Emotional Abuse, Faith, Grace, Hope, Pain and suffering, remarriage, Surviving Adultery and Divorce, Uncategorized

Three Truths About Divorce

This week, I read an article about ten sins Christians choose to overlook. I was curious about the author’s take, always looking for ways to measure my life against scripture. Honestly, I don’t remember any of the sins…except one:

Divorce.

My heart sank as I read those words, as I realized this particular author sees divorce as some sin the Church and/or Christians are overlooking. In her eyes, Christians aren’t dealing harshly enough with the sin of divorce. She says Christians no longer see divorce as a last resort and have diminished the consequences.

Sadly, as a divorced Christian, I have to disagree.

My guess is this author has never walked through the trauma of divorce. My guess is she’s never been a divorced Christian sitting in a church, agonizing through another sermon on the sanctity of marriage. My guess is she’s never fought with every ounce of her being to save a marriage of ten, twenty, thirty, or even forty years. My guess is she’s never had a spouse whose heart became so hardened he/she chose to break the vows made on that beautiful day. My guess is she’s never given everything to a marriage only to land in divorce court anyway.

Most divorced Christians I know didn’t want the divorce. They spend years agonizing over the decision, begging God to fix their marriages. They have suffered tremendous judgement at the hands of other Christians. They certainly didn’t take their vows lightly, and they would have done anything to save their marriage. They understood the consequences, and that’s why they stayed in a sick, dysfunctional marriage as long as they did.

I wish one person was enough to save a marriage. I wish prayers were always answered the way we want them to be answered. I wish every marriage only had to deal with issues such as finances or parenting dilemmas. I wish every marriage could be saved by learning your spouse’s love language or following the love dare. I wish everyone’s hearts could be softened by the Holy Spirit, brought to a point of surrender.

I wish my ministry was not one that sometimes has to say divorce is the answer.

My inbox is filled with emails from Christians agonizing over marriages that are sick and dysfunctional, marriages rocked by adultery, addiction, abuse. Even with the never-ending cycle of pain these issues bring into a marriage, good Christians everywhere agonize over how they can leave their marriages, break their vows, disappoint the God who hates divorce. They stay way longer than they should, long past the point of safety.

Most Christians definitely do not fail to see the consequences, the seriousness of the decision.

As I reflected on the author’s words, I began to think of so many lessons God has taught me through my divorce and the journey to healing…the journey to redemption. Here are three things I want you to know about divorce.

Divorce always involves sin, but divorce itself is not always a sin. I’ve said it many times before: divorce does not take two…divorce only requires one hardened heart to turn against God and against his/her vows.

There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family. Proverbs 6:16-19

These things God hates are such a perfect description of the abuse, adultery, and addictions destroying Christian families today. These actions are things God hates, things that break His heart. They are sins with dire consequences.

I was trapped in a dysfunctional marriage where lies were abundant (a lying tongue), unrepentant adultery flourished (feet that race to do wrong), and false accusations abounded (a false witness who pours out lies). These actions sowed all kinds of discord in our family.

These actions were sins. These actions led to the destruction of our marriage. These actions broke the vow, the covenant we made before God and man.

But my decision to file for divorce was not a sin; it was only an acknowledgement of the vows my husband had broken. It was a legal way of ending our marriage, a marriage that had ended years before from the ongoing abuse and adultery. My decision to file for divorce only came after years of intense praying, of seeking God’s will, and a certainty that He was telling me to walk away.

Sin led to our divorce, but my decision to legally end my marriage was not sinful.

God hates divorce not because it’s some great sin, but because it breaks His daddy’s heart to see His children hurting so badly. People love to quote Malachi 2:14-16:

You cry out, “Why doesn’t the Lord accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows.

Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”

If you read the above passage, you see again the actions God hates: the mistreatment of a faithful spouse. When we look at the cultural context, we see that men were mistreating their wives and divorcing them for no reason (which was sinful). The author of Malachi was speaking of the mistreatment, telling the men to remember women were more than just a piece of property to be tossed aside at will, but instead were children of God to be valued and treated with respect. The passage is about elevating women to a place of equality rather than a piece of property to be used and abused.

And the line about God hating divorce? There’s actually a controversy around the translation of that phrase. Some believe the words should not be attributed to God at all. The CEB translates it this way: The Lord God All-Powerful of Israel hates anyone who is cruel enough to divorce his wife.

I have no doubt God hates divorce—as does anyone who has been forced to walk the painful journey. He looks down and sees the pain and widespread devastation. He sees the heartache it heaps upon His faithful children. And He mourns with us. He cries over our pain.

God does not require a divorced Christian to live a life of celibacy while praying for reconciliation. Did you know Moses originally allowed divorce as a way to protect women, to allow them the right to remarry?

Suppose a man marries a woman but she does not please him. Having discovered something wrong with her, he writes a document of divorce, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house. When she leaves his house, she is free to marry another man. Deuteronomy 24:1-2

However, many people take a single scripture from 1 Corinthians 7 and use it to claim divorced Christians should be forced to remain single.

Again, we have to look at the context of the passage. Corinth was a particularly godless city. At the city’s center was the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. At the temple were thousands of prostitutes, and the church at Corinth was heavily influenced by the godless culture.

You cannot read 1 Corinthians 7 without taking the culture of Corinth into consideration. Paul even said as much later in the chapter:

Because of the present crisis… 1 Corinthians 7:26

The church was in crisis. Marriage was not being honored as a sacred vow within the church. Men and women were prostituting themselves. Sexual immorality was rampant in the city and in the church. God, through Paul, was telling Christians to honor their marriages, to stick it out and fight for the sacredness of marriage.

And that line about not remarrying? It is in direct conflict with a later verse.

If you are divorced, don’t try to find a spouse. But if you do marry, you haven’t sinned. 1 Corinthians 7:27-28

The Word of God as a whole is about love and grace, about second chances. God is a God of forgiveness, of setting prisoners free. He is a God who redeems all things and brings beauty out of our broken lives. He is a God of forgiveness, a God who throws our sins as far as the east is from the west. He doesn’t punish a faithful spouse who suffered divorce because of the actions of his/her partner. To think God would condemn us to a life with no chance for redemption (a godly marriage) is to discount the grace He freely bestows on us.

I would have never chosen to be a voice for those devastated by divorce, but it is the ministry God has given me. If you are being beat up by the church, by Christians who want you to know you are somehow not enough, please choose to believe the Word of God. He says you are chosen, redeemed, valued. He says you are the apple of His eye, His masterpiece. And divorce does not change that.

You are enough simply because He says you are.

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19 thoughts on “Three Truths About Divorce”

  1. Wow!! Excellent article!! You just answered a prayer I’ve been praying a long time.

    Thank you for your research and writing this article!

    Praying for many blessings on you.
    Katrina

  2. Well said Dena. This is one of the most straight forward and well defended statements on divorce that I have read. I will share it with my clients who wrestle with this very question. Thank you!!

  3. I so appreciate this. I prayed for 5 years to save my marriage, staying longer than I should have. This only damaged my daughter even more. I am at peace about my decision and trusting God with the rest of my life. Divorce does not define me.

    1. I so understand! I think many of us stay longer than we should because we cling to the hope God will hear our prayers, heal our marriages. And yes, it damages our kids. So glad you are at peace and have such a positive mindset! God bless!

  4. Now this is Truth! Freeing Truth for women! Part of my struggle in my abusive marriage was trying to understand what God was asking of me. Difficult messages from the church and Christians who meant well, just brought more heartache and confusion to me. Eventually, the Truth became clear and God delivered me from my oppressor. I had complete Peace when I filed for divorce because I knew God had said “enough is enough”. Life is finally beginning for me and I finally feel ALIVE! My hope is that those of us who have walked this Journey can share this Truth with other women so they can find the support that was so painfully missing for me. Beautifully written Dena and THANK YOU!

    1. Amen! I so understand! It’s so hard to hear God say it’s ok to walk away when every message you receive in church is part harder, never give up. But God sees our pain and weeps with us. He is the God of freedom!

  5. Thank you for these words of comfort and understanding . I totally agree with our God of Love who loves us and wants to protect us and keep us happy in this world and in the world to come .So many heartaches in this society ……but our children should be considered as responsibilities in this world …and we should not play with their upbringing …..by doing selfish acts such as breaking a home….but nevertheless divorce is the answer to many couples who struggle with communal life .God bless you for speaking the truth dear Dena Jonhson !

    1. Divorce hurts everyone involved, but in some cases it’s also the best thing for all involved. My kids needed a safe place, and that only came by getting out of the dysfunction.

  6. This is excellent Dena! I wish more churches/pastors could (or wanted to) understand these truths. Thank you for being our voice.

  7. Even When It Hurts- Hillsong United

    Is a song that ministers to me as it speaks of a hunger to praise God. I’m reminded also of the Beatitudes that over and over talks of the all sufficiency of Our Lord and Saviour…just be content His presence is enough.

    Sadly I too am a divorced Christian and often feel the label oh so heavy. I’m a parent also so I have and do shake my head at the predicament I’m in any distancing from my ex is potential distancing from my son.

    But the question is this just staying in a toxic unfaithful relationship how can that be wise? God challenges us to be real with Him all too often we tolerate phoneyness…if you confess your sins one to another and pray for one another James 5:16. That takes work, surrender and takes two people not one person to have that perspective. I think I learned in myself that getting married can cover or excuse individuals from being real with themselves. Divorce actually showed me who I am and I am thankful but God forbid I could ever say that in church no no the fellowship would prefer I carry the gauntlet of shame instead like the lepers the stigma of “unclean” ringing around the head.

    Thank God even lepers get healing in Jesus Name!! Son of David have mercy on me.

    But the Law came to increase and expand [the awareness of] the trespass [by defining and unmasking sin]. But where sin increased, [God’s remarkable, gracious gift of] grace [His unmerited favor] has surpassed it and increased all the more,
    ROMANS 5:20 AMP
    https://bible.com/bible/1588/rom.5.20.AMP

    Every sin is redeemable!!!

    1. Yes!! Oh where did the Church get off so badly? How did we ever decide to value an institution above individuals? I would wish the pain of divorce on no one. I would wish the results on everyone.

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