Finding the Way When Your Marriage Is Broken

When I was in college, one summer I spent several weeks doing door to door book sales in Tennessee with my friend. After some time, I decided that gig wasn’t for me. I headed back home to Michigan and was driving through the night.

After several hours on the road, it was dark and I found myself going around a loop in Indianapolis. I took an exit to get oriented because I recognized that somewhere I took a wrong turn. I found myself in a broken neighborhood where there were boarded up houses. I kept driving and it seemed like I would never escape this city as I hit every red light. 

After about nearly an hour, I finally figured out my bearings and got back on track. While I grew frustrated with my situation, I came to the point where I admitted that I had made a navigational error. I eventually took the time to evaluate my situation, and to seek the guidance of the map (pre GPS and iPhone days). Then I followed its instructions and made my way back home safely.

Reflecting back on this little experience has reminded me of the simplicity of the Gospel and the power it has in my life and marriage.

Sometimes we find that our marriage is not on the path we planned when we said until death do us part. Whether we have developed bad habits, undisciplined lifestyles, poor communication, financial hardship, or whatever it is, we can easily become discontented with our spouse. Suddenly, our marriage is not in a place we anticipated going when we said I do.

Those frustrations are the first warning signs that your marriage is going down the wrong path. You are quickly headed to a destination that will bring you great pain if something does not change.

The Good News is that if you find yourself lost in your marriage, know that you can arrive safely to the Ever After that you always dreamed of.

When Mark wrote his Gospel, Israel was not in a good place. She too was lost as ever. Stripped of her prosperity and security in her land, over the centuries she was raped and pillaged by the powerful nations of her day. Where was God? What happened to His promises? Was God’s relationship with His people over?

Mark writes to Israel in order to encourage them. To let them know that God sees them circling the dark streets of their “Indianapolis.” To let them know that all is not over.

In fact, His love for them was about to shine greater than ever.In Mark 1, Mark is acting like a GPS when he writes of everyone from Jerusalem and Judea repenting and being baptized. Baptism and repentance were on the road map to get back to the Promised Land. The Messiah was near, and Israel’s relationship with God would change forever.

Looking at the map ultimately would lead Israel to Jesus Messiah, and Israel’s road home would be found in the person of Jesus Christ. The same is true for our marriages today.

If you have woken up recently and found yourself in the darkness and isolation of a broken marriage that you just cannot seem to fix, know that there is hope for you. This hope is ultimately found when both you and your partner fix your eyes on Christ and submit your will to His.

Both you and your partner must resign to allow Christ to be King. Turning to Jesus is your first turn to navigating your way back home to a healthy marriage that is intoxicating with love.

The truth is that eventually we all come to signs that tell us we are not where we should be. We all know when we are not loving our spouses well. We know when we have lived deeply in selfishness and isolation in our marriage.

The problem with your marriage is not your marriage. The problem in your marriage is the sinfulness of two individuals who have selfish hearts that wander and go astray. That is what leads the relationship down roads of brokenness.

When we find ourselves on that road, the tragedy would be to quit driving altogether. The tragedy would be to keep driving down the same path that led us to where we are. The worse tragedy would be to look at the map and then ignore its instructions. But sadly these reactions are what many of us do when the joy and blessing of a wonderful marriage is within reach.

For me to get back home that dark night in Indianapolis, I had to read the map, compare it to where I was located, and start doing what it said. This is what Israel had to do. This is what we all have to do in our marriages today.

In my own marriage, my wife and I are continually finding hope when we too repent and turn back to Christ after making decisions that have caused us great pain.I have personally witnessed the testimonies of marriages once broken by evil- even as dark as multiple affairs and sexual addictions- that are now thriving and impacting other marriages with a message of hope found in Jesus Christ.

How are you doing? Have you made decisions that have wreaked havoc on your relationship with your spouse? Or perhaps, are you looking to get beyond pain that your loved one may have inflicted on you?

Your path to healing begins with Christ who loves you unconditionally- when you buy in to the fact that He is working in your midst, even when you cannot see beyond the darkness of the storm in your life. It begins by experiencing that gracious love and then ultimately pouring it out on your spouse.

Loving your spouse when you are on a broken road might mean seeking guidance and starting to make decisions that will bring life to your marriage. Or  admitting where you are wrong. It might mean saying, “I’m sorry. I hurt you when _____. In the future, I will ______. Will you please forgive me?” Your destination to a healthy marriage is in sight. Are you willing to do what it takes to get there?

Would God Divorce His People?

Hosea 1-5

Focus: Hosea 2:2-4, Plead earnestly with your mother (for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband), so that she might put an end to her adulterous lifestyle, and turn away from her sexually immoral behavior. Otherwise, I will strip her naked, and expose her like she was when she was born. I will turn her land into a wilderness and make her country a parched land, so that I might kill her with thirst. I will have no pity on her children, because they are children conceived in adultery.

Would God really divorce His people? Yes, actually he would. When God declared, “for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband,” it was a formal announcement of divorce. While this is shocking, we must remember a couple things. God’s primary concern is for His glory, but he also would like to share it with his people. God created mankind to walk in relationship with him, and specifically, he gathered Israel to himself as part of a special Covenant relationship. Israel had a unique relationship with God, and it would be through her that the Savior would come.

The problem is that Israel made light of her relationship with God. Even as God pursued her as a nation, she forsook his love for her. Her idolatry led her to adultery. She admired man made objects instead of her creator and pursuer, and while God is incredibly gracious, there came a time when he announced that his marriage relationship with Israel ended. God declared, “for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband.” God rejected his people because of their persistent love affairs with pagan deities. Not only that but God would shame his ex-wife by stripping her naked and exposing her before others. For the sake of God’s Holy name, it was necessary for God to separate himself from His people who dishonored Him.

Why would God do this? Divorcing Israel was not something the Lord wanted as an end in itself. It was a means to an end. Hosea’s wife Gomar’s children were named “No pity” and “Not my people.” They were children born from a pagan love affair, and God used them as part of Hosea’s ministry to represent the children of Israel. God was rejecting His people, but even in His rejection of Israel, he still pursued her. He instructed “No Pity” and “Not my people” to plead with their mother Gomar (who represented Israel) to turn away from her adulterous lifestyle. Otherwise, Israel, represented by Gomar, would be shamed.

God divorced Israel and threatened to shame her because of her habitual love affairs. It seems that after a period of time Israel became incapable of turning away from the enticement of sin, and it cost her dearly. My grandmother once told me that sin will take you farther than you want to go, leave you longer than you want to stay, and will cost you more than you want to pay. The incredible pain of divorce and shame was a part of God’s grace as an effort to tear Israel out of her sin so that he could once again pour his love out on her (2:16-18). She would not break free on her own strength.

Through the pain of divorce, Israel would be stripped of all her protection and security that was provided by Yahweh. Assyria would eventually rape and pillage the land, and God’s people would be led into bondage. But it was only then that Israel would learn to appreciate the strength and majesty of her Lover. It would be then where she would learn to call the Lord her husband and lean on Him for her provision and protection. She never knew what she had until he was gone…kinda like that 70’s song Big Yellow Taxi.

We can all learn from this by examining our hearts to see if there are areas where we are unfaithful to the Lord. What will God have to do in order to get our attention in these areas? What must God strip us of in order to get us to appreciate Him?

God’s concern for the innocent and weak, marriage and divorce

Matthew 19:4-5, “[Jesus] said, ‘Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?'”

imagesToday , as I write, I am going to try to proceed with sensitivity and humility, especially as I have dear family and friends who have suffered through the torturous pain of divorce. My heart is grieved because of the brutality that has been committed against the innocent in divorce, even by well intentioned people of the Church. And for the record, a lot of evil has been committed in the name of religion, especially when it comes to this topic. But, as I study this passage, I do notice a couple principles that are encouraging.

First, as God is extending His hand before man, pointing them down the path that leads to fullness and life, we will find that marriage between one man and one woman is a landmark that God wants us all to enjoy. As we study Jesus who is addressing the Pharisees cornering Him in a debate about divorce, what I hope we can see is that God is greatly concerned about the innocent and weak.

Jesus points back to God’s intentions for marriage. He says “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife…” For what reason? To find the answer we must go back to Jesus’ reference in Genesis 2 where God created Eve for Adam.

Back in the Garden….

One of the first responsibilities God gave to Adam was to cultivate the land. He was to take responsibility for God’s creation and he had the unique privilege of naming all the animals. As God was bringing the animals to Adam for them to be named, Adam discovered his need: there was not a suitable helper for him (Gen 2:20). That is, there was nothing that corresponded to him, no companion or anything that related to Adam.

God’s response to this problem was, “It is not good for the man to be alone. (Gen 2:18)” God said that he would make Adam a companion who corresponds to him. Man was created to do God’s work in relationship with another. From the beginning, marriage was created to serve each member in marriage. Each person in the relationship had a distinctive purpose. Not only that, but marriage was an institute created as a natural means of physical, spiritual, and emotional provision for the man and woman.

In the Ancient Near East, and at the time of Jesus, it was often detrimental for the woman to be divorced. Women who were divorced could not necessarily just get up and get a job to put food on their table. Their provision was solely dependent on their husband if they were married- or on their father if they were not married. For the woman who was divorced, she could not certainly count on her family to take her back into the household because assumptions made by the community about the divorce could bring shame on the family. So she would often be left destitute. It was not a good thing for divorce to occur.

Fast forward to Jesus…

So Jesus says, “What God has brought together, let no man separate.” Woman is God’s provision for man as a wonderful gracious gift to help him accomplish his tasks that have been given by God, and man is made to live with the help of woman. Two are better than one. Of course, in the intended circumstance, it would not be good to separate.

Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away? (Matt. 19:7) The Pharisees were asking why Moses allowed for divorce. The certificate of divorce was given to the innocent dismissed wife of a licentious husband. It was a certificate to document the divorce that was given to the woman so that she would be free to marry again. That way, if she chose to marry again, the original husband could not claim that he never divorced her and accuse her of adultery. Divorce was allowed as a way to protect and provide for the innocent who suffered on account of the hardness of heart of an unfaithful spouse.

The husband who divorced the woman did not necessarily dismiss her because of his own immorality. He could have done it for financial reasons or other motivations. In this situation with the Pharisees, I think that what Jesus was getting at is that we are to pursue Oneness in marriage.

When Jesus provides the exception for allowing divorce (immorality) he stresses that if a man divorces and marries another woman, he commits adultery. In this situation, it seems that Jesus was speaking against an individual who becomes infatuated with a person other than his spouse, or an opportunity for personal gain, and pursues another. The principle: lust and greed for another person or opportunity are not acceptable grounds for the violating member of marriage to divorce the other. We are to pursue reconciliation and oneness in marriage and to keep our vows before God and the community that we would love, protect and care for the one we married.

So looking at everything in context, I can see that we can draw a few humble conclusions or observations.

1. We are all the “innocent and week” in some sense. Because of God’s concern for us, he created marriage as a vehicle to accomplishing the tasks he has given us. Marriage was an institute created as a natural means of physical, spiritual, and emotional provision for the man and woman.

2. Divorce is not good. Even in today’s culture, divorce has shown to have detrimental effects on all members of a family. God does not want us to divorce per say, but neither does he want us to live together “undivorced” because of a contract. The goal is oneness. God wants us to pursue oneness with each other and fight for reconciliation against a hardening of heart that leads to divorce.

3. We must be careful to guard our hearts. Proverbs says that it is the “wellspring” of life. A hardened heart allows for lust and greed. This is essential because Jesus does not prescribe divorce, rather he prescribes faithfulness to God and the spouse. When we make vows, we are expected to fulfill them- especially when our vow is to love and care for another! Marriage is the most direct means of extending God’s love, justice and mercy. A hardened heart equates to a drift towards unfaithfulness.

While this text doesn’t necessarily speak to these principles, here are a couple others that Scripture does support.

4. We must be careful how we treat and perceive those who are going through a divorce or who have been divorced. Ultimately, especially for the Community of Christ, our responsibility is to simply love others and to be there for them. We do not ever know the big picture or a full picture of anyone’s marriage except the 1/2 of our own marriage- if we are even married. But if we know someone who is openly at fault causing a divorce, then we should do what we can to keep them accountable to their vow. If we know someone who is suffering on account of another’s hardness of heart– unfaithfulness- then we should love them and support them during the decisions they make through such difficult trials.

5. A lifestyle of habitual authenticity in community is vital to a healthy marriage. We need to be open about our struggles- the hurts, habits and hangups. The counsel of others can help us effectively deal with these problems that will plague any marriage. The problem is that such authenticity is rare to find and difficult to achieve and maintain. But the difference is like that of dealing with a scrape before it gets infected. An infection that goes too long without treatment will eventually cause the flesh to die. In such a case, amputation is inevitable.

Marriage will help us to see our scrapes. We need to show them to others who can help us treat them with the Biblical “ointment”- truth and love. Authenticity keeps us from hiding our wounds until they are infected. When our hurts, habits and hangups rule in our marriage, the marriage begins to stink like an infection before others. People notice. Left untreated, divorce is inevitable. So if you are struggling in marriage, tell someone before your infection gets worse!

Trials, Tears and Triumph

2/7/2009

Genesis 42-46

Pericope: Genesis 45:6-8

This past week, I learned about a friend who just had her second miscarriage. The day after she miscarried, she learned that her parent’s were getting a divorce. On that same day, her husband’s father passed away. My heart broke for them as I could only imagine the tears that were being shed in the midst of such trials. I have only to wonder what the Lord is doing.

In Genesis 42-46, the heat was turned up in the lives of Joseph’s sibblings and father. Famine was sever and they had to travel to Egypt to find food. This trip to purchase food in Egypt led to a series of perceived disasters. Ultimately, it all culminated with a revelation of God’s bigger picture for Joseph’s family. God’s plan was not to bring disaster for the sake of disaster. His strong hand was working to bring Joseph and his family to Egypt for this important time in history. Joseph understood as he shared with his brother, “God sent me ahead of you to preserve you on the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” Trials and tears were turned into triumph.

Looking back at the story of my friend who lost her baby, it is difficult to discern why she is going through such tragedy. But I am certain that the tears are intended for victory in her life. One lesson that we must learn is that we should never get too captivated by the moment because the moment is all we can see. There is a bigger picture for every moment, and our responsiblity is simply to trust God.