This weekend I was taken aback by some news. Joshua Harris, former pastor and author of the bestselling, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, announced on his Instagram account that he and his wife are divorcing and that he no longer considers himself a Christian.
Let me say up front, I have never read I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I was already married by the time it was published, so it seemed a little anticlimactic to read it. Also, I’ve not been a huge follower of Joshua Harris’ ministry over the years. I've only occasionally read articles he wrote for The Gospel Coalition. So with that said, I’m not here to bring criticism of his ministry or his books, but only one about his Instagram post.
Fight for your faith, fight for your marriage.
If you take the time to seek out his Instagram post, you’ll note the upbeat tone which he has chosen to announce his departure from his faith and divorce. And here is my only criticism. Divorce, even at its best, is still devastating. By all accounts of people I know who’ve been divorced, even the amicable ones leave emotional and spiritual destruction. I’ve never been divorced, but I have close family member, good friends, and an uncounted number of church family who have. So far, zero of them were painless. I found Harris’ choice of tone to be unsympathetic and unrealistic. It’s unsympathetic to the droves of people, Christian and non-Christian, who have endured divorce. It’s unrealistic about the damage it causes to his own life.
However, that’s where my criticisms stop. I’ve read people’s comments, and they run the gamut from, “You’re so brave,” to, “You’re apostate and going to hell,” and everything in between. I think since he made a public statement about his divorce and fall from faith, by that choice he’s opened himself up to some criticism, but as usual people don’t seem to understand or care about healthy boundaries.
This event, though, has stirred up two huge thoughts in my mind that hopefully can be lessons you and I can digest from this.
Fight for your faith, and fight for your marriage. Understand this: the fight is on all day, every day, not just when things are rough. Let’s talk about faith first.
Fight for your faith.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6
There are two truths here that we should remember. First, there is absolutely going to be trouble. Paul says at the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight.” Jesus told us that in this world we will have troubles (John 16:33). Fight for your faith, first by rejecting the false teaching that Christ will make your life easy. As much as I teach people to walk in their new identity in Christ, we also have to remember that the Church is full of broken people who are all works in progress. When trouble comes and we experience hurt, don’t be surprised. Don’t allow that to shake your faith in Jesus Christ because he told us from the start that things like this could and would happen.
Second, the battle belongs to the Lord. Fight for your faith by planting yourself in this truth: God will bring what he begins in us to completion. That means that no matter how fierce the battle rages, we can trust the Lord to bring us through it because he’s promised to finish our transformation.
We have battles to fight, so stand firm. We also have a God who has secured victory for us, so stand back and let him go before you into battle.
Fight for your marriage.
Fighting for your marriage begins way before you’re trying to patch things up with your spouse. It begins with date nights. It begins with words of affirmation. It begins with loving service. If you aren’t doing these kinds of things, then you’re essentially a city with no walls. These kinds of investments are both defensive and offensive moves. They’re defensive because they build security and trust. They’re offensive because every date night, word of affirmation, act of service, even every word of just simple pillow talk is a choice to do something rather than nothing. Faithful, loving words and actions during times of peace build a strong fortress for times of trouble.
But also, as believers, fighting for our marriage is inseparable from fighting for our faith. The Bible is super clear that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:25-32). If you aren’t fighting for your faith, your marriage will be vulnerable in ways you won’t always perceive.
I don’t know if Joshua Harris did this or not. I’m not here to judge how he conducted himself in his private life because I don’t know. But I do know this. If we don’t do at least these two things, we make ourselves vulnerable to the same things that have ravaged his faith and marriage. We can never forget that there’s a spiritual battle always raging around us. To forget or ignore that is to walk naked into a hornet nest.
Armor up, stand firm, fight, stay in the word, pray without ceasing, love, serve, speak words that build up, not tear down, pay attention, and trust the power of God to win the day. And even if the day feels lost after you do everything, remember that a new day is coming with new mercy, fresh grace, and power to endure again.