this painful topic together, remember this: God hates divorce. But the same God who hates divorce, loves the divorced, just as He does all his children. If you’re contemplating divorce, I pray you’ll reconsider reconciliation, if at all possible. If your heart has been broken by divorce, go to Him for healing. If divorce has separated you from God, I pray that you will find your way back to Him.
He’s left the light on. The door is unlocked. He’s waiting for you.
In the hallway of my memory hangs a photograph. It’s a picture that I treasure very much. A picture of two people – a man and a woman, a couple in the seventh decade of life.
The man lies in the hospital bed. But the hospital bed is in the living room, not in the hospital room.
His body, for all practical purposes, is useless. Muscles have been so ravaged by disease that they’re stretched from bone to bone like the taut fabric on the spokes of an umbrella.
The man breathes through a hose attached to a hole in the base of his throat. And though his body is ineffective, his eyes are sparkling-and they search the room.
They search the room, looking for his partner, a woman whose age is concealed by her youthful vigor. Though her hair is gray, she’s vibrant and healthy, in contrast to the figure lying in the bed.
She energetically goes about her task of the day: taking care of her husband. With unswerving loyalty, she does what she’s been doing for the past two years. It’s not an easy assignment: she has to shave him, bathe him, feed him, comb his hair, brush his teeth.
She holds his hand as they sit and watch television together.
She gets up in the middle of the night and suctions his lungs.
She leans over and kisses his feverish face.
What a precious picture it is. It’s precious because it’s a portrait of my own mom and dad.
Some would say it’s a tragic picture of what disease can do to a man’s body. And while that’s true, it’s a glorious reminder of what devotion can do to a couple’s marriage.
By the time God called my father home, my parents had been married over 40 years. A lot can happen in 40 years. Married during the Depression. Four children, three tonsillectomies, 16 years of college tuition, over a dozen job transfers. Six years in which one would work the morning shift and one would work the evening shift so the kids wouldn’t be left alone.
Forty years offers plenty of reasons to give up on marriage. More than enough excuses to walk out. Not only did they live through one World War, they probably endured 100 domestic wars as well. So what was it that gave their marriage “staying power”? Once, a few months prior to his death, I asked my father what had kept the two of them together.
He said, “Well, leaving was never an option.”
Leaving was never an option.
What they had was a forever marriage-a marriage in which two people, eyeball-to-eyeball, say I’m going to love you when I don’t feel like loving you. I’m going to love you when you’re sick. When we have money and when we don’t. I’m going to love you forever.
Marriage demands the greatest level of tenacity and talent and tenderness that any human being can summon. How bizarre that two people could stand up before a group of folks, gaze into each other’s eyes, and promise to ride the roller coaster of life together. It’s zany, unbelievable, and yet it’s God’s plan. The institution of the home is God’s idea. When God made man and realized that His creation was lonely, He went to work, creating a companion for him. He brought the two of them together in that first beautiful wedding. Giraffes were the bridesmaids and the lions were the groomsmen.
They all marched down that tree lined aisle carpeted with pine needles. And God Himself joined the two together.
Yet, since that first wedding, marriage has fallen on hard times. Somewhere along the line, instead of an honored institution blessed by God, marriage has become an option for some and a passing fancy for others.
Nobody ever said marriage is easy. It’s been said that a wedding is an event, but marriage is an achievement. It takes patience and caring and giving and giving and giving.
Sometimes that knot will be like a smooth silk ribbon wrapped around a little girl’s pony tail. But there will be other times when it will be like trying to loop a huge hank of rope-scratchy, itchy, weighing you down.
This knot has a name – it’s called “commitment.”
THE COVENANT OF COMPANIONSHIP
Why is the marriage commitment so important to God? It may help to remember that ours is a God of covenants. Marriage is a covenant commitment – and covenant commitments are a part of God’s fabric. That’s who He is. He’s the God who looked at Abraham and promised, “I will bless you.” He’s the God who looked at the children of Israel and pledged, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” He’s the God who stood on the ascension hill and said, “I will be with you always, until the end of the earth.”
The marriage vow, a covenant of companionship, begins by separating ourselves from our parents and uniting with our mate. Becoming one flesh as the marriage is consummated unites the couple physically, mentally, and emotionally (God’s dream for each couple is a covenant.).
Divorce is not God’s idea. Divorce was not created by God. Divorce was a toleration of God. Remember when the Jews questioned Jesus about divorce? “Jesus answered, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because you refused to accept God’s teaching, but divorce was not allowed in the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman is guilty of adultery. The only reason for a man to divorce his wife is if his wife has sexual relations with another man” (Mt. 19:8-9).
When we violate the covenant of marriage, we violate what God has called us to be. “The Lord God of Israel says, ‘I hate divorce…so be careful. And do not break your trust’” (Mal. 2:16).
Easier said than done.
Don’t you understand, God? I walk into my house and it’s like walking into a war zone. I’d rather stay at work than go home on Friday afternoons…
Our house is so full of tension we could slice it with a knife. How in the world do you expect me to honor that type of covenant?…
How does God answer such a question? By saying: I expect it of you because I have honored that type of covenant with you!
To understand the importance God places on covenants, read Gen. 15:1-21. The scene is a wedding ceremony, if you will, between God and his people. God promises to bless Abram with many children. Then God sets the stage for sealing the covenant. He instructs Abram to prepare some animals and birds.
The ceremony consisted of taking two animals, cutting them in half, and setting the carcasses apart, forming a path. Traditionally, the first party to the covenant would walk the path between the carcasses, saying “May what has happened to these animals happen to me if I fail to uphold my covenant.” Then the other party would do the same, carrying a torch and a smoking pot, repeating the same pledge. In the account of God’s covenant with Abram, the man awoke to see a torch and smoking pot passing through the carcasses. God was sealing the covenant between Him and Abram.
Remarkable. God making a covenant with man. Over and over, God would honor that covenant:
When the children of Israel complained in bondage, God did not leave them.
When He delivered them and they wanted to go back to Egypt, He did not leave them.
When they made a golden calf and worshiped it, God didn’t leave them.
When their King David lied, cheated, and committed adultery and murder, God didn’t leave them.
When His own friends fell asleep while He agonized in prayer at Gethsemane, He didn’t leave.
When His own follower placed a kiss of betrayal on His cheek, He didn’t leave.
When a Roman soldier made raw meat out of his back with a whip, Jesus didn’t leave.
When the spikes sent roaring pain through His body, Jesus didn’t leave.
When He came back from the grave and found his apostles huddling together in fear, He didn’t leave them.
That is the kind of God we serve. A God of covenant. That is why covenant promises are important to God. A God who believes that a covenant pledge is a covenant to be honored. As a child of God, that is our heritage. A heritage that calls you to be faithful, not just to God, but to your spouse. If your marriage needs rebuilding, you have a God who charges you to call on Him to help rebuild your home.
One of the last messages my father ever gave me was scribbled on a piece of paper as he lay in his hospital bed. “Max, be faithful to your wife.”
We have a heritage of faithfulness. There’s no greater reason to be faithful to your spouse than to honor the God who has been faithful to you.
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