She said the LORD had compelled her heart to write about the subject. It had caused much pain and anger since she was in high school. "Ok" I thought.
What had angered this fairly mild mannered friend of mine? I could think of a number of things she had shared with me over the years that were well worth being angry about. But this she had not shared.
During her teen years, her mom and step father had a divorce recovery ministry. Interestingly, this was during the time when divorce was far less fashionable than it is today and the thought of recovering from divorce was met with skepticism and contempt. Back in those days many thought marriage was a covenant not to be broken and who needs a recovery ministry for something that should not happen to begin with? (The modern day equivalent would be akin to helping the LGBTQ transition to their new lifestyle.)
One day during her high school years, a pastor had been invited to speak to the students regarding divorce. He cited Scripture’s only biblical reason for divorce: Adultery. This seared her to the core. “Life isn’t always black or white! Sometimes it is gray. After all what does this pastor know about divorce when my parents are experts in the field of divorce recovery? Why weren’t my parents asked to speak?” She exclaimed indignantly!
She had “absorbed” much of what her parents taught in the divorce recovery classes. For over 30 years she had harbored this anger, she continued. “That pastor didn’t understand how hard it is to stay married when you are unhappy. After all my parents fought so much that I had to bury my head in a pillow at night in order to fall asleep. Isn’t it better to divorce and be happy? Isn’t it better for the kids? Surely Jesus doesn’t want us to live in an unhappy relationship? He is a God of love….He loves us so much that He wants us to be happy.” She continued to share with me her newly found peace and happiness now that she understood how gray God is. She now realized the pastor of long ago was wrong. “Life isn’t black and white. It has gray areas and I think in the gray,” she reiterated.
What a lie, I thought. I knew what it was like to be divorced. I knew the pain my daughter suffered every night her daddy wasn’t there to tuck her in. I watched my son wander aimlessly through life now. All his college dreams down the drain because two homes had to be supported now. After 9 years I still weep bitterly each time I have to say good bye to my daughter so she can spend time with her daddy. It doesn’t get any easier for them. They are plenty unhappy about the situation. I’m unhappy about the situation. The kids just want their mom and dad together. So how could my friend suggest that divorce was better and would somehow lead to happiness?
I hate confrontation, but this conversation really got under my skin. I just couldn’t let it go. When people talk about politics: I don’t care. You don’t like President Trump, Obama, Clinton, etc? That’s Ok. But this was different to me.
Finally, I breathed a prayer and queried, “What are the scriptures that support your conclusions? We wouldn't want to presume to speak for the LORD apart from His own word.” Many times during my separation I heard, ”Go ahead and divorce…..Don’t you think Jesus just wants you to be happy?” I wanted to know the Scripture for this long-held notion that the LORD desires our happiness more than our faithfulness to our covenant.
Often times we make judgments and decisions without ever stopping to ask the LORD what He thinks. In my interaction, my friend had made bold statements about what she thought was truth or what she called the gray areas. Later she baited me with the comment, “While we shouldn’t just walk away from difficulty in marriage, would you want someone to stay in a relationship when they are being trampled on, beaten, and screamed at? Those are the gray areas I’m talking about.”
There is nothing gray about Jesus' words, "you are either for Me or against Me" (Matt. 12:30). Isn’t truth more important than life? Scripture goes on to say, that “it’s better to obey than to sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22). God expects our obedience, but does not promise emotional happiness in return. On the contrary, our most perfect example, Jesus, was "despised, rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Is. 53:3) and “obedient unto death” (Phil. 2:8). Doesn’t sound like a very happy situation to me. Does the LORD expect any less from us even when doing what is right leads to our unhappiness (and someday even death)? If we follow Jesus example, then the answer is a resounding “No!”
While the LORD does desire for us "to count it all joy when we fall into different temptation" (James 1:2), and Paul “learned to be content in all situations” (Phil. 4:11), we are not promised emotional happiness at all times or through all situations on this earth.
Trials are no fun. The marriage relationship is hard work and it isn’t always happy. But that is no excuse to cut and run. Scripture isn’t gray. Remember, nothing comes to us that doesn’t first come through the hands of God. All difficulties, all trials, all unhappy experiences are intended to mold our characters to one like Christ's in preparation for spending eternity with Him. Jesus said, "...let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 24:16).
To clarify my friend’s stance I offered, “What I hear you saying is that sometimes divorce is justified outside of what Scripture says.” She’s right. She does think in the gray and so does most of the world.
But “God’s ways are not man’s ways” (Is. 55:8) and “He knows our deeds…..and wishes that we were either hot or cold” (Rev. 3:15).
I ended with one final comment, “It doesn’t matter what I think.” It only matter what Scripture says. “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deut. 12:32).
What I discovered is I am most happy when I have been obedient to His Word.
Candace (Candy) Howells lives in Dayton, OH with her husband John, and they attend the Centerville SDA church.