Don’t Be a Divorce Pusher

Photo club Gavel Divorce Paper Decree RightDon’t be a divorce pusher. What do I mean by that? No matter what your friend or relative or anyone else is going through in their marriage, don’t add to the mess by putting your stamp of approval onto the situation and recommend divorce. That is not for you to encourage. That is a decision that is between them and God, without you pushing your opinions into it.

Yes, be an encourager to love on your friend or relative. Encourage him or her to pray. Also encourage him or her to make wise decisions to find healthier ways to resolve conflict. They may need to find a “marriage-friendly” counselor to help them. (We have articles in the Marriage Counseling and Mentoring topic, which explains what I mean by that terminology.)

Resist the Temptation to be a Divorce Pusher

But no matter how tempted you are to want your friend or relative to find peace, DON’T encourage divorce. You have no idea what God wants to do in his or her life. If you tell your friend or relative to divorce because “he’s (or she’s) not good enough for you” —you are a divorce pusher. And by doing this you may be standing in the way of what God wants to do in and through this mess.

An example of what I mean is found in the “Fireproof” movie clip titled, “He Said, She Said”:

I’m not saying that this person should stay in abusive situations, or should be a doormat to cruelty. But it isn’t up to you to push him or her to divorce. Protect himself or herself, yes … lay down healthy boundaries, yes. Even encouraging him or her not to allow unfaithfulness to be lived out in the home, yes, but divorce? That’s something that this person needs to talk to God about.

The following is another scene from the movie, “Fireproof,” that we need more of us to do —to confront a friend, even though it’s difficult:

A Sincere Friend

There’s a scripture that comes to mind with how this one friend spoke to the other. “An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:5-6) If you know anything about his movie, and about being a “sincere friend,” sometimes tough words are spoken. But there can still be kindness involved.

If you push for divorce, you are going against the scripture (Matthew 19:6). We’re told, “They are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” YOU would be pushing to separate what God “joined together.” You can be supportive and not hurt this person further by encouraging him or her to seek wisdom from God and act upon it. You can be a soft shoulder to cry upon or someone who stands WITH him or her through the tough times and beyond. But there is MUCH TOO MUCH divorce pushing that is going on.

I’m not saying that you abandon this person. Just don’t push this person in a direction that you have no business pushing, for them to divorce.

Insightful Scriptures

A few additional scriptures come to mind, as they apply to pushing divorce:

  • One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. (Proverbs 12:26)
  • A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends. (Proverbs 16:28)
  •  The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray. (Proverbs 12:26 NLT)

Please don’t invite the possibility of leading them “astray” on something as important as divorce. There are some ways in which we can give counsel for them to consider. But when it comes to splitting up a marriage, even though it is not a private matter, YOU should not be one who could push them over the edge to encourage it. Let God do His work. Pray, and be supportive, but don’t be a divorce pusher.

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this blog.

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13 responses to “Don’t Be a Divorce Pusher

  1. (AUSTRALIA)  This advice is not going to help Christians who are married to abusive spouses. You’re basically telling such people “Seek God, but don’t seek support from friends, don’t listen to anything that other people may tell you, only God can advise you on how to handle your marriage.” Well, yes, God CAN advise you how to respond to an abusive marriage. His advice is in his Word, the Bible, and that advice does not begin and end with Matthew 19.

    Please check out my book Not Under Bondage. It explores all the divorce texts (OT and NT) in careful detail taking into account their historical background, translation issues, the scholarly Christian debates on divorce, the experiences of victims of domestic abuse, and the misunderstandings prevalent in the church.

    Abuse victims are the Cinderella in the divorce controversy, and brothers and sisters, THIS SHOULD NOT BE SO, we are commanded to protect the vulnerable and care for the widows and fatherless children. Abusive husbands are violating their covenant responsibilities and the church is way too silent, or worse, the church becomes enlisted by the abuser to persecute the victim. For further info, please check out the blog http://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com

  2. (AUSTRALIA)  My experience in church circles is that divorce is never encouraged. I have not come across people who advocate for divorce as an answer. Even separation is commonly forbidden (because it is often a step away from divorce). Finally, after my pastor decided that it was much better for me to leave the marriage, he warned me that the “d” word would not be tolerated in the church, so I shouldn’t talk about it. I took that as a hint that he didn’t want to be implicated, so I got my advice elsewhere and let him off the hook, which he was very relieved about. I really don’t blame him as everyone seems to be intimidated by my ex. But it does seem sad that when it comes to the crunch, you really can’t rely on your pastor because he is more interested in protecting the reputation of his church.

    As for friends, they certainly tried hard to give Biblical advice but all the advice presumed that there were things I could do to prevent or heal his issues. I took on their advice and enabled his behavior because he had no accountability, knowing that there was no way out for me. No matter what I said, I would still be married to him. That was the only boundary that mattered to him.

    Now, my friends, including pastors’ and deacons’ wives, tell me that they would have left much earlier because of the damage he inflicted upon us. But they didn’t want to say anything. I just wish they had. I confided in them and all I got was wishy washy “Look to God. Keep praying. God’s got the answer,” while they were secretly hoping that I would leave him. Maybe they didn’t know how to reconcile their doctrine with common sense. I didn’t either until God Himself stepped in, as He does when justice cannot be found on earth (Isaiah 59:16). The scriptures are quite clear when one bothers to delve into it: http://questions.beta.rbc.org/attq/if-god-hates-divorce-how-can-he-allow-for-something-he-hates/

    From my experience in evangelical churches, the teaching on divorce is very strong to prevent people seriously contemplating divorce just because they are going through tough times. Resources like Fireproof are highly utilized, and for good reason. I hope they have helped many weak marriages. However, if in spite of such strong teaching, people in the pews are still divorcing at the rates they are, there is something that Christian leaders are missing. Perhaps in a great number of these critical cases, the problem is not mutual conflicts that can be worked on, perhaps there are many people being murdered on the inside and they know it. They are crying out for help and not getting rescued because the rescue mission cannot include getting them to safety and protecting their marriages (if you can call their partnerships marriages, God probably calls them domestic terrorism) as well. There is a conflict of interest. I am confident of which side Jesus would take.

  3. (USA)  In a half century involved in evangelical churches, I’ve never once met a divorce pusher. In fact, it has always been the other way around, encouraging men and women to remain at any cost and then ostracizing them, relegating them to lower positions of service if the divorce proceeds, no matter the reason.

    Divorce– and advice *about* divorce– is not one size fits all. While I agree that God needs to speak to each individual and lead them as He would have them to go, the advice here would cut off the wounded spouse from one of the greatest sources of help and encouragement– our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    1. Ida Mae, It may be that you haven’t come across divorce pushers, but we have –many, many of them. And a lot of them are counselors –Christian counselors. It’s not a matter of “cutting off” wounded spouses, it’s a matter of not pushing them to “cut their losses and move on” when there are still ways in which the marriage could be saved and improved. Many times those who are considering divorce think they will be entering into a new phase of their life without as much pain, only to find themselves in more pain and more financial distress. Just because divorce looks like an easier and less painful way to go, it doesn’t mean that it is.

      Ostracizing those who divorce is not what should be done, but pushing divorce isn’t something that should be done either. We continually hear from those who tell us their “Christian” friends and counselors and even their pastors recommended divorce for them instead of staying and trying even harder to work things out. Later they regret their decisions and are angry about the “push” they received from these people. We should be sources of encouragement and help, not pushers.

      Divorce is something that those involved should pray about. It is something between them and God. If I recommend or “encourage” divorce, I’m stepping into the whole decision making process. I’m not God and I don’t really have a say in the matter. I can love them through what is happening and I can love them if they divorce, but I am not to tell them they should get a divorce. God gave them a brain, a heart and a soul to work it through prayer with Him, without my interference. Even by recommending divorce, I could be interfering with a work that God wants to do in the process of redeeming this marriage. God doesn’t always go the path of least resistance and pain, like human beings try to. If He wants to tell them to divorce, I will support whatever God says, but I won’t step in front of His direct counsel to them.

      1. (AUSTRALIA)  Well thanks for clarifying that, Cindy, and I’m glad you did not intend that advice for abusive marriages. But the trouble is, in your initial post you did not make that clear.

        I would suspect that many of your readers (perhaps far more than you are aware) are looking for answers to their painful marriages, and DON’T EVEN REALISE that they are suffering from domestic abuse. How will they know not to apply your advice in this post to themselves, unless you make it crystal clear, right up front, that you are not talking about abusive situations? And to do that, you first need to define and describe abuse properly, so these readers can realise “I am being abused!”

        I believe it may help if you re-think your duty of care to your readers. How are you going to help readers who are being abused but don’t realise they are being abused? How are you going to stop them taking on board advice that is not appropriate for them? Advice that might help the the non-abusive marriage, will be deeply harmful for victims of abusive spouses. Sorry to make you job hard, but there it is. Can you give serious thought to this?

        1. (AUSTRALIA) This is in reply to Cindy’s apology: Dear Cindy, thank you so MUCH! I mean that not just for myself, but for all the survivors of domestic abuse for whom I try to advocate. You are a rare Christian, willing to admit fault in public like this. I think people will esteem you more, not less, as a result.

          I hope we can work together to address domestic abuse in the Christian community. Hopefully you will visit A Cry For Justice and see what victims and survivors of domestic abuse are saying about their experiences in the church. It’s a double whammy when you suffer domestic abuse as a Christian. Not only does your spouse treat you badly, the church often treats you badly as well, by misreading the situation and laying responsibility on you to help fix the marriage – when you can’t, because abusers choose to abuse and their victims cannot do anything to change that.

  4. (AUSTRALIA)  Cindy, I think you must live in a different world from me and Ida Mae. I can’t discount your experience, but please believe Ida Mae and me that in our experience, and in the experience of MANY survivors of domestic abuse, the “push” is all in the direction of “Go back to your husband, submit more, pray more and try harder to make it work.”

    This push to “try harder” is incredibly damaging to the victims of abuse, because it implies that the victim can change herself or her partner, so that the marriage improves. This is wrong: in abuse, the abuser chooses to abuse and the victim cannot change the abuser’s choices, attitudes and evil beliefs that he is entitled to lord it over his spouse.

    Maybe you are speaking about other kinds of marital situations. Who am I to say? But your advice leaves victims of domestic abuse drowning without a life belt, without help, without guidance, without any support from other Christians. In fact, it increases their heavy feeling of guilt that “I have to try harder to make this marriage work” – when no matter how hard they try, they are not going to make the marriage better because the abuser is determined to abuse.

    Another thing: Ida Mae, myself and others like us continually hear from victim-survivors of abuse who tell us that Christian counselors told them to try harder to make the marriage work; don’t give up; don’t divorce!” So how come you hear one thing, and we hear the opposite?

    1. Barbara, I’m not talking about abusive marriages. That’s a whole different story. You’re right in that type of situation. I’ve seen it where the abused spouse is told to go back into the abusive situation and work it out (when the other spouse has no intentions of working anything out but wants to control their “partner” in various hurtful ways). I’m not sure why it is that so many counselors and pastors don’t sympathize and try to help the victim find safety instead of encouraging them to go back into the volatility of the situation, but that’s what happens too often. Part of it may be that the victimizer is good at fooling others into thinking that they aren’t so bad. But yes, in abusive situations, too many are encouraged to go back into the home and “submit,” and such, when it isn’t safe to do so.

      I’m talking about marriages where one or the other spouse loses interest in being married any longer –which is the reason for a majority of the divorces taking place. There are communication and other problems and the one spouse wants out and/or finds someone else –an “old friend” or such, who is more interesting to them. For some reason, in those types of marital situations, too many counselors and other “friends” and family members encourage them to leave, rather than put in the difficult effort of finding ways to build relationship bridges with their spouse. We hear the story over and over again, “even my counselor says I should leave,” “my family/friends all think I should leave and move on with my life.” These are marriages, where the problems may be complicated, but not unresolvable. And yet, they’re encouraged to leave. THAT’S what I’m talking about, not cases where abuse is taking place.

  5. (AUST)  I think there are two types of marriages in trouble. For those who are simply looking for “an easy way out”, for a life of less pain, we should not encourage divorce. That would be a huge injustice to the spouse who entered into the covenant with the expectation that it would be a lifetime partnership, for better, for worse. God is a God of justice, love and peace.

    However, representing and being an ambassador for a God of justice also involves not just standing by and being neutral when there is a battering of one party. God doesn’t stay neutral -He takes the side of the oppressed. By battering, I don’t mean physical beating, I mean a conduct of exercising power over the other person, where the other person has lost her (or his) rights and live constantly on edge, walking on eggshells, wondering when the next outburst will be. There may never be a raised fist, or even a raised voice, but there is dominance, coercion, manipulation, intimidation, and the lack of freedom of one person to have a voice.

    In these marriages, the battered spouse has lost the ability to think clearly since abuse robs the mind. Even the ability to hear clearly from God is clouded due to the constant attacks. They are seeking advice and encouragement. They really want to do the right thing and not just to get out for peace. In fact, it is much easier to stay, which is why most do.

    Since most Christians will not tell them to leave, trusting that they will work it out even though most can’t even think straight, they look to every resource they can get. HERE is where the trouble starts. Most resources DON’T distinguish marriages in trouble due to normal conflicts, and those in trouble because there is abuse going on. Therefore there are no caveats or exception clauses, and so these women take in everything they read or hear and conclude that they must try harder or that they are to blame.

    The only person I have come across who pushed for divorce, or at least separation, was a Christian counselor who told my friend that unless she left, things would get worse. She decided to stay because it would be too hard for her to leave.

    Most of the abused women who have left may not be happy, but they are free. They don’t live lives free of pain, but being happy and free of pain is not what they are living for. Living lives for God and bringing freedom and healing to their children are the greatest benefits they have found from divorcing. Of course the pain and unhappiness will remain – it cannot be any other as long as they have left an abusive marriage, since post-separation violence is always going to be a reality. Some even lose their lives, but as long as they are informed of the risks, and allowed to make the decision themselves, they can be empowered to weigh up whether it is better to fight through the obstacles and see the power of the Holy Spirit come through, or to stay because it is too dangerous to leave.

  6. (UNITED STATES)  Cindy – These are VERY refreshing words, rarely heard: “I apologize. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” Thanks for being willing to admit you aren’t infallible:) And thank you for all of your efforts here. Yes, we need to be sure that we specify what kind of marriage problems we are addressing, because abuse is a whole different “animal.” Couples’ counseling doesn’t work and in fact further victimizes and also enables the abuser, for example.

  7. Thanks for this. I pray it will bring conviction to those who instead of encouraging God-honouring ‘stick-to-itiveness,’ submission to God, forgiveness and restoration, (where there is clear pride), instead encourage the tearing apart of a family by taking sides and rationalizing.