Summary: Divorce touches Christians as much, or more, than it does those outside of the church. How should we deal with it?
Is Divorce Okay?
One time a couple of years ago my wife and I were talking with a friend of ours. Our friend happens to be a single mother with two children. In the course of our conversation, she began telling us about her marriage to the father of her children. We learned that he was not a very good husband to her or a very good father to their children. He was known to use drugs and party quite a bit. He would sometimes take off and be gone for days at time without telling his wife he was leaving. She told us that one time he left her home for week one winter when it was very cold and their plumbing wasn’t working. Our friend had to take care of her infant son, the animals, and haul the water they needed to the house, after breaking through the ice to get at it. When her oldest child was a toddler, she once found he’d gotten his fingers into a “mysterious white powder” that his father had left out on the coffee table. Surmising that this white powder was almost certainly cocaine, she told him, “I cannot physically stop you from doing this kind of stuff, but if my child gets hurt, you’ll wish you were never born!”
In addition to all these wonderful things, this man was also unfaithful to her, beginning shortly after they were married. One time she found another woman’s clothes in their walk-in closet. When she confronted him, her husband said, “Oh, those must be left from the people who lived here before.” They had been living in that house over three months and she knew this was not a valid explanation. However, she told us she believed him because she wanted to. All told, they were married over six years before they finally separated and even-tually divorced.
After she had told us her story, I asked her, “M------, why did you put up with all that garbage for so long? Why did you endanger your children, put up with the unfaithfulness, the lying, the neglect for so long before doing something about it?” I was not chiding her, but wanted to know what had been going through her head during those years that caused her to stay with this man and put up with his deplorable behavior. Her answer? “I’d already had one marriage go bad,” she said. “I was going to make this one work. I believed in marriage, that it was supposed to last forever — ‘Till death do us part’ — so I was going to ‘make it work’.”
Our friend’s story embodies the dilemma that we in the church face all the time: how do we uphold the biblical principle of lasting marriage, while at the same time be agents of God’s grace when marriages, and lives, come apart? The two objectives often seem to be at odds with each other.
Growing up, our children learn a lot of erroneous ideas about marriage. Knofel Staton, in his book ’Check Your Morality’, lists several of these falsehoods about marriage that young people often pick up while growing up (pp. 102–103). Here are several of them:
· Marriage will solve all my problems.
· If I get married, I will never be lonely again.
· By marriage I can escape my parents.