Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
The above verse refers to a Christian couple who are having some serious challenges. These challenges are so serious in fact that they are considering divorce. Paul encourages them that as a Christian, they have the resources from the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to deal with their problems, so they should work to solve the problems rather than divorce. The thing I want to emphasize is that Paul admits that they are having some really serious problems, and the problems are so deep that they are thinking about spitting up!
So, in the light of this I want to make some general comments about marriage problems. And, let me say right here at the beginning that you should let the grace of God minister to you wherever you are at this moment in life. If you are in the middle of a separation or divorce, don’t allow your mind to distort what I share here. If you are already divorced, rest in the mercy and grace of Jesus, and allow Him to heal your hurting heart. So, here are some general thoughts about separation and divorce.
I’ve often stated it this way: When you get married, regardless of the former circumstances, it becomes the will of God for you to stay married. The will of God for our lives is found in the Word, not in subjective circumstances. I had a couple visit me many years ago who committed adultery, divorced their spouses, and married each other. Then they found Jesus! My encouragement to them was just what I said. Stay married, let God’s grace cleanse your past, and work towards having a strong marriage where you are!
Here in the above verses, Paul addresses the relationship between two believers in a marriage relationship. He tells both husband and wife that God’s best is that they not divorce when they have difficulties. He acknowledges that at times someone will succumb to the pressures of life and divorce, and in that case he tells believers to remain unmarried for a period of time because as long as they both remain unmarried, there is the possibility of restoring the relationship.
Susan and I will have been married 41 years this month. She’s had a lot to put up with in me! We made a decision before we were married that when married, we would never consider separation or divorce as a way to solve problems that would arise.
Just like everyone else, we’ve had disagreements and challenges over the years. That comes with just being human. But we both made the choice to deal with ourselves and to let the Father deal with us.
For two believers, unless there is unrepentant adultery involved, they should work together to solve their problems. Separation and divorce do not solve personal problems.
Let me say here that in situations of severe mental, emotional, and physical abuse I will at times recommend that a person change their living arrangements with their spouse for the sake of sanity and protection. The idea I see in this situation is communicated the following way by the person who has reached their limit and feels endangered: I want to spend the rest of my life with you as I vowed when we married, but I refuse to live another day with this abuse. I am changing addresses until you make a choice to deal with this problem of abuse.
Separation often creates a sense of false peace and removes the immediate pressure to solve the problem. At times for sanity’s sake it is unavoidable. Separation should be considered a last ditch effort to deal with severe issues of abuse or extreme neglect until the offender decides to make changes.
And divorce doesn’t solve the problems either; those that go that route may find themselves dealing with the same problems they had in the previous relationship.
Some people say, well, we have marriage problems. Actually, it isn’t the marriage that is having the problem, it’s the two people that make up the marriage that have personal issues that they must face and deal with. Marriage problems are people problems!
God hates divorce because it hurts people, it wounds children, and it weakens society. For us Christians, we have tools available to us to help solve our personal problems that hinder marriage. We have the Word of God to believe and obey. We have the fruit of the spirit that we must choose to develop. We have the Holy Spirit that will help us change. We have the spiritual strength that comes from praying. We have the ability to pray the perfect will of God by praying in the spirit. We have the authority to command Satan to take his hands off of us and our family. And we have leaders or spiritual friends that can encourage and help guide us through a difficult time. We must use what God provides.
If you are challenged in your marriage, here’s some strong encouragement. Work on your marriage today by working on yourself. You can change yourself. You can’t change your husband or wife, and you’ll frustrate him or her and yourself if you try! Keep yourself built up in the Word. Pray for your spouse and for the Father to watch over you and your marriage. Ask for His help. Ask for His wisdom and strength. Refuse the taunting of the enemy to compromise with the influences of the world. Reach out to your church leadership for help in real serious situations. Remember that God is a very present help in time of need!