Taking the
out of

Itís No Joke

The Los Angeles Conciliation Court publishes statistics showing that each year over a million American couples divorce. Another similar group separate without divorce; and a third group become "psychologically" divorced while trying to exist under the same roof.

Millions of helpless children are the flotsam and jetsam washed up by the tide after these marriages have foundered. Each of these kids bereft of a natural parent will almost inevitably have problems succeeding in his own marriage. The record states that the present generation of children from broken homes are a social time bomb waiting to explode.

When love dies and divorce follows, the result is too often the most wrenching bitterness that humans can experience.

It is phenomenal how people can change! Watching them as they court, youíd think they are the sweetest couple you ever saw. Both families and friends rejoice at the "perfect" match. Then something mysteriously dries up by the root. Neither spouse can put a finger on what has caused the difference.

Somehow a serpent lurked under the flowers in this Garden of Eden. Each spouse began rubbing the other like sandpaper. Conversation grew strained, words became tart and sometimes cruel. Embraces became difficult. One or the other started coming home late. Anniversaries were forgotten, in-laws neglected or shunned. Wild winds of passion blew like sand-storms in arguments and quarrels. Being together was no longer fun. Each began to dread coming home to face the other. In such a strained atmosphere, every innocent word or act took on a sinister hue, and accusations and counter-accusations flew. By this time sour love began to curdle into bitter animosity and jealousy At last the marital voyage passes the point of no return, and divorce looms as the only way to terminate the mutual misery.

The aftermath of the wreckage can be worse than the original storm. No one wins except the lawyers. Whether the problem is dividing up the property, alimony payments, child support, custody of the children, or visiting privileges, courts are forced to wrestle with the wreckage for years to come.

There are indeed cases where all else fails and divorce or separation is the only solution. The New Testament recognizes that such situations exist. See Matthew 19:3-12; 1 Corinthians 7:10-15. But in some, yes many, cases there is a better solution: itís learning to live with an ornery spouse and learning how to make an unhappy marriage become a happy one.

Barbara Russell Chesser in a Readerís Digest article says that in a study of 60 divorced couples, researchers found years afterward "many unresolved issues." But this isnít all. Part of the trauma comes from thinking that the breakup will solve problems only to find that frequently they become worse after divorce. Studies show that proportionally, second marriages more often end in divorce than first ones.

There are few marriages where no trace of orneriness ever intrudes. Human beings are imperfect and are bound to rub each other the wrong way at least sometimes. A divorce is a violent tearing asunder, but it always begins with the faintest little crack. Alfred (Lord) Tennyson expressed this well:

It is the little rift within the lute,

That by and by will make the music mute,

And ever widening slowly silence all.

The little rift within the loversí lute,

Or little pitted speck in garneríd fruit,

That rotting inward slowly moulders all.

óTennyson, "Merlin and Vivien"

Little rifts in lutes can be repaired. You donít throw a cracked Stradivarius violin away; you send it to expert restorers, for such instruments are worth a fortune. Your marriage may be even more priceless.

There is a Master Repairman who loves to heal the rift within the lute. Wise marriage counselors are His servants; but He is the true source of their wisdom. The first step is believing that this Master Repairman is both willing and capable of undertaking your case. Our great Repairer of "rifts within the lute" of marriage would love to do something infinitely more valuable than repairing a music box.

Perhaps the first problem to resolve is that the Master does not upbraid us for getting ourselves into the troubles we know we deserve. Guilt for oneís own contributions to marital discord often looms so large in our conscience that we hesitate to believe God will do anything for us. The devil has a way of making us think we deserve the misery that comes our way. Let our first lesson be this confidence in Him: "if any of you falls short in wisdom, he should ask God for it and it will be given him, for God is a generous giver who neither refuses nor reproaches anyone. But he must ask in faith, without a doubt in his mind; for the doubter is like a heaving sea ruffled by the wind." James 1:5, 6, NEB. Yes, we are looking for Good News to believe. Begin by believing the grace of GodóHis kindness and generosity in forgiving us and saving us from the evil that we deserve. Stop blaming yourself or your spouse or your in-laws, and start accepting that forgiveness. Nothing heals so sweetly as it does.

We might get all kinds of good advice, but we are unable to put any of it into practice if we are paralyzed by the idea that God reproaches us for our past mistakes. But His Word has good news for the one who sincerely seeks help.

The Technique of Repairing a Cracked Marriage.

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