In Sickness and In Health

The focus of the television program was the trials encountered by spouses of those who had become physically disabled and dependent. Admirable, indeed, are the people who remain true to commitments, staying with their mates in sickness and in health.

One of the spouses, the wife of a quadriplegic, gave responses which are lodged in my heart. The program originally aired several years ago, but her words just keep running through my mind. Though her face is a fuzzy memory, her words still ring loud and clear.

Near the end of the program, she was asked why she had stayed with her husband through all of his misfortune and the consequent burdens she was required to bear. She stated that the thing which caused her to stay by her husband’s side was the memory of their vows. She said, “Because I promised to stay with him in sickness and in health.” She was determined to stay with him!

This reminds us of the steadfastness of another admirable woman. Though her recent death came far too soon for us to comprehend, I’m sure her legacy will live on for generations to come. When questioned about her marriage and dedication to her husband Christopher following the tragic accident which left him paralyzed, Dana Reeve replied, “The really big moment is when we said, ‘I do’, and we both meant it.”

We can learn a lot from the resolution of such women. In American culture we have disposable diapers and razors, along with disposable marriages. Just as we have instant tea and pudding, we have instant divorce. As a nation our divorce rate is staggering. Unfortunately, the Christian community has not gone untouched. The situation is alarming, to say the least.

Another voice, which addresses this from an entirely different perspective, further underscores the need for marital faithfulness. It is the voice of God. Now, we must remember that God unconditionally loves every person, including those who divorce. As a child who saw his mother marry, divorce and remarry three times before I reached the age of twenty-one, I am very sensitive about this. In fact, I have firsthand knowledge of what it is like to be made to feel like a pariah, simply because the “D” word had been nailed above the lintel of the door to my home. Thus, I am fairly well informed regarding the topic of which I am writing. With this being said, I am persuaded that it is precisely because of the depth of God’s love for His children that He is on record stating: “I hate divorce.” (Malachi 2:16)

It is not that God revels in harshness; instead, God is repulsed by that which so deeply wounds His children. God knows how deeply the divorce experience hurts. God also knows that the attitudes and actions which lead to divorce can be incredibly devastating—emotionally, physically and spiritually. God knows both the depth and the breadth of the impact of this horrific process. Thus, God would spare His children the pain. Because He loves us, God hates what will hurt us. God hates divorce.

Those who have not lived with the pain may not be able to understand it when I say, “That’s one of the things that I love about God.” But, it is true. I love the fact that God abhors that which will hurt me. It gives me a strong sense that He really does have my best interests at heart. Far too many people have first hand knowledge of how this plague ravages human hearts. Divorce wrecks homes. It destroys vital relationships. It devastates children. It demoralizes churches. Where divorce is rampant, whole societies crash down a slope called “Decline.”

Just like God, we can and we must love those who are divorced. Admittedly, divorce is sometimes the only option, even the best option for those who have been cheated on or abused. God wants each marriage to work; but, if it’s broken beyond repair, He wants His children to be safe from further harm. Compassion should always be our attitude towards those who are hurting. It is when his or her heart is broken that a divorced person needs to be reminded of the unconditional love of God. It is when the loneliness of severed relationships sinks in that we need to remind the divorced person that God will never leave or forsake him or her.

Still, we must affirm the sanctity of marriage. Along with Jesus, we must assert concerning the marriage union, “What God joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). The forces working against the family are simply too cunning and determined for Christians to do otherwise.

We must also commend every positive feature we find in the multifaceted landscape which is our culture. The words and, more importantly, the life-choices of the women mentioned above are an exhortation to us all. Their personal integrity and determinate commitment, in the face of trying circumstances, speaks volumes. Beloved, I plead with you when you say “I do”, really mean it; and remember to be faithful to your marriage vows, because you promised!

© Bill Williams

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
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