Job 3:20-26 (NLT)
20 “Oh, why give light to those in misery, and life to those who are bitter? 21 They long for death, and it won’t come. They search for death more eagerly than for hidden treasure.
22 They’re filled with joy when they finally die, and rejoice when they find the grave. 23 Why is life given to those with no future, those God has surrounded with difficulties?
24 I cannot eat for sighing; my groans pour out like water. 25 What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come true. 26 I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest; only trouble comes.”
Let me set up today’s message with an image from the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Scarlet Letter” set in Boston in the Puritan era. It’s the story of a woman who conceived after committing adultery. Because of her act she was forced to wear the Scarlet letter “A” stitched on her clothes. It was the religious community’s attempt to fill her with shame.
There’s another Scarlet letter that many of us have worn—The Scarlet Letter D! When we launched this series called Surviving Your D-Day Invasions, we said that each of the attacks we would discuss come as a sneak invasion from a hostile enemy. When you look at today’s topic of Divorce, we know that to be true. In this series, we are looking at the Old Testament story of a man named Job. Job did not experience divorce, but these words he wrote fit those of us who have. I also said that we would be walking through my own personal story. Here is the one thing I ask you to remember:
Divorce Is A Sin, But It Never Disqualifies You From Serving God.
Today we’ll be talking about the darkest time in my life. This is the most difficult message I have ever had to prepare or deliver. I realize this message will not apply to all of you. But maybe you know someone with someone who has faced or is facing The Scarlet D.
The first time I did this series was 2003. When God first started working on me about this series and today’s topic, you have no idea how I resisted. At the time Vicky and I had been separated, a fact known by only a very few people. Before that, we have been sleeping in separate rooms, living separate lives. God has an amazing sense of timing. The first time I did this message was 1 week after I announced to the congregation I served, that we filed for Divorce.
And even now, I still have difficulty sharing these thoughts with you. Today is deeply personal, a reflection of what I learned as I dealt with the fact of Divorce in my life. I never said, “Let’s try this thing called marriage, and 29 years later, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll get a Divorce.” But sometimes, in spite of our best intentions, the path of our lives takes an unexpected turn.
Of all the “D’s” of the D-Day Invasions, Divorce can be overwhelmingly painful. It sneaks up on two people who began a union deeply in love. They had dreams and aspirations of what their marriage could be and should be. For the most part, they thought their marriage would last forever. That is until one day, when the D-Day Invasion of Divorce lands right in the middle of their home.
Maybe some of you here have personally experienced the D-Day Invasion of Divorce. Some of you may have seen the results of that invasion in your parent’s Divorce. All of us have probably had friends, close friends, whose marriage became 1 of the unfortunate statistics of our culture.
Many people are dealing with the pain, turmoil and rejection that come with Divorce. Believers, non-believers, seekers—the D-Day Invasion Of Divorce cuts across all lines. And because of deep misunderstanding, the church only adds to the pain.
Once we are faced with the Invasion of Divorce, how can we survive? How can we discard this Scarlet D? Many people feel hopeless, confused and rejected. I looked at my failed marriage and I felt like a total failure. God’s plan for marriage is for a lifetime.
But God also understands that we are human, we have feet of clay. So, how do we move beyond the hurt, beyond the humiliation, beyond the pain, beyond the uncertainty of this D-Day Invasion? Allow me to share 4 things with you that I believe work together. Follow these steps all the way through. Here they are:
1. Accept Only Your Responsibility
Somewhere down the line, you’re going to have to attach some responsibility. In all Divorce cases, one or both people were responsible. Someone screwed up; someone made a mistake. It may not be you but it was someone. This once perfect thing now has division. You cannot speak of Divorce in generalities; each case must be examined in its own situation.
Who is responsible? Why did it happen? Owning responsibility is the key to surviving the D-Day Invasion of Divorce. Accepting only your responsibility is the key to giving and accepting forgiveness where it’s needed. Responsibility has to be attached, but through a lot of prayer, discernment, and sometimes even counseling. Last week we talked about learning from failure. The way we are to learn from failure is to know what’s wrong, attach responsibility for our part, learn from our mistakes and move on.
That’s what we need to do here. Some of the most happily married people I know are people who have learned from their past mistakes. However, we know the statistics, don’t we? 67% of people who Divorce once will Divorce again. Most second marriages fail also. 73% of third marriages end in Divorce.
There has to be something there. Be Careful Not To Take On Someone Else’s Responsibilities. False Guilt Will Eventually Affect All Our Relationships. But I caution you, don’t stop here. Don’t hold on to the Deadly G’s: Guilt And Grudges. If Divorce is the only recourse, then it’s time to move beyond guilt, and give up our grudges. The second step is:
2. Work Toward Forgiveness
Once we understand who is responsible, we can begin to work toward forgiveness. We understand that true healing requires forgiveness for wrongs done. Forgiveness must be accepted and must be given. Some people say, “That’s crazy! There is no way I’ll forgive that person—it’s too difficult.” You are right.
It’s very, very hard. You may be the only one that wants to work on forgiveness. When we have been hurt and wronged we will never be healed until we forgive. You don’t have to walk up to that ex-spouse and announce your forgiveness. But you have to do it in your heart. Forgiveness is saying, “I Refuse To Hold On To The Pain. I Refuse To Live In The Past. I Release Them From Holding Me Captive To Any Grudge Or Pain.”
You must also learn to forgive yourself. As you work through the responsibility part of Divorce, you may find that some of the blame lies with you. I know there were times when I was uncaring. There were especially times when I was too busy.
But I ended up taking a lot of the responsibility that wasn’t mine to take. The result was that I could not forgive myself. But in order to offer forgiveness and receive forgiveness, I had to forgive myself. I do not know about you, but this was the hardest thing for me. I ended up carrying a lot of guilt I didn’t have to carry around. If you have guilt, you must forgive yourself. This was the hardest for me. I wouldn’t do it until I remembered: We Must Accept Forgiveness From God. For those of us who are believers, we understand this. No matter what we’ve done, He died on the cross two thousand years ago, and in him we are forgiven AND Cleansed.
All we have to do is accept his grace and forgiveness and the slate is wiped clean. You must accept forgiveness for yourself, and give forgiveness to the other person.
3. Allow Kids To Stay Relationally Connected
We need to make sure that if kids are involved in this D-Day Invasion of Divorce, that we encourage them to stay relationally connected to both parents. Kids of all ages are the biggest victims in Divorce.
Kids of Divorce go through confusion and pain when their parents got divorced. They wondered if it was their fault. There is no sense of closure to it. It’s true for even adult kids. Kids of all ages need to stay connected with both parents. It’s the best thing for the kids.
Let Your Kids See You Living Out Forgiveness. Teach them, by your example, about owning up to your mistakes and about receiving and giving the grace of God. Let them see you working to live at peace with your ex-spouse. Here is a powerful opportunity to bring something good out of something horrible.
If you, or a family member, or close friend experiences the D-Day of Divorce, and there are children involved, even grown children, it’s important for them to see the spirit of grace, the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation at work. Don’t Take Sides, Be A Model Of God’s Grace. Finally, in order to move beyond the pain, and experience healing and wholeness:
4. Align Your Different Life With God’s Principles
In my nearly 44 years of working in ministry, I’ve never met a person who didn’t want their second marriage to work. There is only one way to do it, friends.
That is to align our different life with God’s principles. Many of us just need to understand that we’ve tried it our way and failed, now maybe we should follow God’s plan. If you follow God’s principles for sex, dating and marriage, you can have a very happy marriage.
Do you ever feel like you have The Scarlet D pinned to your shirt? That you could never be normal again in God’s eyes because of this thing called Divorce? Maybe there’s another Scarlet Letter pinned to your shirt. Maybe yours is the Scarlet A—Addict, Adultery Abuser, Abused. Maybe you know someone with the Scarlet L—Loser. Maybe yours is the Scarlet S—Sinner! I want to leave you with this last verse and encourage you to align your new life with God’s principles.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17 says: In Christ We Are New Creations; The Old Is Gone, And New Has Come!
Grace is all about a fresh start. Do you need a fresh start? God has one for every person who is wearing any Scarlet Letter. He will take that letter off of you and you will never have to wear again.
- . If You Are Living With Shame Put On You By Family, Church, Or Even Yourself Because Of Divorce, Bring That Shame To Jesus Right Now. The shame of anyone who wears The Scarlet D was carried by Jesus so that you do not have to carry it anymore. No sin that anyone commits ever disqualifies them from both a relationship with God and the opportunity to be called by Him to serve Him.
- If You Have Been Through Divorce Or Not, Read The Scriptures About Divorce WITHOUT Whatever You Have Been Taught About It. Take 2 steps in your reading. First, ask the Holy Spirit to be your guide and teacher. Second, read those passages within the big picture of what God is seeking to do with ALL who have sinned. Our God is focusing on both Redemption, and Restoration, making people useful for His Kingdom. God chose Saul the murderer to become Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles. If God can use a murderer, why can’t He use someone divorced in any role He wants?