After my message on Sunday I had a few people wish that I had answered a fourth question: "What if I divorced and remarried and I realize now that I did it poorly?" The implied question there is..."Am I doomed by God to live a miserable life?" And/or..."Does God consider me an adulterer from here on out?" Those are pretty serious questions that deserve an answer.
I can't imagine living with the thought that God saw me as an adulterer and there was no recourse. So let me give this a shot.
First of all, let me say that Jesus' words about divorce and remarriage leave little "wiggle room". To NOT be considered an adulterer requires either rejecting his words or observing in scripture how we might be able to resolve being an adulterer. But, unless someone broke covenant with you, you have to own the adultery part.
Now, as bad as that is, who hasn't failed God? And specifically relating to marriage...who hasn't WANTED to break covenant with their spouse? It's admirable that people don't follow through on their desires (and not divorce) but no one is perfect. And like any sin, there is forgiveness, there is reparation and restoration. God always offers us a fresh start but there may be some conditions attached and some consequences that follow.
If you find yourself in this scenario, I recommend a few things. First, admit the adultery. Own it. You can't find forgiveness if you don't admit the guilt. And not just the overall guilt but the specific things you did wrong, the specific character flaws that led you to divorce and remarry in the manner that you did (maybe selfishness, pride, impatience, bitterness, etc.).
Second, ask and receive God's forgiveness. All sin is forgiveable if you are truly sorry and willing to forsake it. This is how you can put the adultery in the past. Next, ask forgiveness of those you hurt; your ex-spouse, your children, your friends, maybe even your current spouse if you realize that you entered into the marriage inappropriately. That doesn't invalidate your current marriage but clearing the air of past wrongs will help the future of your marriage.
Finally, make any amends that are outstanding. You need to bring closure. Leaving issues unresolved only causes personal and relational discord - not only with people but with God. As hard as these things may seem to do, not doing them will only cause you inner turmoil. Doing them will bring you the freedom you have been looking for.
Sixty percent of remarriages end in divorce. That tells me that there is a flaw in the whole divorce/remarriage scenario. Many reasons could be pointed out but I think a very big flaw is that people fail to do what I've outlined here - bringing closure to past wrongs. Marriage is hard enough when things go well. When you bring all kinds of baggage from a previously failed marriage into a new one, it's a wonder any work at all. I welcome your feedback.