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Q. Should I Divorce My Husband?

Answer

Dear *****,

Thanks for your email. I can only imagine the heartbreak you have experienced in your marriage, and don’t wish to minimize the suffering you have experienced.

I will try to make my response true to God’s Word and also applicable to your circumstances.

I would begin by calling attention to our Lord’s words in Matthew chapter 19:

3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5 and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? 6 ”So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” 7 They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” 8 He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 ”And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” 10 The disciples *said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” 11 But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 ”For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it” (Matthew 19:3-12).

The Pharisees, like nearly every Jew of that day (including the disciples), had a permissive view of divorce. They sensed that Jesus did not agree and sought to trap Him in His own words. And so they asked him about divorce in the most liberal and permissive way possible. Can a man divorce his wife for any reason whatever? Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus dealt with the issue of divorce a bit differently:

32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Matthew 5:32).

There was an exception clause to be reckoned with, having to do with the matter of “unchastity.” Serious sexual sin was the one factor which might make divorce permissible.

But in Matthew 19 Jesus wants to deal with divorce in terms of the ideal, rather than in terms of the exception. (In reality, the Jews had made the exception the rule. Now, in their minds, any displeasure at all could be grounds for a husband divorcing his wife.) Jesus went to the beginning and to the first marriage and said, in effect, “This is what marriage was intended to be like: one man joined to one woman, until separated by death.” The disciples were nearly as shocked as the Pharisees. If this were the case, they reasoned, then perhaps it would be best not to marry at all. Notice that Jesus did not seek to correct this perception as a mistaken understanding of His words. He, in fact, went on to say that some who took this seriously actually made themselves eunuchs, so as to make marriage (and divorce) no option at all. So that is the ideal, and we should always keep that foremost in our thinking.

Abigail (1 Samuel 25) is an example of a woman living consistently with this ideal. Her husband, Nabal, was, in truth a harsh and cruel fool (25:3, 17, 25). Nevertheless, she risked her life to spare his. In the end, God removed Nabal from this life and Abigail became David’s wife. She endured, trusting in God and living wisely, leaving the matter in God’s hands, and for this she is commended.

While it is a text that I don’t wish to bring into view, it is there in 1 Peter (written by a man who was previously not eager to hear Jesus talk about suffering – see Matthew 16:21-25), chapters 2 and 3:

18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. 21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. 3:1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 s they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear (1 Peter 2:18-3:6, emphasis mine).

As our Lord Jesus suffered abuse to save us from our sins, God might call us to suffer abuse unjustly in order to glorify Himself and draw others to Christ. This text does not find an eager reception today, especially by those who are most concerned with their own rights. Nevertheless, it is there for us to deal with.

Having said this, we cannot ignore those two texts which indicate that serious sexual immorality on the part of the ungodly spouse is sufficient grounds for divorce:

32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Matthew 5:32, emphasis mine).

8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 ”And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:8-9, emphasis mine).

Assuming that I have correctly understood you, you have technical grounds for divorce. As Jesus makes clear, this is not a command to divorce, but may be permission granted for a divorce (Matthew 19:7-8). While I have yet to encourage anyone to pursue divorce, I am aware of situations where divorce would clearly be permitted.

In such cases, it is the responsibility of the godly mate to determine what course of action will most please and glorify God. Such decisions are painful and agonizing, but they must be made.

I am praying that God will guide you to the right course of action, and that you will find peace and rest in responding in a way that pleases God.

I’m praying for you and hope this will prove helpful,

Bob Deffinbaugh

Related Topics: Divorce