Is Divorce Ever Okay?

Wow. I never thought of divorce this way before. I think this will give a lot of hope to struggling wives out there. <3

A few months ago, I wrote a post entitled “Marriage isn’t Supposed to be 50/50.” (It was a pretty good article–you should read it 🙂 ) The key take-away though was that in a good, Godly marriage, you should stop worrying about whether or not your spouse is pulling HIS weight and focus instead on making sure YOU are the best spouse you can be.

After all, your actions are the only ones you can really control anyways. So you worry about you, and let God worry about your husband.

But what happens when your spouse doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain? Like ever. For years. When do you say enough is enough?

You see, it’s all well and good to say that Christian wives should be submissive and give without worry.

But serving a Godly husband who forgets to pick up his socks one too many times is a lot different than serving a husband who couldn’t care less about God (or you) and who lives a lifestyle to prove it.

What then?

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As Christian women, we know all too well how God views divorce. Both the Old Testament (Malachi 2:16) and the New Testament (Matthew 19:6) make it quite plain: God hates divorce.

And the church–well, you don’t have to be divorced yourself to understand that the news probably wouldn’t be taken so favorably. While some churches are supportive enough to have divorce support groups, more often than not, churches simply want to brush the issue under the rug and pretend like it doesn’t exist. (Or worse.)

But what if divorce isn’t the worst sin of all?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely anti-divorce and I don’t for a second want this to come across like me saying “Oh, divorce is no big deal. If you aren’t happy, that’s okay, God will understand.”

Because, as I’ve written before… marriage isn’t *supposed* to make you happy, and no, God won’t “understand.”

But I think there’s another side to this story that the church isn’t discussing. And I think it’s time that we need to. And that’s the women who are trying SO hard to be good wives, and SO hard to be good Christians, and SO hard to do the right thing that they cling to a broken marriage long after it’s healthy to do so.

Allow me to explain…

Recently, a woman asked me,

My husband has always been a good provider, worked a job. Four years ago my husband started using prescription pain pills, more and more until he was a full blown addict. He blew through thousands of dollars. He lost several jobs and had not held one down for two years. He’s racked up quite the charges on his criminal background. In and out of jail, but I’m still hanging on. He has stolen my debit card and cleaned out my account that was to pay bills…

I’ve worked 2 jobs for about 8 months now because he can’t/won’t find a job. Idk anymore. I’ve prayed for this man countless times, prayed for God to come back to our marriage. Not only do I work, I clean the house, cook, pay the bills, shop, gets the kids places (he lost his license DUi). Everything! He can’t even pick up his towel after showering! How much can one take? At what point do I give up? He is not the leader of the home and doesn’t set a good example for our teenagers. My head is going to explode.

And she’s not the only one. All over this entire world there are women struggling to make the best out of a bad situation, asking themselves at night, “I don’t know if I can take this anymore. Doesn’t God care about me too??”

The short answer is: Yes. He does. 

And that’s why God gave us marriage.

Actually, I believe there are three main reasons why God gave us marriage:

  1. To sanctify us/make us holier
  2. To present a picture of Christ and the church.
  3. To provide a stable unit in which to grow a family.

Now, in a loving, Christ-centered marriage, all three of these things are accomplished. And in a marriage that’s a little rocky, all three of these things are accomplished. But in marriages like the one described above, none of these things are happening. In fact, just the opposite.

The truth is, when wives allow their husbands to treat them poorly, they are essentially enabling their husbands to continue in sin.

Now, please hear me out, I am not saying this is the wife’s fault AT ALL. The husband will be responsible to God for his actions. And I am not saying we shouldn’t offer faithfulness and forgiveness and long-suffering because we absolutely should.

But there DOES come a point when to allow the behavior to continue would be little more than encouraging the husband to continue sinning. And there does come a point when wives have the right and even the obligation to say “You are adult. You have the right to ruin your own life. But you don’t have the right to ruin mine or my children’s.”

In fact, the Bible does indicate that there are times when divorce may be allowed. Not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New.

Matthew 19:9 states that sexual immorality is a legitimate reason to divorce and remarry.

1 Corinthians 7 gives the option of separating without remarrying another.

And verse 15 is really interesting…

But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. – 1 Corinthians 7:15

Yes, God is a God of love, forgiveness and long-suffering.

But he’s also a God of holiness, justice and reconciliation.

What if God’s plan for you includes…

  • saving you from a bad situation so you learn to rely fully on HIM?
  • setting an important example that will help save those around you?
  • teaching you to trust Him even when you don’t know how the story ends?
  • letting your husband reach rock bottom because that’s the only way He can get his attention?

Yes, divorce is bad. Yes, God hates it. But it’s not the only thing He hates. He also hates to see your husband entangled in sin. And to see you broken and mistreated. And if divorce or separation is the only way to stop your husband from sinning through the way that he mistreats you, it may be the lesser of the two evils.

Romans 8:28 says “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

ALL things.

Not just the nice things, not just the happy things, not just the Sunday School story things.

All things. 

We don’t know what God’s purpose is, but we can be assured that He does have one. And that even though we don’t know why God allows suffering, that He always has a good reason.

So, if you are one of those women struggling in a terrible marriage who just doesn’t know how you can hold on anymore, I’m so sorry. If you’ve prayed without ceasing and done EVERYTHING you can think of that a good Christian wife should do and it STILL hasn’t helped, you’re not alone.

I’m not going to tell you if you should or shouldn’t get a divorce. I don’t know you, and that’s not my place.

But I will tell you that God loves you and He has a plan for you, no matter how bleak things look now.

Please talk to a pastor or trusted Christian friend to help figure out what the best, most Godly course of action would be. Maybe you need counseling, maybe you need to hang in there a little longer, maybe there are some changes you didn’t know you needed to make. Or maybe it’s time to separate with the hope that that will ultimately lead to a wake-up call and true restoration.

But whatever you decide, know that you are not alone, that you are loved, and that there is hope.

p.s. Is your husband’s questionable Internet usage a factor in your situation? If so, you may want to look into the Internet accountability software Covenant Eyes, if he’s up for it. It’s a great way to hold each other and the rest of your family accountable for what you are doing online. Plus, you can get it free for 30 days with special coupon code “equippinggodlywomen” Start your free trial today!

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A devoted Christian, wife and mother, Brittany loves helping other women grow in these roles as well. When she isn’t busy taking care of her growing family, you can find her at Equipping Godly Women, where she regularly shares tips, tricks and encouragement to help you be the amazing woman God created you to be. Brittany also has a thriving online community on Facebook as well.

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33 Comments

Hi!
Thanks for the post~I’m one of those who became a divorce statistic after 22 years of marriage. I was really unhappy for years and wanted counseling, but he thought our problems were about me. I went to counseling myself, because I was also dealing with an anxiety disorder. My husband wasn’t a soft place for me to fall-he called me neurotic and psycho.
Everything that a Godly marriage is supposed to be, we weren’t. He was critical and demeaning toward me. I felt like a joke to him. We weren’t emotionally connected; we couldn’t even have an intellectual discussion~he would look at me blankly or stare at the tv. The mental/emotional hurts and abusiveness on his part (which culminated with an act of physical abuse) was more than I could take.
I’ve spent the couple of years since my divorce struggling with what I read about divorce/remarriage…feeling guilty and ashamed, as if I let God down. My own mother does not approve of me wanting to move forward to find love again, saying that I have a living husband.
I accepted Christ at age 11, and love him with all my heart, but I will never understand how he would want me to remain in something that was crushing my spirit and bringing harm to me for the sake of breaking a marital law. I’d really like to believe that he wants health and wholeness, and yes, happiness in this earthly life.
Thanks~

I’m sorry to hear that. That must be very difficult. While I do still believe that we can do ALL things through Christ (Phil 4:13) and that reconciliation should be the goal if you can achieve it, that doesn’t mean that that is always God’s plan for us. There is so much more to being obedient than just following the rules for the rules sake. Good luck to you.

We have a very unhappy marriage. It has been going on for years. I tried one last option… so the pastor told my husband to move out because we need some space… Yes, a Christian pastor…. now my husband does not want to come back. We are getting divorced. I’ve tried everything! I am so deeply sorry for my 2 boys! They are still so young.

I’m so sorry to hear that 🙁 Prayers that you two can still figure things out. (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13) But if he leaves and you’ve truly done every single thing you could, then that’s his fault and his blame, not yours.

Hi,

I think it’s important to look at what Jesus said, not what we think Jesus said.

Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery. (Luke 16:18)

He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:12)

The issue is not the divorce per se, separation for a period, or even permanently at the instigation of either party – does not constitute adultery.

The problem is remarriage – which Jesus – not me – JESUS – says is adultery.

If your husband is beating you, by all means leave. If he’s gambling away the family money, clean out the account and go live with your parents. Child pornography? don’t stay!

But don’t remarry.

Martin – Just curious if you have both hands and both eyes? I think Jesus also said if your hands or eyes lead you into sin you should cut them off and pluck them out respectively.
I believe the statements about divorce and remarriage need to be considered with both historical context and consideration of prophetic hyperbole (like cutting off your hand).

Also, if you have no emotional connection, no partnership, are demoralized, emotionally/mentally abused, criticized to the point of your spirit being crushed, The Lord who loves me wants so much better for me~

I feel like the decision to remarry is between you and God. I thought I was not worthy of God’s love and I should not had been born because of my parents being married before. A Baptist preacher would not marry them in 1960. How untrue. God loves me and he meant for me to be born. My parents had true love. To me a marriage is between God and a couple. If one of the hearts is not right there is no marriage regardless of the law.

The new testament was written in greek, luke 16:18 and mark 10:12 both are using the greek word for “put away” (like modern day separation ) matthew 5:31 and Matthew 19:7 use both divorce and “put away” which shows the difference. A separated person to remarry would be adultry because they were never divorced.
A divorced person is free to marry because the contract is legally ended. (Deutereonomy 24:1-4)

But there are two parts to a marriage — a legal contract and a spiritual contract. You aren’t just legally married on paper — your souls also become one spiritually speaking. And so just because you have a divorce on paper does not mean that the spiritual contract you have made is void. (Although there are ways to break that spiritual contract – such as abuse and abandonment)

Thanks for taking the time to tackle this tough subject. I think you did a good job. I am thankful to say that I am highly blessed by an awesome husband and marriage, but I truly think that is a subject worth tackling.

First off. Tough issue to address! Nice job though, stern but understanding feel and read to it. I thought I’d read a bit to see if I should recommend your blog to my wife, and I think I will. We Were actually praying tonight in our Church tribes groups about marriage and divorce and just Gods’ heart for those wounds. It isn’t an issue your right that the church addresses and deals with well most of the time, but I think a time of renewal is coming.

A note I would make on the 3 grounds of divorce is that it’s still optional. One of the women I respect most in the world is a friend, when a lot of stuff was made public about his immorality, the church basically chucked him out/them out. But she fought for her family and marriage, strength oh boy! Now saying that Im only married 3 years and we havent started on the children path.

On another subnote to this… Have you seen the movie ‘The War Room’? All about a wife praying life back into a so called failing marriage. Cried like a baby!

Anyways I shall show my wee wifey your blog. I will let her explore the rest, hoping theres stuff like healthy married habits and love languages and following dreams and knowing your beauty.but then again im a guy.

Be blessed and know what you’re doing is more than a blog, it is a ministry. Keep er lit as we say over here.

Thanks, Andy! Yes, I’m definitely a big believer in reconciliation. If there is ANY way to fix the problems for a restored relationship–absolutely. I really do think so many people just give up too soon because they don’t know what else to do or are simply hurting too bad to see any other way out. But, in this article, I mostly just wanted to give grace to those women who really should leave (if only to separate with the hope of reconciliation), but don’t feel like they can’t because “Christians don’t divorce.) There IS a time when divorce is okay. (Just not as often as it is done)

And I have not seen “The War Room” but I’d like to. I’ve heard so many good things about it! I just don’t watch movies that often.

And thanks 🙂

This was so balanced and right. Often Christian wives think they are submitting in a godly way and they are simply allowing their husband to sin against them and their children over and over. And torturing themselves in the process. Hope the church greys this!

Thanks, Rachel! Like I said in the post, I’m definitely not for divorce, but I hate to see women torture themselves trying to do “the right thing” when it’s reached the point that that isn’t the right thing anymore…

Hi,
Thanks for posting this article. I am a pastor’s daughter who married at 19. I was very sheltered and grew up with parents and extended family who had loving relationships. I married a pastor’s son from a nearby area.
Little did I know I was marrying a young man with a porn addiction who had a volitile temper, did not show his emotions and to whom my body was an object to use for sexual experimentation and my person was a ‘submissive’ object to meet his every need or expectation.
He was extremely self-centered and cruel. During our honeymoon he began abusing me physically and emotionally and within months, it turned physical as well. I was so innocent I honestly believed I was the cause of his sexual discontent and that something was inherently wrong with me because he did not treat me in a loving way as other young husbands we knew treated their wives.

I tried self-help books, marriage conferences, seminars, counseling (four pastors over time as well as two professional counsellors. All to no avail. He admitted cheating on me more than a dozen times and flirted outrageously everywhere we went in front of me and even with my father present on one occasion. The humiliation of the things I did or allowed him to do to me haunts me still and I still react in a negative way to unplanned touches or approaches that trigger things I thought were behind me.

Still I stayed, despite everything. Mostly due to my beliefs about the sin of divorce. At age 35, he grabbed our youngest daughter and hurt her, I decided to divorce him despite whatever it cost me. Which I did.

I have remarried and have been married more than 15 years now. I’ve completed two college degrees and hold a Masters in Social Work. I’m a therapist as well. Together with my husband, I’ve raised a large family and have a dozen grandchildren. I have good relationships with our children and our grandchildren. But all the wonderful things have been overshadowed by the loss of friendships and the negative response from my church family that occurred when I left my first husband.

I was without support other than my family. I was so alone and many were sympathetic toward him and listened eagerly to the lies he told.

Thanks for letting women everywhere know that our Heavenly Father does not intend for them to be miserable or for them and their children to suffer emotional, sexual, or physical abuse at the hands of the person who they are supposed to trust to love and protect them.

Hello! So I’m divorced, remarried and also an advocate for marriage. I’ve been through some of the worst experiences a wife could go through and I fully believe in, and have seen, healing. I was married at 21 after getting pregnant at a party. I can say without a doubt that God did NOT bless that marriage. I did it because I thought it would rectify the wrong. I didn’t love that man and I also was not “intimate” beyond our wedding night. It turned out, he was also abusive. I left and divorced him and I have never, not once, every felt that it was wrong. I don’t believe we can say, “Oh, but you got married on the earth!” and therefore God also approves of our chosen husbands. Arranged marriages, marriages like mine that happened because I was pregnant, these are forced and not of free will.

Now, four years later I remarried to a wonderful man. I loved him deeply and knew he was “the one”. It was a “real” marriage. One year into the marriage something really terrible from my husbands past was brought up to me. I asked him if it was true and he crumbled. He went into a deep depression and started drinking and using drugs. Long story short, after a few years of forcing him into programs and rehabilitation centers, I have seen restoration to his life. For the first time in his life, he knows someone loves him and has his back. There was a deep pain there that needed to be healed. I just talked about it actually on the HuffPost this week! (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leah-grey/why-i-stayed-with-my-drug-addicted-husband_b_9744902.html?utm_hp_ref=healthy-living)

Which brings me to divorce. I refused to divorce him because I knew that marriage was blessed by God. I’ve lived the difference. Divorce is an extremely personal thing and it’s between us and God. But does God hate divorce? Absolutely. Does he want us to remarry? Well, no because it makes life incredibly difficult, especially with children involved. God knew this, which is why he outlined it in his word.

We have free will. We also have unconditional love. It’s a gift he’s given to us. Whether divorce is okay or not is not for anyone to decide but the person themselves. Nobody knows the whole story. It’s between them and God.

Sorry for the long comment! I’m just passionate about this topic LOL

lol, that’s okay! We like passionate (but friendly) discussions here! And I’m excited to read your HuffPost article… off to check it out now!

Thank you so much for your post. I am grieved beyond words that in just 9 days my marriage will be over. We were married almost 24 years. He said he was a believer, but I always knew the truth. In our entire marriage we spent more YEARS without intimacy than we did days with it. I believed it was me and that I wasn’t enough. 2 1/2 years ago, he was caught with another man. My husband who had played a Godly man in church and to the outside world, was living a double life. He said he was sorry and wanted to be married. Despite much counseling, prayer, and support, he continued the double life until this last year when my sweet daughter found his continued unfaithfulness. He moved out the next day.
He says that he is now a believer and even got baptized. H says he wants us back, but I no longer trust him. I grieve for what could have been and am so sad that my life was truly a lie. I loved him, but what he showed me was greed and so not Godly. I just pray that my heart will someday beat again! I do appreciate your blog because it did validate that I am still be righteous even though I will wear the dreaded badge of divorce. I don’t have to let his actions define my life.

You don’t think he could still change? Because if he is genuinely wanting to change, but you are refusing forgiveness, then that’s different than him refusing to change. Just something to think about as you make your decision… Hope all is well.

I have reached my very last point on this journey of marriage. God entered my heart 2 years ago. I wanted to serve him and live his will. My partner on the other hand, did not. He as disrespected me and mentally abused me to the point where I am a nervous wreck. He mocks my love for the Lord and claims I have a holier than though attitude now. I am not like that at all. I pray God give me strength to live his will that I had ignored for so long. I find refuge and peace in the Lord and I can no longer serve as a Godly wife to an un-Godly man. Please pray for me and our 3 boys who need God’s love and mercy most of all. God bless!

We have discussed marriage counseling and we are seeking refuge and repair within the church. Prayer is a powerful thing and I know I am strong enough for whatever comes our way. My husband never put forth an effort before but maybe God turned that heart back on so he can receive his love and mercy and appreciate the gifts he has made for my husband. Thank you for the prayers for my family to be together in Christ’s love.

This is a tough subject to try to tackle and even a tougher one to live. I’ve been married 21 years and have a 20 year old son in college and a 17 year old high school senior. My husband is an alcoholic and is controlling, extremely self centered, and immature. I have tried everything from counseling with my pastor to trying the 5 love languages (tried all 5) to doing the love dare to counseling with a Christian counselor. It seems the harder I try to make this marriage work, the more he goes into his own world. We have no relationship and he doesn’t have a relationship with the kids. He’s not abusive but he has definitely checked out of our marriage. Even though he is “here” i feel as if he’s already abandoned us. My pastor has even commended me for everything I’ve tried and has said that most people would have called it quits by now. I know that God hates divorce but I also know that he doesn’t want me to condone my husband’s sins. I also know that I am far from perfect and I am a sinner. I’m at my wit’s end with this and I’m so tired of living like this. I have an amazing support system with great Christian friends and a wonderfully supportive church family. I’m very involved in the church. My husband went with me for years and was also involved but he has quit going and has said that he doesn’t believe there is a heaven. I don’t want a divorce but I don’t see any way around it.

Yeah, I’m going to a Christian counselor and he’s even having a hard time helping me with this situation. My husband will never go with me. He “doesn’t have any problems.”

My husband wants a divorce right now because he says we are living an adulterous marriage because we were both married before. He says, after almost 3 years, that our marriage is a sin since my first husband still lives and that we must divorce. My first husband was an alcoholic, a cheater, and addicted to porn. I didn’t know the truth about marriage when we were married. I’ve since been saved and I love my husband dearly. I took vows to him and to God that we would be together forever and now he wants out. I say this divorce would be compounded sin – committing one sin to cover up for another. I don’t want to lose him. He won’t get counseling. He won’t seek help, says he doesn’t need mans word, only scripture and we are living in sin. How do I stop this?

First of all (and you probably won’t like to hear this), good for him for being so committed to listening to Scripture and willing to do the right thing, even when it’s hard. That’s rare.

Second of all, the good news for both of yu is that that really isn’t what Scripture says at all. Luke 16:18 does say “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” BUT Matthew 19:9 says “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, ***except for sexual immorality***, and marries another, commits adultery.”” (Matthew 5:32 says the same)

There’s also 1 Corinthians 7:15, which says “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him go. The believing brother or sister is not bound in such cases. God has called you to live in peace.”

Anyways, as to what you should do, I really encourage you to speak to your pastor. Hopefully you can get your husband to go with you. Tell him you really admire his desire to do what is right, but that you want to make sure that you are both fully understanding the Scripture and what it actually says before you make any rash decisions. (After all, it is VERY easy to take a verse out of context or to miss other verses in the Bible for a one-sided approach.) That you want to be completely sure about all of the sides of the story and nuances of the situation because doing the right thing is very important to you too.

Hopefully he will go with you but if not, then go alone. Hopefully the pastor will have some really good words of wisdom for you both.

Good luck to you!

As a Catholic, some of the stories women have posted above (in particular Leah and Lynn’s) highlight the value of our notion of ‘annulment’ (a slang term but close enough).

I think we have a real advantage in that we distinguish between a real marriage in which the couple whole heartedly give themselves one to another freely and fully, and what appears to be marriage on the outside but does not in terms of the hearts of those getting married.

I think it can be very easy to simply assume that because people say the right words, in the right building with a pastor or priest present they are truly married, but this sets the bar a little too low for me. In Leah and Lynn’s case, from a Catholic perspective, there is a very real possibility that because one or both partner’s did not approach the marriage as a free and full self gift a marriage may have appeared to have taken place to everyone involved, but nothing did in the hearts of those involved (and the eyes of God, who it seems to me is much more concerned with what is going on within than appearances).