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?

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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!

Seasonings for Success

Proverbs 27:9,”Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.”

Today’s passage is great because it reminded me of what I will need to succeed. As I am working through my 100 day challenge, I have found certain seasonings that are sweetening my success. This first one is refreshment. There is a continual need to be refreshed because of the ornery challenge that presents itself before me every day. When Proverbs 27 talks about oil and perfume in this context, the writer is likely describing the benefit of oil and perfume for their soothing and curative effects on the body. Guests were often honored by their hosts through the anointing of oil and perfume. It would bring refreshment after a taxing journey through dusty hot paths.

imagesCertain things in life make the heart glad and revitalize the journey. This morning my wife and I enjoyed sharing a chocolate glazed doughnut with French Pressed Italian blend coffee from Starbucks. (Earlier this week I learned about this special treasure, and I had to share it with my wife.) Coffee tasting is an art that begins with smell. We cupped our hands over the lip of the mug and allowed the comforting aroma of coffee to sweep through us as we inhaled. This prepared us for an inviting taste as the coffee rolled across our palate. Left behind was a sweet smooth sensation each time we sipped and savored. In my 100 day challenge, I have not been plagued by moments like this morning because they have been rewards bringing refreshment.

The second ingredient that I have found sweetening my success is relationships. Life is not meant to be lived alone. The Christian life is a communal life. Anyone who lives in isolation- whether geographical, emotional or spiritual- is not able to enjoy the benefits and blessings that come by authentically living in the presence of good friendships. It is important to be surrounded by people who are for you, who are willing to be authentic and vulnerable with you, yet who are willing to speak the truth in love as you are open before them. Reciprocity in authentic living is vital to have in order to taste the sweetness of such friendships. (That is what the writer means when he says that, “the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.”) Reciprocity in authentic living involves the skill and compassion to gently instruct a friend with truth when he errors. It also means one being humble and carefully considering the counsel of a friend who is bringing such counsel.

Today I know that as I weighed in on the scale and celebrate losing 10 lbs, I know that my celebration will be shared with others who have allowed me to be open with them and who have been graciously truthful with me as they have spurred me on in this challenge. This morning I savored the sweet relationship with my wife, Samantha, who has been my greatest friend who brings me encouragement and counsel. I also share this gladness with those closest to me, my community group from Watermark. I do life with them and they know the deepest and darkest parts about me. Yet, they love me and instruct me and bring encouragement to my life. Authentic relationships are necessary so that we will do the things we don’t want to do so that we can be the person we long to be.

Fully Devoted

3/12/09 4:45pm

Joshua 21-24

Pericope: Joshua 24:14-15

Today my wife and I received a letter from our electric company. It turns out that our contract is expiring and they want us to renew. Of course, the first thing I did was google “compare power prices dallas texas.” I found one rate as cheap as 10.7 cents / kwh. That’s pretty decent! It’s cheaper than the 13.7 cents/ kwh we are paying now. So it looks like we will be switching to something cheaper. My wife and I are certainly not committed to any particular company. We’ll bounce from place to place to find the best rate.

I think that refraining from commitment is the norm for today’s culture. We are skeptical of long term commitments. They can become hand cuffs to our lives binding us away from the freedom we enjoy. Of course, choosing a power company does not have to be a serious deal. But there are areas in life where we should consider a stronger devotion. Relationships with people, jobs, & churches are just a few entities which deserve a higher commitment level.

In the Old Testament, we see God working for the redemption of man. He is sovereignly orchestrating history to provide restoration for His people. He has a Chesed love for His people. And one thing he requires in return is full devotion to Him. This may seem selfish, but it really isn’t. Being fully devoted to God is directly connected to inheriting His blessings. It is the bridge to being restored back to the life we were created to have. In Joshua 24, Joshua goes back over the covenant with Israel. It is a sort of “renewed vows.” The people are exhorted to fully obey God with integrity and loyalty. Loyal devotion is about what Joshua exhorts God’s people to commit to. He says, “Choose this day who you will serve.” Joshua knew the opportunities that existed which would strive to divide the hearts of God’s people. Devotion to God means full devotion. Choosing Yahweh cannot be done at the same level as choosing a power company. There is no room for ambivalence. Many of us heard about this year’s “Bachelor” who had to choose between 2 women. He flip floped on his choice and hurt his fiance. His choice had consequences. Choosing Yahweh cannot be done in the same light. The consequences for God’s people are more severe when they flippantly turn away from Him. It does not mean a bad wrap in the press and poor P.R. It means either inheriting the blessings of restored relationship with God and a fuller relationship with man or being carried away into the bondage of a life without God and his blessings. As we look at all those “options” which would deviate our devotion to Christ, it is essential to choose well. Not only is our immediate freedom at stake, but so also is our eternity in relation to Christ.