One of the most delicate and complex situations a person can face is walking through life with a couple considering divorce. Unless a clear biblical reason for divorce exists, your role as a Christian friend is to help save the marriage. This can often feel like an uphill battle, even for the most resilient of people.
Pastor Rick Howerton points out a few things working against us:
Culture… Culture has no qualms with divorcing one’s spouse. In fact, a couple no longer really needs a meaningful reason for divorcing. Everyone has “irreconcilable differences.” That’s excuse enough.
Statistics… When over 50% of marriages in the U.S.A. end in divorce it seems natural, almost part of the marriage process to divorce at some point.
An individual can find a church leader who will give them permission to divorce. In my ministry experience I’ve had some individuals come to me to talk about their marriage problems. At some point in the conversation I realized they were there to get someone considered “clergy” to give them permission. I simply asked the question… “Are you here so that I will go along with your decision to divorce your spouse even though you have no biblical grounds?” After a few probing questions the answer was yes. I’d tell them that I wasn’t the one who determined the grounds for divorce, God is, and would then tell them what God said through the Bible. They would normally leave angry with me. A few days later, in almost every instance, they’d call and tell me that they were grateful for our conversation, and that they had talked with another pastor in town who had told them that, if they couldn’t be happy married, that God would want them to go ahead and divorce, that God didn’t want anyone to be unhappy for a lifetime.
Almost any individual is in relationship with people who are divorced and very happy with her/his new lifestyle.
Only 9% of American adults have a biblical worldview.
Only 19% of born again Christians have a biblical worldview.
So, what are some practical things you can do when someone you know and love is considering divorce? Howerton goes on to recommend these practical steps:
Be a prayer beast. Pray ongoing for the couple to be willing to do whatever it takes to heal the marriage and for God to work a miracle.
Be a good listener. Allow the individual or couple to vent and tell you what they’re feeling and what the issues are.
Be a good friend. You don’t have to agree with their thought pattern to be there for them.
Be a teacher. Tell them what God says about divorce in the Bible.
Be a truth teller. Warn them of the outcomes of such a decision. Point out how it will affect their future, their children, etc… These are blind spots they may not be seeing as emotions have overtaken logic.
Be a peacemaker. Be willing to sit with both husband and wife and help them journey toward reconciliation, even if it takes months or years.
Be a bridge builder. Connect the struggling couple to a couple in your church who had these same thoughts, did what was necessary to save their marriage, and are now doing well. These conversations will be key to saving the marriage.
Be a referrer. Help the couple find, and if necessary ask the small group to help pay for, an effective Christian counselor.
Howerton concludes his insights with this reminder: "You are not responsible to save a marriage, only to assist the couple in doing what they should to save their marriage. No matter how much energy you give to the situation, how much you pray, no matter how passionate you are about saving the marriage, ultimately the husband and wife with the marital problems must be willing to do his/her part if the marriage is to be saved."
In recent days I have found myself sometimes overwhelmed with marriages in crisis. I know it is my responsibility (and my privilege) to walk through life with these couples, but it can certainly be exhausting. Perhaps you know the feeling.
At the end of the day, we must be consistently connected to Christ, asking Him to empower us with the will to endure and the steps to take in helping our friends. We must think biblically, love unconditionally, and then we must leave the outcome to Him.
If you are close to someone who is close to divorce, I encourage you to never give up. Never lose hope. Never stop fighting for the marriages of those you love.