Marriage, Divorce & Re-marriage
God did a marvelous thing when He created male and female beings. Men and women are similar in many ways but also have very special, God-given differences. Spiritually, they are the same before God. That is, they are designed and called upon to worship their Creator and obey Him. But, mentally, physically and emotionally, the two genders are as uniquely masterminded as the sun and the moon. People that don’t believe this haven’t paid much attention to the interest-differences between boys and girls at play, nor to the differences in physique as they grow older, nor to the conversational differences between men and women, nor....., I could go on and on but I think you get the point — males and females are as wonderfully opposite as they are tremendously alike.
These unique differences were designed by God so that there would be special attractions between men and women. From the outset, when God created the first two people, Adam and Eve, He brought them together and performed a marriage ceremony. There isn’t a specific Bible reference which gives an account of this wedding, but suffice it to say that God’s owner’s manual — the Hebrew and Greek Testaments — affirm this conclusion. Adam loved Eve. He initiated a relationship with her. He saw her as one who could fulfill all kinds of needs which he didn’t already possess within himself alone. It was similar, although not exactly the same, with Eve. She loved Adam. But she was designed to be a loving responder to Adam’s advances towards her. If you can accept this fundamental principle, it will help you in following the logic of the remainder of this study.
(I would like to say right up front that my purpose in writing this paper is to state some perspectives which line up with reality and Scripture, not to tickle the ears of those who embrace the ever-mounting, distorted, humanistic philosophies which are obviously satanically-inspired to destroy God’s order.)
Although the primary focus of this paper is on marriage and divorce, it is important to briefly touch on another subject. It probably relates to the increasing divorce rate more than most people might imagine. In modern times, there has been a flood of movements which have risen in an attempt to erase God-given, male-female differences, chief among which is to see men and women virtually as the same, radical feminism holding the lead position of the pack. (It has been my observation that there are probably as many men who hold to this lie as there are women.) The net result of this trend has led to the phenomenal rise of men being attracted to men, and women being attracted to women. It is an astonishing thing to hear people who are caught up in this web verbalize that their lifestyles are a “normal” variation of human kind. The basis and power behind this perversion is spiritual. It is part of the last-days, Biblically-predicted, flood of deceptions which Satan has prepared and delivered to humanity’s table. Sadly, many gullible, unrepentant people are running headlong to feast on Satan’s garbage heap. What we are seeing is rampant, seemingly-out-of-control sin rising to the full. God help us.
WHERE TO START?
It’s not easy to know exactly where to most-effectively begin a discussion regarding marriage, divorce and re-marriage. Maybe it would be helpful for me to share a personal testimony. Not to be lofty about it, indeed I’m ashamed of part of my life story, but I suppose I am somewhat of an authority on the subject at the experiential level since I have gone through all three phases.
This study does not center on the Gospel of the Bible, but let me first state a conviction: I believe the best way one can have even a hope of joy and solidity in a marriage is for both the man and the woman to have had a new birth in Christ Jesus before their marriage. Cindy, my first wife, and I both had this privilege.
I was saved when I was 12 years old, now 62 years ago, during a revival meeting in a country church in Georgia. It occurred in the midst of a terrible thunderstorm during which the electrical power was knocked out. The only illumination we had was from the flashes of lightning coming through the windows. You talk about an impressionable strobe light show! Everyone should see the kind God can perform. I shall never forget it. The evangelist didn’t hesitate to continue his message when the lights went out. In fact, if anything, he went on with even greater fervency. Even before he ended his message, I felt my way forward to the pulpit, found and touched the preacher’s arm, and said that I wanted to be saved. At a prayer meeting my mother attended a few years ago, a lady recalled that night and told the group that the raging storm immediately stopped outside when I went to the altar. What I vividly recall, praise God, is that the raging storm in my heart was stilled. I had accepted the Lord Jesus as my personal Savior.
Nine years later, I met Cindy in Oakland, California when I was stationed at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital. Old “flames” of ours were soon squelched and became meaningless as we fell madly in love with each other. (No laughter here. Well, maybe a smile would be okay.) During our courting days, Cindy publicly acknowledged her trust in the gift of salvation through Jesus at a Baptist Church in San Pablo, Ca. I later talked to her on the phone and was filled with joy about her decision to follow Christ. This strengthened the bond between us even more. Two years later, on December 23rd, 1955, we were married and spent the first six months as husband and wife in Southern California where I wrapped up my four-year tour in the Navy at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.
We decided to remain in California so that I could attend the School of Optometry at UC Berkeley. Cindy got her two degrees — MRS (many rough semesters) & PHt (putting hubby through) working at a lighting corporation while I studied and worked part-time at a nearby hospital. I graduated in 1961 and we decided to set up practice in Davis, California.
Martin, our first child, was born during our last year at Berkeley. Jennifer was born three years later, completing our family. These children were, and are, the greatest blessing Cindy and I have ever realized and enjoyed as a family. Today, we are also blessed with five grandsons, two through Marty (Eric Daniel and Matthew), and three through Jenny (Joshua, Jacob & Jonathan). Professionally, Marty is an engineer and Jenny is a nurse.
Cindy’s college training was limited to a brief attendance at business school. She didn’t really seem to need higher education like some of us, because of her excellent abilities and strong determination to do well. You know the kind. Actually, the fact is, she sacrificed this part of her life for me and the children. She later went up through the business ranks to become a prime administrator at the Dean’s Office of the UC Davis School of Medicine, retiring from that position a few years ago.
Let me backtrack a bit. By both our choices when our children were very young, Cindy didn’t work much out of home. She was a wonderful Mom and a tremendous wife, me and the kids never coming home without a great reception and a terrific dinner on the table. In general, our relationship was super. We were a natural couple and our married life was good and steady, one of expressed love in all the right ways. And the kids, well, they were both great, never really giving Cindy and I any trouble to speak of. Business-wise, things went okay through the early years in Davis. So I can’t say that economics were a significant factor in what turned out to be a downward spiral of my life.
Spiritually, while I never denied the Lord through the Navy and school years, I’m sorry to say that church attendance and devotion to God faded into the background. I’m sure this came about because of my poor leadership. Also contributing to this negative aspect of our lives, was that I became a “social drinker”, the “fun” kind, but regretfully, many times even to the level of intoxication. I had never been a drinker in high school or college days in Georgia. Cindy was not a drinker. Oh, she might on occasion let one sit in front of her to be sociable, but that was it. She enjoyed the dances we went to, but really not the partying.
I attribute this trend and development of wayward ways to selfish desires of my natural heart and developing friendships mostly with unbelievers, and or, like myself, shallow Christians. The Bible calls this stage and tendency in one’s life, the “old man”. It affects everybody before salvation, and some after. I was guilty of leading our family into a style of compromised living. It leads to deadly consequences and should never be evident in the life of a Christian. It requires very hard work and determination to avoid these temptations and tendencies. While it helps tremendously, there is no guarantee of the permanence of marriage just because both husband and wife are Christians.
Through wrong relationships and allowing my “old man” to have his way, adulterous sin entered the picture, causing mine and Cindy’s marriage to come to a crashing halt. We divorced in 1970.
I do not believe it is proper nor will it serve any good purpose to discuss the details of sin in a presentation such as this. Suffice it to say, that I tried for the next seven years to build a new relationship with a woman half my age. What happened to me is typical of a situation many refer to as a “mid-life crisis”. The truth is, it is simply the manifestation of lust and egotistical sin.
Oddly, I quit the sin of smoking early after mine and Cindy’s breakup. Social drinking continued. I took up a few hobbies to fill some of the voids in my life, such as photography, rebuilding an old Corvette, motorcycling, etc. Anything for a thrill. But it didn’t fulfill the longing that was deep in my heart.
No, it didn’t work at all. Oh, it was “fun” for a spell. But, as I said, there was a void within me. I had stopped church attendance altogether. Even bedtime prayer basically stopped, which I had always done at least to a small degree.
I could see the children every other weekend. I never stopped loving or caring for them, but having them with me always brought strong conviction and guilt.
I saw Cindy only on rare occasions, and then just to discuss finances or the children — when would I see them next time?, that sort of thing. Seeing her also brought guilt, but not a desire to attempt reconciliation. My sin and other commitments had too strong a grip on me for that.
But in December 1976, my world came crashing down, totally. I can’t adequately describe with words the intensity of the weight of sin which came upon me. I had reached the bottom of the barrel. I was cornered on every side. There was no possibility of going on in the direction I was headed. I was on God’s hook, but had come to the end of the line of His reel. You get the idea. There was no way to look but up.
And that’s what I did. I was lying on my bed one night in Vacaville, California, with tears streaming down my face, looking up at the dark ceiling, and I began to utter a few words of prayer, asking God to please help me, to forgive me... I was desperate. Then, suddenly, with no expectation in my mind, that burden began to lift off me. The load got lighter and lighter. The room seemed to be filled with sparkling light. Almost dazed, I literally jumped out of bed and danced around the room like a crazy man. Thoughts were racing through my head so fast it was amazing. Good thoughts. So good that I wanted to write them down. I picked up a sheet of paper and, as fast as I could, scribbled notes of those thoughts. Then I fell across the bed and drifted off into the most incredibly-peaceful sleep.
The next morning, I arose rested and clear-headed, and for the first time in years — joyfully. As if to prove what had happened was real, I quickly read those notes. The next amazing thing I noticed was that it was written in third person! It was not like, “I, Lance, must do so and so”. It was, “You, Lance, have been doing thus and so, and now you must do this and that...”, etc. Signed like this, “The Lord be with us all; praise His Holy Name!” That was not my kind of language at all in those days.
The first thing I had to do was break off a wrong relationship which should never have existed. I did it quickly and it worked out far more smoothly than I could ever have guessed. Sinning, as a way of life, had lost its grip on me.
I normally don’t tell this but I think it’s significant and pertinent to this story: I had a life-like dream a few nights after the above incident. A giant serpent crawled upon my chest which I could see as plain as day (still do in my memory). He breathed sultry air all over me and seemed to be looking in every nook and cranny of my body for an entry point into my being. Becoming frustrated as if I was a dead man, he slithered backward and faded away. My interpretation? I believe that snake was the demon (perhaps Satan himself) who prior to that moment had me in his vise-like grip for many years. Satan had lost the battle for my soul. I still must shout here. Hallelujah!
In the next several months, I became overwhelmed with a desire to read the Bible. I literally couldn’t put it down. I purchased all sorts and sizes of Bibles. I was never without God’s Word. Even my shirt pocket always had a New Testament in it.
I sought out a Baptist church, the denomination in which I was first saved 32 years earlier. (I was then 44.) I went to the altar at the first opportunity, explaining my background briefly to the pastor. We would later become close friends. I joined that church, as well as the choir, Sunday School class, attended church-supported seminars, etc., and was in the sanctuary every time the doors were opened. I couldn’t get enough, fast enough. I was soon at home in a congregation of believers in Christ where only a few days before didn’t know a single soul. This change of direction would become the trend of my life forevermore.
Many changes occurred following the above situations. I began to be very vocal with regards to my re-established faith as a Christian. I openly witnessed with patients in my office, often making myself available after hours to many of them to discuss their spiritual desires and needs. Everything took on a new dimension. God had to fit into the picture regardless of what I did or said. Of course, many people were offended by my conversation, but that just didn’t seem to bother me all that much. I would just smile, pray for them, and go on. (Through the years, I’ve been accused by those who know me well of being rather intense on spiritual matters.)
The fact is, I simply fell in love with Jesus, His Word and His ways and I couldn’t shut up telling others about how dependably and marvelously He pulled me out of the deep pit of despair and sin of previous involvements. I wanted others to be set free who were experiencing their own problems associated with separation from God, so I told them how to do it. I had to.
A couple of months after that confession night, just before Christmas 1976, I had a strong desire to call Cindy. I wasn’t calling to seek reconciliation, but rather simply to share with her what was happening in my life. I also asked her out and, surprisingly, she accepted.
On a beautiful spring Sunday a few days later, we went for a drive in the country. What a day that was. I told Cindy the whole story of what God had done, and was doing, in my life. After all we had been through, it was surprising how freely and openly we were able to talk. I asked her forgiveness for all I had done which led up to our divorce seven years earlier. And, just as God had done, she forgave me. Words can’t adequately convey what that meant to me.
In the following months I continued my new walk with the Lord. Some teachers would erroneously say that I had just then become a Christian and had never been saved before that. But the fact is, I know that I had accepted the Lord’s salvation. Through both study and spiritual discernment, God has made it very clear to me that I had lost the “joy” of His salvation, not the salvation itself. Not to get into a big discussion of the permanence of salvation (I’ve written an entire article on this subject called “Once Saved, Always Saved”) but it’s possible to not be “abiding in the vine” experientially, and yet be saved in one’s spirit man. That’s where I had been during much of my life from age 12 to 44. Unfortunately, this is true of many Christians and that’s why they lead such empty lives. They have received Jesus as Savior, but not willfully submitted to His Lordship. (However, from my perspective, the doctrine that ‘lordship-salvation-is-the-only-salvation’ is wrong theology. This is covered more thoroughly in my book, “What Is Saving Faith?”)
A couple of months after mine and Cindy’s Sunday afternoon visit, she called me at the office saying she had to tell me something that couldn’t wait. A little later, for the first time in seven years, she swept into my office with a beautiful smile on her face, the kind I always associated with her but hadn’t seen in such a long time. Excitedly and with great anticipation, I invited her into a private room. We sat down and she began her story which I’d like to express as close as I can recall in her own words:
“Lance, something wonderful happened last night. I’ve been listening closely to everything you told me about yourself and what God has been doing in your life. And I believe and accept it all because I can see the reality of the changes in you. But I also knew something wasn’t right in my own life, so last night I went into my bedroom, got down on my knees and prayed. I said, ‘Lord, I’ve been doing the things that I believe you wanted me to do. The children and I have returned to church and I’m doing the best I can. But there’s something that’s still not right. I just don’t know what else to do. Here are the pieces of my life and You’re just going to have to put them back together again.’” “Then”, Cindy went on, “I distinctly heard an inner voice simply saying, ‘Cindy, everything is going to be all right now.’”
Cindy then told me that while she didn’t know exactly what she was going to do but that she knew for sure that God was going to take care of her and the children, and that everything would indeed be fine with her and them. (You see, Cindy was still uncertain as to whether she would remain in California or possibly move back to Arkansas to be near her extended family there. As for me, I still was not thinking about reconciliation of the marriage. Although somewhat uncertain, I felt that God had perhaps called me, in singleness, into some kind of ministry which would eventually become clear to me.)
Something else happened that day Cindy came into my office. Since my restoration with the Lord, my care and sense of responsibility for her had been blossoming again, but that day seemed to burst into full bloom. The fact is, I was in love with her all over again. And it didn’t fully ‘mature’ until that day. My view now, with 20/20 hindsight, is that God had withheld this blessing until each of our vertical relationships with Him had been firmly re-established.
It wasn’t long after this lovely milestone that Cindy and I were driving on the causeway headed towards Sacramento, and I spontaneously blurted out, “Cindy, will you marry me again?” She laughed and said, “Yes, I will.” (The reason she laughed is because she was thinking of just how strangely my proposals were timed. The first time I asked her to marry me, we were in a bowling alley at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, where I had a part-time job. I guess I am a bit weird. Okay, if you insist, a little laughter is acceptable here.)
In June of 1977, six months after God restored me, Cindy and I were re-married. I was equally vocal with my children during those days and soon after we were re-married, both Martin and Jennifer received Christ as their Savior. And all five of their children are also Christians today.
Cindy and I have now been back together almost 30 years and our love for one another continues to grow, and we both know and attribute this to God’s miraculous grace. We can vouch with certainty that spiritual restoration is possible when we as individuals go astray from God. Also, in our case, the Lord re-built and made even better a formerly-good marital relationship which had gone bad through sin. But be equally sure that God can make a good, brand-new relationship between a husband and wife who never really had a loving, sound bond in the first place. The requirement is the same in both cases — we must look sincerely and obediently to God with a genuinely-repentant, believing heart.
If there is one main piece of advice I can offer divorced people, especially when both are sincere Christians, it is this: keep yourselves out of other relationships which would prevent any possibility of reconciliation with your first spouse. God is a miracle worker. But sometimes it takes a great deal of time of roaming in our wildernesses before we are ready to receive His miraculous power. Be patient. If you can, and are willing, please wait upon the Lord. I’m convinced that He can and is willing to do for others what He did for Cindy and I.
Of course, I realize that not all divorcing situations are like mine and Cindy’s. Our testimony is not designed to be a treatise on all the Biblical ramifications of marriage, divorce and re-marriage. But I would like to at least touch on one passage. First Corinthians 7 is probably the clearest, single-Scripture passage on this subject. Verses 12 and 13 indicate that believing spouses should, if the unbeliever is willing, remain with his/her unbelieving spouse and attempt to win him/her to Christ. But, according to 1 Corinthians 7:15, a believing spouse is no longer bound to an unbeliever who chooses to leave him/her. Not being bound, while not absolutely stated to the letter, has the strong implication that the believing person is not only set free from that marriage bond but also allowed to re-marry (a Godly person, of course) should he/she choose to do so.
I believe it is important for everyone to realize that, while the Scriptures are clear in both the Ancient and the New Testaments that God’s perfect will concerning marriage is that we are called to one marriage with one partner for one lifetime, divorce and/or remarriage is not the unpardonable sin. Let me close with a very applicable Scripture and a brief note about it:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
1 Cor. 6: 9-11
This is not a treatise on the subject, but my conclusion is that the unpardonable sin is refusal to accept the gracious gift of God’s salvation — which begins with belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as one’s personal Savior. Beyond that, as I emphasized in verse 11 above, it is important for us all to realize that when we are truly in Him, it is a perfected, past-tense action on God’s part. It is because of Who Jesus is, what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do in the lives of obedient believers. Repentant believers are complete in Him — “washed”, “sanctified” and “justified”. Yes, we have our part to play after being born again. This working out of our own salvation (as Paul put it in Philippians 2:12b) is God-designed to create around us an environment which will draw others to Christ, and to determine what the rewards of believers will be when doled out at the Judgement Seat of Christ (see 1 Cor. 3). But have no doubts about this: God’s plan for a believer’s eternal destiny is total because of one’s faith in Christ.
As important as relationships are with regards to marriage, divorce and/or re-marriage, our deliverance, joy and peace doesn’t come merely by perfect acts on your part or my part. It comes through Christ and our present relationship with Him. My advice to all believers in any kind of troubled situation, be it separation, divorce, or whatever, seek Christ with all your heart. Once you are secure in this belief structure, everything else will flow more smoothly in your life.
If you have been an abuser in a marriage in any respect, once you are joyfully established with the Lord, you should purpose to become a re-builder. Your re-building may be in a restored marriage that had gone bad like mine and Cindy’s; or it may be in a new marriage with a true-Christian, Bible-believing spouse; and/or it may be in teaching others to avoid the pitfalls which you were formerly in. Wise individuals in new, Godly marriages can become some of the greatest counselors to others; i.e., to those who might possibly still be in a position of being helped through the danger zones already experienced by the now-wise, second-marriage couples.
Remember, it is by God’s love and grace that we all stand. And when seen and received, that grace is truly amazing.
“The Lord Be With Us All. Praise His Holy Name.”
Lance & Cindy Johnson
COME & SEE Ministries
606 Cleveland Street
Davis, California 95616