i am going to wrap this thing up with two more posts…tonight and tomorrow. even though there is so much more to be studied and talked about, we’ll close out the public dialogue here.
if you want to dig in deeper and want some help with it, let me know. it’s important. it may be life and death for you and your marriage. don’t rest until you have reached a place where your relationship can breathe again.
so here goes…
please read this: these insights are for marriages where there is no abusive, toxic, or illegal behavior involving any family member.
back to the hardness of heart issue. a hardened heart is the explanation for why people resort to divorce. they have concluded that god no longer has the power to change hearts…that the problems in the marriage are simply too big for god to have any effect on.
jesus does not say, however, that hardness of heart is a valid reason to divorce.
irreconcilable differences are not a good reason for divorce. all of us have hardened hearts. all of us have stubborn wills and troubled faith and dark areas of unbelief that are going to mess with our attempts for real intimacy and healthy relationships. all of us.
hardness of heart should not make us run. hardness of heart should not make us quit on our relationships. hardness of heart should be repented of…and should be the very thing that humbly drives us to our knees.
difficulties, harsh words, empty feelings, seasons of bad communication, differences of opinions…even loss of romance… are all places that god will give us a new heart and change us and make us new creations. for the follower of christ, these are not grounds for divorce. period.
also, here’s one last take on jesus’ statement in matthew 5:32…
But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
you can debate me on this one, but it looks to me like divorce, by definition, is accomplished only when remarriage (or a new relationship of some kind) takes place.
honestly, on this point, i don’t think that god is particularly interested in the laws of the state we live in. the legal status that exists between a husband and wife…whether there is some legal ruling on the division of property and responsibilities and liabilities made by an official representative of the state…do not really matter to god.
the primary vow that is made when a man and woman get married is, “i will be faithful to you alone.” the primary vow is not, “i will be completely happy and satisfied with you in every moment of our life together.”
we all want to have perfect marriages. we all want relationships of great emotional connection and shared values and deep, heartfelt agreement on everything important that we face together. but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. people change. we grow and develop and think different and respond different and even look different than we did on that day we made the promise to each other.
sometimes, our marriages are full of anger and tension and threat and difficulty and cold, empty routine. sometimes it lasts for years. sometimes there is so much hostility, couples begin to believe they cannot live under the same roof.
so here’s a thought: maybe what each of them need to do, if they care at all about what matters to god, is to spend time separated from each other and deal with the hardness-of-heart issues in their lives, to be remade by God, to learn to believe in the promises and power of god, and then build the bridges back again toward an intimate relationship.
but they also need to remain faithful to each other…leaving no room at all for another person to move into the space that was promised in the marriage vow. don’t leave any room for another relationship. guard your heart and protect the sanctity of your vow at any cost. being the initiator of divorce is not consistent with a commitment to follow christ.
(for the record, it is my understanding that if one partner pursues a divorce anyway, the one who was abandoned is free to marry again…no stigma, no penalities.)
couples are forced to be apart from each another all the time. because of war…illness…natural disasters…and economic stress and upheaval. living with each other is not an absolute requirement for marriage. but absolute and sustained faithfulness is.
as harsh as this statement is, some couples will spend years of married life aiming at intimacy, instead of achieving it with any deep degree of success. but divorce hasn’t happened as long as they stick to the central vow: “i will be faithful to you alone.” it is only when one or the other decides, “enough is enough. i no longer believe god has the power to save this relationship. i’m going to choose another mate,” that the marriage is broken.
truthfully, i am blown away by husbands and wives who experience very little of the warmth, intimacy, laughter, love, and happiness that a healthy marriage has, for whatever reason, and yet remain faithful to their vows and faithful to the Lord who has created the marriage.
we are all aware of men and women who are married to invalids for years…where there has been no conversation, friendship, no touching, no dreaming, no real relationship…yet they remain faithful.
i know, personally, of people who have come to this country from mexico, south america and asia…who have left their families (spouses) behind for years…working to send money back out of a deep love and faithfulness to the commitment they made on their wedding day. what an example.
my marriage vows have never been put to that test. my heart is not hardened to the greatness and power and word of god. this has been easy to write. it would be quite another thing to have to live it out.
i would hope that my love for god and commitment to him would trump my need to chart a course for my life without trusting him completely. i hope that for you, too.
here’s what i know: god honors the keeping of promises. it is when we keep our promises that we are most like god…and he is most pleased.