Don’t be a divorce pusher. What do we mean by that? Don’t encourage your friend, relative or anyone else to divorce. That is not your place. Divorce is a decision that is between them and God. By encouraging them to divorce, you are stepping into a part of their marriage where you have no biblical stand. Plus, your influence could impede their being open to reconciling. And what right do you have to “separate” them even further?
Also, by pushing them to divorce you could interfere with a miracle God wants to do in their lives. How do you know? Sure, you hate to see them unhappy and suffer from mental anguish. What kind of a friend would want that? And if abuse is involved you know they definitely need to seek safety. You could/should encourage that. (We have info in the Abuse in Marriage topic that can help them figure out a plan dealing with that.) But pushing divorce is NOT your place. That is an entirely different step that is not yours to push.
Yes, be an encourager by showing loving support to your friend or relative. That is biblical. And listen and pray with and for them. Again, that is biblical. Plus, it’s good to encourage him or her to pray, and seek God’s wisdom to help them find healthy ways to resolve conflict. They may even need to find a “marriage-friendly” counselor to help them. (We have articles in the Marriage Counseling and Mentoring topic that can give guidance.) Try to help them get to a better place in their marriage. But again, it is not your place to encourage them to divorce. Let God show them HIS way; and know that it’s usually not your way.
Resist the Temptation to be a Divorce Pusher
We hear from spouses continually that their pastor, and/or their Christian counselor, and/or their friend(s) have told them that they should divorce. They even encourage it. And that disturbs us tremendously. What gives these “counselors” the right to push this couple to end their marriage? They have not been appointed by God as the divorce decider. How do we know that? Jesus said, “What God has joined together let no man separate.” (See: Matthew 19.) God decides with this couple—not anyone else.
So, we need to be careful of the ways we influence others. And pushing divorce is one of those ways.
An example of this is found in the “Fireproof” movie clip titled, “He Said, She Said”:
Again, we’re not saying that this person should stay in abusive situations. And we’re not saying he/she should be a doormat to cruelty. As a good friend you may need to encourage your friend to find ways to stay safe. But it is not up to you to be a divorce pusher. 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? They need to talk to God about that—not you. Lead them in that direction instead.
The following is another scene from the movie, “Fireproof,” that gives insight into this issue. We are to confront a friend, even though it’s difficult, but we must make sure it fits within God’s guidelines:
A Sincere Friend is Not a Divorce Pusher
There’s a scripture that comes to mind with how this 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) A “sincere friend,” sometimes has to say some tough words. And kindness should be involved. But it’s important to stay within God’s boundaries of what others can and should do, as it pertains to someone else’s marriage.
If you push for divorce, you are going against the scripture. (See: Matthew 19:6.) We’re told, “They are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” So, YOU would be pushing to separate what God “joined together.” Yes, you can be supportive and encourage him or her to seek wisdom from God and act upon God’s guidance. You can be a soft shoulder to cry upon, and be 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.
Only God can give the guidance on when a divorce is permissible. That is not our God-given task to take on as our “job”. Let them work this through with God. He may even lead them through some tougher times; and that will be difficult for you to watch. But don’t let your discomfort with this interfere with God’s total plan. Let Him guide them in this painful journey.
Again, we’re not saying that you abandon this person. But don’t push this person in a direction that you have no business pushing.
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 “lead 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, 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. Trust God to show your friend what to do.
We hope and pray you will.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
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13 responses to “Don’t Be a Divorce Pusher”
(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.
(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.
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.
(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?
I apologize. I was wrong. Please forgive me.
(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.
(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?
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.
(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.
(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.
What if adultery took place briefly, then ended, but caused a separation?
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.
Yes, my wife was pushed and counseled to divorce. Admittedly I sinned in the marriage; but I turned around got saved, but nobody believed it was real. Anyway her Christian friend and my pastor were both at the divorce trial as support. I long before that asked for forgiveness and repented. I was angry at God for this. Only recently God has revealed to me that they were there “not for support, but out of revenge.”
Thank you Lord for revealing that to me… I’m grateful; this revelation removed a huge block in my relationship with God, and my Journey to Restoration to God. Love ya CB