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Wednesday, August 1, 2018



In the last blog, I began the discussion about how to know when it is time to leave a marriage or to stay.  

I ended with four suggestions:  1) not just because it is difficult; 2) not if some effort will turn things around;  3) consider it a last resort; and 4) be realistic about WHETHER you would be able to work out issues, make sure BOTH of you are willing to do so.

Having offered those pieces, let me follow up with just a few more thoughts.  Before providing my little list, let me remind you that the Bible gives specific grounds for divorce, although even with those grounds it doesn’t say you HAVE to divorce.  It lists specifically the case of an adulterous spouse and the case of a non-believing spouse who chooses to leave you.  I think one of the underlying principles of those situations is that in both cases, the relationship already isn’t a real marriage…there is no real commitment to love, honor, cherish, obey, etc.  That principle could be helpful as you sort things out, and those scriptures might help when you wrestle with whether God will be displeased if you divorce.  I would remind you that the same Mosaic Law that speaks of “a man leaving his father and mother and cleaving to his wife” also makes provision for the process of divorce.  Jesus said that this was given because of our hardness of heart, and as near as I can tell, human nature still contains many hard hearts…sadly, in this fallen world, there remains a need for divorce.   

So here are a few suggestions:

1)      Don’t fall for the fantasy that things would automatically be better with someone else. Every couple has to work out some of the same issues, and if you can’t work them out in the first marriage, don’t assume you would have the skills to do so in a second.  It DOES make a difference if a new marriage partner is different enough that you can work together on problems in a way not possible with your first spouse.  But that is not something you should assume.  Instead….

2)    Don’t leave until you are convinced that you really have done everything you could possibly do to make the marriage work.  Have you gone enough extra miles?  Have you truly forgiven 70x7?  Have you recognized the ways YOU contribute to the problems, and worked on YOURSELF to remedy them?  Because if you have not, you will bring the same problems with you to another relationship.

3)    Don’t leave because “We just aren’t happy.”  Even the Declaration of Independence doesn’t promise happiness…it promises the PURSUIT of happiness.  Happiness is a fleeting emotion.  Marriage is about much more than being happy.  It is about commitment, stability, agape love and forgiveness, endurance and, as the vows say, “for better for worse, in sickness and in health.”  You didn’t promise to stay married as long as you were happy, right?  Happy can come and go.  Some things of worth come powerfully, bringing satisfaction (or maybe happiness) AFTER the fact, not always along the way.

4)    Don’t leave your marriage until you first seek some godly counsel…talk to someone who really understands.  Not someone who will merely feel sorry for you and tell you how awful it is, and not someone who will merely quote little platitudes as if that will solve all your problems.  Someone who can realistically hear your struggles, challenge your thinking, share biblical perspective, help you evaluate wisely all your options, and someone who will challenge you to be more than you are, to take on the hard things.

5)    Don’t leave a marriage thinking it will solve all the problems. Many who have been divorced will tell you that divorce creates at least as many problems as it solves…and they are right!  Take time to research what the divorce will really end up costing you (and not just financially).  

6)    Make your choice in faith, not in doubt.  Romans 14:23 makes clear that operating based on doubt is NOT a good choice, but that our decisions need to be made in faith.  If you have uncertainty, seek God’s Spirit to provide you some assurance, some confirmation to help guide you.  It doesn’t necessarily mean you will “feel God’s peace” before you act, though some believe you will.  Often, I have observed, the peace doesn’t come until AFTER we have stepped out in faith.  Feelings follow faith, not vice-versa. 

7)    Force yourself to have an open mind and heart.  Even once you think you have decided.  Recognize that you just might be wrong, and allow God to show you that you may need to change your thinking.  I have an acquaintance who had that very thing happen, ready to leave her marriage, convinced it was time to go, she was confronted by her godly father, and returned to her marriage, resulting in a restored family and healthy relationship.  Don’t discount that kind of guidance.

8)    Don’t stay in the marriage based on deceptions and promises that you know by experience simply are not true.  Every battered woman has heard her husband or boyfriend tell her that he didn’t mean it, it will never happen again, and he wants to change.  IT IS OKAY TO RECOGNIZE THE TRUTH!  He or she may say he is sorry and wants to change…but if they aren’t willing to do what it takes to prove it, don’t be deceived. The old adage says, “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me!”

9)    Whatever decision you make, realize it doesn’t have to be the final decision.  You can choose to stay and make that best honesteffort…and later realize that you were wrong.  (But make it an honest effort…sometimes people set up a fake sort of trap to prove they are right, just waiting for their spouse to mess up so they can leave.) If you choose to file for divorce, you can always postpone the court date, or drop the case and reconcile instead.

10)  Don’t start on the course all by yourself.  If your marriage is in such bad shape that you are considering leaving, then choosing to stay means you need the support of friends, family, prayer partners and a good counselor.  If you choose to leave, you will need that same kind of support.  Either way, it may be a tough path ahead…you don’t have to go it alone.  And be sure to use the experience to draw closer to God for His support, which He promises to give.

Divorce is serious business.  People get hurt.  Lives can be destroyed.  Families end up broken.  Children suffer.  Finances and calendars become messy.  But sometimes, those things are LESS destructive than the marriage with extreme dysfunction and problems.  If you have been contemplating, or have a friend who has been, perhaps these little tidbits might help provide some direction and guidance.  In the end, we all make choices, and sometimes the path ahead isn’t so clear, so we just have to make the best choices we can, knowing sometimes we make mistakes, but sometimes we will get it right.  And God can use even our feeble attempts that look like mistakes if we listen to and follow His leading.

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