I recently spoke to a group of college students on the topic of divorce. I asked the students, “How many of you have personally been affected or know someone who has been affected by divorce?” The response was mind-blowing. I vividly remember watching the room fill with hands raised high. Each hand represented a story. A story of a covenant commitment broken by the snares of sin. A story filled with endless repercussions. After pausing a moment to take in the sight before me, I asked another question: “If you are willing to share, what are some emotional, mental, or spiritual barriers that you wrestle with as a result of divorce?” The students began to share that they feared marriage. They associated marriage with anger, selfishness, and apathy. They feared marriage because it would inevitably end in divorce. After all, if two parents, who say they love God and each other, end their marriage, then what could stop that same reality from happening in these students’ lives? Fear was a common thread woven throughout each story.
Fear, risk, and roller rinks
It makes sense that the individual who has felt pain, rejection, and loneliness from divorce would fear that divorce may happen in his or her life, but what do you do with that fear you’re experiencing? Once you experience a traumatic event in your life, you often refrain from partaking in situations that could cause a similar amount of pain. For example, when I was 12 years old I fractured my wrist. I wish the story was a bit more dramatic, but the reality is that I was turning a corner on the roller rink, and as I did, I tripped and fell. The pain that I experienced in that moment was tremendous. Following the incident, I was required to undergo surgery to reset my wrist and have a cast molded to my arm in order for the bone to heal. All of this was less than desirable for a 12-year-old boy. I thoroughly enjoyed rollerblading up until the moment of my broken wrist. Therefore, the fear of another fractured bone led me to control the amount of risk I was willing to take. You may have this same approach when it comes to marriage. You may be the victim of a situation where your parents left one another. Their decision to part ways has deeply impacted your view of marriage and the fears associated with it. You live your life based on what you believe you can and cannot control.
Shining the Light on Fear
However, the Gospel of Jesus Christ tells a different story. The good news about Jesus’ rescuing work for us is that it frees us from thinking or believing that we are doomed to walk down the path that our parents once walked.
First, look at Ezekiel 18:20b –
“…The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.”
God uses the prophet Ezekiel to deliver an important message concerning His character.
The Israelites were concerned that God would punish them due to the sins of their forefathers. However, God tells Israel that He responds according to the actions of each individual. He does not hold them responsible nor will He punish them for the sinful behavior of previous generations. He is righteous in his dealings with mankind.
This passage of scripture should offer immense hope to your situation. You may have been the victim of a divorced household. You may have suffered under the weight of your parents’ anger, apathy, and bitterness. You may have been ensnared in fear for longer than you can recall. Yet, in the midst of all of this, the God of the universe does not hold you to a destructive destiny. He does not hold you responsible for the actions of your parents’ sinful choices. He never has, and He never will.
Secondly, look at 2 Corinthians 5:17 –
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”
In this verse the Apostle Paul proclaims a stunning bi-product of the Gospel. If you have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, then your life is brand new in Him. If we miss this, then we miss one of the most important realities of the Christian life. Jesus Christ is in the business of making things brand new.
Shaped by the Gospel
If Jesus is capable of forgiving your sin-debt, then He is more than capable of shifting the trajectory of your life in a direction that is 180 degrees different from your parents. He is able to make your story a new creation. He is able to make your future marriage brand new – one that is categorized by faith, love, and covenant commitment to your spouse. So what specific steps might you take towards this Gospel-shaped thinking?
We often forget the basics, so let’s start there. What verses are you memorizing that intersect your fear? Are you memorizing to regurgitate or memorizing to internalize? As you memorize to internalize, you make God’s word a weapon against the world, the flesh, and the Devil.
1 John 4:10, Isaiah 41:10, Philippians 4:6-7, 2 Timothy 1:7, Joshua 1:9, Romans 8:38-39, and Psalm 55:22 are magnificent verses to aid in your fight against the enemy’s schemes of fear and control in your life. Choose to memorize several and post them in a location that will cause you to glance at them often.
Secondly, you must invite other Christ-followers into your world. You were not created to live life alone. God did not intend for you to try to solve your struggles on your own. One of the greatest resources you have is the local church. We all need people who will point us to the truth of God’s word and help us apply what we may know mentally but struggle to act out physically. We need people who are older, wiser, and have been walking with Jesus for a longer period of time. We need godly men and women who will tell us what we need to hear and not what we want to hear. Consider finding a godly couple within your church and share some of the fears that you have associated with marriage. Chances are they have probably wrestled with similar fears, and God can use them in a powerful way.
May you find comfort in knowing that the fears that trouble you do not trouble the Lord. He is well acquainted with your situation and will provide the grace you need to boldly step into the incredible future He has planned for you.