The Number One Cause of Divorce
Fill in the blank: The number one cause of divorce is: ___________.
Friends, I’m going to take a step back from the LASTing Peace video series–perhaps only for a time, perhaps indefinitely. I will still be writing and posting at least once a week and more often when the Lord leads.
This today is from my journal just recently. It’s a dialogue I had with God. He continued to faithfully answer my wounded heart though His perfect Word. If you’ve ever had trouble hearing from God, I hope this gives you a sense of what His voice sounds like when it whispers through the pages of Scripture:
I have been worried lately that somehow my husband and I will revert to the “old us.” We’ve changed so much; God has healed and forgiven so much–to go back to a false sense of self-sufficiency–it terrifies me. I cannot live that way again!
But even as I fretted, I have been praying Proverbs daily for us and the beginning of Proverbs 14 says:
“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”
That puts the onus on me. I can destroy this thing or I can build it up. I know that in the last few days, I have been kind of sulky and subversively unhappy about things: his long hours at work, his fatigue or distance at home … you know that, “It’s not fair” kind of thing. I know even in the midst of my poor attitude that I risk pushing my husband away by making him feel like he’s needed but failing to be available.
So then I fret that I’m going to ruin this thing—probably already have. What if, by my attitude, I’ve already shut him down. What if he’s already decided that I’m whiny, obnoxious, unnecessary and a burden? What if I’ve lost my chance to build us?
Zing! Here came Psalm 127:1
“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.”
And then fear grips me again. God, what if you started all this and now I’ve messed it up and you’ve given up and you’re just going to let us slide all the way back down into our mud. What if God!? What if you don’t care enough? What if I can’t trust you enough to keep us, save us, bind us, grow us? (Ever ask those questions?
Philippians 1:6 “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
God’s faithfulness is found in His word. There are answers to every hurt, every question, every longing. We need only be still enough to listen and willing to hear what we sometimes don’t want to hear–and finally, willing to agree that His way is always the best way.
Most of you know, my husband is currently deployed. This article was written several months ago, but I find it again relevant–even to me, the author.
We recently talked on LASTing Peace, about fear being idolatry. This article explains another way that fear, also known as fretting, can sabotage our Christian lives.
He started it.
Yes, he snapped at me first, but you’d think I could’ve held my tongue and finished with a “win”. Especially after all my praying lately.
Just two days ago, I even sent my husband a text message telling him that I prayed to be a Proverbs 31 wife to him: “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”
With all my heart I want to learn to control my tongue; to face temptation and make the right choice—not to sin. In that moment, just before I retaliated, I saw the choice, clear as an angel and a devil perched persuasively on my shoulders. I saw it, and in the split second that it takes to activate one’s vocal chords thoughtlessly, I snapped right back. And just as James says, I set a fire.
“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James 3:6
After his harsh words, my husband apologized immediately. He came toward me to give me a hug. With self-righteous flare, I turned my back on him. “No, I don’t want it. You’re not sincere, you’re just trying to make me stop being angry.”
He dropped the fight. That’s one thing I simultaneously admire and hate about my man. He can simply drop his arms, turn around and let the whole argument go. All the while, the heat of anger and bitterness simmers in my chest. He settled into the couch with his computer, but a fire had already broken loose in me.
Tearful, I huffed into the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed. “God, why? Why is he so heartless and uncaring? Why doesn’t he care about making up? Why doesn’t he notice that I’m really hurt?”
I don’t know who I was more angry with—myself or my husband. Yes, Patrick’s words were hurtful and the capstone to my mounting frustration as I played second fiddle to his computer games all weekend. But still, when the opportunity to express forgiveness, to respond with abundant joy that rests on Jesus and not on my husband’s behavior—when the opportunity to engage the Scripture I’ve been memorizing presented itself, I glanced away from the proverbial “angel” and bored full ahead into my husband with a devilish piety.
God says His Word never returns void. So true. Even as I sat there, sulking over my hurt and groveling in my shame, my newest memory verse came to mind. Psalm 37:8 says, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”
That morning, in my quiet time, I had examined a couple of those words in the Hebrew. Fret means “to be incensed, to get hot”—in American vernacular think of “smoldering anger” or “fuming”. The most poignant definition of the word evil is “to shatter”.
As the evening waned, I sat in the darkening corner of my bedroom and listened to my Heavenly Father. Gently, without accusation, He prodded my heart with the truth: I could choose to fret and be angry. But if I did, I was playing an active role in shattering my relationship with my husband, to say nothing of my own peace.
Often we are told that fretting or worrying is pointless. We are reminded that being angry or bitter hurts us more than the person at whom it is directed. But God’s Word takes it even further. To simmer, steam or be hot and angry tends only to shatter—relationships, peace of mind and communion with our Heavenly Father.
I wish I could say I came out of my room right away with a glowing countenance and words of restoration. No, I sat there a while longer and wrestled with God. In fact, it took me until the following morning to face my husband and humbly ask his forgiveness. When I did, I saw the fruit of God’s Word bloom. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”
The wonderful thing about knowing Jesus is that even when things are shattered, He is our healer. He can restore all things, even relationships and a peaceful heart.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Ps. 147:3
I am doing a Bible study about intentional living. So I wasn’t expecting a verse about marriage to pop off the page. But then I shouldn’t be surprised, God is always intentional about getting our attention so that He can make us more like Jesus.
“Teach me to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
Don’t see anything about marriage in that verse? That’s because you’re not reading it with the intention of seeing God’s plan for your marriage. It’s there.
The Bible also says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)
Don’t you imagine in that our unions would be much improved if we governed them with wisdom? If we related to our spouse with wisdom and in the fear of the Lord, don’t you think we could avoid many of the pointless arguments, cold shoulders and the silent treatment? Where does this heart of wisdom come from? How do we cultivate a fear of the Lord in our homes and in our relationships?
We gain a heart of wisdom when we learn to number our days. The phrase, “Teach us to number our days”, has a much stronger meaning in the original Hebrew. It means to: Consider, be skillful in, reckon, prepare for and appoint with intention the temporal, brief mornings and evenings of life. (That’s just my lengthy amplified paraphrase.)
Often, I don’t think we approach our marriages intentionally. The expectation is for love and fuzzy feelings to buoy the relationship through the hard times. But when things get really gritty, there’s no deep-seated recourse, no Biblically founded intention to hold the marriage together.
There’s a catchy little phrase that has spawned many a movie. “Live each day as if it were your last.”
That saying is a modern assertion of the truth of Psalm 90:12. Even unbelievers know that acceptance of our brevity brings freedom, genuine love and a correcting of priorities. How many stories are told of someone diagnosed with cancer who suddenly determines to reconcile with a long-estranged sibling? How many times have we heard of someone learning they have months to live and suddenly choosing to work less, spend more time with family and begin seeking God? There’s no denying that numbering our days produces wisdom and ignites intention in our hearts.
So what if we could harness this knowledge of our few and temporal mornings and evenings so that we might have this wisdom now for our marriages and other relationships?
In American vernacular there’s a big difference between having good intentions and living intentionally. I go to bed each night with good intentions to speak kindly to my husband tomorrow and pray for him. I have good intentions when I plan to make his favorite dinner tomorrow or remember to ask about that meeting he had yesterday. Good intentions are my plans to go to the gym and eat more vegetables.
But living my marriage intentionally requires that I apply some elbow grease to those intentions. If I don’t do the hard work to make good on those intentions, then that is all they remain—good intentions, and I must plan again to live intentionally.
Marriage is one of those few relationships that we commemorate every year. Save for the embarrassed hubby that forgot several times, most couples know exactly how many years, and could calculate how many days, they’ve been married. We number those days. Therefore, we’re halfway toward a heart of wisdom.
Next time strife or bitterness raises its head or that gulf slowly widens between you and your spouse, stop and count the days. They are few. Psalm 90 goes on to say that we have 70, maybe 80 years if we’re lucky.
We are finite creatures. All our miseries and complaints are so small and short-lived compared to the eternal glory purchased for us by Christ. The first step toward governing our marriages with wisdom is to recognize how fleeting they are. Next, we must intentionally order, prepare for and appoint our days.
It’s so easy in the heat of the moment, to assume that this crisis of miscommunication or hurt will ruin our lives, make or break our relationship. It can’t destroy us if we don’t let it. When we number our days, view them in the true light of their brevity, it’s much easier to take a step back and intentionally form our response or reaction to every situation.
So, do the math. Number your days. Let that practice form within you a heart of wisdom, the beginning of the fear of the Lord. And then intentionally, with more than good intentions, conduct your marriage with wisdom.
If the perfection of one’s marriage was directly related to the number of Bible studies they completed on the subject, my husband and I would be living in utopia.
I’ve done studies on marriage by men and by women, in groups and by myself. I’ve sat beneath the tutelage of the study’s authors themselves. I’ve lead studies on marriage. Not only studies, but I’ve read most the books on the shelf—books by Gary Smalley, Kevin Lehman, Kay Arthur, Les and Leslie Parrot and James Dobson.
Guess what. Marriage is still tough sometimes.
So when I picked up Passion Pursuit, I wasn’t expecting anything revolutionary. Thankfully, it is solidly based on Scripture, so the motivating truth behind the message remains unchanged: God ordained marriage between one man and one woman and He ordained that sex be enjoyed only within the bonds of marriage.
Passion Pursuit does differ in a couple very effective ways. First, authors Linda Dillow and Julie Slattery, focus exclusively on the sexual aspect of marriage. They do not deviate into communication issues, parenting or even spend much time on the headship-submission debacle. (The time they do spend on that topic reveals that it’s not really a debacle at all.)
Secondly, Dillow and Slattery are refreshingly vulnerable and open in this book about their own intimate lives with their husbands, their own struggles and successes. In fact, it’s this honesty that lends to book a mentoring tone, a coffee-cup-and-couch feeling, and enables the reader to answer their questions honestly and without embarrassment.
The book is laid out in a typical, weekly Bible study format. Ten weeks of lessons are divided into five day weeks. The average lesson is 2-3 pages long but that includes space for whimsical graphics and side bars. Each week has a short introduction. Each lesson has a paragraph or two of lead-in, after which it is basically Scripture, question, answer.
I simply read Passion Pursuit as a book my first time through. It is engaging, humous and actually a fun read. However, the questions are pointed and searching. I admit, I’m a little nervous about working through it slowly, day-by-day. But I do know that the effort and required honesty will deepen my love for God, and in turn my understanding of how He intended sex to be and how to fully enjoy it with my husband.
By the time a couple finishes the first round of premarital counseling, most are willing to admit that marriage requires, and affects, personal change. All will affirm that marriage involves cherishing and being cherished.
However, only after the rings are exchanged, the threshold crossed and the first dinner bloopers endured, does light dawn on the truth that these aspects of marriage are not only true, they are nonnegotiable and they are mutually dependent.
Jane Kirkpatrick’s trilogy, Emma of Aurora, The Change and Cherish Trilogy, is a fascinating, didactic work of historical fiction. In her remarkably accurate account of the life of Emma Wagner Giesy, Kirkpatrick quietly unveils the perils, the promises, the possibilities and the purpose of marriage.
Emma Wagner Giesy’s life was fraught with perils. She had a strong mind and a ferocious sense of independence. Neither bode well for her in the ultra-conservative, communal Christian colony in Bethel, Missouri, where she grew up. She fell in love with Christian Giesy, during a Christmas morning church service in 1851, as she studied him across the isle dividing male and female worshipers.
Her subsequent marriage to Heir Keil’s right hand man, immediately set her at odds with the colony’s undisputed leader. Tension simmered as Emma worked to manipulate the men in her life to respect her wishes, something unheard of in the patriarchal colony. But she won more battles than she lost and eventually found herself the lone woman accompanying her husband and a small group of scouts westward to find a new homestead for the growing Bethel colony.
Perils of loneliness, physical pain, rejection and exhaustion assaulted Christian and Emma’s marriage. I watched as Emma and Christian changed, almost imperceptibly, learning to cherish each other in spite of their differences.
God’s promises prevailed over and over in this true, rich story. Kirkpatrick uses Emma’s voice to recall Scripture frequently. Familiar Biblical texts became Emma’s lifeline when her husband seemed distant and unfeeling. At the same time, Emma and Christian’s vows to each other endured continuous refining fire, but emerged stronger.
At risk of giving away Emma’s darkest, most transformational peril revealed in Book 2, I’ll simply tell you that through Emma’s story, Kirkpatrick helps the reader to understand God’s promise, “All things work together for the good of those who love Him”, often requires that we believe, “With God all things are possible”.
Finally, Kirkpatrick’s uses Emma’s story to show the purpose of marriage. God designed the union of man and woman in marriage to be unlike any other relationship. The aggravating truth of our stark differences can make marriage one of the most difficult relationships. But it is through the pain of changing that we understand how much God cherishes us. It is in learning to rest in our Father’s love that we become able to accept the differences of others, gently accept God’s changing us, and become able to cherish another human being.
This book is an excellent, unparalleled read. Kirkpatrick develops vibrant, multi-dimensional characters. None is flawless and the reader’s loyalty vacillates, even occasionally leaving the heroine.
The conclusion left me with a deeper self-awareness. It cultivated introspection, an attentiveness to the changes God longs to make in my own life. At the same time, the book left me with peace, a confidence that I am cherished, even as I am changing.
It’s not a 4-letter word. It might be worse.
Visit me at Start Marriage Right for the whole story.