Discomfort and the Happiness Police

I’ve had a lot of conversations with fellow standers lately about how those around us react to our stand. If you’re a stander, perhaps you’ll relate to this.If you’re a prodigal spouse, stop running and go home. You will never regret obeying God… never. If you are in Christian community with a couple going through a divorce, this post is largely for you. Yes, I’m addressing the stander directly, but I intend you to overhear our conversation… It is for your benefit. If you know a stander, perhaps you’ll take note of what you are doing and stop some of this “helpful” behavior.

You make everyone uncomfortable…

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You are now that guy on the corner with a megaphone, pointing out the sins of others, just by standing. You needn’t say a word. Some rights reserved by FaceMePLS

You are a victim. Divorce is a cruel and violent act. Your spouse has rejected you, he or she had an affair, left you to live with another, and is divorcing you. By all accounts, you should be able to count on the support of those around you as you navigate this painful place. You can count on that support as long as you remain a lost and broken victim, willing to deal with your situation in a worldly way. If you stay hurt, fight with your beloved, and find someone else to ease your pain (move on, as it were), everyone will understand and give you a lot of helpful encouraging words. As soon as you make a stand on the Word of God and fight for your marriage, you mark your self as a source of discomfort for everyone. You are now that guy on the corner with a megaphone, pointing out the sins of others, just by standing. You needn’t say a word.  The specific discomfort is a bit different for each faction, but let’s look at some of the more common ones.

Home towns, blood, water, and the thickness of it all

As the stander, many of us face the daily pain of rejection from our prodigal spouse. If we’ve moved to our spouse’s childhood home community, we often also face the rejection of our in-laws, neighbors, and friends. Sometimes these people are vaguely supportive for the first few weeks after our spouse leaves. Then, they begin to encourage us, often in little ways, to move on. Perhaps they suggest moving from our marital home or finding someone else. Our very stand creates a feeling of discomfort because it points to the sin of your spouse. If you are the outsider, even if you’ve been accepted and loved for 10 or more years, your spouse is the person whom the community has known and loved all their lives. Your stand and your refusal to go away shines an uncomfortable spotlight on their fall. You need to go away soon so that your in-laws, neighbors, and friends can get on with the “new normal” and pretend everything is okay and you never existed.

Friends and fellow believers

Our best friends, even if they are fellow believers, are often very uncomfortable with our stand. For starters we’re going through pain, and as our friend, they do not like to see that. They want to spare us as much discomfort as possible. They try to come up with things that might help us. They encourage us to destroy our prodigal spouse in court or ruin their career. They try to introduce us to single friends, who often have also been through what you’ve been through… so they “understand”. Even those closest to us can be a tool of the enemy, much like Jesus’ closest friends.

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:21-23)

Not only do they not want to see you suffer, but also they don’t know how to talk to you with this uncomfortable elephant stomping about the room. Again, if you’ll only stay hurt, fight with your beloved, and speak death and insults over your estranged spouse, then the whole thing would make more sense and be more “normal”. It’s hard to say “get behind me, Satan” when talking to a good friend, but sometimes I say it anyway (in my mind, of course).

The failure of the church

The church, honestly, is just a bunch of broken people living in community with each other, trying to follow Jesus. I really do not like church bashing, but lately I’ve been getting really hung up on the whole following Jesus part. There is a lot of apostasy going on, particularly in the area of marriage and divorce. Our seeker-sensitive model is killing us in this area more than any other, which is ironic since marriage is a metaphor for Christ and the church. I’ve said more about this in other posts, but today, I want to share the words of a fellow stander, Cortney, who said:

I put myself on a mission to find a church to back me… truly I did… I found none. I gave up. I think churches love their numbers too… they like their membership numbers and they don’t want to scare away potential people with the truth, so they cushioned it… then just withheld parts of it during sermons… then altered a little and so on. How many church goers even know the Bible… the truth? “Wait on the Lord”, apparently only means for a very short time until you aren’t happy. I think we are missing a fear of God too… I so often hear it preached that God forgives if you just ask. That’s true, but what happened to the part about repentance and dying to self!!

Believe me, trying to get so much as a prayer out of people for your marriage is close to impossible once a divorce goes through. If they think you’re nuts before the divorce, then after you just become stupid.

And the divorce care and support groups make me gag too… no marriage restoration groups running in every church, but divorce help is everywhere in the church… And often paired with the singles ministry and advice to “find” someone. I can’t tell you my shock in finding these groups to be bashing their spouses, giving divorce advice, praying to move on, and encouraging dating asap (even before divorce). (Cortney S. Fellow stander)

I’m not sure I can put it much better than that. Thank you Cortney.

Our way is not the world’s way

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (John 17:16)

Okay, so it all comes down to this. Jesus called us to be weird. Really, we’re supposed to be salt. We’re supposed to stand out. We are set apart. We are not supposed to be normal or cool. Before my wife left, I was not set apart. Sure, I went to church, and I played on the worship team. Other than that, my life didn’t seem that out of the ordinary. I was trying hard to be a Christian hipster, and ended up a middle class yuppie. I was extremely comfortable. I was so comfortable that I didn’t notice my spouse’s discomfort or her falling into sin. I was not being the spiritual head of my home. Our world likes comfort, particularly the “western world”, as it is often called. Happiness is our religion. Our ceremonies include shopping for more stuff we don’t need, eating out, and posting well-polished photos of our manufactured happy moments on social media for our non-present friends to see and envy.  No wonder so many of our prodigal spouses have said that God wants them to be happy, so they left to pursue happiness with someone else. We have countless pop culture gurus to thank for the pervasive believe that our feelings are paramount and that we can live without sacrifice, self-denial, or discomfort. We just need to focus on what makes us happy.

Standing is extremely uncomfortable. For the first time in many of our adult lives, we face extreme economic hardship, devastating relational rejection, and legal attack. Ironically, despite standing in obedience to God, you will find that the law is not on your side (the courts want you divorced as quickly as possible), your prodigal spouse has the financial support of their non-covenant partner (you are alone in your stand), and now your friends and relatives are sick of your “holy” routine and just want you to “get on with your life”.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12)

Jesus never told us we would not suffer for our obedience to the Father. In fact, He often said the opposite. We are marked people. Now that we stand for marriage restoration, we are simply more aware of it.

A word about Noah’s neighbors…

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Noah was a complete loser in the world’s eyes. I bet that a lot of Noah’s friends and neighbors used their ancient-world equivalent of the phrase, “bless your little heart” a lot.  I’m sure they thought he was a little over-zealous and a bit too into his religious thing. Imagine the awkwardness of running into Noah at the grocery store. Noah’s very stand was like a signpost, pointing to the impending doom of all of those around him.

For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; (Matthew 24:38)

The people around Noah were going about their lives, and I’m sure it bothered them that he was not. Imagine if he had given into his friends and relatives and neighbors. Imagine if he had decided that all of that lumber would be better put to use in expanding his game room. Imagine if he had decided he was sick of being lumped together with the crazy cat lady down the street because of all his exotic pets.

For whatever reason, you are a stander. God has shown you the truth of His word and asked you to wait. It is not fun. Your spouse is re-living their newlywed puppy-love years all over again with someone else, while you fight for custody of your children, go to bed lonely, and eat a lot of take out meals by yourself. In the end, though, when we are face-down, before our Lord, with a puddle under our knees, we will not have to hear how shallow and pathetic our own words sound when we say, “but, Lord, I just wanted to be happy.”

God bless. Good luck. Stand strong.

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