Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wisdom on Divorce

From Russell Moore at the Christian Post:
Dear Dr. Moore, 
My wife and I are at an impasse. There's been no abandonment, no sexual immorality, and no abuse. We just don't get along. We shouldn't have married. We should have known we are incompatible. I know God hates divorce but I don't have any other option. My pastor and some Christian counselors have told me that while God hates divorce, this is the lesser of two evils because God doesn't want me to be miserable. What do you think? 
Married but Miserable 
Dear Miserable, 
Here's what I think (and I'm paraphrasing a pastor friend of mine here). With "Christian" pastors and counselors like these, who needs demons? 
Divorce isn't about you, and it's not just about your marriage Divorce is the repudiation of a covenant. It doesn't start anything over again. It instead defaces the icon God has embedded in the creation of the union between Christ and his church (Eph. 5:22-31) . 
I do believe that there are exceptions to Jesus' prohibition against divorce: namely unrepentant sexual immorality or abandonment by a gospel-repudiating spouse. Neither of these, according to you, are present here and so you do not have reason to leave.
I plead with you to reconsider this and to understand that when you give account before the Judgment Seat of Christ, these "counselors" you have around you will not be present, and their cowardly justifications for sin will ring quite hollow.
Does God want you to be miserable? Long-term, no. And that's why God has designed marriage as a life-long covenant signaling the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the long-term, God wants you to be deliriously happy. But by long-term, I mean the next trillion years, and beyond. In the short-term, one often must bear difficulty and, yes, even misery. Remaining faithful to a wife you wish you hadn't married might seem miserable to you, but taking up a cross and following Jesus is "miserable," in the short-run. That's why the Book of Hebrews presents the life of faith in terms of not receiving what was promised (Heb. 11:39), but seeing it and embracing it from afar. (emphasis mine)
Click this link to read the rest.

Now, I have zero aspirations to ever divorce. I deeply love my wife, and there is no circumstance that will cease my love for her. My marriage vows have this phrase in them: there is no option of quitting for me. What is fascinating for me in this letter is that this person is surrounded by counselors and pastors who are actually encouraging this kind of sinful behavior and mindset. It reminds me of a section of Friedman's A Failure of Nerve, where Friedman describes pastors and counselors who, lacking in self-differentiation and a sense of identity, give in to the draining immaturity of those they are counseling.

They give up as they counsel the individual to do the same.

As a pastor and a husband, it makes me ask some questions:

In my counseling, am I choosing to offer words that are
nice, or words that are loving? Do I have the nerve to say what is actually true and beautiful and good, rather than what is initially comforting?

Am I living out my marriage as if its about my character or as if its about God's character? Is this about my glory or His?

In my marriage, ministry, and parenting, do I define success by the short-term results or the eternal results?

Am I willing to take up the cross, to "be miserable" for Jesus, and to encourage others to join me on that painful-yet-abundant way of life?

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh, truthful versus nice! Amen! I often say I don't know how unbelievers can stay married. I mean, how can you stay married if your marriage isn't based on something as unyielding as the gospel?

    Marriage is my primary ministry now that I am married. It isn't just a part of my life; "wife" is who I am, just like "daughter of God" is who I am. It isn't something I do; it's something I am.

    On another note, I've recently been struggling to help some people understand that "love" doesn't mean "placate." It's not a bad thing that I'm not always there for everyone. It's not a bad thing that some people have to wrestle with themselves, and I can't sit and cry with them all the time.

    I'm sure you can read from my tone, I daily have to convince myself of this truth: that sometimes I am serving Jesus better by scrubbing the toilets and cooking dinner than by "kitchen-table counseling" with a friend (even though the latter seems much more glorious.) In sixty years I will still be married, but in sixty years my friend won't be struggling with her issue anymore, and we may not even be friends then.

    We put our effort toward things that last, as Christ commanded.

    (Sorry for the disjointed comment)

    I love your response to the phrase "Jesus wants me to be happy." I've always shot back, "No, he wants you to be holy." But what you've said is much more true: Eternally, he wants us to be happy, and that means some pain and suffering now. How can we be always happy in a world broken by sin?