I do not stand in judgment of those who’ve been divorced, and I know many people whose divorces were either outside their control, or were made necessary by continued abuse and unfaithfulness. This is NOT an attack piece on the divorced. It is written for the many believers who may be considering a divorce too soon because it is a cultural norm. Please don’t feel judged, but this is to help some people even though it may be of no help to you.
1. Trust the Lord, don’t trust yourself. Relationships can cause hurt, and hurt people find it hard to think straight. God knows all, sees all, and works everything together for your good. Trust in the Lord and what He says in His Word.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (Romans 8:28-29)
2. Realize that the answer to suffering is not always to move away from it. God sometimes calls us to follow Him by walking into or remaining under suffering. (I am not talking about remaining under abuse, see www.epm.org/blog/2013/Mar/18/abused-women, but the many other conflicts and sufferings of life that married people face in a fallen world.)
“Then Jesus said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23)
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. …If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1 Peter 4:12-16)
3. Contemplate that God is accomplishing a purpose in your sufferings.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)
“Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
4. Wait on the Lord. Don’t act hastily. Keep doors open. Only close the doors that you are certain God says you should close.
“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14)
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)
5. Don’t just trust that God can change someone else’s heart. Trust that He can change and renew your heart.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)
6. Meditate on Scripture related to the issue of marriage, separation and divorce.
Jesus: “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32)
“Some Pharisees came to him to test Jesus. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ ‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’ ‘Why then,’ they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.’” (Matthew 19:3-9)
Jesus: “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Mark 10:6-9)
“Jesus answered, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.’” (Mark 10:11-12)
Jesus: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Luke 16:18)
“...by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.” (Romans 7:2-3)
“A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. …If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him ... [15-16] But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?....  Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife ...  A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:10-13, 15-16, 27, 39)
“‘I hate divorce,’ says the LORD God of Israel.” (Malachi 2:16)
7. Whatever actions you consider taking, ask whether you can take that action for the glory of God.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Can you be separated but not pursue a divorce, wait on the Lord, and remain open to the possibility of reconciliation, and do this to the glory of God?
Can you pursue a divorce to the glory of God?
8. Whatever actions you consider taking, ask whether you can take that action in the name of the Lord Jesus.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
Can you be separated but not pursue a divorce, wait on the Lord and remain open to the possibility of reconciliation, and do this in the name of the Lord Jesus?
Can you pursue a divorce in the name of the Lord Jesus?
9. Whatever action you take, ask yourself if you can take it in keeping with a renewed and transformed mind, and not in conformity to the pattern of the world.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)
Can you be separated but not pursue a divorce, wait on the Lord and do so with a renewed and transformed mind, acting not in conformity to the world’s pattern?
Can you pursue a divorce with a renewed and transformed mind, acting not in conformity to the world’s pattern?
10. Whatever action you take, ask yourself if you can take it in keeping with the grace and truth of Jesus.
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
Can you be separated but not pursue a divorce, wait on the Lord and remain open to the possibility of reconciliation, and do so in keeping with the grace and truth of Jesus?
Can you pursue a divorce and do so in keeping with the grace and truth of Jesus?
11. Whatever action you consider, ask yourself if it can be done while bearing the fruit of God’s Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-25)
photo credit: RLHyde via photopin cc
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.