Divorce 1 of 6: Introduction

I wrote this back in 1987 after being challenged by well-meaning, fellow Christians because I was engaged to a ‘divorced’ woman. They were convinced that I was out of God’s will, and their attacks got vicious. I needed to hear what God was trying to tell me. It was this: “Take three days off from work, and read My word, learn My heart.” I did. I needed all three days and several legal pads to put this together.

The Response

Three days and quite a few pages of paper from a legal pad (or two) later, I had something in my hands I never expected to have. I had the first draft of what you are about to read. Thanks to those Christians, and their commitment to their beliefs, here it is, years later, on the Internet. Also thanks to her. No, we never married. God got us together for other reasons. One of them is in front of you now.

What I learned, what I read, and what I have come to strongly believe follows. I have had several ministers give me feedback on this, but more important is the feedback from readers like yourself, and the feedback from God!

Yep, this is how it went for three days!

Divorce and Its Survivors

People who have gone through a divorce can often find churches that will preach at them. However, they need to find those that will minister to them. I thought that we were all sinners, and have fallen short of the glory of God? How can one sinner condemn another sinner for being a sinner? Is it right to condemn you for your sin, when I need to forgive myself for my sins? (God has already forgiven me, it’s history.)

Often divorced people are made to feel like modern-day lepers, untouchable and unclean. Some modern-day religious leaders are more into God’s judgment than grace, mercy, or compassion; often with a self-righteous tint. They appear to be more concerned with rules and appearances in this life than helping others with a relationship with God. There’s even a very large church that doesn’t admit that divorce even exists. Wow.

I don’t want to excuse divorce, and I recognize it as a sin. (We all sin!) Let us instead concentrate on how God wants us to minister to people who have gone through the emotional, spiritual and material trauma of a divorce. From one sinner to another, accepting that God still loves us despite what we have done, and that He always will. I am no better a person because I have not been divorced. I have sinned plenty.

There are many Christians who love God deeply, who have experienced a divorce. Either before or after their spiritual birth and are unsure about what God thinks of them. Can they ever get back into God’s favor? Did God flush them? Guilt and shame are almost encouraged because we now label them “divorced”. I am so glad that no one knows my worst sins, and doesn’t label me for them! Some are concerned about what other Christians think about them. Some don’t even know what to think about themselves!

From the Book of Jeremiah

Jeremiah 3:8 “Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.”

New King James Version

What? God divorced His people for all their backsliding? It’s right there in the Bible! Before discussing ministry to people who have experienced a divorce, I want to look at divorce itself. Let’s agree on a foundation from which to continue. But first, I want to clarify something, especially for those of you that are ‘divorced’. GOD LOVES YOU, and says to you what He said to His people after He divorced them:

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

New King James Version

Most people upon hearing “divorce” think of an unfortunate, sometimes tedious, emotionally charged, legal process. I want to show that it may not be only the paperwork that counts. In fact, as I will show later, the paperwork is not the divorce. Yes, there is the “legal” divorce, certified by the government. I will be referring to the “actual” divorce, which happened before the “legal” one.

Let me illustrate

Let’s look at a couple that has been married for fifteen years, with a 13-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter. On the surface, they have everything, including active church membership. Yet, their private life (and their sex life) is so bad, they have given up on being a team. However, they choose to stay together until the children finish high school. For 5 years they live together without love, enthusiasm, or compassion toward each other. They may even get separate rooms. The day their youngest graduates from high school, they file the divorce papers.

From Pexels

Notice the Decisions the Parents Made.

They chose to paint a picture of a happy marriage where no such marriage existed. They took the easier way and chose to live a lie. I’m not saying it was painless for them, it wasn’t. They stopped working at the marriage and refused to admit to anyone that they had quit. They may have fooled virtually everybody at a distance, but not their children. Lying to their church, putting on masks of happiness and love, when none existed behind it. They chose to live a lie, without any real commitment to their family. God did that but as a disciplinary measure.

I believe that the paperwork is nothing more than a confession of what has already happened, not the divorce itself. The paperwork is a public acknowledgment of what has already happened, and God wants us to “confess our sins”. Yes, He does!

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

New King James Version

That which others believe to be a sin is in my eyes (and God’s!) merely a public confession, which God wants us to admit!

Jeremiah 3:8 “Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.”

New King James Version

Re-read that last one. If giving someone a “certificate of divorce” is a sin, then God sinned. The only way to explain what God did, is to realize that giving someone a “certificate of divorce” is NOT a sin!

Back to our example, their children often picture what they saw in their teen years (emotional emptiness, neutrality, mechanical role filling) as a typical ‘Christian’ marriage. Compare that that to the image of a secular marriage (excitement, lifestyle, materialism, drugs, parties), it is easy to see why so many walk away from the faith. Christianity has proven to be boring and just a social thing. No relationship between parents, and no relationship with God!

They may become emotionally empty (little real love at home between the parents). So they look for alternate ways to find fulfillment and ‘love’. Drugs, sex, thrills, alcohol, affairs, etc., all offer a temporary ecstasy, a poor substitute for ‘joy’. They didn’t see ‘joy’ at their Christian home, they don’t know what it is.

Certificate

I believe that a divorce agreement or a divorce certificate is, in some ways, similar to a death certificate. A doctor signs the death certificate, but doesn’t kill anyone! The law requires a doctor’s signature as an expert witness whose testimony is proof that the person is dead. Doctors are experts on life and death, so their word is final. Once signed, the death certificate is legal proof that the person is dead. In reality, the person may have died hours, days, or weeks before!

Further, let’s look at a situation where there is no body for a doctor to examine and declare legally dead. Some of our POWs and MIAs have long ago died, but there are no expert witnesses to close the case. Insurance companies, health firms, families, and many others desire to close the door on the past in these cases. Un-closed death cases are an awful emotional drain on the survivors.

Let’s further compare the death certificate to a divorce certificate. Both represent a death; one of an individual, the other of a mutual commitment. You may believe, that marriage is a mutual agreement. I believe that’s true, but an agreement to what? Safe sex? Children? Combining Incomes? Social status?

I believe that marriage is much more than an agreement, contract, or certificate. It is a commitment to each other and (for some) to God.

Before we compare our certificates, let’s go over what a marriage is, so we can better understand what it is that died in the divorce. I will do that in the next installment.

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