D. I. V. O. R. C. E.
by Dale Reeves
Pastor of Creative Content
My wife Karen and I recently celebrated our 34thwedding anniversary. We have two beautiful grown daughters, two awesome sons-in-law, a grandson we are obsessed with, and two more grandsons on the way. I am a blessed man indeed. But there was a time in 1981 when I thought I would never love someone with the kind of love that I enjoy today.
I had married someone my junior year of college and after just a little over two years of marriage my first wife said, “I don’t want to be married to you anymore. I’m really tired of playing the game.” She asked me what I thought the biblical grounds for divorce were, and I quoted the words of Jesus in Matthew 19. When Jesus was asked the question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:8, 9, NIV).
So my first wife did exactly that. She had an affair with another man in the church where I was serving as youth pastor. The lead pastor and the elders of the church where I was working at the time were very supportive, praying a “hedge of protection” around me. My wife ended the affair but informed me she still didn’t want to be married to me, so after some counsel from trusted mentors, I agreed to a dissolution of the marriage. We had no children which made the dissolution much easier. I was told by many people that I was the “innocent partner” in this case, but it didn’t really provide me much comfort, because in divorce there really is no “innocent partner.” My heart grieved because I knew this was not God’s desire for marriage (including mymarriage) from the beginning.
The next four years were years of healing for me, years of discovering who God had made me to be, years of discovering how God could use my scars to help others, years of discovering that my most intimate relationship had to be with God and not with another human being, years of getting over the hurt and deciding I could trust a woman in my life again. And, that’s when my beautiful wife Karen entered the picture in the fall of 1984. I knew that the statistics for a second marriage were staggering. Statistics show that in the U.S., 50% of first marriages, 67% of second marriages, and 74% of third marriages end in divorce. That was enough to give me the heebie-jeebies when contemplating getting married a second time. But true love prevailed, and I decided to trust God’s plan for my life as it played out in my future with Karen.
Most likely your story is not like mine. Perhaps you’ve never been married, perhaps you are married but living a miserable existence and you feel trapped. Perhaps you’ve gone through a divorce, and it may or may not have involved adultery on the part of one or both partners in the marriage. Perhaps you got a divorce because someone deserted you. The apostle Paul addresses that situation in 1 Corinthians 7:10-15. Perhaps you’ve gone through a divorce because of “irreconcilable differences.” Whatever your circumstances, or the situation of someone whom you love and care about, here are some absolute truths I do know:
- Divorce is not the unpardonable sin. God can and will forgive your sin—if you come to him and confess it before him (1 John 1:8, 9).
- Your situation may feel like it is never going to get better, but God specializes in meeting you at your point of need and he will bring about good things in your life (Matthew 7:11). Where you are today is not the end of your story. In the words of a good friend of mine who has experienced divorce, “The hole in your heart will go away.”
- None of us are perfect. Even if the divorce was 90% the other person’s fault, there is something you can learn and grow from. Take ownership of what you need to own, then turn it over to Jesus, and move on. Every single one of us needs Jesus and the redemption he offers (Romans 3:23, 24). This is true whether you are single, single again, married, or remarried.
- God can use our pain and circumstance to allow us to be wounded healers for others. I love what the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:4, “[God] comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (NLT).
Regardless of what the media might say, God’s standard and desire for the union of one man to one woman throughout their lifetime is still valid in our culture today. His Word does notchange. He never intended for adultery or divorce to take place and disrupt the marital relationship he ordained. But, because of God’s mercy, grace, and compassion, he can redeem any mess we find ourselves in, and he can mend our broken hearts. Samuel Chadwick said, “It is wonderful what God can do with a broken heart, if He gets all the pieces.”