When the Vow Breaks
by Wilson Adams
via Biblical Insights, Vol. 7, No. 2, Febrary, 2007
I am divorced. Like the alcoholic who finds the courage to stand at his first A.A. meeting and admit what he would rather hide and deny, well, that's me. It's not easy writing those words or even admitting them to myself.
You may wonder why it is that big of a deal. After all, many marriages end in divorce and it is a common thing for people to talk in flippant tones about an ex-husband or wife as if they were speaking about a once-loved vehicle they have traded in on a newer model. I hate that. My view of marriage is one of permanency—one man and one woman "until death do you part" (Romans 7:2-3). I learned, however, a valuable lesson along the road of life—you cannot make some-one else remain committed nor can you make him / her do what is right. You can, however, control yourself.
It has been a long and difficult struggle. Divorce always is. It has been described as the "gift that keeps on giving" and anyone on the receiving end of a judge's gavel knows exactly what that means. It never just "goes away."
I will tell you that as a gospel preacher there have been days when I wished I wasn't. There have been days when I have felt the extra burden that accompanies the glass house in which most of us who fill pulpits are forced to live. And there were days when, even though I knew my innocence, I wondered if others would have confidence in my work. It was an added burden and certainly not an imaginary one.
Seventeen years after the fact, it is still hard to admit. There comes with that word a sense of failure and, although God does not hold one accountable for the sins of another,sometimes people aren't as merciful. But I can't do anything about that. And neither can you.
I write these difficult words in the hope that they will help another. Divorce is, in fact, life's greatest tragedy. It has been said that death is easier than divorce and in some ways it is. By no means does that minimize the grief that accompanies death nor do we do anyone any favors by comparing tragedies. But in death, as horrible as it can be, there is some semblance of closure. In divorce, the innocent ones live daily in the wake of someone's sin, and closure is seldom found.
Debbie Lanphear of Bowling Green, Kentucky got it right when she wrote, "Divorce is like a Civil War triage where you feel a limb had been amputated without anesthesia." Some of you know what she means.
Children of divorce struggle with emotional baggage beyond words — words they can neither express or understand. In death they will eventually comprehend that mom or dad did not have a choice; in divorce, they will always struggle because mom or dad did have a choice.
It is essential in all of this, however, that you rely upon your faith. If your faith counts for anything, it now must count for everything. The answer is not in denial (I am concerned about those people the most). The answer is not in busyness — which only masks the real problem. The bottom-Iine answer lies in an inseparable link to the Living Lord.
Relying upon your faith is not only essential for you but for your children. Little eyes will be watching. It is important that you do more than teach them about faith — you must show them faith in daily action. This is critical because you are making deposits into their memory bank from which they will draw in later years. One day they will go through the hardest of times and one thing that will enable them to survive is the memory of a parent who faced the whirling clouds of upheaval with tremendous faith in the power of God.
Yes, our God can do more than we ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). He will enable you to find the faith to endure. The trauma of divorce will make you either bitter or better — and it is your willingness to entrust such a heavy burden into Heaven's hands that will enable you not only to survive but also to become better as a result.
It is important at some point that you move ahead—although some people never do. Stuck in a time warp, they relive the tragic events over and over. Just as it is not healthy to bypass the natural grieving process, it is equally unhealthy to continue to grieve. As David "arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes ... and came into the house of the Lord and worshiped ..." after grieving over his son (II Samuel 12:20) and ... as Ezra encouraged his people to move on from grief and turn tears into joy (Nehemiah 8:11), it is essential that we do the same.
Do you need help to move on? Seek it. For some reason Christians fear turning to others. Doesn't Proverbs speak of the need to "acquire wisdom?" One source of wisdom is found in the advice of qualified people who can instruct with objectivity regarding human behavior. Too often when faced with the emotional trauma of divorce, people turn for support only to those who are emotionally involved — family and friends. That is a mistake. While you need the support of those people on one level, they may not be the ones who will help you move ahead. Family and friends tend to fuel pity and you don't need that. Find someone who can be objective — who will tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear. Or seek advice from a qualified professional who comes recommended by someone you trust.
A word of clarification: nothing written here is intended to provide safe haven for the guilty. I write with no intent to say, "All is well, all is well" (Jeremiah 8:11) when it is not. God's word is clear when it comes to the consequences of marital infidelity (Matthew 5:32). Just as natural law comes with attached consequences, so does God's law for human behavior. If you are living in an adulterous relationship, you, too, can move ahead but only after you take the necessary steps to walk away from sin. As hard as that may be, it is the only way you will find the freedom of conscience that will enable you to capture the essence of life — a hand-in-hand walk with God.
Neither the passing of years nor public approval will make wrongs turn into rights. It may mean that you have to live alone without the joy of earthly marital companionship, but in so doing you will know an inner peace like never before. And you won't be the first to so live. Hard? Yes. Impossible? No. Jesus said, "If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off ... for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell" (Matthew 5:30). If you need to sever a relationship that is standing between you and eternal life—find the courage to do it. Life is too short to live in the backwash of a guilty conscience and eternity is toolong not to be in the presence of God and His people.
For the innocent, however, there are times in the midst of a storm when it is not "Lord, help me through this day ..." but "Lord, help me through this minute!" The strength of God, the support of family, and the encouragement of Christians will lift you up.
Two verses gave me hope: "Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10b), and "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God" (Romans 8:28). Just knowing that God had not forsaken me gave me the blessed assurance to keep going.
I couldn't bring myself to preach or write about home and family, relationships and marriage for years. But I do now. I have been blessed with opportunities to speak about the sanctity of marriage and the tragedy of divorce and, even though it remains painful to discuss, I am willing to do it because of the help it brings to others. When God says, "I hate divorce!" (Malachi 2:16), I think I understand. If couples only knew the heartache of what seems like a quick and simple solution to hurting homes, they would rethink their decision.
"God cannot use you greatly until He has broken you completely." It's true. It made Haggai a better preacher. It gave Peter the credibility to write a letter of hope — because his words came from one who had lost his hope only to find it again. No one helps another more than someone who has "been there." Maybe you are there. Whatever you do, do not cave in to pity. By the grace of God, rise up! Who knows, there may be others who could benefit from your experience and encouragement.