A friend once described divorce as the gift that keeps on giving. She was dealing with her nearly-adult sons, challenged by their willfulness, and struggling with the ways in which their father was undercutting her parenting. She was happily married to a godly man who had committed himself to helping her raise her sons. Their mischief, misbehavior, and defiance had cost him some sleepless nights. It was for him as well as her – though he had never been married – a gift that kept on giving. Only the gifts it gave were grief, frustration, discord, and stress.
There are times we genuinely need to lament, when we need to feel bad. For bad things do happen to us. We must sometimes walk through the valley of the shadow of death. To deny that is not helpful or healing. We’ve considered that in a previous post. There are those specific difficult situations that require more than lamenting, and the break up of a marriage presents that need.
If something is in the Bible one time, we know it’s true. If it’s found two times, it is certainly true. If it is found in the Bible three or more times, it is “most certainly true.” Jesus quotes from the book of Moses, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). That passage shows up in Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:8, and Ephesians 5:31, and 1 Corinthians 6:16.
Paul fleshes out the implications of that truth when speaking of sexual relationships outside of marriage.
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:15-20
Although the immediate reference is to sexual relations with a prostitute, the truth applies to any sexual union. We become one with the one with whom we unite sexually. This means sexual promiscuity brings with it a trail of pain and trouble.
That pain lingers. It comes in the form of intentional or unintentional comparison with other partners. Sometimes lingering guilt about actions we know were not pleasing to God undercuts the intimacy with our spouse. When two become one and that one is torn apart, there is inevitable emotional scarring. It is inevitable. Guilt, shame, hardness of heart, objectifying and sexualizing other people made in the image of God all linger like a bad odor that will not go away.
There is, thanks be to God, a path of healing and restoration. It begins with contrition, which gives way to faith in the goodness, grace, mercy and forgiveness of God. Then comes the opportunity to experience the healing grace of God, as he pours into the cracks of our souls the balm of Gilead.
Divorce and sexual sin is not the unforgivable sin. Sometimes those are visited upon us as well, and we are victimized by others’ actions. For most people who have experienced that pain, the process of healing is a long one. God’s goodness is the wellspring for such healing and hope, and the focus for tomorrow’s post.