I didn’t think my first return post would be for literally everyone except those suffering unhappy Marriages, yet that’s where God led with Sunday, September 10th’s readings.
As always, God’s Wisdom is right on target. When something as important as Marriage, divorce, and family are involved, sometimes it makes sense to go those around the struggle before going to those in the struggle.
When stuck in a loveless Marriage the wounded can be blinded by isolation, worthlessness, fear, confusion, anger, and betrayal while the abandoner can be blinded by boredom, self-pity, lust, greed, and selfishness. Maybe both husband and wife want out, and both are blinded by pride, sloth, despair, and short sightedness.
It’s no wonder so many of the struggling fall and then slide further down their mountains! A small stumble without someone steady to lean on, generally leads to a bigger decline.
Fortunately, you can be counted on to stand for a struggling Marriage.
Or can you?
Will You Stand for Your Friend’s Failing Marriage or Encourage Her Divorce?
We like to think we are good people. The outpouring of donations like those for recent victims of Hurricane Harvey victims demonstrate this. We could be better, but we do okay at Corporal Works of Mercy – things like feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked.
It’d be easy to pat ourselves on our backs and think we’re “good enough” if that were all we’re called to, but it’s not. We are also called to perform Spiritual Works of Mercy – things like admonishing the sinner, instructing the ignorant, and counseling the doubtful.
This is where life gets tricky.
When a friend says her children’s father is leaving, a sister lets you know she’s had enough of her husband’s rotten attitude, or your best buddy is checking out other women or looking at porn, it’s easy to encourage pursuing the call to personal happiness. Wanting to protect and defend a loved one, fit in, or being tempted with your own wandering eye is understandable but not merciful.
You may not want to get involved when it is none of your business! Maybe you’re worried that your friend might turn on you. If she dumped her husband or just gave up hope, do you also wonder how solid your relationship is? Do you worry more about what people will say about you for “meddling” than about the witness you gave at their wedding or about the well being of the family?
But…It Takes a Village, Especially in Marriage & Divorce!
Some quick stats…
- Divorced adults are three times more likely to commit suicide than even unhappily Married adults (National Center for Healthcare Research, Rockville, MD)
- Children of divorce are more than twice as likely to commit suicide (Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)
- Children of divorce are more than ten times as likely to be physically beaten or murdered – murdered! (Legal Beagle)
- Even studies that claim divorce has little longterm affect on children, eventually, if you read past their propaganda, state that severe emotional issues were present in 25% children of divorce while only present in 10% of children of Married, biological couples (Scientific America). 15% of the population is a lot of kids suffering the affects of their parents’ divorce! And that’s a “divorce is okay” publication.
The above are extreme cases. None of that would happen to anyone you know. They’ll get over divorce and the kids will be fine. Except statistics show neither adults nor kids are fine. Debilitating issues show up significantly less often in traditional, intact, biological, Married, mother-father homes.
Those around the soon-to-be-divorced don’t know how to speak up, don’t feel it is their place, assume it’s too late, or don’t see the reality of what divorce does to abandoned spouses and split children. Many don’t see what goes on behind closed doors for those who live, sometimes for decades, in their own private little hells on earth.
Is Divorce Hell on Earth & What Do We Do With the Wicked?
Divorce is not Hell, but part of the suffering of Hell is the absence of Love. Knowing this, divorce may be the closest we come to Hell on earth. This should be a warning, not just for the divorced, but for all in the village.
When looking at statistics like those above, it’s hard not to label the adult who would condemn her family to the possibility of such issues as wicked, but is “wicked” too severe a word for one who initiates divorce? When your own blinders come off and you see the faces behind the statistics or you fight to keep your own child from becoming a statistic, you see the wickedness of divorce, even when you love the offender, and we must love the offenders too!
It is especially important to speak up for Marriage when you love the offender and also when no one else loves the offender enough to speak up.
Sunday’s readings tell us to call out the wicked. In Ezekial 33: 7-9, we are told that if we do not perform a Spiritual Work of Mercy in the form of admonishing the sinner we will be responsible for his guilt. Here the Father says,
If I tell the wicked, ‘Oh wicked one, you shall surely die.’ and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.
But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die from his guilt, but you shall save yourself.
You are not responsible for whether the Marriage succeeds or fails, but you are responsible for speaking for the Marriage in Truth and Love.
Do You Go to Hell for Divorce or Not Speaking Against Divorce?
God hates divorce, but He also says He will not leave you nor forsake you (Heb 13: 5). Only God knows whether you will go to Hell for divorce, but you do go to Hell for breaking His Commandments. You do go to Hell for failing to love and speak truth.
Putting your soul at risk by not warning a wicked spouse of is a heavy price to pay for not wanting to get involved or hurt someone’s feelings.
Hope for Marriage & Your Soul in Free Will
God created Marriage so man and woman could love and serve one another and raise children together. Marriage itself is not a call to personal happiness but a call to Love greater moment by moment! When one or both members of this covenant are tempted to break or actually breaks the call to love, the village around them often makes the difference in which future path the family follows. The couple may still chose the path descending to wickedness, but you must do your part to guide them safely through dark patches.
When a couple’s darkness lasts years, they most need you to help them choose Love.
This choosing of Love is the first thing you must give one approaching divorce. Because God Loves, He says we must call out the wicked so they see the error of their ways and change seek salvation for their souls. In the case of Marriage and divorce, the salvation of children and family are at immediate risk, but God is clear in His call to love even when children are older or haven’t been conceived.
The Responsorial Psalm follows the Old Testament Reading. Sunday’s response (Psalm 95) was the well known verse,
If today you hear his heart, harden not your hearts.
If something you’re reading reminds you of someone who has confided marital difficulties, embrace this verse. Don’t hardened your heart against the “wicked” spouse. Instead, listen and pray silently before speaking. If no words come to support the Marriage, ask to think and pray over what’s been said and tell them you will get back to them and be sure to do it on time.
The second reading, Romans 13, and the Alleluia verse, 2 Cor 5:19, talk about Love. They say we owe nothing to one another but Love and that God offers reconciliation when we turn to Him. If you can think of nothing to support your friend’s Marriage, wait until the words come, but speak with Love for both husband and wife. Encourage Love in them by choosing to Love both!
The Call to Love Another’s Marriage
Sunday’s readings conclude with the Gospel according to Matthew 18:15-20. Here we see how to handle adversity and the sin of another. The Just Judge tells us to first communicate with the one who has offended you, and then, if that does not work, get another and go together to speak to the offender, before finally bringing the church along.
When you hear of your friend’s divorce, it’s possible she’s still hoping it’s not over. She may, without realizing it, be hoping you are part of the church speaking with her. Even through blinders, she may be searching for hope. Her soul may be crying out for help only to be drowned out by anger, self-righteousness, self-defense, and a call for more than this life can provide.
Can This Marriage be Saved?
Human actions can be wicked, but God wants no human to be seen as wicked. His greatest desire is for all of us to repent and embrace love, love for Him and love for one another. Many Marriages have survived infidelity, addiction, abuse*, and boredom. Often what makes the difference is what those around the struggling couple say and do when faced with the possibility of divorce.
Only God knows whether a Marriage can be saved or not, but today, many assume the worst and act to console rather than mend. We act from fear that it could happen to us rather than courage that Sacramental Grace will stand. We act in hopelessness rather than in faith. We act in concern for ourselves and how we might look rather than in selfless love for a soul at risk. We act in powerlessness and the devil’s whisper that our outreach wouldn’t matter or could make things worse rather than God’s command to mercifully admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, and counsel the doubtful.
We act as if divorcing God and His command to show merciful Love are options.
God never gives up. He takes a stand when we do not. He reaches into our hearts and offers Mercy that stretches beyond forgiveness into healing and reconciliation. He Loves us all with an incomprehensible Love.
He calls us to do the same for those in rocky relationships. He’s put you in this village at this time for a purpose. How will you fulfill God’s purpose for you when you are confronted with a loved one who thinks divorce is unavoidable?
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