Written: 6/3/09, but posted 7/25/12
Well, this is interesting, and I didn’t even realize it until today when I was actually evaluating my email list, but I see now that more than half of you have either been divorced or had some kind of agonizing break-up of a romance. So I guess my idea to send this summary of Gary’s last Sunday’s sermon might be helpful to more than a few of you. So let me try to write a “message” here based on some of the notes I took.
His sermon was called: “What is the Truth About Marriage and Divorce?”
Divorce: 3 issues:
He said that the cost is almost always way higher than anyone anticipates –the financial costs, as well as the emotional / psychological costs for everyone involved, even extended family, friends, and sometimes even acquaintances. He said that it is the number one stressor that could happen in one’s life –worse than a death or a prolonged illness, and worse than going through a depression of any other kind. The pain up until the final date is bad enough, but to sit in a courtroom and hear your spouse giving you the final rejection, is agony of the worst kind. And that when a person walks out –finally divorced– he is likely feeling the worst aloneness a human can feel. And I have heard that this acute “aloneness” feeling can continue for months, even years.
Because of this devastation to the deep parts of one’s spirit, the rest of us should come alongside that wounded divorced person, and love on them in tenderness, patience, and empathy. We must understand that often even the best intentioned people cannot control or fix a marriage. And though God hates divorce, He also hates when people continue to inflict pain on each other.
Gary said that healing from a divorce is a very necessary step in living out the rest of one’s life. He said that often, due to the pain of the rejection, people will jump into a new romance that at first seems to bandage that rejection wound. But, as we all suspect or know, this is often just a recipe for more rejection. This is because there are dynamics in every relationship and if a person has not healed from hurts in one, he will only bring into the new relationship old patterns –like defensiveness, suspicion, anger, etc. He said that most second marriages fail –and within the first 5 years.
So a time of healing must be walked through. And any part we had in the ruin, must be admitted, faced, and repented of. We must turn to the Lord and His Word, and yes, to loving, godly people, but not to a new person we are expecting to fill the void left from the ruins of broken intimacy.
Reconciliation, Gary stated, is one’s first goal. If neither has remarried, it is always an option, and should be viewed as the best option. I see what Gary is saying here, though I do differ slightly, as I believe once people have gone through the divorce procedure, real and total repentance and change should be VERY evident… otherwise, people are just creating for themselves a (probable) whole barrel of renewed and unnecessary pain. I know of at least two marriages where the spouses divorced, then remarried each other –only to divorce again and leave behind way worse devastation than after their original divorce. I have also witnessed in the past, the offending spouse seeming to have the mindset that he can always repent “tomorrow” –even if it’s AFTER the divorce. The “Oh, she’ll still take me back…” mentality seems to never end, so the guy seems to never be motivated to repent –“just yet.” …So I do differ with Gary here. I believe that only in very rare cases, should people “try again” after they have divorced.
Gary talked about forgiveness –that it is a major hurdle, but also an absolute necessity. And that we must let go of the desire for revenge or to see the other one hurt. He quoted a study done that one-third of men and one-half of women are still furious, bitter, and revengeful toward their ex-spouse even TEN years later! And that it is great cause for the epidemic of angry children we experience around us. Yes, no matter what someone has done to us, and even if we choose to leave them (or divorce them) or cut off fellowship with them, we should always pray for them –that they will soon come back to righteousness, correct standing and favor with Jesus, and that God will grant them blessings when they do so. For that is Christ’s way and heart, and we are to be just like Him.
So as to the prevention of divorce, or it happening again… Gary gave us four top “marriage busters” to avoid and said that these have been seen to have a 90% accuracy rate (of divorce prevention) when followed. First, –is not to show CONTEMPT for your spouse. No rolling of eyes, demeaning tones or looks or words or actions. Instead, HONOR your spouse. Think honorable thoughts of him and treat him with honor. The applicable Scripture is: “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” (Rom. 12:10)
Secondly, –don’t show or speak CRITICISM, but rather give ENCOURAGEMENT. Verse: “Encourage one another daily.” (Heb. 3:13) He stressed that we should at all times be our spouse’s greatest fan. To always look for the good in the other, speak of it to them and others, and to encourage them in their potentials.
Thirdly, –don’t have a DEFENSIVE attitude, but one of OPENNESS. –To overlook faults in the other, knowing you have faults too; but if it’s something you shouldn’t overlook, then to discuss it in love, couched in many affirmations. Verse: “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)
Fourthly, –do not use WITHDRAWAL to avoid conflict or discomfort, but instead work to create and maintain a spirit of CONNECTEDNESS. Gary said that this is the biggest marriage buster of all because the “one flesh” union of God’s marriage blessing (Gen. 2:24) has been broken. Once withdrawal happens, more happens, and then affection is withheld, then intimacy, and THEN the marriage has been opened up for all kinds of hurt, outsider-influence, and chaos. Because the lonely, rejected spouse will likely start looking elsewhere for fulfillment and/or affection, and the marriage has then risen to “major danger” status. It’s like a slow cancer. It’s slow, so no one does anything to prevent it, and one day the death is unavoidable. The marriage doesn’t end in a brawl, but only a whimper… Verse: “Live in harmony with each other.” (Rom. 12:16)
Here are three suggestions Gary gave for maintaining that “connectedness”: One: Keep courting, dating, having fun together… (And don’t complain about things, or discuss bills, or gossip, or talk about anything negative while out “enjoying” one another.) Two: Watch the pace of your life and do not get overly busy. Three: Resolve conflict quickly and completely. Take the time to talk out those things that you feel you can’t (or shouldn’t) overlook.
Well, there you have it. That was the sermon. I thought it was really good. (And to those of you who also heard it, I hope my summary did it justice.)
May we all be Christ-like in all our relationships.