Marriage Missions International

We Don’t COUNSEL Anyone to Divorce

I may get criticized for this, but I need to say it. My husband Steve and I do not COUNSEL people to get a divorce. By this I mean, we do not feel it is our place when asked the question, “should I get a divorce” to tell them, yes. We feel that God has shown us that it is not our right to do so. That is a decision between them and God, not us and them.

Please let me explain. Continually, we are presented with all kinds of marital problems that people confide to us —some of these problems are quite serious. And often we are asked the question, “Should I divorce her (or him)?”

I feel I need to be truthful here… in my humanness; sometimes I’m tempted to say (especially when it’s an abusive situation), “Yes, this marriage will never work.” I’m tempted to say this because I can’t stand to think of these people living in such terrible situations. I want it to end for them, so my “simple” answer would be to tell them to get out and stay out of that toxic situation.

But I feel convicted in my heart to never advise them, as one human being to another, to permanently sever their marriage vows. I might advise them to find a way to protect themselves and their children and sometimes it may be that they need to flee a dangerous situation.

But ultimately, no matter how tempted I am, my answer is that “it is not up to me to advise you to get a divorce —that is something you need to prayerfully work through with God, and to prayerfully work through with your spouse.”

While I’m going into this subject, I need to tell you that if you write a comment on this web site advising someone to do so, we will edit that part out (or delete the comment) entirely. We believe that the decision to divorce is to be handled between the husband and the wife and God. “What God has put together” we have no business in doing our part to try to end it. That’s a God thing, not an outsider’s “duty” to tell them something God can and will handle with them personally.

I’m sick and tired of hearing from spouses over and over again, “my friend(s)… my family… my counselor… my pastor… my co-worker(s)… people I know… tell me that I should get a divorce and start over.” They usually include the statement, “They tell me I should cut my losses and move on.” That statement sends chills up and down my spine when I hear it (and they aren’t the good kind). Who do they think they are to encourage such a thing?

There’s no such thing as “cutting losses” …you carry those losses for the rest of your life and you add on different losses through the years, many of which you never realized you would have to carry. This is especially true when a child or children are involved. You are forever tied together in some way through this child.

The losses that you “cut” may be different than the ones you would have carried otherwise, but there’s no such thing as a clean divorce, just as there’s no such thing such as a clean amputation. It doesn’t happen without a bloody mess being involved. Sometimes an amputation has to occur for different reasons; but it’s not without its share of messiness and complications.

The same is true of a divorce. When you cut away from someone you cleaved to in marriage (see: Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:5), it’s not without horrific pain involved. It may or may not be as horrible as the pain you would have experienced if you hadn’t cut away, but it’s terrible, none-the-less, especially concerning God’s original plan for your lives together as husband and wife. For this reason, it seems appropriate to say that what God has “joined together,” human “advisors” should not be involved in, to the extent of encouraging them to permanently split apart.

Who do I think I am, and who does any other human being think he or she is, to invade that covenant bond to tell one or both of these spouses to divorce? That is NOT our right to do so.

Human beings can be so shortsighted. We hate to suffer. We want what appears to be the easiest route out of suffering and we will often take it. We also will often advise others to take that “shorter and easier” route. Part of this is because we don’t want them to suffer and part of it is because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable and experience pain in watching them suffer. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the best way —it’s just the “best” way, according to what we can see.

But God’s ways are not our ways (see: Isaiah 55:8-9). He will many times let us suffer for the greater good —sometimes it’s our greater good and sometimes it’s for the good of others in His Kingdom work, and sometimes it’s a combination of all the above.

I’ve come to realize the truth in what Paul Tripp wrote in his book, What Did You Expect?:

“Our desire is that our marriages would be the location of our comfort, ease, and enjoyment; we often have desires no bigger than this. But God’s purpose is that each of our marriages would be a tool for something that is way more miraculous and glorious than our tiny, little, self-focused definition of happiness. He has designed marriage to be one of his most effective and efficient tools of personal holiness. He has designed your marriage to change you.”

There is something that Gary Thomas wrote in his book, Sacred Marriage that goes along in this same line of thinking. He asks the questions,

“What if God didn’t design marriage to be ‘easier?’ What if God had an end in mind that went beyond our happiness, our comfort, and our desire to be infatuated and happy as if the world were a perfect place? What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

Not “happy?” That sure isn’t what we’re hearing in society today. Over and over again, we hear, “God wouldn’t want me to be unhappy,” “If I’m unhappy (or you’re unhappy) it can’t be part of God’s plan.” Sure, ultimately God wouldn’t want His children to be unhappy, but that plan was thrown to the wayside when the man and woman first sinned (and we keep sinning), causing us all to live in this fallen world. If you read the Bible as a whole, as the Holy Spirit leads, you will see that our “happiness” isn’t God’s first concern. Our relationship with Him and with others is.

As it pertains to divorce, as human beings we aren’t “all knowing” as God is. We don’t have all the information that is needed —present or future, to tell someone that they should permanently end their marriage. Perhaps God will work with them in such a way and that they will eventually respond so that a marriage miracle will occur. Maybe in the grit of it all, eyes will open and hearts will respond and things will eventually change for the better after they have been through the worst. It’s very possible. With God, all things are possible.

On the other hand, perhaps one or both spouses will harden their hearts and won’t cooperate in the redemption of their marriage —the resurrection of the dead in healing their marital relationship. Only God knows that. And He is perfectly capable, without any advisor’s pushing, to let the questioning spouse know this.

As it is written in the Bible several times, “What God has put together, let no man separate.” And that means encouraging divorce —a permanent severing of the marriage. If someone decides after seeking God on this matter, that he or she will divorce, that is his or her decision along with God’s —not ours.

Does that mean that we shame, blame, or punish those who divorce —especially those who did their part to try to fix the marriage and those who are suffering from divorce when it was forced upon them? No! We aren’t to add to the hurt of those who are suffering. We are to (and we do) love them with the grace of God, just like they love us —sinners saved by grace.

As Christ followers, as God’s colleagues through this journey of life, we are to love and encourage and help those who God places in our lives. But even so, I stand strong in the belief that we aren’t supposed to be a part of encouraging anyone to divorce.

One last time I’ll say it, “what God has put together, let no man separate” —that pertains to any one of us who gets in the middle of anyone’s marriage and encourages divorce. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it –not out of stubbornness, but because it’s my personal conviction, after praying A LOT about this issue. I have felt the need to tell you this so that you know where I stand on this and where Marriage Missions stands on this matter.

This article is written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.


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8 Responses to “We Don’t COUNSEL Anyone to Divorce”
  1. Olajumoke from United Kingdom says:

    Thanks. My take is that, marriage is a sacred thing & once a man and a woman are joined together, I believe there is a binding from the Almighty God. I want to quickly say that marriage gotten into through deception is o marriage please. God is not in such.

    I conclude that, I see marriage as a one way ticket, where you take a journey of NO RETURN. Marriage is to be enjoyed when God is the centre. I also don’t see divorce as an option because, where is forgiveness in marriage when divorce is the solution?
    God help us & grant us continual insight. Amen

  2. Felicia from United States says:

    I don’t really know if I have a comment or am looking for answers… I was recently married, less than a year and am on my way, to what seems, a divorce. My husband says I’m not being truthful about things that happened while I was away. He says that he shouldn’t have to tell me what he’s talking about, that I should know. He says the things I have confessed are not what he knew about nor is any of it what he was looking for me to say. The important part, to me, in this is that he’s making his comments and asking his questions from another state; via email and text. He left before I returned home so we haven’t spoken face to face, he just left (a month before my return). Which didn’t make sense to me, either, because he claims what he knows happened months before. So, I don’t understand, also, why he didn’t leave then but waited a month before I was to come home.

    I first felt that I didn’t have to tell him anything, he left and I couldn’t figure out why, still can’t. I then felt that since I had planned to talk to him, in counseling, upon my return (which he knew), I may as well tell him. That is when I found that what I had been waiting to talk to him about he wasn’t even aware of. I have no idea his reason for leaving… I have no idea if I care any longer… When we were speaking I felt there was hope, but now… I feel lost.

  3. Lux from Indonesia says:

    I couldn’t agree more… Let’s pray that all Christian families will survive in the midst of the mess they’re facing. God is able and He is God of reconciliation. Amen.

  4. Tangela from United States says:

    Hello. I’m in a marriage I know without a doubt that I shouldn’t have entered into. My spouse that I’m married to was in a marriage when he and I got involved. His previous marriage was over according to him. He divorced the wife he was married to and he and I got married maybe 6-8 months later. Oh, I didn’t mention that him and her had been married for 20 years and shared 3 children together.

    The two of them, according to him, had been unfaithful to each other. He had finally come to grips and wanted to try to make the marriage work but according to him, she wasn’t seeing things the same way he was. At this point, he felt that he should move forward than that’s when I came into the pitcure. He and I had known each other in our early teen years. He was my first boyfriend, but we had lost contact with one another then after 29 years reconnected through a relative. So this is how we got entangled with one another.

    Well, here’s the BIG bang: Our marriage is going through some rough times. We argue consistently. It has come to a point that we have had some phyiscal contact with one another. I feel so bad that I jumped into this relationship with him under the circumtances knowing he was married when reconnected with one another. He made me feel that he was so hurt and that their marriag was without repair so I felt that I didn’t want to continue being involved with him physically and not be married to him, so I did. But now I regret it.

    I do love and care for him but I have some trust issues that he could possibly do me the same way. How do you handle a situtation like that? I clearly understand you would not ever recommend a divorce but when you have something in this case that shouldn’t have married in the first place then what? I’m so miserable. Please pray for me.

  5. Robin from United States says:

    I’m divorcing my husband of 41 years. I don’t want to do this. I prayed about it with my prayer group before I filed. My husband and I became Christians during the “Jesus Movement” in 73. The Lord brought us together when we were attending the same Christian fellowship. He was 19 and I was 20. Although God brought us together, we made a mistake in the very beginning by eloping and breaking my mother’s heart. She was mentally ill and very controlling and abusive. She disowned me after I got married and although I tried for years to get her to forgive me, she never would have anything to do with me ever again and died with our relationship broken.

    If my husband & I had gone to her like adults, and asked her permission to marry, it would have been different for us. We were madly in love with each other, but Lenny, my husband, was controlling and verbally abusive. It became worse as the years went on, but I kept thinking he would change because he was a Christian. He was very abusive to our 3 boys, but not our daughter, although she had to witness the abuse and violence that went on in our family. I was afraid to confront him, and had no one to turn to. The fellowship we were involved with became cultish and became very controlling and abusive. We left it when our 4th child was born, but the damage had been done. We were so burned, we didn’t try to find another church, and had no fellowship with other believers.

    It was not too long after this, without my knowledge, Lenny began criminal activiites, and cheating on me. He was arrested in 2008 for dealing perscription pills and would have gone to prison, but helped the feds catch the person in charge. Lenny begged me to stay with him and promised that he’d never do it again. I didn’t know that he had been arrested every year for the last 10 years and had a child with another woman. When our children were grown, none of them wanted to have anything to do with him and none of them talked to him nor would they let him see our 7 grandchildren. I tried to make it work.

    I had begged him over 25 years ago to go to marriage counseling, but he wouldn’t. Finally, the cops and detectives were following me and my children around. They came to my home and asked if Lenny was there and if I had guns and drugs in the house. I couldn’t take this anymore and began to pray if I could divorce Lenny, just so I could be legally seperated from him. I was praying that he would return to the Lord and our relationship would be healed, but I just couldn’t stay with him anymore.

    I filed for divorce, and he hated me. He had lost almost everything we had due to buying rental homes, running them into foreclosure, and losing them. I had no say in anything having to do with money, so I was in the dark about all of this. Now, he won’t talk to me and refuses to have any contact with me at all. My adult children are mad at me that I believe God will heal Lenny and our marriage, my atheist brother, thinks I’m crazy. No one is on my side at all. But I’m still trying to believe that God will heal this mess.

    I’ve become so depressed and discouraged that it’s hard for me to believe anything. Because my mother died without forgiving me or talking to me, I fear the same will happen with Lenny. I still love him, but I don’t want him the way he is now. He claims to be a Christian, but won’t admit or take responsibility for anything he’s ever done. He’s not sorry, and he blames everything on me.

    I won’t let go of the hope that God does hate divorce, and He will heal our family. But, it’s so hard to do this alone. It’s so hard that Lenny hates me and won’t talk to me. It’s so hard that my whole family thinks I’m crazy and my daughter thinks I should be committed. I would just like to hear someone tell me, that no matter how terrible this is, that God is still going to bring Lenny back to Him, and heal our marriage.

    • Cindy Wright from United States says:

      Dearest Robin, How my heart goes out to you. I’m so sad for you that in trying to do the right thing, despite all your efforts, you are now also suffering the rejection of those you love –those you need to help from to love you through all of this. I’ve been there and have experienced that myself –not these particular circumstances, of course, but rejection when you truly tried to do the right thing. It’s especially painful. My heart cries with yours.

      Robin, even though we can’t tell people to divorce (that is a decision between them and God), I certainly understand why you got to the point you have. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have done the same –one never knows until they walk that walk. But I applaud you that you have tried all you can to make this marriage work and that you are still open “to believe that God will heal this mess.” That is what we are called to do. How I wish others around you would realize this.

      Even though God will not (usually) work in the way that we think He should (His ways are not our ways), as we look to Him, He WILL bring redemption, in some way to all you are suffering, and will suffer. Some of the redemption will be seen on the other side of Heaven, but God will also bring meaningful times into your life where you can point and say, “thank you Lord, for showing me your love and care –only You could know exactly how to warm my heart with your loving act at this time.”

      Trust God for those times; look for them. They WILL come as you trust in Him. Robin, I pray for you. Please know that my heart goes out to you and my prayers go out for you. I pray the Lord helps you, guides you, comforts you, speaks to you –especially in your lonely times, and works in and through you in this situation. I also pray God infuses hope into your heart that you will eventually experience better days –ones that will bring a smile to your heart.

      “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)

  6. Maylen from United States says:

    Cindy, reading what you said, that “there is no such thing as a clean divorce, just as there’s no such thing such as a clean amputation. It doesn’t happen without a bloody mess being involved.” was like shining a light that was so powerful, it was like a bolt of lightning. I feel so happy, so relieved that someone has finally said it exactly like it is. I have been so sick and tired for so long of everybody, even Christians, selling out and saying that divorce is okay. Nobody seemed to be brave enough to take a stand like you have. Thank you for your “stubbornness” in telling the truth!

    • Cindy Wright from United States says:

      Thanks Maylen, for your support in this. Sadly, people are being sold a bill of goods that is delusional, at best. The scriptures say, “there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” I see that this type of death can be manifested in many ways, spiritual death, death of a dream, death of the truth being given, death of functional relationships, etc. It SOUNDS good to advise someone to “let go, cut their losses, and move on” because the present isn’t working. Yes… the present may not be working as it should, but that doesn’t mean that divorce will make things less complicated.

      We’ve seen it happen over and over and over again that a spouse will release one set of problems, only to take on a whole new set of problems –many times it’s worse than ever before. We need to quit thinking that giving up is usually the best way to handle things in marital situations. We’re living in a very marriage UNFRIENDLY society these days. People look for what appears to be the “easier” or the “less painful” way… only to make matters worse.

      Yes, when abuse is happening, SOMETIMES things can become less complicated when a couple separates. I get that. But it’s not often that people divorce because of abuse, or unrepentant infidelity. More often, it’s because one or the other wants to seek “happiness” elsewhere. And even if abuse is involved, there is still an amputation effect that happens. Divorce is messy. It just is. Many times we don’t see that when it’s first looked at to be entered into –only to find out later what a mess things have become. And as Followers of Christ, we dare not stick our noses in to encourage people to divorce. That’s not our business –that’s a decision they need to make with God. We may have our opinions, but our opinions may be delusional, and also easier to give than to live. Thanks again, Maylen.

Marriage Missions International