You cannot just divorce your spouse simply because you are “not getting along very well with each other”. God hates divorce, and did not make it part of His original plan for us, when He designed marriage as a holy union between one man and one woman. “For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce” (Malachi 2: 16). Whatever you have to do to prevent divorce, you have to do it, and start early before it becomes too late. In my opinion, if you know in your heart that you cannot be honest with yourself, discipline yourself, and become committed to another person in a marriage bond, then ask God for the grace to stay single and pure without marrying. Am I stepping on some toes really hard?? But, please, you understand the point I am trying to make, don’t you?
We must all agree that divorce is a terrible tragedy, which we must all plan to avoid at all cost. For a man and a woman to vow to each other before God Almighty as permanent partners (for better or for worse), expose themselves to each other sexually, share their bodies and emotions plus all other resources intensely for a long period of time, assemble family members and friends as witnesses, mix their families together to create in-law relations, and above all have children from their exclusive union, and then decide to break the holy union forever against what they originally promised God and man, is a huge and incalculable damage. Even where the reasons of adultery and fornication become the grounds for divorce, God did not categorically call for divorce, because every sin can be forgiven. There have been countless cases of serious infidelity on the part of spouses, but compassion, true love, humility, wisdom, fear of God, application of scripture, endurance, patience, and intense prayers have brought restoration and joy to the “almost-on-the-rocks” marriages again. But unfortunately, divorce can occur with all the attendant consequences, because of the fallen nature of man.
To the Gospels (Mathew 5: 31, 32; Mathew 19: 1-9; Mark 10: 1-8; Luke 16: 18), Moses wrote the law on divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1) because of hardness of the heart of the people of Israel. All divorce can therefore be traced to the hardness of human hearts (on the part of a husband, or a wife, or both partners). Under the Gospels, there is no excuse for “hardness of heart” against each other (2 Corinthians 5: 17, 18; Ephesians 4: 24) and so no room was made by Christ for divorce based on that. “Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5: 24).
Except for fornication or adultery, if a man puts away his wife he causes her to commit adultery, and if he marries another woman he commits adultery. “Furthermore it has been said, whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce. But I (Jesus) say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery” (Mathew 5: 31, 32).
“He (Jesus) answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that he who made them at the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate. Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Mathew 19: 4-6 & 8-9).
Sex outside of marriage makes the marriage contract null and void, similar to sex sin before marriage which also defiles the person (Deuteronomy 24: 1-4).
The New Testament exceptions to the old Law of Moses on the right to divorce are:
i) Fornication (as stated above). We can easily understand this in view of Proverbs 2: 16-20; 6: 24-26; 7: 5-23; 9: 13-18; 11: 22; 30: 20-23 etc.). “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man commits is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his (or her) own body” (1 Corinthians 6: 18).
ii)Willful desertion by one party because of Christ and the Gospel (1 Corinthians 7: 12-15). This is the case where one spouse (unbeliever) does not share the faith the other has in Christ. The Christian is not allowed to divorce, because he or she has a sanctifying influence on the other party. He or she is to pray for, love, and live an exemplary life that is Godly to win him or her to Christ (1 Peter 3: 1, 2). However, if the unbelieving partner agrees to leave the marriage, then the other Christian partner is freed from the union, and has the right to marry another person (who has not violated God’s law), but “only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7: 39).
Separation is recommended when a couple, after a considerable period of living together, are convinced that their differences have reached violent levels of destructive abuse, or extreme violation of the marriage vows and principles. It becomes necessary when their incompatibility deepens to the point of a possible divorce, if no definite steps are taken to resolve matters.
This is the situation where the couple find themselves living with constant tension, fighting, abuse, neglect, hurt, and other opposing factors that promote their destruction rather than the growth and progress of a healthy relationship. In such a case, it may become necessary for them to separate and live apart for a while.
Such a step will encourage tempers to cool down as they reflect on their lives and meditate on the Lord for repentance, reassurance, strength, direction and answers. Separation also provides time for healing, and renewal of love and vision
For any form of separation, they must “come together again in order that Satan does not tempt them through lack of self control” (1 Corinthians 7: 5). This scripture also teaches us that there can be temporary separation allowed by God for spiritual reasons (fasting and prayer, ministry etc.), but should not be done for too long The length of the separation depends on the gravity of their problems and the degree of healing necessary to obliterate wounds that will not allow them to live peacefully together.
In some instances, the extent of abuse and other life-threatening conditions may necessitate the pursuit of legal steps for protection and resolution of some crucial issues in accordance with the laws of the land. Christians should, however, remember that our greatest Lawgiver and Advocate is in Heaven, and He is the Lord of hosts. The husband or wife and the family should therefore engage in sincere repentance to begin with. This must be accompanied by fervent and consistent prayer of faith offered to God our Father in Heaven through Jesus Christ our Lord.
If, for any reason, the discontented couple decides not to come together again, then it constitutes divorce, in which case they should remain single for the rest of their lives. “The wife should not leave her husband, but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband, and that the husband should not send his wife away” (1 Corinthians 7: 10, 11). The only other condition for re-marriage is death (if your spouse dies) – 1 Corinthians 7: 39.
LIVING AND COPING WITH SEPARATION OR DIVORCE
I don’t believe that anyone under the sun entertains the desire from childhood to marry one day and be separated or get divorced.
In recent times a few adults with contorted view of family life or bitterness from past hurtful experiences decide to cohabit with another person without any real commitment for marriage. Some are plain afraid of the responsibilities involved in decent family life. Such (usually frustrated or disillusioned) individuals enter into their relationships with a “contract minded mentality” rather than a “covenant minded mentality” Even then, people still hope to hang on tenaciously to their invented loose association, so far as it works for them.
In summary, NOBODY REALLY HAS A DIVORCE OR SEPARATION AS PART OF HIS OR HER FUTURE DREAMS. IT IS USUALLY UNEXPECTED —- BY THE COUPLE, PARENTS, FAMILY MEMBERS, CHURCH MEMBERS, FRIENDS, AND ALL. Only a heartless and senseless enemy will be “praying for it, expecting it, and rejoice over it when it occurs”.
Any severance of a love relationship is like amputation of a hand! But, should the wounded hand bleed forever? Then all the blood in other areas of the body will be lost, and the inevitable will occur —- death of the whole person. There should be calculated, wise, God-centered efforts to get healing, for life to continue.
Whether separated, or divorced, the persons involved must critically and sincerely analyze the root causes of all conflicts, and particularly admit the part each played in creating the problems. They must genuinely repent, make restitution where necessary (including humble apologies), and use the experience to develop Godliness that will enable them to bear fruit in all future relationships with family members and friends.
Other steps that could hasten the healing process after divorce are:
1) Decide not to take any path of vengeance.
Embark upon the path of forgiveness, and ask the Lord to help you do so from your heart. “Beloved do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12: 19). “Do not say ‘I will recompense evil’; Wait for the Lord, and He will save you” (Proverbs 20: 22).
2) Control your emotions and your tongue.
It is better to talk more to God than to people about issues. Do the best you can to avoid polluting the minds of family members and friends, especially your children, with reminders about the wrong doings of your mate. The more you talk about your woes, the more you enlarge your wounds and open them up to higher levels of infection. You may damage the children for life. Try to overcome the temptation to campaign and get all the children and every support only for yourself. You may find yourself as a slanderer before God, and incur His displeasure. In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10: 19).
3) Tell yourself and others the truth about every matter involved in the situation.
If you put all the blame on the other person, you will deepen your bitterness and slow down your healing process. “You shall not circulate a false report” (Exodus 23: 1). “Buy the truth, and do not sell it” (Proverbs 23: 23).
4) Open up fully to the Spirit of Jesus Christ to fill and control your life.
This should be after genuine repentance of all known sins as already stated, and asking God to forgive all unconscious sins as well. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1: 9, 10).
5) Settle down to serious prayer, especially on personal level.
Participate in corporate prayer as well. Get one or two trusted friends to pray along with you as special prayer partners. “Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55: 22).
6) Get into active personal Bible study.
That will deepen your desire to pray, and open your eyes to see clearly as well, as to what really went wrong, and where God is leading you next. Meditation on God’s word will heal and bless you as you obey what He teaches you. “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119: 130). “He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions” (Psalm 107: 20). “Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word. Unless Your word has been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. Trouble and anguish have overtaken me, Yet Your commandments are my delight” (Psalm 119: 67, 92, 143).
7) Rely on God alone to help you forget past hurts and pain, and move forward into a fruitful future. After Joseph was sold by his own brothers and he entrusted his whole life into God’s Hands in faith and holy living, God turned his affliction into blessing, and he said: “For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house”. “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Genesis 41: 51, 52). “Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5: 7).
8) Be honest and fair with any payments, sharing, or distribution of money and property.
“Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight” (Proverbs 11: 1).
Trying to get the lion’s share of material things for yourself without regarding the welfare of others, or deliberately refusing to settle any financial obligations will finally come to hurt you and hurt other innocent ones as well.
9) Be an active church member, and engage in profitable and educative, enrichment activities.
Participate in fervent worship and be involved in church programs —- prayer meetings, Bible studies, evangelism etc. Get into active service and develop a ministry according to your talents and gifts. All these, especially the connections with other spiritual brethren through close fellowship, will speed up your healing. They will also enable you to have a clear vision of God’s will for your life, and encourage you to work towards your goals and objectives. Do much reading, and listen to or view educative and healing messages and movies. Fill your life with useful and refreshing activities by participating in seminars, conferences, gardening, house chores, voluntary services, and visitation of needy people. Determine to be a “wounded healer”. “Let us consider how to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10: 24, 25).
OUTSIDERS SHOULD NOT WORSEN A BAD SITUATION FOR THE VICTIMS WITH ANY FORM OF PRAYERLESS APPROACH THAT IS WITHOUT LOVE, WISDOM, COMPASSION, HUMILITY, GODLINESS, AND A GOD-FEARING DESIRE TO HELP RESTORE WOUNDED AND DYING SOULS.
We recognize, understand, and sympathize with the various complexities involved with different situations for different individuals under varieties of circumstances.
There should be case-by-case thorough examination of all the facts involved with any particular situation of divorce or separation without prejudice and a judgmental spirit of condemnation, BUT also bearing in mind that the fundamental principles of God cannot be altered in any way to suit any person, because “There is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11).
The best way to stay out of all forms of marital troubles is to start right. Wait upon the Lord in prayer, Bible study, daily obedience to God’s word, and holy living without any immoral acts or sexual perversion, until He settles you with the right person in marriage for true worship and effective service. Take time to know the person you are going to marry, be honest and sincere with each other, humbly subject yourself to designated authorities (parents, guardians, family elders, church leaders, city authorities etc.) and learn the basic practical principles of life that you need to become a responsible husband, father, wife, mother, and family member in the future.
If you missed the opportunity to get yourself trained in the right way from your youth, and worst of all did not start your marriage in the right way, please do not be discouraged. Don’t quickly chicken out with the defeatist attitude of separation or divorce as a solution, without appropriating all the spiritual, social, and other forms of powers and avenues at your disposal, for a change. Pray for wisdom and endurance, and strengthen your mind and soul by drenching yourself in God’s word and obedience, which will also make your prayers more powerful. For many of us it is not our situations that have to change, but it is our perspective (how we view our marriages or plans to marry) that has to change.
No marriage is problem-free, but there will be normal problems resulting from the fallen nature of man, which God has purposed to use for the building of godly character in His children.
We must hold on firmly to our faith in God and trust in His faithfulness, because His direction goes along with his provision.
Authored by: Rev. Dr. Samuel A. Kisseadoo (Professor of Biology, Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia, USA), Founder and President, Fruitful Ministries International Inc. Phone 757-7289330 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
(The same information could be obtained from Dr. Kisseadoo’s book: “Choosing A Spouse And Living A Contented family Life” by Asempa Publishers, Christian Council of Ghana. E-mail: email@example.com).