“Some days after work, the last thing I want to do is go home. I want to point the car in the opposite direction and just keep driving.”
You know you’re not the first person in the world to want to run away from things—things like a hard stretch in your marriage, a job you dread facing every morning, financial pressures, relational pressures, professional pressures. You simply want out, and you’re beginning to feel a little desperate about it.
The trouble is, you can’t shake the feeling that fleeing is a coward’s way out. If you had any emotional or spiritual backbone at all, you wouldn’t feel like cutting and running. If you were mature, you’d stay with your hellish situation and slug it out or endure it or—like your grandparents, perhaps—make the best of it.
Think for a minute of who in the Bible did and didn’t flee difficult circumstances? Who left town before they got themselves killed, and who hung in there, gutting it out with no guarantee of success?
• Jacob didn’t face his twin brother’s wrath after duping him and his blind father Isaac but instead fled from it all.
• Jonah didn’t face an intimidating divine assignment but instead fled from God—or at least tried to.
• Jeremiah did hang in there during a desperate national and political era—and he nearly hanged for it.
The apostle Paul seemed to have spent half his life fleeing assassination or execution, and the other half refusing to flee, instead willingly exposing himself to danger and trusting God for the outcome.
In this lesson, you’ll explore what makes you feel like heading for the hills and leaving it all behind, not that you feel like that every day. But most men have spells now and then of wanting out—out of their job, their marriage, their responsibilities. Then again, some men feel this way most of their lives, whether or not they actually flee. How can you deal with this temptation? Is there middle ground, where you can opt to stay in miserable circumstances and yet glean a little joy in the process?
Use the space below to summarize your beginning place for this lesson. Describe your realities as well as your desires about the temptation to flee—your marriage, your family, your job, whatever. We’ll start here and then go deeper.
1 Peter 4:12-13,19
Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner. . . .
So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.
• How do you explain hardship—the kind that begs you to run way from home, work, or a sphere of your life that you really care about? How directly is God’s hand in it, if at all?
• What guarantees are there, if any, that you’ll come through this hardship? That you’ll be a better person because of it?
• Have you ever been in a crisis or hardship that you’ve wanted to flee and you can’t see God’s hand in it? Think about this.
• Describe a season of hardship you went through that made you want to flee but you ended up hanging in there. What made you hang in there?
God, help me to see you . . .
A Convenient Escape
From The Divorce Dilemma, by Richard Goodall
In the days when divorce was not permitted, the reaction may well have been to put up with what had “gone wrong”; now that divorce is freely available, the reaction, first and foremost, is to escape. This is understandable, because any animal wishes to get out of a cage, no matter how beautiful and well furbished that cage may have been. The tragedy inherent in the situation is that one may leave a modern, clean and convenient type of prison and end up in a dungeon. . . .
It may almost sound trite but, if divorce were prohibited, people could not divorce. If people were not allowed to divorce, they would in some way or other find a modus vivendi, they would come to terms with each other’s foibles, at least for the sake of the children. . . .
They all claim that they thought hard and long, as the expression goes, before taking such a serious step; that they were saddened once they decided that their marriages should terminate; that they were concerned for their children. Nevertheless, the decision had to be taken. The justification put forward always was along the lines that “it was my life that I had to think about,” “you only live once and I could not continue living like that,” and similar expressions which highlight the personal drama, which was genuinely felt, of the individual caught in the web of an unhappy marital relationship.
No criticism of such people is intended here. But the point needs to be restated that none of them put the wellbeing of their children first: in some form or other, for one reason or the other, each of them put their happiness first.
• Does it strike you as simplistic or realistic to argue that prohibiting divorce would make for a better society?
• If our society will not forbid divorce, can a couple? Or could a community or organization—such as a church, say—so forbid divorce among couples who voluntarily submitted to the authority of said church or organization? What might be the benefits of such a social prohibition? Liabilities?
• In your observation or firsthand experience, how often is divorce a legally sanctioned way of fleeing a tough situation? How often is it a way of fleeing a toxic situation? Is there a difference?
• Is fleeing a tough or seemingly impossible marriage an essentially selfish act? Think about this.
Lord, give me strength to . . .