|“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”|
I would like to speak to a common and understandable struggle that came from last Sunday’s sermon on divorce. If two people are in a long-term miserable marriage, why should they stay married? The unhappiness of this couple’s relationship affects the family, children, and everyone related to them. The blame for this prison of dysfunction is often laid on Jesus. It’s often said, “If they only had the freedom to divorce, they could be happy.”
This reasoning makes two wrong assumptions. First, it assumes the problem is with the relationship and not the individuals. If the two people could separate, they would leave their misery behind. Second, that the will of God in marriage is not universally good. Instead, marriage is only good when you have a match of two good people. Let’s examine both of these wrong assumptions.
First, a miserable marriage comes from one, or both, spouses living in a constant pattern of sin. The problem is not with the “relationship,” the problem is with the individuals. If they divorce without justification from their present situation, they would simply take their sin with them into loneliness or their next marriage. This is the basic reason why people that divorce, without biblical justification, have a high rate of divorcing again and again. Their personal sin problems compound, instead of resolve. However, EVERY marriage is made up of two sinners. It’s a false notion that good marriages come from “two happy people” married to each other. I have met countless couples that were miserable together, but from an outside perspective, had no reason for unhappiness.
This goes to the second argument: “That the will of God in marriage is not universally good.” The will of God in marriage IS universally good, because it is used by God to help sanctify (make more godly and drive out sin) two sinners in a marriage relationship. Selfishness destroys relationships. The primary way, designed by God, to truly drive out selfishness is marriage and family. The long-term nature of biblical marriage and children, acted upon by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, will radically change you.
The answer to a miserable and failed marriage is not divorce. This excludes the justified reasons for divorce spoken about Sunday, but speaks to the reality that most failed marriages result from anger, harsh words, selfish spending, relational withdrawal, an unwillingness to serve a spouse in need, inflexibility, selfish personal career choices, and so on. All of these reasons are sinful. The answer to our sin is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The main point I want to make here is that the answer to our miserable relationships, destroyed by sin and selfishness, is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you are in a struggling marriage, do not focus on escaping the marriage. Instead, examine yourself and look to Jesus. Jesus came to save sinners. The Holy Spirit has been sent to accomplish the radical transformation of selfish sinners into servant-hearted people that bless those around them. If you know people who are in a terrible marriage, please do not center your conversations with them around nursing their selfishness or encouraging them to run away from their sins. Point them to Jesus and the gospel of forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith. When you see others in a low and beat-down place, don’t encourage them to run further into the darkness; point them to Jesus who can make all things new. Jesus can, and will, give them rest for their souls.
Speak the gospel truth, for the truth alone can set you free.
May our marriages be strengthened by the Holy Spirit this week,