Probably every church today has people who have experienced painful divorces—perhaps some children who still are deeply grieved because their mothers and fathers dissolved their marriages many years ago, or perhaps adults who did not want a divorce at all but whose spouses filed for divorce anyway. Such people can experience deep pain and sorrow, and the feeling of being deserted and betrayed, many years later—though they will seldom mention it to anyone.
It is important that pastors and other church members be aware that such situations are not uncommon today. At some place and time in the life of the church, it is important to provide a setting in which people feel sufficiently safe to discuss these feelings and then have opportunity to pray with one or two others at some length, until the Holy Spirit gives them the ability to genuinely forgive the ones who caused their hurt and brings genuine comfort and peace to the grieving individuals’ hearts and minds. Christians who have been through divorces also have a wonderful encouragement to realize that Jesus understands our sufferings and is willing to walk beside us in them:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:15–16)
Although Jesus was never married, and so he never experienced divorce specifically, he certainly knew what it was to be betrayed and abandoned by friends who were close to him, particularly Judas, who had been with him for three remarkable years (see Matt. 26:14, 25, 47; see also v. 56: “all the disciples left him and fled”). Christians can pray directly to Jesus, knowing that he understands desertion more deeply than any human friend ever will.
Christ Has Purchased Freedom
It is also important for Christians who have experienced divorces not to let the rest of their lives be ruled by this pain from the past. For children who have suffered deeply from divorces, Peter’s words have special relevance, showing that Christ’s sacrifice purchased freedom for us even from any wrongful patterns of life that we experienced from our parents:
You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Pet. 1:18–19)
If you are married, you are now married to the right person.
And for adults who have been abandoned by a previous wife or husband, the promise of God’s comfort in 2 Corinthians should also bring great encouragement:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Cor. 1:3–5)
Finally, it is important for churches to establish programs or ministry practices that teach about and encourage strong marriages, and that also will provide counseling and help for couples who are going through difficult times in their marriages.1
And for every married person reading this book, even those who wrongfully were divorced in the past and have now married someone else, God’s purpose for you from this point onward is to ask him for forgiveness for wrongs done in the past and then to seek God’s blessing on your present marriage. He does not want you now to get another divorce, but to stay married. Therefore, no matter what circumstances led up to this present marriage, if you are married, you are now married to the right person, and God wants you to make that marriage a good one for the rest of your life.
This article is adapted from What the Bible Says about Divorce and Remarriage by Wayne Grudem.
Despite the fact that the Mosaic law included provisions regulating divorce, the Old Testament makes it clear that divorce falls short of God’s ideal.
One’s gifting is certainly a consideration (“able to teach”), but it is not the whole, or even the main thing, that Paul is looking for in an overseer.
Why do we quit paying attention? Because it is hard work to care, it is hard work to discipline ourselves to be careful, and it is hard work to always be thinking of another person.
Don’t let perfection become the enemy of progress. Keep a regular time of family worship and encourage your kids to explore the Bible together with you.