Part I in a series on divorce and remarriage.
In the book Sacred Thirst, the author writes, “The bride and groom are standing in front of everyone, looking better than they are ever going to look again, getting so much attention and affirmation. Everybody even stands when they walk in so it’s easy to think this marriage, at least, is about them. It’s not. Just look at the worn-out parents sitting in the first pew—they understand this. The only reason these parents are still married is because long ago they learned how to handle the hurt they caused each other. They know that the last thing you ever want to do with hurt is to let it define you.”
This last statement offers one of the most profound points that I’ve read on brokenness. Those who do not allow hurt to entrap them can turn brokenness into an unbreakable force, but those shackled by past pain are truly imprisoned by it—the walls we build to protect us may eventually imprison us.
Those who do not forgive, or release bitterness, anger, and hurt, never experience freedom, happiness or true restoration. Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Simply stated, if you fail to forgive, bitterness and anger, though skillfully masked, will affect you. Divorced, separated or single, God can turn brokenness into an unbreakable force, but it is imperative that your mind is renewed by applying biblical principles, beginning with forgiveness.
With millions of Americans now classified as divorced and ‘newly’ single, the need to address this topic is unavoidable and necessary. Those who have walked in true forgiveness know that God restores if we are willing to become better. It’s been well stated that life makes us bitter or it makes us better—the choice is ours.
A few years ago, I was listening to a syndicated Christian radio program. A survivor of the holocaust was being interviewed. She described the horrific conditions of the concentration camps and then made a statement I’d never forget; she described the emotional pain and the brokenness she experienced from her divorce as greater than the pain of the concentration camp.
Six months later, another guest on the same program, described the pain of losing her husband to cancer. She spoke about how his illness devastated their lives after ten long months of suffering. I was again moved to hear her say that she would have rather lost her husband to death by cancer than divorce.
Unbelievable! Two different women who had gone through more pain than many of us will ever know said that divorce is, or would be, more painful than death. My mind searched for understanding…why was divorce more devastating than a concentration camp, or cancer? For several weeks I pondered this question. My answer came: the spiritual union of two people was never designed to be broken aside from death.
We may try to hide the pain that lingers from a broken spirit, but it’s always there waiting for the opportunity to rise again. And unless God rebuilds the foundation, those divorced may find themselves in the same situation with the second, third, or fourth spouse.
The good news, however, is that both of the women referenced God’s healing power. Regardless of what they had endured, God delivered them from emotional scares and feelings of abandonment.
He can deliver those broken by a failed marriage as well, but in order for change to occur on the outside (i.e., remarriage or restoration) it first must occur on the inside. Strongholds such as bitterness, pride, lust, past sexual experiences, selfishness, substance abuse, anger, and physical abuse, to name a few, are among those that hinder the healing and rebuilding process. Healing begins with a commitment to work on those areas known to be detrimental to your spiritual health and relationships.
I’ve spoken with many who admitted that alcohol or substance abuse ruined their relationship, but instead of surrendering the problem to God and breaking their addiction, they simply found someone else to tolerate their habit. Unfortunately, the problem soon surfaced again.
If you’re like me, you may realize that many years of ‘wandering’ could have been avoided. Many, no doubt, had direction for their marriage, but because of selfishness, disobedience, disregard or a deaf ear to God’s direction for couples, it ended in divorce, but God can rebuild and redeem that life. God desires to guide us and direct us, but it’s up to us to change.
It’s little wonder that many go through life changing partners, careers, or residency searching for someone or something that can never be found apart from the spiritual wholeness that a personal relationship with Christ brings. If this is you, I encourage you to stop wandering from relationship to relationship and allow God to rebuild and restore. Take the time now and turn your life over to Him.