Christian Divorce. Since going through a divorce over a decade ago, I have seen so much forfeited by the choice of divorce. I have watched the same story repeated so many times now that divorce has become normalized. As Christians, we know that God hates divorce (Mal. 2:14-16) and that Christ teaches it was a concession to man’s sin and not part of God’s original plan as defined in the bible (Matt. 19:3-9).
However, we see some ignore this biblical truth to embrace the choice of divorce while blindly accepting all that is forfeited by divorce.
When experience becomes the teacher, a choice becomes more difficult to justify after the fact. It’s why I am writing this. To provide married Christians, a firsthand account that even in the most amicable situations, divorce leaves a wake of so much that is forfeited.
Who is this Article For? – Christian Divorce
I am writing this article for “bible believing” married Christians contemplating divorce. If you are not bible-believing married Christian contemplating divorce, then this is not for you.
If you are reading this and are already divorced.
I do realize there will be others reading this who don’t fit into this group, like those already divorced. The title of “can you” probably got you here looking to see if your divorce fits into the picture I am about to paint. Talking or writing about why you shouldn’t divorce can open the door of conviction or condemnation for those who are already divorced. Some of you had to divorce, while others divorce was forced upon you. To all divorced Christians, like me, God picks us up where we are. How or why we are divorced should cause us to grieve and pray, which leads to repentance and restoration of the heart. See my final notes at the end for some direction and encouragement.
Just to be clear, while I may mention remarriage, this article is NOT about remarriage. I will write about the complexity of remarriage for the single divorced Christian in a future article.
Do you need new brakes?
This sounds totally off-topic, but the topic of divorce reminds me of a recent conversation with a friend. She went out and bought a new car. Her justification, the old car needed brakes. I guess the brakes were the last straw or something that pushed her over the edge. Believe me, I have been there with cars. The cost to fix the brakes was around $300 and was way cheaper than buying the new $30,000 car she drove home in. Someone still had to fix the brakes in the old car, and my friend forfeited being debt-free out of frustration. Well, she did get the new car smell that lasted for the next year… You probably get the obvious comparison.
First, I give that example so that you will pause as you consider divorce. It sounds silly, but some Christians approach divorce like my friend and her brakes. You see, either path you take will be work; staying married with so many things to resolve or moving on.
Second, there are those situations where there is no choice but to divorce. In those cases, the situation will be so specific that you will need wise counsel from a bible believing counselor or pastor to discern the proper course of action based on biblical truth. I believe that God calls us to do everything within our power to save the marriage we are in.
Third, God will be the final judge. You will have to reconcile any choice with God, the future you, and all that divorce forfeits for you and your family. From, my experience what divorce forfeits is realized over decades, not months or a few years.
Here we go…
If I am a Christian, Can I get a Divorce? (The Truth)
Yes, you can do anything you want because my friend, you have free will. But this is where truth enters. In the beginning, as noted in Genesis, God’s initial plan was for there to never be divorce. One man, one woman for life.
The bible does give some direction in the matters of divorce, which are an allowance from God. These allowances from God as a concession to man’s sin, under certain circumstances, can be found in both the Old (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) and New Testament (1 Corinthians 7, Matthew 19, Mark 10).
The great debate of divorce among Christians is what is included in those circumstances, given Jesus’ comments in Matthew 19 when he says, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
So if you want a divorce on biblical grounds and then be able to remarry, the only New Testament grounds for divorce are sexual sin, as mentioned in Matthew 19 or desertion by an unbeliever, as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7.
What is very clear to me in God’s word is that if you really want to divorce, you can divorce your mate and never marry again, stay single and abstinent, and biblically, that would be supported according to 1 Corinthians 7:10-11.
God Wants Me Happy?
However, not many divorced singles want to remain single and almost immediately seek a relationship or marriage. Then to get their way or to remarry, they will use God’s word as justification and manipulation to validate why they got divorced. The problem with that reasoning is that God sees the intention of the heart. He is more about the heart of the decision rather than the circumstances.
I believe what the bible says concerning divorce is that if your intention in divorcing someone is to marry someone else, outside of having biblical grounds, it is a sin.
The validation of divorce is what Jesus was calling into account with the Pharisees in Matthew 19. Their sole purpose was to use the law so that they could divorce the wife they had and marry another “for any cause at all” (Matt. 19:3). They used God’s word and manipulated it so they could get their way. Jesus said he was holding them to the original law, the one denoted in Genesis, therefore making it adultery.
One comment from a friend who was recently divorced, as they were reading the first iteration of this article, was that some Christians will ignore God’s truth, and do what they want. Yes, I said. “That has also been my observation over the years. But have you considered what you forfeited when you divorced?” There was some awkward silence there for a few minutes. The reason I keep overusing the word forfeit is that it seems like our culture has embraced FOMO (Fear of missing out) as a motivator rather than God’s truth. So let me put it in FOMO terms.
What is Forfeited (Let’s Talk Sin)
So let’s talk about the sin of divorce. Yes, you can be forgiven, just like you lied or cheated or fill in your favorite sin, it is forgiven when you repent. Every sin is covered under Christ. But there are some amazing things God wants to do in your life and the life of your family that will never happen if you choose to divorce. You forfeit them. Then as you look back when the dust settles, 2, 5, 10, or 20 years later, its regret that causes so much pain as you realize what was truly at stake. Could I have, should I have, what if…
My pastor, one Wednesday evening, said something powerful when it comes to sin and what some Christians ignore. He said, “Don’t confuse God’s willingness to forgive with his willingness to work in your life.”
God’s grace is so big, so encompassing, but there is a difference between grace and blessings. It is these blessings we will sometimes forfeit when we choose to go our own way ignoring God’s truth, exploiting the freedom of grace.
What are you willing to forfeit for divorce?
Speaking about my life, one thing divorce forfeited for me were moments with my children I never had because of two separate homes. Divorce forfeited trust, hope, peace, and purity for many many years. My list is long of things forfeited by divorce, let alone the things I didn’t and don’t know about. I genuinely don’t know the ripple effects divorce will have on my children, and the generations after.
So you see, while it may seem like the best route, the pain or confusion you are in now doesn’t even compare to what you experience when you choose to divorce. The biggest lie you will hear or can believe is that divorce is “no big deal.” Don’t buy it or accept it. It’s a huge deal, and you may not ‘feel or see it’ till it’s too late.
Ultimately, some Christians presume God will bless their choice to divorce, and he doesn’t. He forgives it, loves you, but can’t bless it. It’s why we see so many unwise choices after divorce for those that choose to ignore God’s truth and go their own way forfeiting the protection he provides.
Either way, whether you chose to divorce or it was chosen for you, things are forfeited that God wanted to do.
Here is what I have learned.
Divorce is painful. It hurts all involved, even in the most amicable situations. It’s a sin, and God forgives the repentant heart, but the path to personal forgiveness and growth is long and hard and will have to be traveled regardless of your position in the divorce. You will have to deal with yourself no matter where you camp. Those that choose to ignore the pain, just carry it forward. Either way, things are forfeited that God wanted to do in and through the lives of your family.
Divorce seems like the right choice when there is so much pain and wrong decisions in a marriage. It is this pain and wrong decisions that cloud the hidden parts, the things you won’t see for years, of what is truly forfeited for struggling couples.
If your spouse is the one leaving the marriage…
If your spouse is the one leaving you, pray, seek wisdom from a bible believing counselor or pastor, draw close to God, and get in a bible believing church. Looking back, I had the mindset to pursue Christ and to be healthy. Can I be transparent? There were lots of things I needed to work through, that had nothing to do with my ex-spouse but affected the marriage. As I walked through divorce, I would often pray, “Lord, don’t let me leave the place of you working in this area until I am changed.”
I took responsibility for me and the future, rather than blaming what was happening on someone else’s choice. Outside of everything I did during and after my divorce, these are the only things I know that restored peace, hope, and life. You are not in control of someone else choosing to leave you. You are, however, in charge of you. Trust God that he will work things out for your best future. For me, I had to say those words out loud so many times, because none of it felt like I had a future ahead of me. But I did…
If you are thinking of divorcing your spouse…
Here is the one big red flag that I would caution you with. Are you using God’s word to manipulate your decision to get a divorce like the Pharisees in Matthew 19? If so, why? Why not just be truthful with yourself and own it? Or…is there something more happening that you believe can’t be worked through?
There is a difference between those receptive to change and are addressing the behavior. Then those that simply refuse change. The latter is the picture I get from Jesus in Matthew 19, one of continual adultery. Jesus is describing someone who keeps on sinning without regard, even when confronted. They have the attitude of “I am going to do what I want to do.”
Normal vs. Abnormal
Look, there are situations where you are dealing with normal things that any relationship over time will be challenged by, which can be worked through with hard work and proper attention. Then, other things that put you or children in physical danger that require external help. Making the right choice really requires you to bring someone objective into the process. Again, I recommend a bible believing pastor or counselor. Your friends and family are well-meaning, but they are not objective, and you may take their well-meaning advice, with you being the one who bears the forfeiture of all that God wanted to do in your life. This will be your true FOMO if Godly wisdom is not exercised.
My friend Jay whom I often talk about, tried everything he could to save his first marriage. He sought every tool necessary to not get divorced and went to both single and couples counseling. He also surrounded himself with other men who had been through challenges in their marriages, that he could draw wisdom from.
None of it worked, and his wife left the marriage. However, God sent him the beautiful Melissa. I believe the life he has now as an awesome husband and father would not be possible had he not pursued reconciliation with his first wife, rather than selfishness (seeking to be right).
Seek to do all you can then trust God with your future.
A Final Note… (The Grace)
Now here is the cool part of being a child of God. We have a father who loves us. His desire is to challenge us to work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12). For me, the journey of divorce changed me. It caused me to work through my past before marriage, the issues that arose during the marriage. Ultimately giving me hope and a foundation for a healthy future.
Divorce is not the end. If you happen to stumble on this article by accident and are already divorced, I want those words to resonate with you. When I went through divorce, I felt hopeless. I thought my future was over, and nothing good would come to me. I thought I could never remarry again because divorce was the end as a Christian. It’s a lie the enemy likes to tell to get you to go off the reservation by indulging in poor choices.
God has an incredible future ahead when you choose him. He is not the God of “you made your bed now lay in it”. But rather the God who makes all things new and gives you a future and a hope.
This is where Romans 8:28 comes into focus for me where Paul writes, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.”
He worked it all for my good, and I know he can do the same for you.
Comments / Questions
None of us truly knows what has happened within a marriage. God is ultimately the judge of that. All we can do is speak the truth, in love, acknowledging God’s grace is sufficient.
I leave you with one verse spoken by Jesus, to ponder before your comments.
Matthew 7:1-5 The Message (MSG)
7 1-5 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.