God is clear in His commands. Let's keep growing with what He has to say in this week's Devotional Challenge.
"For I hate divorce!" says the Lord, the God of Israel…"So guard yourself; always remain loyal to your wife." Malachi 2:16
What do you hate? "Whoa," you may exclaim, "hate is a very strong word. There may be some things I dislike strongly. But hate – I'd have to think about that one. It may not even be biblical to hate anything besides sin and the devil."
Merriam-Webster's first definition for hate is "intense hostility and aversion." Can you think of something that utterly repulses you, something you distance yourself from at all costs? What about that certain vegetable you can't stand – brussels sprouts, for example? You won't buy brussels sprouts in the grocery store or serve them to your family – it doesn't matter how healthy they may be. You wouldn't think of ordering brussels sprouts in a restaurant. Just the thought of cooked brussels sprouts makes you cringe, and the smell makes you gag. If you were a guest at someone's home for dinner and brussels sprouts showed up on your plate, you wouldn't touch them – not even to be polite. It's clear that you hate brussels sprouts.
You may be thinking, "Hey, lighten up. I love brussels sprouts." Apparently, a lot of people do. Some people hate spiders, cockroaches, snakes, and mice; other people don't mind them and even like them. Some people hate being late; others think it's fashionable. Everybody's tastes and preferences are different. But we all hate something.
If God hates something, wouldn't it be wise to put it on our hate list to? Malachi 2:16 leaves no doubt that God holds a strong opinion about divorce. He hates it. This means that God is very serious about the covenant you made with him and your spouse on your wedding day. He is unequivocal on this topic: marriage is to be a lifelong commitment –period. Divorce should not even be considered an option.
Notice that God does not say, "I hate divorced people." On the contrary, he loves all people, including divorced people. That's precisely why he is so vehement on the divorce issue – he knows the pain it brings to the people he loves. It's as if he pleads with us, "Divorce deeply wounds everyone involved. I don't want to see you hurt. Do yourself a favor: Avoid the hurt by honoring your lifetime commitment."
In the same breath as his denouncement of divorce in Malachi 2:16, God provides a two-pronged antidote to divorce. As you apply these commands to your relationship, you help generate renewing love and take major steps toward divorce-proofing your marriage.
First, he says, "Guard yourself." This command suggests that there is something threatening in marriage and that not everyone holds the same opinion about divorce God does. We all understand, don't we? Our culture openly condones and facilitates divorce. A person can get a divorce for practically no reason at all. It's an easy out for anyone who doesn't want to deal with even the normal conflicts and adjustments of married life. Our culture seems to say, "If your marriage isn't working out the way you like, just divorce your spouse and look for one you like better."
If we are not careful, the culture’s impudent disrespect for the marriage vow can seep into our thinking as believers. "Yes, I promised to love him 'for richer or for poorer,'" A Christian wife may tell herself, "but I didn't know he was too lazy to hold a job. My friends say I'm a fool to put up with a slacker like him." Or a husband may say, "When I vowed 'in sickness and in health,' I wasn't thinking about mental illness. My wife's deep depression is making life miserable for me and the kids. My boss says I'm throwing away the best years of my life by staying with her."
The "wisdom" of the world says, "Divorce is the solution to your marriage problems."
But God says, "I hate divorce," and he warns us to avoid this casual attitude toward the solemn vows we recited before him.
God’s second antidote for divorce in Malachi 2:16 is, "remain loyal." The new international version translates this command, "do not break faith." You promised to love, honor, and cherish your spouse. He or she is counting on you to keep your word. Don't break faith by going back on your vow. Pour your energies into unqualified love and faithfulness in marriage instead of making excuses and looking for loopholes. Continually ask yourself, "How can I help make our relationship richer, deeper, and more fulfilling despite our conflicts and struggles?"
How do you build divorce-proof loyalty into your relationship? One significant way is by consistently exercising the six facets of love we have considered in this devotional. When you are wholeheartedly devoted to loving each other in these ways, divorce will be the farthest thing from your minds.
Forgiving love. Offer each other a fresh start after offenses both large and small by consistently confessing wrongs and forgiving each other. Forgiving love helps you feel accepted by and connected to one another.
Serving love. Commit yourself to discovering and meeting each other's deepest needs. Serving love helps each of you feel understood and honored by the other.
Persevering love. Support, encourage, and comfort each other through the trials of life. Persevering love bonds you together as friends and soulmates.
Guarding love. Protect your heart and your spouse’s heart from the many threats to your marriage. Guarding love builds a sense of safety and security into your relationship.
Celebrating love. Continually look for ways to enjoy each other emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Celebrating love helps you feel cherished and captivated by the other.
Renewing love. Never be satisfied with the status quo. Strive together to keep your marriage fresh and growing. Renewing love helps strengthen your commitment to each other and keeps your love vibrant.
From your observation and experience, in what ways is divorce either condemned or encouraged in our culture? Think of some couples you know (friends, family members, coworkers, or church members) who have divorced. In your judgment, how significantly did the culture’s view of divorce encourage them to end their marriages? How has the culture influenced your personal view of marriage and divorce?
Holy God, you have left no doubt about your view of divorce. You hate it, and you command me to remain loyal and faithful to my spouse. I reaffirmed my commitment to fulfill my vows to my spouse until we are pardoned by death. Thank you that your resources for building a divorce-proof marriage are at my disposal. Pour into me everything I need to enrich my marriage with forgiving love, serving love, guarding love, persevering love, celebrating love, and renewing love. Make my marriage glorify you and be a testimony of your power to our culture. Amen.
Renew Your Love
Consider renewing your marriage vows in public to further strengthen your commitment to a divorce-proof marriage. For example, invite a group of Christian friends to your home for an evening of fellowship and to witness the renewing of your vows. You may want to include a pastor or church leader to "officiate" the brief ceremony. Share with your friends how this devotional has helped you renew your love for each other. Then recite your vows to each other, either your original marriage vows or a revised version you have prepared. Close the ceremony by asking a number of your friends to lead in prayer for your marriage.