Is divorce a sin? This is a very real and pertinent question for our time. Now, bear with me here, the short answer is yes. But so is being in a relationship in which we are abused or in which we become increasingly angry at our spouse. Being in a relationship which causes us pain and anguish only causes us to sin further. When we have hateful or vindictive thoughts of our partner; when a healthy relationship cannot be obtained through counseling; divorce is less sinful than remaining in a relationship that causes us to sin over and over again.
I don’t know anyone who has gone through a divorce and thought it was easy or fun. Yet it may ultimately be a good thing, even if it is hard and painful. The pain divorce brings extends beyond the couple, to their children, their friends, and even at times it spreading into their church family as well. Divorce involves loss. There is a loss of control over our future. We may wonder who will get custody of the kids. How does the house, car, and any other assets get split up? There is a loss of your status as a married person. We are thrown in the category of divorced; checking this box on forms at the doctor’s office. For some people, it changes their friendships. It may bring complications to dating; if and when that feels right again. Divorce changes our lives in inexplicable ways, much as having children changes our lives.
For many, if counseling was sought out early enough, divorce may have been avoided. Yet for many others, the built up pain and loss of trust cannot be mended and working as a couple toward a common goal is impossible. No one wants this pain and anguish, yet for all too many it is the way of life. Bad things happen even when we try our hardest.
Possibly the oldest story in the Bible is Job. Parts of the story can be traced 2,000 years BC. Being part of the wisdom literature, we know it is not a historical document; a story about a real person in a real time. Much of the story is set in line and verse and we see it as an allegory as to why bad things happen to good people.
By the time Satan comes to God in our passage today, Job (the wealthiest man in the world) has already lost his wealth and his ten children due to natural disaster and bands of hoarders. Job is left with four servants and his wife. Even though God has allowed this to happen, God is not happy about it. This anthropomorphic God takes the blame for what has happened to Job. And God is proud that Job has remained faithful. Of course, it gets worse for Job. In the next round, Job becomes sick and he loses his wife and his friends. Job’s friends want him to admit that it is his sin that brought this calamity. And his wife wants him to end the suffering by just curse God. Job is alone in a pit of ashes. As I’m sure you all know, Job remains faithful to God and never sinned with his lips. In the end, Job is restored. His wife and friends return. He received ten new children and twice as much wealth as he had before.
I see this story of Job as a resurrection story. In this story, a faith-filled man, who goes down to the depths of despair, due to no fault of his own, suffers loss. This is a common human condition, and Job is like many of us who have suffered loss. The loss of family and friends in a divorce. The loss of loved ones to death. The loss of health to illness.
Pain and suffering are a part of any loss no matter what the loss or hardship is. Our pain and suffering is not God’s desire even if God doesn’t stop it from happening. I think few if any of us have the faith and patience of Job. This is what makes him so remarkable. We are more like the other characters in the story, who at times turn from God when our faith isn’t strong enough and we lose heart. Like Job’s wife and his friends, we can return to God and God will accept us back. God is with us in our hard times. God is with us even when we turn from him. God is with us even if we do not feel his presence.
God doesn’t promise that we will be rich or that life will be the same after we heal from our trauma. Life may be different. Even Job’s life wasn’t the same as it was before. We are led to believe that Job’s life was better in the end but he lost all ten of his children. Could his seven new sons and his three new daughters be an equal exchange for the ones he lost? I can’t imagine it was. New children are a blessing but the lost ones cannot be replaced. Job’s life was fundamentally changed.
When we begin to heal from our traumas we see life in a new way. It doesn’t mean we don’t miss what we have lost but we realized that there is still goodness in life. Through this goodness that comes from God we can be made whole again; whether it is here on earth or in the time to come. This is our hope and our prayers for ourselves and each other, that through whatever hell we may be going through, through whatever pain and suffering we have experienced, we will be raised out of it and made new again.