What can you do to divorce-proof your marriage?
Five Ways to Avoid Divorce
by Barry Raper
I was standing in line at a local deli, waiting for my order when a man behind the counter offered breaking news to his co-workers about the death of 20th-century film icon Elizabeth Taylor. Several workers were behind the counter, moving about with direction and purpose. Not one of them paid attention to the news. So, the man said it again, “Liz Taylor died!” He still received no visible or audible response from anyone.
It was another reminder that no matter how large the life that ceases, life goes on for everyone else. Many young people do not even know the name Liz Taylor. But for most of those who do know her name, sadly, the first thing that comes to mind is the word divorce. Even though she passed off the scene, she represents a culture in which divorce is now the accepted norm.
For those of us living in such a culture, the question remains—is there any hope that we can avoid being swept into the same mindset concerning divorce? Can we as Christians avoid it? The answer is, yes, we can. Here are five practical ways to avoid divorce. While the list is brief, it is a starting point for us who value and treasure God’s gift of marriage.
Remove Divorce From Your Vocabulary.
One problem with the current culture is that it can be characterized as a divorce culture. We all know the stats. Christians do not fare much better than the world when it comes to divorce rate. Why is that true? One reason is because divorce is considered a viable option for couples.
What we need is more couples committed to the permanence of marriage, not looking for loopholes. This is what Jesus stressed to those who wanted to center the attention on divorce (see Matthew 19). This is what I mean by taking divorce out of our vocabulary. Don’t use it as an option, and don’t use it as a weapon or threat against your spouse.
Build Hedges Around Your Marriage.
Every year my wife and I attempt a garden. In the past we planted strawberries that have not always fared well. Part of the problem was we had not protected the plants from outside “predators”—most likely rabbits with a fondness for strawberries. We learned that a simple fence was necessary if we wanted the strawberries to grow untouched.
We can take the same sort of measure with our marriages. Build hedges of protection for the “garden” that is your marriage. Decide not to be alone with a person of the opposite sex other than your spouse. Find someone to hold you accountable. Set limits and accountability structures in the use of media. Take any step or precautions necessary to make the “hedge” a priority in your marriage.
Surround Your Marriage With the Right Kind of People.
Church is important for your marriage. Paul counseled Timothy about the company he kept, “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22, emphasis added).” Paul’s counsel to Timothy to surround himself with godly people also holds true for marriage.
We sponsor a marriage retreat every year in our church, offering practical encouragement and help regarding issues that couples face. We want our community to know that marriage matters to our church. Your local church is crucial in a divorce culture.
Make Yours a Christ-Centered Marriage.
Make yours a Christ-centered marriage because it really is about Him (See Ephesians 5). As Paul gave specific commands to both the wives (5:22-24) and the husbands (5:25-31), he communicated that their loving submission to each other is ultimately obedience and submission to Christ. For example, he told the wife to be subject to her husband “as to the Lord.” He gave Christian husbands the great challenge to love their wives “as Christ loved the church.”
One would be hard pressed to find a more Christ-centered passage in the New Testament. The reason this discussion on marriage says so much about Jesus is because marriage ultimately points to His glory. Paul said, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Your individual marriage matters because it is a picture of the relationship Jesus has with the church.
Keep Your Personal Devotion to Jesus.
Howard Hendricks conducted a study of men who had been derailed from the ministry. The overwhelming majority (and for many of them the failure was moral) could trace their eventual downfall to neglect of personal spiritual disciplines. It starts out small—one day without reading the Bible and prayer. Then it becomes two. Before you know it, the habit of getting alone with God becomes a thing of the past and the devil has a foot in the door.
Both spouses should make their personal walk with Jesus their top priority. The most important thing I can do for my spouse and our marriage is spend time alone with God daily. Make the commitment to get alone with God and then follow through with establishing the pattern of Jesus (see Mark 1:35) who made it His priority to get alone with His Father. Pray that your spouse’s devotional life will be vibrant and growing. Do what you must to protect your spouse’s time alone with God.
About the Writer: Barry Raper is the Christian Education and Youth Ministry program coordinator at Free Will Baptist Bible College. He pastors Bethel FWB Church near Ashland City, Tennessee.