We can stretch our eyes out and see the waves crashing all around us. When we put our feet in the water, we might feel coolness or warmth. Should we test the waters out or dive completely in? Once we do go in do we trust the water to keep us afloat or do we have to tread the waters to keep our heads up?
The issue of marriage, separation, and divorce has been a heavy burden laid on my heart for years. When you enter a marriage, you have hopes for it to last forever. You can’t just expect everything to go smoothly, you have to make sure you care for the other person the whole time. Every decision affects them. So many couples that Rob and I have known, ones that encouraged us along the years as well, are falling apart. I’ve seen so many separations and divorces and they break my heart to witness. No matter how rough or tough your problems in your marriage are, if both of you are able to work on it together, do it! Rob and I were able to get through our problems, and perhaps we’ll face many more in our years ahead of us, but I am thankful that we didn’t dwell in our pain and give up, but fought through to find greater happiness and love together.
In the Hebrew scriptures, we learn that a man can pretty much divorce his wife whenever he is unsatisfied. It is pretty sad that people today still live in this way, justifying their reasons for why one might divorce or separate. What does Jesus say about divorce in the gospel? “And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’ They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed 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.'” -Matthew 19:3-9
Jesus clearly states that both separation and divorce are NOT the plan of God at all. He allows man and woman to choose what to do, but His will is for marriages to be long lasting for life. It says here that the only reason for divorce is if your spouse is involved with someone else, being sexually unfaithful. Even so, I’d say that if you know your spouse is unfaithful, encourage them to deal with their issue of sin and to work on your marriage. If they are not willing to work on their problems at all, then I can see how it would be hard for you to understand what the next step is. However, when we say marriage vows, many times we say “In sickness and in health”. If someone in your marriage has changed how they act and are treating you poorly in some way, they are “in sickness” and need help. Not working it out to help them is not caring for them in their sickness.
My encouragement to those who are married is first seek God and His kingdom. Seek Him for your marriage. Second is seek God with your spouse and His kingdom together. I guarantee that this will bring even greater unity to your marriage than you ever imagined or thought (I speak from experience). If you go to ungodly counsel, talking to friends only about your problems and hearing things like, “You don’t deserve that! You need to get out!” That is what the world will say, that is not what God wants for you or your spouse! I understand a marriage takes two people to make it work, and I have dear friends who have been divorced after working extremely hard on their marriages, but their spouse ended up having absolutely no response or interest in working it out (and their spouse adoring their own sins). Some were “justifiable” with divorcing a spouse who was being sexually intimate with someone else, and I am so glad that some of them truly did work on their marriage. Pray for your spouse and your marriage. Be patient and persistent. Don’t give up.
It is hard to see through the pain. It is hard to see the other side of it working out at all. If it does work out, it takes time to see growth. Forgiveness is extremely important. Christ forgives us for all the wrongs we have had. If we cannot forgive those who wrong us, no matter how much they have hurt us, then bitterness will grow and the pain might carry with you to a possible second marriage. Giving up is not worth it (because it doesn’t fix the problem), getting through the battle is.