As I blog on the topic of divorce, I understand that this topic will take several posts. Please bear with me as I begin to answer a very tough question. A question that is asked often and a question that stares us in the face because of the harsh reality of living in a fallen world.
“Do you ever advise a friend to walk away from a marriage, even as a Christian?”
To look at this question through the lens of right and wrong or justified and unjustified will not give the clarity that is desperately needed. As I have thought through and prayed about this question, I have remembered the devastating circumstances of godly individuals faced with the harsh reality of a dying marriage. I am not too far removed from my own divorce that has left deep scars on my soul.
When is it time and when is it appropriate to advise a friend to walk away? I do not think there is a single time or one event that will be the sign to advise someone to walk away from a marriage. There is usually a culmination of experiences, choices, and circumstances that lead to the very question I am answering. As believers, we are to take marriage seriously. Marriage is THE EXAMPLE to the world of the Gospel. It is a beautiful display of Jesus and the church, the bride and groom. However, when it is a marriage of two people claiming to be followers of Jesus and the marriage is being destroyed by one’s sinful choices and hardness of heart, it is devastating.
Another question to be asked is “what is happening in my friend’s marriage that is leading me to think divorce is the only option left?” Sometimes it is easy to be caught up in the particulars of a situation and we do not look at the real heart of the matter. I can only use my own divorce as an example of what I mean. It is a preferred situation when the answer is black and white in scripture. However, there are circumstances that are not so cut and dry. I found myself in the latter category. It was this reason that I leaned heavily on the principles of God’s Word and one of the particular scriptures that became my heart’s cry is found in Job. (you are probably thinking, “Of course the scripture was in Job!” After all, Job went through terrible life-altering events)
Let me be weighed on honest scales,
That God may know my integrity. Job 31:6
I want to explain this verse so that you can apply the godly wisdom to unwanted circumstances. The word “weighed” means to weigh out. When we weigh something we know exactly what we are dealing with. Weighing something gives accuracy. In this verse, Job is asking the he be weighed. If you and I are to be weighed then we have to put everything, all of ourselves in a position of being completely known. For me, it was two years of marital counseling and 4 years of personally entrusting myself to the godly wisdom of a counselor. I deliberately put myself in a place to be weighed – completely known.
For Job, he didn’t want to be weighed on just any scale, he desired to be weighed on honest scales. Some versions of scripture use the word “accurate”. I found the meaning of this word, honest or accurate, to drive my prayer life and reveal the motives of my heart. The word means, justice; righteous. The scales of righteousness are not easy to step on and be weighed. This type scale reveals MY heart not my marriage. To be weighed on this scale one will not reveal the other person. The only person revealed is the one being weighed by honesty. Honesty, according to God’s standards.Choosing to stand on these scales challenges our lifestyle and our choices.
We have a tendency to think that if the Bible does not directly address our circumstances then we are stuck and have no direction. However, I believe the books of Job and Esther are perfect examples of circumstances that are not black and white and God proves His faithfulness to the individual that continually seeks the heart of God. I wrote the following in my book Identity Crisis: Moving From Crisis to Credibility,
If integrity is one side of the coin then Psalm 26:2 is the other side. The American Standard Version says: “Examine me, O Jehovah, and prove me; Try my heart and my mind.” If we surrender to God’s scales and he weighs us then we must be at peace with how he chooses to examine our heart and mind. To be all right with one and try to manipulate the other is hypocritical. You can’t have it your way and his way. You may have already entered into this area of your crisis. You may be living out the portion of these lyrics to the song “Restored (The Grindstone Song)” by Cheri Keaggy: “I’ve been living against the grindstone, where nothing is sure but the Lord.” It is more crucial now than ever to understand and trust the Lord. There is purpose to your pain. There is reason for your heart being examined and your mind being tried.
Just think, God can KNOW your integrity and my integrity. This word, “know” means to find out and discern; clearly understand; to know by experience. There is so much solace in knowing that in crazy circumstances God knows what you are experiencing and He clearly understands what our heart cannot. When we encourage others to step onto the only scale that can vouch for integrity, we begin to walk a journey with that person that is acknowledging their difficult circumstances and seeking to understand. This comes through a variety of ways and one of the best ways is to support your friend to seek godly, wise counsel. Entrusting oneself to this part of the process is crucial. It is in the knowing that the fog clears and clarity is given. Becoming aware of the ugly truth and then admitting the truth can be painful.
Integrity in this context means innocent. Is it possible to come through great devastation and the Lord see you as innocent? Yes. However, arriving at this takes a lot of time and letting that time be God’s timing. It also requires submission to a process of godly counseling. It demands you be completely transparent with a few safe people. There is a process of being weighed. As you are faced with how to direct your friend, please begin on the only scales that will safely deliver his/her heart and soul to a life of integrity.
“Our God is a consuming fire A burning holy flame, with glory and freedom Our God is the only righteous judge, Ruling over us with kindness and wisdom We will keep our eyes on you So we can set our hearts on you Lord, we will set our hearts on you!”
There are times that divorce is no option. Let the process not be dictated so much by the details of the situation, although that can not be completely ignored, but allow for a process that is guided by a life of integrity.
**Please leave a comment; let’s have THIS dialogue.
(I have written in more detail in my book. It is available http://www.amazon.com/Identity-Crisis-Moving-Credibility-Morgan-ebook/dp/B00HE0Q2EC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423669904&sr=1-1&keywords=identity+crisis+joy+anisa