Divorce is a serious issue and should never be treated lightly or taken up on a whim. There are, as we have seen in this series, Biblical grounds for divorce, but we should not rush towards this option nor prescribe it flatly for all situations. Because divorce is serious and costly every case should be reviewed carefully and prayerfully.
God holds marriage in high esteem and so should his church. While we acknowledge that marriage in a broken world will suffer, that two sinners married to one another will hurt one another, we should not use such truths to justify every divorce. God has allowed divorce in certain detailed situations, but even that decision should be made slowly. Where marriages can be salvaged they should be. Where couples can navigate their brokenness with help and grace they should. Divorce should be a last option, not a first.
When Jerry discovered his wife’s unfaithfulness he was ready to call his marriage over. It was part of his conversation with me in our very first meeting. He didn’t see how they could survive this and he didn’t know if he wanted to. Divorce was the only option he saw. This is a common reaction, and one can fully understand why that would be the response. Betrayal always hurts, and the damage done at this most intimate of levels is particularly devastating. But big decisions made in the immediate wake of bad news are rarely wise. Most individuals haven’t even begun to process the offense, let alone the consequences of a decision to file for divorce. This is particularly true of wives who have been stay-at-home moms for most of their marriage. Filing for a divorce may have very serious consequences for them that requires time, care, and attention to navigate. I asked Jerry to wait six months before filing for divorce. I asked him to give us time to work and to see if his wife was repentant, to see if he might be able to heal and forgive, to see if their marriage of 25 years might yet be saved. In the end he was so glad he waited.
There are some who want nothing more than to be able to divorce their spouse. They are simply waiting for the permission from God, the church, or their own conscience. God permits divorce but it’s never the ideal. We should not want this. Even when we determine it is what is best it should acted upon with grief and sorrow. It should be understood for what it really is, and its consequences should be weighed carefully.
Lastly, divorce should be handled within the context of the church. Since the church has a part to play in marriage, they ought to have a part to play in divorce. The church leadership should walk with a couple through divorce, helping them to determine that it is a Biblical option for them, and it is the best option for them. The emotional roller coaster that follows from broken marriage vows makes careful thinking difficult, and the assistance of wise and godly people in those times is extremely important. If you believe that you qualify for a Biblical divorce you should speak with one of your elders. There is no step-by-step process for navigating the individual and unique circumstances of each person. Your church, however, wants to walk with you through this journey and season of difficulty. Faithful elders should encourage Biblical counseling for both parties, evaluate any need for church discipline, and recommend a map forward. In cases of abuse it is especially important that you take the necessary and precautionary steps to get yourself and your children to safety, to inform the authorities of any physical violence, and to seek the counsel of your pastors. Your church wants to care well for you in this regard too.
Divorce is a serious issue. It is a serious issue in every case, and yet every case is unique and requires careful attention and evaluation. Individuals involved in broken marriages need care, sympathy, patience, and assistance. If you are in a broken marriage don’t make quick decisions. Don’t neglect the wise counsel of godly church leaders. If you are in church leadership don’t ignore the Bible’s teaching on both the Biblical grounds for divorce, and God’s compassion for those who are the victims of broken marital vows. Move slowly, move Biblically, move lovingly.