Growing up in a divorced family was not easy.
My parents divorced when I was five years old, and it took years to realize that it impacted me more than I ever thought. Among other things, I questioned the reality of finding a spouse who would be committed to me for life. I wondered if I could ever feel secure in a marriage of my own.
But God used my parents’ divorce to get their attention. My mom became a Christian shortly afterward, and my Dad rededicated his life to Christ.
They both eventually remarried. My stepparents became an influential part of my teenage years, helping to instill in me character and a love for God.
My dad and stepmom, and my mom and stepdad grew in their faith. In fact, we even spent a holiday or two all together, drama-free. (I have memories of my dad and stepdad openly discussing what they were learning in the Bible studies they were a part of!)
God was at work in my family, and we had quite an interesting testimony to prove it. I experienced an unfamiliar security as I witnessed both sets of parents in committed, God-honoring marriages. The Lord had begun to heal some of the pain from my childhood. Divorce and broken families seemed to be a thing of the past.
Divorce Strikes Again
But soon after my dad’s and stepmom’s 25th wedding anniversary, things began to unravel. Rather quickly, the marriage went from bad to worse, and after 27 years of marriage, they divorced. They soon began to date other people, and I felt that all hope of our family being together again was lost. Just like that, here we were. Again.
Divorce is all too familiar for most of us. If you are a millennial like myself, you have been impacted more than any other generation by the devastating effects of divorce. The thought of a marriage lasting “’til death do us part” seems impossible. And the God-given desire to be married is often accompanied by fear, since even Christian marriages haven’t had a great track record in recent years. Why even try? Why hope for something that seems unattainable?
But God. These are two of the most beautiful words in all of Scripture (see Gen. 50:20; Ps. 73:26; Rom. 5:8; Eph. 2:4-5). No matter how dire the circumstance, no matter how difficult the challenge, no matter how impossible the situation, God is able to turn it around.
The Lord took Saul and changed him from being a murderer of Christians to becoming a Christian himself (Acts 9:1-31). He empowered Joseph to forgive his brothers who had left him for dead (Gen. 50:15-21). He saved a woman with a sinful past who became a righteous example for all of us (Luke 7:36-50).
Redemptive stories like these are all throughout Scripture. And although we often suffer from sin-induced amnesia when we forget who God is, He is just as powerful today as He was back then.
With God All Things Are Possible
My wife, brothers, church family and I continued to pray for my parents. We believed God’s best was for them to be reconciled. We pleaded with God to change their hearts and miraculously restore their marriage. Months turned into nearly two years.
In the meantime, God allowed my parents to meet an older couple who had the desire to mentor and point them to the life-transforming principles in the Bible. They began meeting weekly, not initially with the goal of restoring their marriage, but with the hope that they could at least learn to forgive one another.
As they followed God in obedience, they began to experience the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. He was softening their hearts toward each other as they learned to extend forgiveness in ways they had failed to do for many years. They started studying the Bible together. They better learned to own their own sin rather than point the finger. A year later, my parents made the announcement that they were getting remarried…to each other.
Less than three weeks ago, on Labor Day 2017, my dad and stepmom recommitted themselves to one another in marriage before God, family and friends. The photo above is of them on their wedding day.
There Is Hope
Although this story has had an obvious impact on our family, I believe we can all be encouraged and challenged by it.
Do you have parents who are contemplating divorce? Is there a family member or friend who is in a difficult marriage where divorce seems inevitable? Maybe you are single and no longer desire marriage because of how you have been burned by it? Redemptive stories like the restoration of my parents’ marriage can offer hope to us all.
Here are a couple takeaways:
1) With God all things are possible
The pain in my parents’ marriage was deep. It took nearly three years after the divorce before God began to soften their hearts toward the possibility of restoration. Don’t give up on people. Don’t give up on praying for them. Believe that God can and does perform miracles by changing hearts. If there is opportunity, gently share the truth that God can turn things around for the good.
2) Obedience fueled by faith is key
To say my parents’ second wedding was a memorable event is a huge understatement. I’ve certainly never been to a wedding that celebrated God’s redemptive story more than this one. Before the ceremony, I stuffed my tuxedo pockets with an ample supply of tissue, ready for the tears of joy that would inevitably flow.
There were many months of sacrifice and obedience leading up to this event. Reconciled relationships and healthy marriages don’t just happen. They take work. Hard, Spirit-led work. There are no quick fixes or “Ten Easy Steps to a Successful Marriage.” Rather than discouraging us, this truth should motivate and give us hope that when we follow God’s way, satisfying relationships are a reality.
Not a Statistic
If you come from a divorced family, don’t listen to the statistics that your future marriage is doomed before it starts. Statistics don’t factor in God’s ability to sustain a relationship. The very same principles that were implemented in the restoration of my parents’ marriage are the same principles that lead to a healthy, lasting marriage.
When it comes to our view on marriage and divorce, let’s remember that God is the God of second chances; of new beginnings; of redeemed pasts; of renewed hope. We so often forget that He changes hearts, mends broken marriages, and keeps families together.
My family is living proof.