Divorce is a brokenness that reaches into the very soul of the individual, the family, and society itself. Divorce devastates financial security leaving women and children destitute, increasing unemployment, poor performance in school, behavioral issues, and homelessness. Divorce increases suicide in men, powerless to protect their families from destruction. No one is immune to persecution in divorce, especially innocent spouses and children.
The temptation to sink into the anger, bitterness, and hatred of betrayal can be overwhelming. The warmth the heat of those emotions produces pulls us in, drawing us ever closer like a moth to the flame or a traveller to a blazing hearth on a cold winter night, but warmth from the fires of hate is not warmth for the soul.
It is a pull toward living hell.
Hell is hot. Souls there suffer burning flames for eternity. Perhaps this is a result of actions committed and words harshly spoken, but I would guess many are also there simply for drawing too close to the warmth of hate without even realizing it. The heat of hateful gossip, angry stares, and wishing ill on an ex takes the focus off our own pain and wishes it on someone “more deserving.”
But maybe persecution in divorce is a blessing.
It’s hard to even write those words. Persecution? Divorce? Blessing? How do they fit together? There is no doubt an intact family is best, that we’d rather have our children with us every day. We’d rather have father and mothers standing together, side by side, arms around one another at birthdays, graduations, funerals. We’d rather see our spouse smile as we tell corny jokes in our kitchens or read bedtime stories to snuggly little ones. We’d rather be doing college visits together and laughing on family car rides to places we’d never seen on adventures we couldn’t begin to imagine.
Those wish are shared by many, if not all, innocent spouses in divorce, but it is also probably never going to happen for most divorced couples. What is worse, is that is never going to happen for children of divorce.
Instead, there is a daily struggle to survive, to keep one’s head above water financially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Exhaustion and overwhelm, chaos and confusion, battles of self-worth and loneliness, desire and temptation, risk and insecurity face the life of the divorced and their children. Sometimes it is not the shock of divorce that finally crumbles one, but the endless battle of waking another day to more of the same.
God is a God Justice Through Trial Before Salvation
It’s hard to see the benefit to so much suffering. Life is not fair. Your ex gains freedom, content in part-time parenting, and living the good life off a salary you forfeited to stay home with your children, but when in history has life been fair? When were you promised ease of existence? What made you think history would not repeat itself or that you were too good to be spared? When did God offer mercy but forget justice?
Look back over time. Look at Moses and the 40 years he led his family through the desert. Look at how they turned their backs on him and on God. Look at Noah and the people’s reactions as he built the ark and gathered the animals. Think of the loneliness both must have felt as they warned others, pleaded with friends they loved but who refused to hear, sinners and good people who had simply forgotten God is the God of justice.
Think of those hurt who chose to draw to flames of hate rather than be forged by the fires of Goodness.
Look at Jesus. Think of the Stations of the Cross. Jesus came to bring Love and Forgiveness and Mercy but to also warn of the Father’s perfect Justice.
We Forget Justice & Think We Will Be Shown Only Mercy
Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven,
when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble,
and the day that is coming will set them on fire,
leaving them neither root nor branch,
says the LORD of hosts.
The responsorial Psalm comes from Psalm 98:9 and tells us,
The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.
The second reading from 2 Thess 3:10-12 says:
In fact, when we were with you,
we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work,
neither should that one eat.
We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way,
by not keeping busy but minding the business of others.
Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food.
And finally, the Gospel of Luke 21:5-19, is a long reading about persecution and trials, false gods, wars and insurrections, nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes, famines, and plagues, believers being seized and persecuted, handed over to synagogues and prisons, led before kings and governors, handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and some even being put to death.
To say this portion of Luke 21 does not inspire happy lightheartedness is an understatement, but to look only at the devastation is to draw close to the flame of negativity, the fires of hell, for there is beauty and hope in these verses as well.
Today, our synagogues have become our government. Mary and Joseph presented Jesus to Simeon and the synagogue when he was born. Today we register our children with a birth certificate. We register for school, employment, and rights such as voting and the ability to carry a weapon for self-defense. We turn to the government when we need help feeding, housing, and clothing ourselves. We turn to the government for permission to Marry, to negotiate divorce and finally to register our deaths.
All things that used to be done in churches by priests are now done in bureaucratic offices by politicians and lawyers, and we think we can avoid pain and simply by filling out paperwork or because we are blindly offered mercy.
Divorce is Not the Way Life is Supposed to Be
Divorce was never part of God’s plan. Moses allowed it because of the hardness of man’s heart, but that was the Old Law. When Jesus came to fulfill the law, He gave the two greatest commandments: Love God above all and Love your neighbor as yourself. That negated the right to divorce and told us to love instead. God never asks us to do the impossible. He would not have given this command if love were not something we can do.
Divorce turns the way life is supposed to be upside down, but divorce is also not the end of the world. We know from Luke 20 that marriage does not even exist in the afterlife, but people do. We know God is merciful, but He is also Just. We know we will be made to pay for our wrongdoings. We know that, while none of us deserves divorce, neither do we deserve the Heaven that awaits.
It is impossible to take these warnings and not see them for what they are: calls to do better, to fear the Lord, to sing His praises, to work in toil and drudgery, night and day, love more thoroughly, to help one another, to stay busy, to love more thoroughly, and to
Stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.
~ Luke 21: 28
It is difficult to not draw closer to the flames of hate in divorce, but you are called to do better. You cannot speak badly of someone while singing praise to the Lord. Your mouth cannot do both at one. This inability is a gift from God just as your current persecution cannot be both the fires of hell and of redemption. By living your testimony, the heat you feel can be your saving Grace. These difficult days refine and mold you and make you who you were created to be.
These are the days that burn your sin away if you let them. These are the days that prepare you to enter Heaven if you choose to act as you are instructed and be a role model to your children and to those who will sadly follow similar paths one day.
If you choose to succumb to the voice of the culture, to the “justice” of the government, or the anger in your own heart, you make yourself no better than the calf worshipers of Moses’ day, the drowned souls in Noah’s time, or your abandoning spouse.
Do not forget God is not a God of rainbows and unicorns but a God of Justice and perseverance. He will judge. He will find many wanting. He will exact vengeance. He does allow persecution – now or later.
You can delight in having been warned and find joy in Jesus’ final words from The Coming Persecution,
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.
Be sure it is simply because you loved the Lord so much that you are hated, not because you spoke badly or sought your own revenge. Loving in all circumstances is what you are called to do, and because of this, you will be shown Mercy. Because of this, you will secure your own lives.
Pray for your ex, for those he associates with, for government officials, media personal, and all who fail to see or fail to love. They may be living the “good life” now, but God is a God of Justice.
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