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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Difficult ... But Not Impossible

The other day one of the news pages linked to an article from Redbook magazine about signs that a marriage is in serious enough trouble to warrant a divorce.  The article, “9 Signs It May Be Time To Get A Divorce” by Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal is written primarily from a woman’s perspective, and is a collection of indicators suggested by a variety of people with experience working with couples and with divorce.  The list included things like an unrepentant partner with repeated affairs, being in a relationship that only brings stress and anger, and several ways in which one partner chooses to no longer participate in the relationship--skipping out of counseling sessions or acting unilaterally and irresponsibly with finances.  

As I read the article, I was struck by the idea that so often divorces come as a result of one partner choosing to disengage from the relationship in one way or another, or for a partner to get so bound up emotionally that he or she is no longer able or willing to make meaningful connections with the partner.  The article and those quoted in it suggest that these situations may well indicate it is time to dissolve the marriage.  But I wonder.

It seems to me that there are some factors that were not addressed, some of which would not normally be included in a secular magazine.  For example, when the writer refers to a situation in which one partner feels hatred and contempt, the comment is that it is a result of long standing issues that should have been resolved long ago.  But there is no mention of the need for self-examination, forgiveness, or learning to release the bitterness that one has allowed to fester through things like repentance or prayer.  

In other areas described, trust is described as having been broken beyond repair.  Trust is certainly a bedrock issue in any good marriage, and once violated is difficult to be restored.  

But difficult is not the same as impossible.  

Willard Harley’s book, His Needs Her Needs provides specific steps one can use to rebuild trust once it has been broken.  It can be done.  

In all the situations described in the article, there is no doubt that they describe symptoms of deeply troubled marriages, but whether they necessarily must lead to divorce is debatable.  

It seems to me that in those situations, an important scriptural phrase to consider is the simple phrase, “but God,” a commonplace phrase in the scriptures.  Time and again in the scriptures individuals come up against impossible circumstances, and then that phrase, “but God” appears to introduce God’s involvement, and everything changes.  Sometimes to be sure, even in those stories, there are times individuals refuse to be molded by God’s Spirit and calamity results.  But when individuals allow their hearts to be shaped by God, impossible situations can be transformed.

Let me be clear, I am not saying that the symptoms described in the article are not serious, nor that divorce might be the only viable outcome.  But I am saying that one must never come to that conclusion too hastily, and certainly not without giving God an opportunity to work.  One needs to take an honest look in the mirror with the Bible in hand and an ear tuned to the Spirit of God, because each partner in any bad marriage contributes to the difficulties in one way or another.  When one’s partner has disengaged, it may be the last straw, but one should not jump to that without first calling out to God for his intervention and help.  One might experience one of the “but God” moments personally!  Prayers for a troubled marriage, for a disengaged partner, and for God to reveal one’s own need for change and growth can make a huge difference.  So if you find in your marriage the symptoms that suggest it might be time to consider divorce, let me suggest that those symptoms may well be a call to consider prayer and repentance first.  If you pursue those things prior to seeking a divorce, then if divorce does come, you will at least be better prepared by being in touch with God to guide you during that dark time.  

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