Marriage: I messed up. Now what?


Sometimes others have come to me seeking advice about marriage. On occasions, I have heard, “I messed up in my first marriage and now realize it. Since my first spouse is still available, should I leave my second spouse and go back to my original marriage?” Or, the question is, “I have recently come to believe that after my first marriage failed I should have remained unmarried. Should I leave my new spouse?”

The best answer I have understood to both of these questions is “No, stay in your current marriage and make it the best it can be through the power of God.”

The reasons are, to the best of my ability, taken from biblical principles:

  1. God never calls us to retrace our steps or backtrack in repentance.

There are some teachers who say you need to backtrack to get back on the road to righteousness (not speaking specifically or exclusively of marriage). However, God did not call us to a path of righteousness as His highest goal, but to Him (James 4:8). God is less concerned with our old paths as He is the direction of our hearts. If you were hiking and you went a mile off of the direct path, getting to the original path is not as important as finding the most direct path to our destination. Start where you are.

“Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.” 1 Corinthians 7:27.

This teaches me that once we realize our sins and confess them, from the current circumstances go directly to God (1 John 1:9).

All of us can recognize that God has worked in our lives in our current situation, no matter our previous mistakes. That is His grace. If we backtrack to find a previous path to God, we must forsake what He has done lately in our lives. Instead, He desires us to benefit from our journey, good or bad, by trusting Him to work all things for His glory and our good (Romans 8:23).

2.   God does not call us to destroy another life to recover ours.

He would not call you to destroy your current wife’s life to re-obtain a “preferable” standing. He never tells us that breaking one oath is corrected by breaking another, and marriage is an oath, covenant and promise to Him, friends and family.

It is more likely God would prefer us to sacrifice ourselves for our current wives (Ephesians 5:25), and not ever consider that our former path is more important than the lives we impact today. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” Philippians 2:4.

The lesson for all of us, regardless of our marriage situation, is simple. Where ever we are in life, we must seek the most direct path to God. Old paths must be forsaken. New directions must be accepted. Those directions begin from within our current circumstances unless our current situation is, in itself, unrighteous (living in sin, as in unmarried cohabitation, for instance).

“…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water,” Hebrews 10:22.

BTW: I have talked to many who have realized this is what they have done without really concentrating on it. God has moved in their lives with His grace and they have moved closer to Him in their second, sometimes third, sometimes fourth marriage. Praise God for His love and grace!

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