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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

God's Will for Your Marriage

Reading the last blog, as applied to marriage and divorce, one could deduce that I was suggesting that God ALWAYS wants people to see their marriage vows through, no matter what.  

Is that true?  

That is to say, does God want every marriage to work?  Does God want nobody to get a divorce?  Can God save EVERY marriage that is in trouble?  

Those questions are actually the kinds of questions Christians who are considering divorce or who have been divorced struggle with at times.  The answer is a difficult one, and also an easy one.  But applying such an answer with confidence can sometimes be not quite so simply.  Today, I hope to challenge your thinking in this area.

Does God want every marriage to succeed?  

Can God save any marriage, no matter what the problems?  

Let me answer that by analogy.  

Does God want everyone to come to Christ and be saved for eternal life?  Can God save any person, no matter how sinful?  

I suspect that, if you know scripture at all, you would quickly acknowledge that God most certainly desires that everyone be saved…2 Peter 3:9 is one passage that says so very clearly.  Can God save any person?  That is, does God have that ability, is there any person so far gone God cannot save them?  Of course not, God’s grace is far greater than any sin that drags us from him.  

However, you and I both know, not everyone does believe in Christ.  The problem is not that God isn’t capable of saving them; the problem is that some people refuse to be saved.  Theologians debate the role of God’s work and free will, but no matter how that theology works out, the fact remains that some people walk away from Christ rather than accept Him as their Savior.

It seems to me that makes a pretty good parallel for our question about marriage and divorce.  OF COURSE God wants every marriage to work.  In fact, I think everyone who enters a marriage covenant wants it to work, too!  

Can God make every marriage work and prevent divorce?  Of course God’s power is great enough to do that, but for whatever reasons, the world is not set up for God to force His will upon people who choose to reject it.  It isn’t the case in salvation, why would we think it to be the case in marriage and divorce.  

To complicate matters further, we are not talking about just one person, but two.  In many cases, one partner longs for the marriage to work, while the other refuses to do the work or make the changes necessary to make it happen.  Certainly a Christian can pray for God to move, to solve the problems in the marriage, to soften the heart of their spouse and rekindle their love.  But for whatever reason, God allows individuals to refuse to work on their marriage, even if one of the partners wants it to work.  Sometimes, God will do something that causes even the most hardened hearts to soften toward Christ or toward a spouse.  Sometimes, though, God permits individuals to continue down a destructive path.

The complication of two individuals and the impact each one’s attitude can have on determining the success or failure of a marriage was probably most concisely presented by my own attorney during the final days of my divorce proceedings.  The attorney had the final papers, which she went over with me and then pointed to where I was required to sign.  In Kansas, one can file for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, which is what my wife had done, so that was what was written on the paper my attorney asked me to sign.  I told her I did not believe the differences were irreconcilable, because I believe that if people work hard enough, actively seek appropriate help and are willing to make the necessary changes, any problem can be resolved in a marriage.  I frustrated my attorney, I am sure, because we went round and round the signature multiple times, with her pointing out that something had to be decided, and choosing not to sign could create a rather awkward situation.  

Finally, the last time I told her that I did not believe the differences to be irreconcilable, my attorney replied, “But if she is not willing to reconcile, doesn’t that make them irreconcilable?”  

I then signed the papers.

You see, what God desires, what His perfect will is may well be for every marriage to succeed.  God could make every marriage work, if both partners were totally submitted to God and to living lives that honor God.  But the world we live in is less than the experience of God’s perfect will.  Our world is fallen, tainted with sin, and people’s lives are cluttered with sinful behaviors, and their decisions affected by their fallen state.  God COULD save any marriage and resolve any problem, but sometimes one or both partners are not WILLING for God to save their marriage, just as some individuals are not willing to let God save them.  Whether it makes sense to us or not, that is how God has created the world to be.  

So, was God’s desire for your marriage to not end in divorce?  Of course God’s desire was for a great marriage in accordance with his will and ways.  However, as Paul pointed out in 1 Corinthians 7:15, sometimes an unbelieving partner will abandon a spouse.  Or Jesus mentioned several times that sometimes individuals will betray the marriage vows by committing adultery with another person…they, too, have left the marriage.  God’s desire is one thing, but when people get involved, things can get mucked up and something less than perfection results.  

So, bottom line, I encourage you to never rush into divorce.  Instead, give God ample opportunity to work in your life and the life of our spouse.  Do everything you can to pursue God’s perfect desire of a godly and healthy marriage.  But if the day comes when that great hope is dashed through the brokenness of this world’s fallen state, grant yourself the grace to accept that not everything is in your control, nor does life always live up to God’s greatest desires.  

That is why there was a crucifixion.

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