Prayers would be appreciated. Our CONQUER conference is this Friday and Saturday and some of our East Coast ladies may have trouble getting there due to the impending weather from Hurricane Michael. Pray for safety and that everyone who is supposed to get there will get there, especially our MC Tasha Scott, one of our workshop leaders Georgia Shaffer and our singer Nicole Nordeman who will be flying Friday night to get to Lincoln for our concert Saturday morning.
Don’t forget, if you’re planning to be there, meet me by my book table Friday night for hugs.
Question: Thank you for writing your book. I have found it very helpful as I have been working through an emotionally destructive marriage and strengthening my CORE. Sadly my spouse has not liked this and refuses to do his part in healing our marriage and expects me to come back without him doing anything.
To that end, I have moved forward in filing for divorce. With that though I have had a few good Christian friends who are just finding out about our situation telling me some pretty horrific things.
They say that I am a sinner/adulterer in filing for divorce. God hates divorce. If I do this I can never remarry (not even thinking about that right now).
Also that I am not trusting God enough to fix my marriage. Would you be able to address this specifically in your blog? If you already have and I have not found it could you direct me to that? I would appreciate it.
Answer: Your situation is not uncommon. Well-meaning Christian friends who have no idea what your life is like or what your marriage has been through feel like it is their responsibility to warn you that standing up for yourself or leaving an abusive marriage goes against God’s plan for wives, or for marriage.
I’m going to speak generally here to this issue because I have no idea what specific situation led you to believe that your marriage is destructive and what you have tried to do to resolve those issues.
Obviously, unless there are clear safety issues that are dangerous to you and/or your children’s safety, usually separation or divorce is not your first choice.
Most Christian women (and men) who wake up and realize that their marriage is destructive have already tried all kinds of things to salvage their marriage including trying harder to be more loving, submissive, gracious and accepting. They’ve tried prayer, forgiveness, countless counseling with different counselors, all while hoping that something they do will get their spouse to want to change….and nothing does. The only thing that changes is that you get more worn down, exhausted, depleted, sick, and angry.
So what is the next step? We all know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing that you’ve always done hoping for different results. So is that what these “advisors” are encouraging you to do? Or would they rather you stay long-suffering in an abusive marriage hoping that you will be an example of what? Of a woman who believes God cares more about her keeping her marriage together than the safety or sanity of her or her children?
Like Job’s friends, we feel really uncomfortable when someone is suffering and God doesn’t rescue. We like to think we have the right biblical answer for them and most people do truly mean well. They strongly believe in the sanctity of marriage and they think dissolving the marriage except for the most stringent of Biblical reasons, i.e. proven, repeated adultery, is sinful.
And there are some that might argue even repetitive adultery is not sufficient Biblical grounds to divorce.
I don’t know what you’ve been doing or why they are calling you an adulterer. Have you been involved with someone else? Obviously, this would not be God’s plan for you and your friends don’t want to see you make more mistakes or problems for yourself.
However, you made no mention of that in your question so I’m going to assume they aren’t saying this due to any reality of you committing adultery, but because you “might” commit adultery someday if you remarry and are not “Biblically divorced.”
First, you are not going to get a 100% approval rating whether you decide to stay married in a destructive marriage or you decide to end one. If you stay married, there are those who will call you foolish. Why are you “pretending” or enabling someone’s adultery, abuse, or addiction to continue with no real consequences?
Other people will judge and condemn you for deciding to leave. They will tell you that you don’t have Biblical grounds, or you have your own sin or you just need to forgive or suffer longer for Jesus.
Therefore, if you NEED everyone in your life to support your decision to divorce, you’re going to be in trouble. Surely you want to get some Biblical wisdom from those you trust and I hope you have done that with a godly counselor and wise pastor. However, you will never get everyone to agree that you’re making the right choice. This is just too divisive of an issue in the church to have everyone agree.
You are the one who will have to stand before God and give an account for the life you lived and so if your conscience is clear and God has given you the green light, I wouldn’t let your friends throw a guilt trip on you. However, divorce isn’t a decision that should be entered into lightly so I’m trusting that you’ve made this decision with a lot of thought, prayer, and input from wise others.
But I think a second question you are indirectly asking is this. How do I respond to these people who intrude upon my life with their well-meaning advice? How do I respond when I know I’ve done all I can do to salvage a broken relationship but sadly it’s not just up to me?
Repairing a broken relationship requires two people committed to repairing the break. Click To Tweet
When one believes that being married entitles him to act sinfully and recklessly with no consequence (broken relationship) he’s not living in Biblical truth and neither are these well-meaning friends of yours.
The Bible clearly teaches us that what we sow, we reap. If you continuously sow fear, mistrust, abuse, indifference, and deceit, you can’t expect to reap a happy, stable, long-term marriage. That is just craziness. It’s not living in reality or truth.
It’s not that you don’t trust God enough. God is perfectly capable of restoring your marriage. It’s that you don’t trust your husband. He’s shown no effort towards wanting to rebuild your relationship. God doesn’t miraculously swoop down and repair a broken relationship without the repentance and humility of the people who need to actually do the work.
Your husband expects you to return to the marriage, without having to do any repair work. That’s like asking someone to return to a house that has been repeatedly bombed with no repairs. It’s not smart. Nor can you safely live there.
Your friends want you to hope that God will miraculously restore your bombed out house (marriage) someday and therefore you should be willing to live in the rubble. For how long? Until the roof caves in on your head and gives you a concussion? Until the loose electrical wires spark and cause a fire and cause you to get burned? How long is long enough to see if the other person in the marriage wants to repair the damage and is willing to actually do the work?
Jesus is not blind to the damage that sin has in relationships. Jesus did not enjoy a close relationship with Judas, nor did he trust him even though he loved him. He tells us that when we have been hurt by someone, we need to go and talk to him or her in order to repair the relationship (Matthew 18). The sin that has broken trust or safety needs to be repaired in order to restore a relationship. But when the other person refuses, the relationship remains broken even if you still love that person or even if you forgive that person. That person may even be an enemy because of the damage he has caused you.
The Bible tells us that we are to love our enemy, we are to forgive our enemy, we are to pray for our enemy (Matthew 5:44). But what if our enemy is our spouse? What if there is repeated hurt, damage, and unrepentant sin? Does the Bible require us to still live with him? Sleep with him? Pretend he’s not an enemy just because he also happens to be our husband?
Does being a spouse give you a grace card that says that the normal consequences of being reckless or sinful don’t apply to a marriage because no matter what, the marriage has to stay together and intact even after it’s been bombed to pieces? I don’t think that’s what Jesus or the Bible teaches. Sin hurts people and it hurts relationships. When that sin is repetitive and unrepentant, it can ruin a relationship permanently. Let’s not ask people to pretend otherwise.
Friends, how have you addressed the criticism you’ve received when your action steps around your destructive marriage have met with disapproval?