Relationship Deaths – MM #50

Relationship deaths Graphic stock divorce-agreement_fJ_P0Hwu copyWe learned of two more Christian couples that have separated and are getting a divorce. Actually there are 3 couples, if you count the couple with eight young children who appear on American television and profess to be Christians. Our hearts are breaking over this. We can only imagine how this must grieve the heart of God. God does not take relationship deaths lightly. Marriage is a living picture of Christ’s love for His church. So this has to grieve God deeply.

Relationship Deaths

These are wonderful God-loving, intelligent couples. This is where one partner (or both) decides to end their marriage. They decide to break their covenantal vows to love, honor, and pledge themselves in marriage to each other for the rest of their lives.

God knows that sometimes a spouse can’t prevent or stop a divorce from happening. (This is particularly true when dangerous abusive behavior is involved or the other spouse is bent on divorcing.) But still, there are many more times when more work can be done to heal a relationship. And yet the additional effort and sacrifice isn’t made.

This is particularly sad when one spouse sincerely repents and wakes up to the harm he or she has caused in the marriage. But the other spouse decides the marriage is done, no matter what!

Please understand, this Marriage Message is not meant to throw stones. After all, which one of us is without sin? Not us, or anyone. This particular message is intended to be a wake-up call to those who profess Christ. This is for those who can prevent a divorce from happening.

Reveal and Reflect the Heart of Christ

The ministry of Marriage Missions came into being years ago because God put it on our hearts to spend our lives encouraging Christians to apply the principles of loving that we see throughout the Bible. We inspire others to reveal and reflect the heart of Christ in and through our marriages as a living testimony to the glory of God.

As we see all the divorcing going on, we keep asking ourselves —what is happening to “followers” of Jesus Christ? We seem to be walking the same execution line toward the death of our marital relationships as those who don’t profess faith in Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, there are entire web sites dedicated to disproving God because those who call themselves Christians who don’t live out what they say they believe. This should not be so!

One web site in particular tells people to “Notice the divorce rate among Christians.” They point out “the divorce rate is even higher for Christians than for those who don’t believe in God.” Thus, they conclude by saying, “The reason for the higher divorce rate among Christians is easy to see. God is imaginary.” I cried as I read this. Sadly we give “ammunition” we to doubters as we live our lives contrary to God’s will.

How Are We Different From the World?

The question is, what makes us any different from “those who are in the world?” Our understanding is that as Christ followers we’re to be imitators of God as dearly loved children.” We are to “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2) By tearing apart our covenantal marital relationships and breaking our promises to Him and to each other, is this how we “imitate” God? Is this how we give of ourselves as a sacrifice to Him?

We’re also told in the Bible to belike-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. But in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death —even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:2-8)

What Would Jesus Do?

By divorcing, is our attitude the same as Christ? Is this what Jesus would do? Jesus said, A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have love you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another. (John 13:34-35) What love are we demonstrating to the world if the divorce rate within the church is even higher than the divorce rate among those who don’t have a personal relationship with Him?

“When all is said and done, a truly Christian home is by far the most powerful and persuasive evangelistic agency on earth. Without ever passing out a tract, preaching a sermon, or even saying a word, a Spirit-filled Christian home declares to all who come within reach that God will do for others what He has done for them, if they will only give Him a chance.” (John Lavender)

We need to take it seriously that our lives are a letter written by God for the world to read. We are a visible picture of the love of Christ for His church. As it says in the Word of God, You show that you are a letter from Christ, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:3) God has entrusted to us the privilege and responsibility to be His “living letters.”

God’s Visible Pictures

A Christian marriage is a “visible picture” —a living example to the world, of the covenant God has with His people. It is a living example of Christ’s love and relationship to His bride, the Church. The Bible refers to Christ as the Groom and the Church as His Bride.

So when we divorce, what does this say to the world of God’s promises to the Church of His love, faithfulness and devotion for them? And what message are we giving out to others of the “transforming power” that God can perform in their lives and marriages? This is especially true when we don’t even utilize that power. It’s a sad testimony when our marriages are weak and unhealthy. And this doesn’t even take into account all the divorcing that’s going on!

It’s our “mission” to help Christians see that marriage is at the heart of God’s message to the Church. It’s our deepest prayer that you’ll join us in this mission. Help us to build up and encourage each other in marriage. We are to help others reflect the love of God to a world that so desperately needs Him.

Join With Other Couples

Find a marriage seminar or a marriage study series (whether CD’s, DVD’s, books and/or talking, encouraging and praying with each other). And then consider having other couples join you to do this together to make more marriages stronger.

You can meet once a week, every other week, once a month or whatever you decide. The important thing is to take pro-active steps to help marriages become stronger. Help them to become less vulnerable to destruction. There’s always room for improvement in every marriage, no matter what! Pray about what God would have you do to make marriage a “mission” —in your own marriage. And then help other couples strengthen theirs as well.

God doesn’t just want our sacrifice to live out His principles as He calls us. He wants our obedience. (See 1 Samuel 15:22, Psalm 51:16-17, and Proverbs 21:3.) As someone told us yesterday, “Christians are educated way beyond obedience.” Living in a marriage where there’s no love and devotion can be a sacrifice. But loving as Christ does, takes obedience!

We pray you’ll join us. Please work together with us to make our marriages the best they can be. Do this by demonstrating the love of Christ, not only to your spouse, but to everyone who is a witness to your life!

Cindy and Steve Wright

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9 responses to “Relationship Deaths – MM #50

  1. (USA)  In those cases, I have to wonder, where is the church, where is the pastor? Someone had to file for divorce. Why is the church not at that persons house getting the details? One of two things has to happen. Either hope has to be provided, so that the person who likely thinks the marriage is hopeless finds the hope needed to continue to work on the marriage, or someone if not both are in need of church discipline.

    Even something like just a hardened heart or bad attitude about the marriage, if allowed to continue, is sin. Yet we don’t see the church addressing this sin.

    Is the church afraid it will get sued if it gets involved in the lives and "affairs" (literally) of it’s members? What good are those vows when the congregation is called to pledge it’s support of the new couple if they do nothing when the marriage is in crisis?

    What about pastors who fail to act, who are so focused on same-sex marriage legislation that may impact 1/100th of the congregation, while 25% of the marriages is his church will likely end in divorce?

  2. (USA) Kama… how my heart bleeds for you and your precious children! I know what it is like to be the child of a father who cheated on their mother –it hurts more than words can express. And I saw the tremendous pain my mom went through as she tried to hold our family together and grapple with all that was thrown at her, emotionally, financially, and otherwise! It was like a tsunami tidal wave hit our family. The devastation forever changed every aspect of our lives. Please know you are in my prayers.

    May God make His love for you so very real. I hope that you will always know that God never chose this –for a husband to cheat on his wife and family. That is the sinful choice that your husband made. God never stopped him in his sin… but if God did that, there would be no human race left, because we have all sinned in some way or form. I hope you will continue to look to God to help you DESPITE your husband’s sin.

    You ask, “What does God say to my marriage?” I have to say that I don’t entirely know. I can only imagine the depth of grief He feels for you and your children. God knows what it is like to be betrayed over and over again by those He loves. I am sure He feels your pain. He knows that pain all too well.

    As far as what you are to do concerning your marriage, that is something you have to keep talking to God about, looking for HIS answers, not mans. Don’t put a time frame on it though. Biblically, you DO have the “right” to divorce, but that doesn’t mean that you SHOULD divorce. That is sometime God will let you know as you keep asking and seeking His heart and His provision for you and your family.

    The above Marriage Message focuses more on those who DON’T go the extra mile to try to save their marriages. I encourage you to keep your focus more on the strength and the help God can give you to redeem that which has been inflicted upon you, rather than allowing your energy to be wasted on concentrating on your husband’s sin. That is so terribly difficult to do, but is necessary for survival.

    I just got through listening to a radio program that the ministry of Family Life Today (with Dennis Rainey) put together titled “Descending Into the Valley”, that addresses what I am trying to say here. They interviewed a man named Jerry Sittser who lost his mother, wife, and young daughter in a tragic car accident that he was involved in with his family.

    In this interview, Jerry talks about loss and death and how there comes a time when we have to decide if we will allow this loss to swallow us up and continue to inflict more pain, or if we are going to put our sights on God and how He can get us through the grief and pain and bring some sort of redemption out of it all.

    A bit of what he said might minister to your situation. He said, “I thought about the accident and the scene. I knew what had happened and I thought of what would be as a result. I considered the task set before me. I had a burden that was placed on my shoulders and in a sense, a divine mandate that said you draw a line in the sand right now and decide what you want to be and what you want to come from this experience. And I did. I said, I want the bleeding to stop right here. This is it. I don’t want to do things that are going to set in motion more and more pain and more and more bleeding that could go on for generations.

    “I made the basic decision right then and there that I was going to somehow by the grace of God respond and live this story out in a way that was going to be redemptive. Redemption was really the key term that just kept coming back to me. Redemption. This is not the final word.

    …”Through a long and often difficult journey I really did discover that the Christian faith is true. Grace really is available to get us through these hard stretches of life. My response of choosing to trust the grace of God was far more significant than the event itself. You know my kids would say the same thing today. They would say that the accident is actually not that significant. It is what’s come out of it that is significant.

    …”When you suffer a loss whether it be divorce or terminal illness or loss of a job or it can be other things that are a little less dramatic and tragic, I think we do have the power to set a course and that makes a huge difference over a long period of time. It doesn’t solve all the problems but it gets us going in a particular direction. I think I did that by the grace of God.

    …”I think what happens is we give some kind of tragedy more power than it deserves. It does become the defining moment instead of the response being the defining moment. It’s the thing itself and then pretty soon it’s affecting other relationships. It’s affecting life habits that we form and 20 or 30 years later that divorce or loss or whatever continues to dominate our lives. That’s what I call the second death and it’s actually worse than the initial death.”

    What I’m trying to say Kama, is that I can’t give you the answer you need as to how to proceed. I’m not living your life or experiencing the same pain you and your children are going through right now. But I CAN point you to God and encourage you to hang on and keep persevering in prayer as to what to do for this moment in your life and the next.

    You have suffered a horrible death of a dream to live in covenant with a man –the father of your children, who promised you more than he decided to give. He cheated on you and your children, and on God. God will deal with him. Whether he ever turns his life around to quit the cheating or not, is something you can’t control. Only he can make that decision. You have done your part in telling him so. And whether you pray and wait or you pray and stop waiting because God has shown you that is what you are to do, go with God’s leading.

    Through all of this, you are to look to God to show you how to live with your children to put smiles back onto their faces and their hearts somehow. Show them that they have a faithful mom who will not leave them and will always participate with God in loving them and being supportive. You sound like a beautiful young woman, Kama –someone who lives Christ in how you approach life. I pray the best for you and your children.

  3. (Zimbabwe) Thank you so much for your very true discussions. I have been married only two months and 4 days today and I want to thank God I have started on a true and better foundation because of your contributions. Everyday I look at how Christ looks at me and with all my failings and mistakes he has yet and will not forsake me and everyday I ask the Holy Spirit to enlarge my capacity to look at my wife with the same eyes Christ sees me. I have chosen to love my wife till death do us part. My Pastor said "do not follow your heart, but lead your heart." Thank you.

  4. (Namibia) This one touched and convicted me so much, because just a few weeks ago, I wanted to get out of my marriage because after speaking to my husband over and over about how I felt about him watching so much Television he told me that he couldn’t stop because that’s what make him relax. His habit was however, coming between us and it hurts me so much. We have been married for only two years with a one year old son. and we spent 90% of our time watching TV as a family. I was concerned.

    When I told him that I wanted to leave the marriage; he didn’t me want to and said that he was willing to make things work. After reading this newsletter though, I realize that I should stay in this marriage not only because he wants me to, but because I want to honour God. And this is really encouraging me to spend more time with God and in His word; so that I can love my spouse the way Jesus loves.

    Thank you so much and God bless you for this. I pray that the Lord will continue to make this service continue for a very long time. Marriage is challenging and we need information like this that can guide, encourage and teach us God’s heart for marriage.

  5. (UK) Thank you Cindy and Steve for your desire to save marriages. However, please tell me how I can save mine. Since my husband 4 years ago, had an extramarital affair, he was not apologetic but wanted a divorce. I continued to beg him to make our marriage work. I prayed and fasted, talked to pastors, went for Christian counseling, read your site everyday and did everything that you suggest. Meanwhile, he has gone on with his life to have 2 children with 2 different women.

    I have continued to pray for him. Not only am I nursing a very painful heartbreak, I have to continuously console our 2 children aged 11 and 4 who miss him very much. He will not even talk to them on the phone let alone see them. In addition to that, he has left us with huge amount of debts and does not give us any financial support. What does God say to my marriage???

  6. (U.S.)  One of the biggest problems in divorces is churches where the Gospel is preached exclusively. The Church seems to have forgotten that the Law is what gives the Gospel meaning.

    The Law doesn’t give salvation, but it does define how to live, and shows us why we need the Gospel. And the Law has not gone away. But churches, at least in Western cultures, focus on one aspect of the Gospel – forgiveness – to the exclusion of Law.

    Thus many, perhaps most people in churches today have no idea what God says about how to live. Many think they can disregard God’s clear instructions on how to live because God will forgive them for anything they do. This has turned the Gospel into license to sin and made it easy to divorce.

    It’s likely that unchurched people have a more acute sense of the tragedy and pain of divorce than church members (I hesitate to call them “believers”). They don’t have anything to soothe the hurts. But the churched can ignore the wounds and pain from divorce because, after all, the ministers of their god (little ‘g’) teach them that forgiveness has nothing to do with obeying God’s commandments. The Church has, in effect, become a comfortable haven within which marriages, probably the most sacred of God’s institutions, can be destroyed.

    Yes, I am blaming the ministry. I’m indicting every last one of them who want to appear to be forgiving, non-judgmental, cosmopolitan, erudite and sophisticated in the world’s eyes. They’re refusing or neglecting to teach what God says about how to live (the Law) thereby turning the Gospel into “cheap grace” (Bonhoeffer).

  7. (KENYA) Steve & Cindy, I thank God for giving you this marriage ministry, it has been a source of valuable advice and encouragement for many couples, myself included.

    I must admit that this massage has touched me deeply. It is true that many Christian marriages are ending in divorces and thus allowing the world to mock our faith. One thing that we must admit, God has put a lot of power and respect on this institution, and the devil knows this pretty well. This makes Christian marriages one of the most favorable targets for the agent of destruction -the devil.

    There is only one prescription for this trouble and that is; prayer and seeking God. I wish to encourage any one who has read this message to pray without ceasing, any home that doesn’t have prayer time is in great danger. There is great victory when couples pray together and seek the face of God, they will for sure find answers to the many issues that more often cause tension, in marriages.

    I have a call to every one who reads this; pray for yourself so that God can make you the best partner in your marriage. Never ignore the power of Christ in your home. He is the author of all marriages, He is the prince of peace, He is the foundation rock, He knows all your needs and determines your steps!

  8. (USA) Just finished reading this marriage message. Excellent post and very well stated. Truer words could not be spoken about the need for a Christian home. Through the examples of a Christian home and attitude we can display, to all the world, the wonders and truth of following Jesus.

    Jeri and I have come such a long way in our Christian walk and our marriage life in the last 18 months. Still have a distance to travel but the trip has been challenging yet very rewarding. Much thanks to you and Marriage Missions International, and all the other great people I have had the opportunity to meet online, through various Christian web sites, and local friendships we have developed.

    Jeri and I do wedding photography. (Well, mostly, Jeri takes the pictures and does the editing and I am more or less her humble assistant.) In doing this we are witness to many beginnings of married life. Our method of photography is a little different than most. We approach it with the thought of being part of the family and getting to know the people we work with. Not just there to do a job but to be part of this new beginning. This gives us a chance to talk, and interact closely with the family and the wedding couple. We take every opportunity to display our loving and committed relationship to those around. Words of encouragement and advice are given when we see that they could be useful. And also to dispel some of the old thinking that can sabotage a marriage.

    Example: During the last wedding shoot one of the groomsmen, who is a brother to the groom and married, continued to tell his brother that there was still time to run, that today was the end of his “freedom”, from here on in it was down hill and his life was over. Every time I hear talk like that from anyone I make it perfectly clear that does not have to be case. I would say to him, making sure the groom could hear, that marriage can be the most wonderful experience and it is NOT the end of your free life. But rather the start of a new adventure to be shared together. We are just trying to do a small part in spreading the word that marriage is GREAT. Being married as long as you and I have been, maybe we can be examples of how love and commitment can grow and be lived out over all those years.

  9. What is there to do when you and your spouse expect very different things from each other? Where one is always seeking guidance on how to improve the communication and the other wants no part of it? I have tried marital counseling, a marriage retreat through our church and suggested we join a couples group at our church and my spouse refuses. We tried the couseling but that was a total waste of time as he went in with a very negative mentality. The marriage retreat was much worse as it only made him less interested in anything that had to do with receiving guidance.

    My spouse is not a believer as I am, it is extremely difficult to make him see others persepctives. I have communicated to him all of the things I am struggling with in our relationahip but he does not acknowledge any of it

    I do pray every single day and have turned our struggles over to God but what do I do in the meantime?