One of the chief challenges of the Christian life is that we’re often blind to God’s plans.
We pray for healing, but don’t know whether it’s God’s will to heal. We pray in the storm without knowing what God wants to stop, the storm or our fragility. We pray for friends’ salvation; we don’t know all that goes on behind that stage.
Let’s not mince words: we face the reality that not only is God’s agenda different from ours, but his feelings, his definitions of “good”, might be alien to us as well.
Then there are times like Joshua Harris’ divorce.
Like a hurricane, this storm could reach well beyond its center. Though many Christians are glad over Harris’ fall (a sentiment that does not share God’s heart toward the lost (Ezek. 18:23, 33:11)), others are doubtlessly experiencing deep unease over questions about God’s involvement in divorce. Many single Christians have hung their hat on the idea that God is writing their love stories and have never heard wedding vows containing the phrase “until God do us part”. After Harris’ limited involvement in that teaching, their confusion now is understandable. Does God write sad love stories?
I’m bumping up against ancient theological conundrums here, of course, on the nature of God’s control of the universe, of events, and of hearts.
One group would say, “Why should I marry when I don’t know whether God will preserve my marriage?”
Another group would say, “It’s horrible to conceive a world where man’s evil is the primary wind. Is it not better to be in God’s hands than man’s?”
So how about it. Was this divorce God’s doing?
My answer is…I don’t know. We won’t be resolving these millennia-old stumpers here today. (Nor do I wish to mediate any angry debates in the comment section, please, gang.)
And perhaps…there doesn’t need to be an answer.
Instead, a back-to-basics approach is good in times like these. Three things occur to me.
1. God is sorrowful.
I have a personal connection to the question of God’s role in divorce: my own parents split when I was seventeen. Never in my life have I felt more keenly that God had let me down.
I don’t feel that way anymore.
What I got from my pastors is reassurances that when God says he hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), he means it. Did he do it? At some point, that no longer mattered. That year, I learned from Scripture that God shared my outrage, that he fully identifies with us in how we feel about the world’s brokenness. This saved my faith. (You can’t swing a dead cat through the Bible without finding God displeased about something or other.)
John Piper has said, “God’s emotional life is infinitely complex beyond our ability to fully comprehend.” There might be no greater understatement. I take comfort in knowing that God enters into our pain, without needing to resolve the greater questions.
2. Fight fear.
Some single Christians feel a shaking of what they believe concerning their futures. Entire formulas feel disproven.
Satan would use this to create widespread fear among us. Don’t be part of it. “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Timothy 3:7). Whatever else, be wise to Satan’s schemes.
3. Wisdom is still wisdom.
Many of us never got on board with the idea that total passivity is the only way to receive God’s future spouse, and towards the end of his walk, neither did Harris.
But neither does his apostasy negate other Scripture, or permit us to get stupid. Regardless of questions over God’s matchmaking protocols, prayer is still smarter than no prayer, wise counselors are still better than otherwise, and singleness still beats unequally yoked marriage.
If you put a gun to this non-guru’s head, I’d say the intensity you commit to seeking marriage is between you and God (assuming it doesn’t involve sin or desperation – remember “sound judgment”). Some people he does tell not to move. I’ve witnessed it. Others seem free to look more proactively. Crackpot idea: it might depend on the person and what God is trying to address within each heart.
Never try to make your experience a principle for others, but allow God to be as creative and original with others as He is with you. – Oswald Chambers
Assess your readiness with sober judgment (Romans 12:3). Know what qualities matter in another. Be driven alone by the confidence that God’s advice is best. If you believe he’s saying something – either to get a ring on a finger or return it – then obey. He hasn’t left his throne.
I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!
NOTE: I’m out this week, but will respond to your comments when I return.