Divorce – is it ever an option in a Christian marriage?
I write this blog to help the newlywed wife embrace the depths and delights of matrimony; specifically, help her understand how sometimes, the delight or bliss, can come after the hardship, or blues.
(My book Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After in the Early Years, takes you through the hot-spots of early marriage and offers practical steps to take)
Today I want to look at another aspect of marriage, namely it’s fragility.
Because while it’s important to understand the blessedness and permanence of a marriage union, it’s equally important to understand that the marriage covenant is between two broken people.*
After hearing from some of my readers, I want to make a quick clarification. I do not encourage couples to come into marriage with divorce as part of their vocabulary. I believe in fighting for our marriages – that’s what this ministry is all about. To help newlywed wives draw closer to God and their husband. In today’s post, I am addressing the wife who is in a physically abusive or adulterous marriage (or has been abandoned) but who is too fearful or passive to engage godly counsel because she feels “locked in” with no recourse or way forward. The Bible offers a way forward and that’s what I am exploring today.
Before we move on, let me point out a few things;
First, God did create marriage to parallel His unconditional, enduring love. But the one thing that is lacking between spouses in an earthly marriage, which we have with God, is absolute unbreakable devotion. Hebrews 13:5
Second, God does not desire divorce. But He recognizes that humans are given to error and gave conditions under which a spouse may be released from a marriage union (adultery – Matthew 5:31-32 2, abandonment – 1 Corinthians 7:15 and physical abuse)
Released, not because He has failed or desires a marriage to fail, but because one or both spouses have decided to be released. God is divine, and part of His divine mystery is that gift of choice.
I’ve been thinking about abnormalities in marriage, specifically the red flags that should galvanize a wife to action. And by action I mean seek outside help from a mentor/pastor, snap out of passivity or even risk separation if their spouse won’t change their behavior.
To the wife who is wondering “Will my Christian marriage end in divorce?” and “how much is too much“, a few thoughts;
Husbands do not become divorce-able overnight
In most cases where a newlywed husband is a problem, it is seldom that he became one after the wedding.
People hardly ever change overnight. I am sure some men can hide their true nature, but those cases are uncommon, especially if you took time to know the person.
Most frequently, the signs that something are amiss with a man are there during courtship.
And here’s an important thought; simply slapping a vow on a guy who isn’t ready to be a husband doesn’t turn him into a good husband. A wedding doesn’t change a man who isn’t ready, it merely postpones a problem.
Hurrying things along, thinking that God is indebted to make a Christian marriage work is mistaken. In the end, marriage is only as good as your ability to choose well.
If you are in a hurting marriage right now, you may want to consider your journey to the altar. Perhaps there were red flags that were ignored or explained away.
I don’t mean to be insensitive, I just think it’s important to be honest with yourself. If you are going to find help and healing, you need to figure out how you ended up here.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they took off from God’s presence. But God came looking for them; “Adam, where are you?” He called Genesis 3:8-11
It’s not that God didn’t know where they were, He knew. But He wanted them to know where they were. It’s important to locate yourself, so you can map where you need to be.
The first couple had to reap the consequences of their wrong choices; perhaps you are reaping the fruit of impatience, pride, lack of faith. But there’s hope.
God slaughtered an animal and covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness; a picture of the ultimate sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ who takes away our sin.
God is not calling you so He can condemn you but so He can bring you to wholeness.
2. Marriage can break
I didn’t understand this, to the level I do today. But reading from newlywed wives who can’t figure out how a husband ought to love them has made it clearer, how spouses ought to treat one another.
Here’s the thing. A true Christian marriage is a Biblical marriage. It should be governed by the Word of God.
Broken down, it means your husband is not above God’s will or Word. He doesn’t have a right to treat you however and its counted as okay because he’s a husband.
While there is sanctity within the bonds of matrimony, the sacredness doesn’t extend to hiding sin and wrong in the name of “private business” or “I am your head.”
When concerns that go against the word of God and common decency (even regular growth pains we can’t solve between ourselves) arise, it’s time to invite trusted counsel.
The Bible shows us how to do this in Matthew 18:15-17 – if you cannot resolve it between the two of you, ask a friend or mentor to talk to him. If he doesn’t listen to them, take it to an elder/pastor/spiritual authority.
If he does not listen to them, then consider him a non-believer. i.e., one who has left the faith, therefore needs the grace of God. (read, your love and grace too. And if you are in physical danger, includes removing yourself from danger and working on reconciliation from a place of safety.)
God commands a husband to love his bride the same way Christ loves his bride, the church.
As a wife, you have to consider how Christ loves the church to understand how your husband ought to love you. He lay down his life for her. Even the most amazing husband struggles with that concept sometimes, but mostly he strives to love as Christ did.
And as his wife you recognize and make room for imperfection (because he’s human, just like you), but do so within the word and will of God.
While God is grace and love, He goes to great lengths to show us what grace and love does not look like, so we know what to do when it’s absent.
A husband hitting his wife, cheating on his wife, moving out of their home and she has no idea where he went to, is indicative of a man and marriage, in need of help.
If you can’t address a problem because you are terrified of his anger, you need to consider what that means in light of God’s word.
I’ve heard different versions of “he’s a generally a good guy/he believes in God and serves in church/only when I make him mad does he get out of control and hit me. I don’t know what to do; I’ll continue praying and ask God what to do.”
Of course, keep praying.
But accept your husband has a problem and needs immediate help. Covering and excusing his behavior blocks his deliverance/acceptance of the problem.
At the end of the say, wouldn’t you rather a man goes to heaven unmarried (if it comes to that) than to to hell married? I know that sounds harsh, but consider that true faith submits itself not just to salvation, but to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
If a husband claims salvation, but goes ahead to display anything but salvation in the space where he should be most like Jesus, perhaps he needs to face reality.
And as his wife, you help him do that when you say “no” to sin, abuse, adultery in your marriage.
I cannot make the decision for a wife wrestling with these deep challenges, including the possibility of divorce; she needs to find and walk with godly counsel.
But I can tell you that God does not want women abused, cheated on, abandoned, manipulated and controlled in the name of protecting a Christian marriage.
And it all starts with a wife understanding how Christ loves her, and how that love ought to look like in marriage.
3. Divorce should not be a rash decision
It’s important to take the time to pray, to fast and seek the face of God. (If you don’t know how fasting can change your marriage, check out Kaylene Yoder’s free 7-day prayer and fasting guide)
Invite trusted help, go for counseling, even if your husband won’t go. If you are in physical danger, you can do all these from a place of safety.
God changes hearts and just because divorce is on the table doesn’t mean it has to end that way. God can turn things around. And if it still ends in divorce, you want to look back and know you did all you could to save your marriage.
Marriage in its proper place
Indeed, marriage is beautiful and meant to last till-death-do-us-part. But God is more interested in the condition of our hearts and where we will spend eternity, more than in giving us an earthly happily-ever-after.
Surrender, is an important place to come to, even for those of us in happy relationships; we need to offer up our marriages to God and recognize He alone never fails.
It is so easy to make an idol out of marriage in the early years – I know because I did. But we need to dial back and see our marriage for what it is. It is not at the same level as God, it does not indicate how much God loves us or how amazing we are.
The love of God is Jesus hanging on a cross, dying for our sins.
The moment we put marriage in its proper place – a gift and blessing – perhaps we will then release our husbands from unworkable expectations; we will accept they are human.
And when they wobble, we will more easily release them into the hands of their Creator.
Divorce and separation are a difficult, sad subject; there’s so much to say and many angles I haven’t covered. But I just wanted to share what’s been on my heart lately.
I would love to hear you. Have you faced/gone through a divorce? Are you in a difficult place and taking steps to address abnormalities? What steps are you taking? What else can couples do to bring health to their marriage? Let’s talk in Comments on the blog.
Are you vexed because your husband won’t change? Wondering how to positively influence his life? My book Blues to Bliss might help. I wrote it with the newlywed wife in mind. If you are imperfect girl married to an imperfect guy, this book is for you. Learn about the book, and find the purchase links – Click here