What the Bible Says about
Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

John Coblentz

What are some practical pointers
for committing oneself to obey God
in severing adulterous relationships?

Pages 79 - 84

1. Distinguish between those things which can be changed and those which cannot.

The oft-quoted prayer, "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference," is fitting for those who are willing to commit themselves to obedience in leaving adulterous relationships.

Unchangeables include things for which other people are responsible -- their decisions, their attitudes, their responses. These things may change, but they are beyond one's personal control. Unchangeables also include the realities of the situation. For example, suppose a man has one child born to his first wife and three to a woman with whom he has been living in adultery. If that is the case, that is a reality he cannot change. Other unchangeables include present and future consequences of past sins. Pain, for example, is inevitable; though righteous responses certainly deliver a person from some pain, one cannot escape all pain. Difficult decisions, responsibilities, and obligations for such things as child care, child support, and bills (sometimes for two households) are things one cannot escape.

Unchangeables must be accepted. The more quickly we see them as such, the less we will hurt ourselves by resenting them, the less energy we will expend fighting them, and the more wisely we will be able to use our resources to cope with them.

For the Christian, accepting unchangeables is an act of faith. It is believing that God in His sovereignty is able to take these things and use them to eternal advantage.

"And we know that ALL THINGS work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:28, 29).
Understanding that God works "all things" together for our good certainly does not mean that we can attribute our misbehavior or its consequences to His will. This verse does indicate, however, that our devotion to God releases His powerful working in our behalf in all things.

Changeable things include our personal attitudes and responses, our habits and mannerisms, some aspects of our appearance, and our character. Many times in extended conflict with others (such as in marital difficulties), we develop habits and characteristic responses which are carnal rather than of the Spirit.

God wants us to turn our heart and mind and whole person over to His control and direction. In His hands, we can become gems of heaven, glistening with the radiance and splendor of God's own glory.

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (II Corinthians 3:18).
2. Keep a journal of fellowship with God.

Following God through the trauma of relationship difficulties can be an emotional roller coaster. If our commitments are based on how we feel, we will make them and break them daily . . . sometimes hourly. Putting our thoughts in writing can help in several ways. First, it helps us to concentrate. Second, it helps us to verbalize and thus understand our inner feelings. And third, it helps to keep us on a steady keel. We can review. We can see where we came from. And we can better project where we want to go.

For those who commit themselves to leaving an adulterous relationship, and especially where that leaving is emotionally difficult, it is helpful to write out a commitment. For example:

I am resolved to follow the Lord's directions for marriage. I refuse to violate His principles to satisfy my desires, believing He will stand by me and support my obedience. Furthermore, I refuse to follow any counsel which is against the righteous standards of God, whether from friends or professionals. I will from now on keep my friendships and relationships pure and carry out my responsibilities faithfully to the best of my ability.
Keeping a journal following this sort of commitment is invaluable. The journal could include struggles, prayers, insights from God's Word, promises from God's Word, helpful advice from God's people, and goals both short term and long term. The advantage of a record of one's inner life is not only that it marks the milestones of progress, but it also preserves the lessons of faith. Many of our struggles are recurring. As we face them anew, we can look back on the way God helped us through the last time. This is especially helpful where the emotional trauma is intense enough that we become forgetful.

3. Make a list of God's promises to those who obey Him.

For example:

"For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him" (II Chronicles 16:9).

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9).

"And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever" (I John 2:17).

"But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (Isaiah 66:2).

These promises are from God. They assure us that those who choose to obey God have all the goodwill and grace of heaven surrounding them, upholding them, and carrying them through the difficulties of this life to eternity with God.

4. Choose someone with whom you can be totally honest about your struggles and make yourself accountable.

Anyone who is willing to disentangle himself from a relationship will face inner struggles. We ought not to deny our feelings. Having someone in whom we can confide, someone who will listen with understanding, who will let us talk and then kindly help us to put things in proper perspective, who will pray with us to know and do God's will is an invaluable help in working through these difficulties.

There certainly are guidelines for keeping such a relationship healthy. We need to avoid simply digging up the past. We need to avoid repeated rehashing of other people's faults. And we must be considerate of the time and commitments of our friends -- avoid monopolizing their time for our problems. But true friendship is very important in times of difficulty.

"A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Proverbs 17:17).

"Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. . . . Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" (Proverbs 27:5, 6, 17).

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