This is something I wrote last year, it had been on my heart for awhile and so I finally dug into scripture and did a semi-intense study on divorce and remarriage. Little did I know this was one of the last pieces of personal healing God was leading me through in my season of singleness, because just about a month after I wrote this I met the man who would become my husband. At the time when I was writing this post, I wasn’t sure I ever would get married again, but I needed to know if all the people who had been negative about remarriage after divorce were right or not, if they really had biblical basis for their condemnation to a life of loneliness for so many abused women. I knew I wouldn’t be able to heal fully until I listened to the tugging feeling I had to research this subject. It took me awhile because I didn’t have enough emotional energy to read one more comment about how “too bad, you screwed up your life and now you don’t get another chance at love or marriage.”
I’m very glad I did dig in and do this research though. You can take it or leave it, but it brought me so much peace.
So without anymore explanation, here it is.
The issue of divorce and remarriage after divorce has been debated for quite a long time. Probably as long as divorce itself has existed.
I honestly had never spent a whole lot of time pondering on it since I came from a Christian home with parents who had been married since they were out of highschool. I had never thought I would ever be divorced and therefore had never really taken the time to dig into what the Bible teaches on the subject.
In retrospect, I wish that I would have because it would have granted me a better understanding of the whole issue which could have lent to me being able to witness and identify in love to others who had been through divorce. I don’t really recall being around too many divorced individuals as I was growing up, but I wish I had taken all of my Biblical studying much more seriously at a younger age.
In any case, skip forward quite a few years and I have now been divorced (twice, yikes!) and am a single mother.
How did that happen? I certainly didn’t set out on this path on purpose. I could make up a whole lot of excuses, but I think the best possible explanation was I was very naïve and trusting, and as such, I fell prey to two manipulative men.
I’d rather not go into too many details as my personal story isn’t the point of this post, but what I’m saying, is going through these experiences shook my reality very hard.
My first husband was a charmer, he slithered his way into my life and knew which words to say to get me to fall hard and fast. Within a few months we were on the way to the courthouse and were married. I quickly realized how un-Christ-like my new husband was when he didn’t listen to me when I told him he was hurting me on our wedding night. My first sexual experience was a violation at the hands of my new husband.
The whole thing lasted just a number of months, we lost a child, I finally had a break down and told my parents all of the awful abusive things he was telling me on a daily basis and they stepped in to help me. For months I had tried to figure out how I had got to this place, where had I gone so wrong? God hates divorce. There was no out. But my parents put him on a plane to go back to his country and they took me to the courthouse to get the documents I needed. They assured me that this wasn’t God’s plan for my life. That God cared more about my safety then me being married to someone who only wanted to use me and control me.
When I was finally divorced, I couldn’t face myself, let alone God. I vividly remember trying to pray, as I’ve always done, throughout the day, just openly talking to God, and I couldn’t. I felt so empty and hollow inside and I couldn’t imagine why He would ever listen to me again.
During this low point is where I met the man who would become my second husband and father of my child.
This was where my life really took a downward spiral into yet more mental, emotional and escalating violent abuse. I ignored red flags, or rather, allowed him to explain them away with his excuses and apologies. I allowed him to tell me I was helping him become a better man. He eventually proposed and I accepted because I thought I couldn’t do any better. No Godly Christian man would want me, at least this guy said he was a Christian and didn’t complain too much when I randomly would want to go to church.
We married (another courthouse wedding), had a child, got a house, lost our second child, and then the whole six year long relationship came crashing down in a whirl of violent threats, police involvement and total abandonment and I found myself with my toddler son, living on the couch in my parent’s house and going through a divorce.
I was devastated. I was exhausted. I felt betrayed, unworthy, terrified. There was so much uncertainty in my life but the whole time I began praying again.
My entire life was so dark. I remember feeling closed in, like I had no escape and there was one shimmering light through all of that and it was when I was praying. I can’t begin to describe the peace I found in fleeting moments revolving around when I was praying. The more I prayed, the more peace I felt.
I suffered horrible anxiety and dilapidating migraines the last few years of living with my ex.
Over the two years I have been separated and divorced from him I have had maybe five migraines total and I praise God for His merciful healing. I fully believe I would have died had I stayed with my husband. Not that I had a choice, he is the one who divorced me, but I digress.
If you would like more details on my back story and the Biblical reasons for both of my divorces, I will write that in a different post, but for now, this is just a tiny picture into why I have been feeling the need to write about these issues.
The other day in a Christian mother’s group I am in on Facebook and woman wrote anonymously about her abusive marriage and how it ended, how she found healing and eventually God brought her together with a Godly man and they have been planning their wedding. The only issue is that recently he has been having doubts that it is Biblical for them to get married or if it’s a sin because of her divorce.
Now, according to this woman’s story, there was absolutely cause for her divorce, her husband was physically violent to not just her, but their little children as well and when she refused to return unless he received counseling, he filed for divorce.
In my book, she did everything right. In my view of the Bible, she did everything right. I recently read an article by Gary Thomas called ‘Enough is Enough,’ (if you are so inclined, you should go read it, it’s amazing). In it he says “If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than He loves institutions.”
Read it again.
If we care more about marriage than we care about people’s safety, what is that saying about us?
Satan wants us to be isolated, to feel like we don’t belong in the church community, that is exactly where he wants us and so many Christians are allowing pride and legalism to further the isolation.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for divorce, I wouldn’t want anyone to ever get divorced. It sucks. It’s the most pain I’ve ever experienced.
God absolutely hates divorce, divorce tears families apart, it isn’t what He ever wanted for us. Marriage is a picture of our relationship with Christ, so no wonder Satan has been attacking people so hard this way. Marriage is beautiful and satan wants it destroyed.
But we must remember that God has given us forgiveness and grace. When it is necessary to divorce, we have been granted it as a tool to make sure we and our children are safe.
There are plenty out there who are okay with someone leaving an abusive spouse and fleeing a dangerous relationship in order to be safe. But they still would say if that person remarries then they would be living in adultery. Which is exactly what some of the ladies were telling this woman in the group I am in.
I have always had a hard time accepting that someone could get married to someone, have them become abusive, cheat on them and leave them and then there be this massive debate about whether this woman should get remarried or not. Especially when those same people will turn around and attend a wedding between two individuals who have children together out of wedlock because “at least they are fixing their mistake”. So, there is grace and forgiveness for the latter but not the woman who “did things the right way” and ended up abused and needing to leave. Right. Okay.
Seems like there needs to be a heart check in there somewhere, personally.
This led me to my own research. Which is always tricky, I want to hear all sides, but I want it to be unbiased instead of having to hear how unholy and unworthy I am for being divorced. Truth is easier to take when it’s stated in love and grace. So, I braced myself and began to research. I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.
Divorce was first brought into the Biblical picture by Moses in Deuteronomy 24;1-4. It says: “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she find no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husbands dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.”
Interesting, isn’t it?
She was allowed to go get married to another man, but if the latter husband died or divorced her she was not allowed to go back to her first husband because that bond had already been severed.
I pulled out the Smiths Bible Dictionary to see what it was saying on Divorce. Here is the entry:
“Divorce: “A legal dissolution of the marriage relation.” The law regulating this subject is found Deut. 24: 1-4, and the cases in which the right of a husband to divorce his wife was lost are stated ibid., 22:19,29. The ground of divorce is a point on which the Jewish doctors of the period of the New Testament differed widely; The School of Shammai seeming to limit it to a moral delinquency in the woman, whilst that of Hillel extended it to trifling causes, e.g., if the wife burnt the food she was cooking for her husband. The Pharisees wished perhaps to embroil our Saviour with these rival schools by their question, Matt. 19:3; by his answer to which, as well as by his previous maxim, Matt. 5:31, he declares that he regarded all of the lesser causes than “fornication” as standing on too weak ground an declined the question of how to interpret the words of Moses.”
So, we can start to get a picture of the division over the issue of divorce, even back in Jesus’ day and presumably back even when divorce became a thing. What did they do before divorce? Why was divorce necessary? Let’s look at Matthew 19:1-12
“Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And a great multitude followed Him, and He healed them there.
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
And He answered and said to them, “have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 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’? so then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away”
He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted 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; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.
His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry,” But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”
Okay, this is a lot, but let’s break it down. The question we wanted to answer was why was divorce created in the first place? The Pharisees asked this same question and Jesus gave the answer, because of their hard heartedness.
This is an excerpt from The Holman Bible Dictionary on Divorce:
“The legal ending of a marriage. From early time provision was made for divorce among the Israelites (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Presumably prior to this decree, a wife could be put out of the home at the pleasure of the husband. Now he was required to write out “a bill of divorce” and give it to his wife as proof that he was divorcing her. This gave some dignity and protection to the divorced woman.
Divorce was common enough among the Jews in New Testament times to cause division among the rabbis as to the valid basis for divorce. The passage in Deuteronomy did not give clear guidelines. “Because he hath found some uncleanness in her” (Deuteronomy 24:1) left room for interpretation. One group of rabbis insisted that divorce could be granted only if the wife was immoral. Another group argued that divorce could be secured by the husband if the wife displeased him in any way. Among the Jews, only the husband had the right to secure a divorce. The wife might leave her husband, but she could not divorce him.”
I don’t know about you, but when I read this, I get the idea that divorce was created as a way to help women in this culture. A husband could “put away”, his wife and she wouldn’t be able to do much of anything in this society. If she found a new husband she would be in adultery because she was still married, she possibly could return to her family, but that’s only if they were willing and able to take her back, so the creation of divorce was a way to grant some semblance of dignity back to the woman so she could at least find a man who would take care of her in the way a husband should.
Okay, let’s go back to the disciples. They came to the conclusion that marriage is to be taken seriously and that Jesus was setting a high standard, permitting divorce in only serious situations. They said, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry,” But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given…”
Doesn’t it seem as though he is saying that it’s a personal conviction to remain celibate after divorce or not? That’s how it appears for me.
Another passage that addresses divorce and remarriage is 1 Corinthians 7:15
“But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God as called us to peace.”
In my MacArthur Study Bible this is what the footnotes say:
“Let him depart: A term referring to divorce. When an unbelieving spouse cannot tolerate the partner’s faith and wants a divorce, it is best to let that happen in order to preserve peace in the family. The bond of marriage is broken only by Death (Rom. 7:2), adultery (Matt. 19:9) or an unbeliever’s leaving.
Not under bondage: when the bond is broken in any of those ways, a Christian is free to marry another believer. Throughout Scripture, whenever legitimate divorce occurs, remarriage is assumed. When divorce is permitted, so is remarriage. By implication, the permission for a widow to remarry because of the “bond” is broken, extends to this case where there is no more “bondage”.”
While I was reading that verse, what jumped out to me was the last part. “But God has called us to peace.”
When you are being abused, there is no peace. To any woman reading this, wanting to know if she should stay in an abusive marriage or if she was right to leave when she did. God does not want you manipulated and abused. He wants you free and in Peace. He did not send Jesus to die on the cross for your sins to have someone manipulate you into staying in a dangerous situation. You are so much more precious than that and He will hold your abuser accountable come Judgement Day.
I think that all of this makes it pretty clear that not only is divorce acceptable in the case of infidelity, abuse and an unbelieving spouse choosing to leave, remarriage is also an option for those who still feel that call to Godly marriage.
One thing we must remember in all of this is that Satan wants to divide us. It’s very evident that he has been successful in some of these harder issues because just stating the fact that you’re divorced in any kind of Christian forum will bring you at least one comment from someone saying how they don’t believe you could ever get remarried (yes, speaking from personal experience.)
I even had a woman tell me that she could get married again because she had been divorced once, but because I had been divorced twice, it would be sin for me. I still have no idea where she got that idea from, she never gave me a verse to check out, but I remember being so shocked that someone would say such a thing to anyone going through such a soul-wrenching process.
When you go through a divorce, it really does feel like two halves of a whole are being ripped apart. Because they are. It’s messy, it’s painful, even if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the right decision. I have teared up a couple times just thinking about it while writing this because, while it’s been two years for me, the scars are still there. It’s very emotional.
Why then, when people are seeking God and healing from this process do we as Christians, who are called to love as Christ loves, tear down the little bit of rebuilding they have done by giving them this unbiblical notion of never being able to find a deep, Christ-based partnership. We already feel abandoned and betrayed, we’re already fighting to hold on to the fact that God really does still love us. That we aren’t tainted goods. But the very ones who should be supporting and protecting us are condemning us to a life of loneliness without hope for a love that we have longed for since before we can remember.
Please, do not take this as judgement if you have ever taken this stance, but more as a wake-up call. Whether you agree with my position or not, please remember that anyone going through this hard time IS going through a hard time and taking their hope isn’t going to help them at all.
I have absolutely never heard the history of divorce before, I had never heard anyone talk about Shammai and Hillel and their differences of opinion regarding divorce. I hadn’t heard that before divorce existed, women could just be tossed out by their husbands without any hope of survival if they didn’t want to be in adultery.
This is all stuff that would have helped me have more sympathy for divorced believers and it would have helped in at least a small way when I was first divorced, because the isolation I felt after that, the despair and depression that I allowed to separate me from God for a few years led to even more bad choices and the need for even more grace. Not that I’m blaming anyone for my poor choices, that’s on me. My point is, we need to talk about these hard subjects by digging deeper into the word together and on our own and sharing what we know about the culture and history of the Bible so we can understand the context better. Our culture is set up a whole lot different than back then so sometimes it can be hard to really grasp exactly what was going on, but it’s important for us to approach these hard subjects with grace and understanding that we are all on the same page in that all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. We all need Jesus. No matter what you’ve done, you need Him.
I’ll end this with a quote I love from a Bible Study Leader of mine: “You are not defined by the worst thing you have ever done. You are FREE in Christ.”