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.
Filed under: Marriage Counseling & Mentoring