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Divorce — Rethinking, Reflecting and Recovery

Since the 1960’s, the increase of divorces in the United States has created a cultural shift in American family structure that has influenced every aspect of life. The nation’s political, industrial, educational, and religious cultures have all been touched by the persistent failure of millions of marriages. The church will continue to deal with the consequences.   Studies show that 27 percent of conservative Christians have experienced divorce.
Three recent books look at divorce from three different perspectives: Rubel Shelly’s Divorce and Remarriage: A Redemptive Theology calls for rethinking the issue biblically. In I Will Change Your Name, Dana Hood urges spiritual reflection on one’s own divorce. The third volume, Radical Recovery, by Suzy Brown charts out the road to personal recovery. Each volume has its place in the life of the church.
Rethinking Divorce.
Rubel Shelly boldly confronts this most difficult of issues. For three decades Shelly has unapologetically and consistently confronted issues that have challenged, confused, and conflicted Christians. Tackling the tough issues of divorce and remarriage, he approaches them with his customary rigorous Biblical research. While being a serious Bible study on divorce and remarriage, it is easy to read. Brief, at less than 170 pages, it nevertheless is meaty and meaningful, perhaps made so by the steady stream of real-life stories which reveal, often painfully, the intensely personal nature of each marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
Since this issue continues to push churches to concern themselves with countless divorce situations, Shelly’s book has ample material to illustrate the issues facing many elders, ministers, and church members. He shows that often church decisions create confusing results intensifying family disruptions. He describes individuals, couples and families subjected to guilt, shame, and alienation from both spiritual and physical families.
Shelly claims that what unites Christians is a common commitment to God’s plan for marriage including the warnings on divorce. These issues are inarguable. The confusion and controversy results from the nature of the penance for those in disobedience to the divine principles. Shelly asserts, “Divorce is not a sin in its own special class that requires a lifelong penance of remaining single, celibate, and companionless. Can we really bring ourselves to believe that the sinner whose offense is divorce has no spiritual option but to live with his failure forever? Can we really be persuaded that Jesus leaves no option to marry again for someone divorced against her will by a mean-spirited soul.”
What underlines Shelly’s study is a focus on the unfolding scriptural lessons portrayed through the lives of Bible ancestors and their redemptive relationship with God. Using a narrative view, he recounts their infidelity in the face of God’s faithfulness and redemptive nature from Genesis through the Gospels. He names this theological view, the “radical continuity of the Word of God” and maintains that adhering to this understanding of the continuous connection of the Old and New Testament is essential in order to effectively challenge more traditional discussions of scriptures relating to divorce and remarriage. Shelly concludes that all the scriptures lead to reveal God’s redemption plan and are all unmistakably connected by the interwoven thread of Jesus Christ. Using this “continuity” view, Shelly states, “… anything that Jesus or Paul says on the subject must be consistent with the Old Testament material, for Holy Scripture is progressive revelation – from partial to full, but never from error to truth. …The teachings in our canonical New Testament are to be interpreted with a view toward their continuity with the Old Testament.” Shelly’s interpretations will be challenging to some, comforting to many, and perhaps controversial to most.
It may be best to read quickly and then re-read more slowly the introduction through the seventh chapter to not miss the points made and the illustrations of the case studies. The eighth chapter is a useful tool as it answers specific questions which have been most often generated by the debates and decisions about divorce and remarriage. And then, Shelly has written two letters. One addresses many of the hurts and struggles that divorced Christians deal with. It may be very helpful and healing for those who know this pain so well. The other letter is addressed to church leaders, and in it he writes, “I ask you that you read this book as a careful student. Read it as well with a view toward dealing graciously and redemptively with those whose lives are in disarray.” Shelly surely knows that this is a charge that all the church needs to hear. The issue of a Biblical understanding of remarriage has been seldom taught, often avoided, and yet necessarily confronted.
If not dealt with, it will never be understood. Perhaps this book will encourage more intelligent, compassionate and faithful study and discussion of God’s message on this very sensitive and difficult issue.
Reflecting on Divorce.
Dana Hood takes a different approach to divorce by sharing her own experience of a heartbreaking divorce in this brief but poignant book of devotions. Through Hood’s reflections, the heart-stirring, yet comforting messages relate her story of divorce recovery through God’s loving intervention. Full of inspiration only known by those with an uncommon courageous faith, the words are written to bring solace to a wounded soul. Not every one of the devotions deals directly with the difficulty of divorce, although most do. And most are refreshing and lovely and all are insightful comments on God’s power to completely change a devastated life. The intent of this devotional book is to encourage and bring hope to a hurting heart and it surely will.
This is a little book with a very large message for those who desire to do more than just survive their divorce. This may be just the right gift book that says just the right things to a hurting or lonely friend on a particularly difficult day. It could be an additional recovery resource for a woman who knows the ongoing sadness of separation and divorce. And it may be perfect for the betrayed Christian woman who desires to find comfort in God’s always faithful love.
Recovering from Divorce.
Radical Recovery centers on surviving a midlife divorce. Suzy Brown intensely experienced hers and in the process, discovered a better way to do it. Her survival was questionable at first, when at fifty, settled into a 30-plus year marriage, she saw it destroyed by her husband’s infidelity. After decades spent raising children, maintaining a marriage, and focusing on her family’s needs, Brown confesses any life other than that one was not only foreign ground but an absolutely terrifying place to be. She bravely journals much of the crisis that was her life in the years immediately following her divorce. The mistakes made in the depressed divorcee haze, force the reader to hang on tight, flinching over her confessed really bad, mad, and sad behavior. It is almost too much of the too many mistakes made.
Brown reveals that through that entire dreadfulness, she began to develop a plan to survive. Her raw, honest and sometimes humorous view of her devastated life serves as the background for what is really a practical guide on how a woman can handle herself best during and after a midlife divorce. Brown’s abundant advice (and bulleted lists, outlines, worksheets) covers subjects from how to begin a support group, how to get in good shape financially and physically, and even how to re-organize a now lonely house and a messy, confused mind.
Sprinkled throughout is the softly delivered message to trust God in the brokenness when a broken trust is the very heart of the problem. Relying on God for the power to transform not just survive, is the underlying lesson Brown attempts in this resource for divorce recovery.
Brown has done what she challenges women to do when they find themselves divorced at her stage and age.
Suzy Brown began a new and more abundant life. She unselfishly shares how she did it.
This book may not be for the more conservative reader. But there are some Christian women who most definitely will relate to Brown’s experiences and in doing so, will find some brave lessons taught by a very sympathetic soul.

Divorce—Rethinking, Reflecting and Recovery.
Nobody wants divorce. Yet substantial numbers of Christians face the end of their marriages each year. As churches seek to minister, as all involved in divorce ponder the spiritual implications of their new situation and as mid-life brings a crises of painful dimension to many in our fellowship, these volumes provide helpful thinking to find a way to survive.

  • Feedback
    What I think is interesting is the amount of information about divorce at wikipedia <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce”>Divorce</a>
    April, 15 2008

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