A frantic call comes to the counselors office, “I need to talk to someone. My husband might be having an affair and I am so worried…” Eventually, a 30 ish couple sits before the counselor and one after the other they punch and counter punch, shifting blame, denying responsibility, and once they have finally aired their laundry, they both look at the professional fixer of broken people and their faces ask “What now?”
The man and his wife were raised by parents who were careful to not offend their child’s sensibilities, resulting in few hard rules, and blurred limits that resulted in controlled chaos. The wife’s parents ruled by consensus with each member of the family having a voice in solving any problems. The husband’s mother is a domineering woman married to a man who is passive personified. The result is two children who are immature, spoiled, and every slight bump in the road of life causes them both to quickly play the victim card. Everything is someone else’s fault.
The counselor, now two and a half years into his practice, is a trained professional. His specialized training fits this case perfectly. Had they not both already declared each is a victim he would have done it for them. What he knows is that everyone’s social problems as adults are not really their fault but a result of childhood emotional trauma.
This husband and wife just wasted a large fee because they are sitting in the office of a person who is not equipped to tell them the truth but will only play to their weaknesses. The counselor is frustrated too because he knows this couple is headed for divorce court and he can do little to stop it. He will spend the next six weeks asking the wrong questions, gathering data that us useless. Information is not the answer, truth is.
I think in most cases a “Christian Counselor” is better than one who is not a Christian. I know for sure that a “Biblical Counselor” is better than a “Christian Counselor”. He or she may be a PhD with a certification in family therapy. Or it might be a pastor, some other church leader, or a trusted friend who is brave enough to tell troubled people the truth. A trained counselor who happens to be a Christian is far different from a trained counselor who is a “Biblical counselor”.
The problem with failed marriages is almost always SIN. There are often as in this example sins of infidelity and other “big sins”. But there is also selfishness, unforgiveness, lying, and a host of others that cause couples who were once deeply in love to look for a way out. It takes courage to look someone in the eye and tell them the obvious but it needs to be done.
Divorce is at epidemic levels even among evangelical Christians. The bad news is that the trend will continue as long as church leaders accept unrepentant people whose lives are full of sin as members in good standing in their congregations. The Quick Fix is divorce. Just hire an attorney, tell the kids, split up the stuff, and move on. The problem isn’t solved. Yes, a marriage is dissolved. But, one or more people leaves the court-house still in rebellion against the former spouse and God.
A Christian man and a Christian woman, both of whom are walking in the Spirit, are daily experiencing, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. A person who is living in this reality does not have divorce on his or her mind. It is the person who is experiencing some of these things, sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like who is ready for the Quick Fix.
A person who has a sin filled life needs to hear one word plainly and forcefully, Repent! Our churches are filled with Christians who are trying desperately to live the Christ life in the energy and resources of the flesh. It has never worked and it will not work. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit is it possible to live in the victory of the Christ life. We are to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Christians are to live their lives in happy submission to each other and especially so in marriage.
There is little doubt that if two troubled people will sincerely repent, forsaking every known sin and asking their God to fill them with himself, they can do what is necessary to save a holy union. Paul encouraged the Ephesians saying,
“put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self,created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
A believer can live like the old person or like the new person created to please God. Don’t go for the Quick Fix. Honestly, the best you know how, confess your sins and purpose to turn away from them and trust God to change you into the person you really want to be.
I write this as one who long ago was in a divorce court. I have many, many friends who are divorced, some as many as 3 times. It isn’t right. It is against God and his will. I do hope we, all of us who call Christ our Lord, will try to do things God’s way and not our way which always fails.
I agree, and my family knows how I feel about divorce and live-ins. (They would not like the reality–adultery.) But what do you do in a case when a married couple live in two separate states and the husband has abused the wife? For this I do not have an answer.
I have never suggested that every marriage can be saved. Obviously that is not true. In the case you mention, “if” both the husband and wife were willing to be repentant and forgiving as needed the marriage could be salvaged. Much of the time either one or both partners are unwilling to allow God to rule their hearts and lives.