Many Christians find themselves in a serious religious dilemma when they feel they need a divorce. The problem comes from a belief that divorce is sinful, and that the Bible only allows for divorce in certain circumstances. The issue, then, is whether a believer should commit a big, ugly sin by getting divorced, or whether the believer should stay in a miserable marriage.
***DISCLAIMER*** I am NOT a pastor or any sort of religious leader. I am a divorce attorney. I am a believer in Jesus Christ, and I believe the Bible is God’s inspired Word meant to guide believers in His ways. I am divorced, and I have remarried to a wonderful woman. As you can imagine, I have looked into the scriptures on this topic, and here are my thoughts on the topic.
Jesus states in Matthew 19:9 “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” However, Proverbs 20:25 says, “It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider his vows” (NIV). How many marriages were entered into while the spouses were barely in their 20s? As young adults, most of our decisions could be considered “rash” because we simply do not have the wisdom of age and mistakes to guide our decision making. Does God want us to stay unhappily in a “trap”? I do not believe He does.
Certainly, even if a couple marries relatively young, we would hope that the weight and magnitude of the decision would indicate the seriousness of the vow. Jesus said that “Every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). So if a person vows to be married, but later wants a divorce, does this indicate the vow was made carelessly? If we are held accountable for every careless word on the Day of Judgment, then does staying in a miserable marriage somehow make the careless vow less careless? In other words, I believe the careless vow is what we will have to answer for, not the subsequent divorce.
Conversely, I do not believe that staying in a miserable marriage is pleasing to God even if it is done just to keep the vow; in what other part of our daily lives does God want us to be miserable? In fact, generally speaking, when we are miserable, isn’t that an indicator that we are living apart from God’s will? That’s when we absolutely know it is time to repent—to turn from the sinful behavior and get right with the Lord.
I also take note of the parable of the rich master who gave his servants some money to keep for him while he was away. The third servant buried the money, and returned it all to the master upon his return. The master rebuked him because he didn’t even try to invest the money to collect some interest. If God has given us each certain skills, talents, and abilities, but we cannot live to our highest potential due to an oppressive and unhappy marriage, are we not hiding what God gave us? Are we not burying our gifts? I wonder what we would say to God on judgement day, “I know I didn’t live up to my potential during my life, but hey, I stayed in a marriage like I was supposed to do.” I do not believe God will be pleased that we squandered our gifts, didn’t do what we were put here to do, and did it all because we didn’t want to sin in a divorce. I think squandering your opportunities do things that bring glory to God is sin.
Finally, I find hope in the parable of the prodigal son. We know the story of the spoiled kid who took his inheritance early and took off to live a life on his own. The son suffered and ended up in a terrible life. He finally realized his life had devolved into a total mess, and he picked himself up and returned to his father’s house. The father was waiting for the son to return and accepted him with much love and compassion. How many marriages were begun on rash decisions so commonly made by youthful people? Choosing to get married because we wanted to marry a particular person without considering if the marriage with that person was God’s will for us, is like the prodigal son taking off to live his own life. No wonder we find ourselves in a miserable pig pen of a marriage. I believe when we realize our mistake and go back to God’s plan for us, He will be happy to see us return.
I believe that our Heavenly Father is a loving God who created each of us with a purpose. A marriage vow is a covenant, but a marriage is only one part of our lives. I do not believe that a divorce is more or less sinful than any other sin we may commit—including the sin of marrying someone that wasn’t in God’s plan for our lives or the sin of burying our God-given gifts. Perhaps, we made a rash decision. Perhaps we fell into the trap of making a vow, and later discovering we made a mistake in so doing. I believe that God understands that we fall short of His goals for us, but He loves us, and wants us to return to His plan for us. We are instructed to repent of our sin and return to His will. I believe that sometimes, getting a divorce is something we need to do to get back into alignment with God’s will for us because I believe that staying in an ungodly marriage is sinful, and to repent we must exit the marriage.
I realize this blog is longer than normal. I apologize for that. I also understand that some people will read it, and think I am using scripture to justify divorce because I’m a divorce attorney. The truth is I sincerely want people to be happy, and to live their lives to their fullest potential. I celebrate when people can save their marriage. I just do not believe that marriage is somehow more important than the other parts of our lives when it comes to fitting into God’s plan. Yes, do take your marriage seriously. But when you realize that staying in a marriage is no longer honoring God, I believe it is time for a divorce.
I encourage you to pray about the decision to file for divorce. Certainly, this is not a decision to be made rashly. Likewise, saying you want a divorce should not be a careless statement. Consult with your pastor or righteous, Godly friends for counsel. Read scripture for instruction. I believe God is a forgiving, loving God, and He wants His children to fulfill their purpose.
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Youngblood Law, PLLC is a Fort Worth, Texas family law firm focusing on helping working people define their “new normal” through divorce. This essay is intended for educational use only, and is not a replacement for competent legal counsel. If you are facing a family law matter, we recommend obtaining competent legal counsel like Youngblood Law, PLLC. For more information contact us at 817-601-5345, find us on the web at www.youngblood-law.com, or on your mobile device, open your browser and type in lawfw.biz and press Go. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/youngbloodlawPLLC/