By Dena Johnson Martin, Crosswalk.com
Dear Divorced Christian,
That term still stings, doesn’t it? It seems as if people everywhere want you to wear a large, scarlet letter “D” around your neck. Every form you complete asks if you are divorced or widowed, not just single or married. You are often scorned by the church because of your past. You feel as if you are a total and complete failure.
It’s miserable to not fit in, especially at church. You don’t really fit with the singles, an eclectic group that spans many decades. And you don’t fit with the married groups either, even though you once did. You don’t fit with the happy little families, all coming together to celebrate holidays and special events as a “complete” family.
Even if you did fit in, there are time constraints. If you have full-time custody of your children, you are so busy trying to juggle work and kid schedules and your many other responsibilities that you have no time to search out a new circle of friends. You have no time to consider a social life of your own. And, even if you could find friends and activities, there’s no money for child care for an occasional evening of adult fellowship.
And then there are those well-meaning Christians who want you to know that you have failed Christ by your divorce. They tell you that God hates divorce. They tell you that if you remarry one day, you will forever be living in an adulterous relationship, surely condemned to eternal hell. They tell you that you must stand in the gap, praying for reconciliation with your ex-spouse. That is your only option—other than remaining single for the rest of your life.
You wonder how you will ever survive. You wonder if God can forgive you. You may even wonder if you really sinned. So many questions, and so many different answers.
I understand. I entered marriage with a covenant mindset, with plans for until death do we part. Divorce was not an option for me.
Until it was.
You see, sometimes hearts harden. Sometimes people turn their backs on God’s perfect plan for their lives. Sometimes one party makes choices that forever change a covenant relationship. Maybe there’s adultery. Maybe there’s abandonment. Maybe there’s abuse. Always there is sin.
Maybe, like me, you tried everything. You begged God, night and day, to save your marriage. You tried marriage counseling. You gave your all for years and years, and you never saw anything except continued adultery in return. You sought wise counsel from those who knew you best. You spent untold hours seeking wisdom from God before you finally walked away.
Maybe you weren’t even a Christian when you went through your divorce. And yet now that you have given your life to Christ, you find people telling you that you must remain single. You are struggling to reconcile the God who lovingly called you to him with the one other Christians are presenting to you. You can’t seem to reach a place of understanding.
Or maybe you were the guilty party. Maybe you had an indiscretion. Maybe your selfishness pushed your spouse away. Maybe you were so caught up in your career that you neglected your spouse until he/she couldn’t take it any longer. Maybe it was your addiction that made life with you unbearable. You live with the constant shame and guilt that you destroyed your family.
I understand. I’ve lived through the hurt and the pain, the shame and guilt. I was once the “perfect” Christian. And then my life shattered. My family crumbled under the pain and shame of divorce. Our ministry was stripped away.
I had nothing left but Jesus…but Jesus was more than I ever needed.
It has been a long, tough road, but my God is in the process of redeeming every hurt and pain I have experienced. He has been exactly what I need on this journey, exactly when I needed it. He has been my Great I Am. He has been my peace and my provider. He has been my helper and friend. And he is the giver of new life, the one who can resurrect our lives from the death of divorce.
And here’s what I want you to know:
1. God Hates Divorce
Oh, I know you cringe when you hear that! It’s thrown in your face as if divorce is the unpardonable sin. But let’s be honest: God does hate divorce…and so do you…and so do I.
As I began to look more deeply into Malachi 2:16, I found the context interesting. You see, the context is of the unfaithful spouse, the one who hurts his/her spouse deeply. It’s about being cruel to your spouse, the one that we should love and protect more than any other. God hates the actions that often lead to divorce as we know it.
Since we are throwing around things that God hates, let’s take a look at another passage:
There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community (Proverbs 6:16-19).
Ouch! That stings! Let me just say that anyone who is throwing Malachi 2:16 at you needs to stop and take a look at Proverbs 6. We, as Christians, need to remember that there is none righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). We need to remember that Christ died for our pride and our lies just as much as he died for our divorces. And, it’s often the sins of Proverbs 6 that lead to divorce.
Since walking through my own divorce, I have come to the conclusion that God hates divorce because of the immense pain and suffering that it causes his children. It is far less about sin and far more about his father’s heart for us.
2. To Remarry... Or Not?
I am sure you have heard the arguments that you cannot remarry unless you want to live in adultery and risk your eternal soul. I, personally, have a real problem with that.
Let’s start with interpretation of scripture. I am neither a Greek nor Hebrew scholar. There are enough of those around that I can turn to them to gain from their years of education and experience. However, not one of us was around to have full knowledge of what God intended when he gave the Holy Spirit inspired scripture to the authors. There are scholars who say remarriage is never an option. There are scholars who say remarriage is only an option in the case of adultery. And there are scholars who say remarriage is always allowed because of God’s grace.
No matter what, any interpretation is exactly that: a human interpretation. Only the scripture itself is a divinely inspired Word of God. We have to be very cautious about taking a human interpretation and forcing it on others, lest we become like the Pharisees. Ultimately, your decision to remarry is between you and God. It is a decision that should be made in prayer and consultation with trusted biblical advisors. And, it is a decision that should only be made when you (and your future spouse) have taken plenty of time to heal from your past hurts and to become as much like Christ as possible.
Here’s a quick thought for you: the lineage of Christ recorded in Matthew 1 lists a prostitute (Rahab, who eventually married Salmon), an adulterous couple (David, who married Bathsheba after having her husband murdered), and a widow (who married her kinsman-redeemer, Boaz). I find it very interesting that there are three women who were remarried in the direct lineage of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Can we say grace?
3. God is the Redeemer of All Things
Throughout scripture, we are given so many promises to show us that there is always hope! Romans 8:28 tells us that all things work together for the good of those who love God. Zechariah 9:12 tells us that God will repay two blessings for each of our troubles. In John 11, Jesus proclaims that he is the resurrection and the life; he will take you from the death of divorce and breathe new life into you. And 1 Peter 5:10 says that the suffering won’t last forever but one day he will have you put together and on your feet again.
When this journey began for me nearly six years ago, I wasn’t sure I believed those promises. God had failed me, or so I thought. I had dedicated my life to him, and the “blessing” I received was a husband who was unrepentant of his adultery. I was finished with God.
But he wasn’t finished with me. He pursued me relentlessly and called me to get my security from him. He gently reminded me that he has been with me all the days of my life and that he wasn’t going to leave me now. He reminded me that he has great plans for me.
I was a broken, rejected mess. But God reminded me that he loves me, that I am his chosen child, his treasured possession. He told me that I am the apple of his eye (Psalm 17:8). He reminded me that I am his masterpiece, created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). I was once called, and can never be disqualified because his call is irrevocable (Romans 11:29).
As I chose to surrender, he began to work in my heart and in my life. I have seen his provisions every step of the way. He has flooded me with his peace. He has given me a much deeper understanding of his love and his grace, a more intimate relationship with him. He has taken my pain and given me a ministry. I truly believe with Job that the second half of my life will be more blessed than the first (Job 42:10).
And he wants to do the same for you. All you need to do is surrender, ask him to do a mighty work in you so he can do a mighty work through you. Tell him that you don’t want this journey, but you will take it as long as your pain is not in vain.
I promise he will answer.
Your friend in Christ,
This article is part of our larger resource: The Christian Woman’s Guide to Starting Over after Divorce: 7 In-Depth Steps to Take Starting Today. If you’re going through a divorce or are already divorced and looking for more resources, be sure to visit our guide!
Dena Johnson is a busy single mom of three kids who loves God passionately. She delights in taking the everyday events of life, finding God in them, and impressing them on her children as they sit at home or walk along the way (Deuteronomy 6:7). Her greatest desire is to be a channel of God’s comfort and encouragement. You can read more of Dena’s experiences with her Great I AM on her blog Dena's Devos.
Publication date: March 13, 2015