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So You Want A Divorce?

By Bruce W. Robida

Revised 04/01/2012


In 1993 the word divorce had relevance in my own life.  I thought that if there was one couple on earth that would never be divorced it would have been us.  Unfortunately, even we were not immune from such a fate.  After about a two-year separation beginning at the end of March 1993, divorce became a reality for me.  It was the most devastating time in my life.  I know that it was especially difficult for my children who still suffer some ill affects from those days.  I know that it was not an easy time for my ex-wife either.  I won’t go into the details out of respect for the innocent so I’ll just keep them to myself, but I can say that I was not without fault.  It takes two to mess up a marriage and I have to accept responsibility for the part I played in its demise.  I don’t know why I waited so long to write about the subject of divorce.  It’s a subject I’m all too familiar with, but for some reason it got pushed way in the back of my mind.  Maybe it was a survival tactic; maybe I wasn’t ready to revisit that ugly past.  But now, seeing certain friends and family members dealing with those same issues, it’s time for me to bring this concern to light for what it is.  The media has a way of making divorce out to be a normal, almost benign activity that is just another fact of life.  Most people who divorce never consider the long-term and even fail to consider some of the short-term affects.  The first part of this message will be about some of those things that happen as a result of divorce based on my own experiences.  Here I’ll just share some of the realities that once a divorce goes into motion, certain aspects usually cannot be changed and all you can do is live with the results.  The second part of this message will go into what the Bible says about divorce.  If you’re a Christian you’ll want to consider the second part more than the first even though the first should be enough to convince anyone that divorce is not the way to go. 

Part 1

What about the children?

Not enough couples think about how divorce affects their children.  There have been enough studies out there that show the long-term ill affects on children of divorce, even into adulthood. 

I have been a witness to some of those ill affects in the lives of my own children.  There were feelings of abandonment, depression, high anxiety, low self esteem, guilt (thinking that they were the cause) and often crying long into the night as they tried to sleep. There were fantasies that they might somehow repair the marriage, disappointments when their fantasies fell apart, disappointments when one of the parents returned only to leave again and again. There were disappointments when the first parent remarried and then later, the second. There were behavioral problems, poor attitudes in school, difficulty concentrating, and poor grades in school, poor school attendance, skipping school, and dropping out of school. There was playing one parent against the other; many times succeeding in their endeavors to get their own way.  The lines between right and wrong were often blurred by one parent’s insistence upon operating on feelings rather than good judgment and so the false message the children were getting was, “If it feels right, it must be right.”  Children are in fact impressionable, and they learn by example more than they are taught.  They are sometimes pulled in two different directions when it comes to doing the right thing.  They become confused and tend to lean toward the easy but not necessarily the right way.  Their mother and I had both done some things that harmed them emotionally.  In our battle against each other, the children emerged bruised and battered, not physically, but psychologically.  If we say we love our children we must ask ourselves, “But how much do we love them?”  If we truly love them, we must overlook our own selfish desires and consider the wants and needs of the children.  If our wants and needs supercede those of our children, what does that say about our love for them?  It says loud and clear and they hear it well, they are loved only in word not in deed.  You are saying to them, “I love my life more than I love yours.” 

Before you consider divorcing your spouse when children are involved, even if they’re not biologically your own, consider thoroughly the harmful affects of your decision.  These things will follow them even into adulthood, leaving them vulnerable to repeat the same cycle that perhaps began when you were a child.  Psychologist, Dr. Judith Wallerstein, did a study over a 25-year period as she followed the lives of 131 children whose parents divorced.  She has written three books on this study and has proven overwhelmingly the harmful affects on children of divorce.  Before making such a life changing decision which affects your kids as much as it affects you, I recommend reading her latest book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. You can find more information on the internet about this remarkable resource, at  http://www.webheights.net/dividedheart/waller/uld.htm.

But if your decision is to divorce, thinking that your children are somehow different and can handle it better than other children, or you have some other excuse to justify your decision, at least consider ways to help them through it.  Unfortunately, children get caught in the middle and suffer the most.  While you may be able to get on with your life, your children may not be so eager to do so.  You choose those new relationships, they do not.  They have no choice but to accept the outcome.  They have to learn to adapt to visitation, new girlfriends or boyfriends, new stepparents and stepsiblings, changing schools, cities, and even states.  Their lives are literally turned upside down.  They need all the help they can get.  I suggest a resource called Shared Parenting Information Group. They are an organization dedicated to promoting responsible shared parenting after separation and divorce.  The information they provide can help make a divorce less traumatic for your children if both parents are committed to helping their children through it.  Their web address is: http://www.spig.clara.net/.

Financial considerations

When a couple separates, the first noticeable consequence is that the financial outlook becomes bleak.  This is true for both husband and wife, but especially the wife if she has custody of the children.  Suddenly, there are two households to run.  There are two rent or mortgage payments to make and two of every utility bill has to be paid.  The one who does not have custody usually has to pay child support and sometimes alimony.  Above all of this, there are attorney’s fees to pay and sometimes one-person ends up paying the bulk of the fees for both attorneys.  In the divorce settlement, while you may think that the assets and debts are split 50/50, think again.  The one who earns more usually ends up taking on the major part of the debt if not all of it while some of the personal assets go to the other one.  The point here is not to say what is fair or not fair, but that there is a financial burden that can cripple one individual if not both.  The assets that go to one spouse have to be replaced or you do without and the money that you were never able to put into a savings account suddenly has to be there to pay child support.  It is a recipe for financial ruin.  If both spouses have great paying jobs they may be able to handle it, but if one or the other does not, it will be difficult to stay above water.  Many times, filing for bankruptcy is the only way out.  This hurts future, potential relationships because most people are not willing to take on such a burden.  Getting your financial house in order before separation and divorce is a wise thing to do and it may even lead to reconciliation as many marriages end in divorce because of financial problems.

Part 2

In part 1, I only covered the two aspects of divorce that affected me the most.  The first was how it affected my children and the second is the financial difficulties associated with it.  I barely scratched the surface on both issues, but I hope it was enough to make you think this thing through carefully if you’re considering getting a divorce.  These are things that everyone should consider, whether or not they are Christians. But Christians need to consider this second part most of all because they should know better. Christians have guidelines to follow and they know they should follow them.  These guidelines are found in the Bible, which non-Christians do not have.  Non-Christians have somewhat of an excuse whereas Christians really do not. 

First let me just say that there are legitimate reasons for Christians to divorce their spouses.  On the other hand, some of the reasons Christians give are not legitimate and the final authority on this matter rests purely with God.  He has told us in His Holy Word what are and what are not legitimate reasons for divorce.  This part will address those issues.

God hates divorce.

"I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty.  So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith. Mal. 2:16

The Bible couldn’t be clearer on the fact that God hates divorce.  But that does not mean He never condones it.  In fact, God had no choice but to divorced Israel.

During the reign of King Josiah, the LORD said to me, "Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. Because Israel's immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense," declares the LORD.  The LORD said to me, "Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah. JER 3:6-11

There are many lessons here in these passages of Scripture, but for now I just want you to see that adultery is a legitimate reason to divorce your spouse. 

Jesus said, "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. MT 5:31-32

Jesus clearly gives an example for what causes a woman to become an adulteress.  Just as God declared Israel faithless because of her adulteries and divorced her, He has allowed us the same remedy for the marital unfaithfulness of a spouse.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. 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." MT 19:3-8

Here Jesus also explains that a person can divorce his spouse legitimately and not cause himself to commit adultery if he remarries (See also Mark 10:2-12).

Now the apostle Paul, speaking for Christ says, “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): 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.” 1CO 7:10-11

This is a command from Christ. Unless there is marital unfaithfulness, a wife must not even separate from her husband, but if she does, she is not allowed to remarry.  She must be reconciled to her husband.  The command is also for the husband to not divorce his wife.  Adultery is at this point the only exception. 

But there is another exception. I find this to apply only in the case of one spouse who is a believer (Christian), and one who is not. The apostle Paul refers to brothers as fellow Christians and although this command is not a direct command from Christ, it is clear that abandonment is another legitimate reason for divorce, provided that the one abandoned is the believer, and the one abandoning is not. 

To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): 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. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.  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? 1CO 7:12-16

If an unbeliever leaves, he or she is allowed to leave and the one left behind is no longer bound in such circumstances.  He or she would be allowed to remarry without causing themselves or the one they marry to commit adultery.

Adultery and abandonment are the only two legitimate reasons to divorce your spouse but abandonment cannot be a reason for two people who are Christians. In a Christian marriage, if one wants to leave the marriage and marital unfaithfulness has not occurred, the one leaving cannot legitimately remarry without causing themselves and the one they marry to commit adultery.  The Christian who remains faithful and tries to maintain the marriage while the other leaves, can legitimately remarry only after adultery has occurred by the spouse who left and a divorce is final.  The Christian who remained should not seek a divorce if adultery has not occurred.  He has the responsibility to allow his believing spouse the opportunity to be reconciled to himself; otherwise he will not only cause himself to commit adultery, but his spouse and anyone either of them should later marry. 

These are the harsh realities of God’s Sovereign will.  He hates divorce but He does make a way for us to escape situations that are beyond our control.  But there are situations that we do have control over and we have a responsibility to do all that we can to keep that vow before God and all of the witnesses that were present at the wedding.  Keeping one’s vows, especially to God, are extremely important and should never be taken lightly.  God is not someone who can be tested.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.  It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, "My vow was a mistake." Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God. ECC 5:4-7

There are many Christians reading this now who will say, “I’m a Christian, all I have to do is ask God to forgive my sins so I won’t worry about getting a divorce.”  It is true that God hears the confessions of His people and 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  Can we be confident that premeditated sin will not go unpunished?  While our salvation may not be at risk, God can and does chastise all that belong to Him.  If the one who calls himself a Christian and plans and executes his sinful desires does not receive discipline from God, he should be worried about his salvation.  He is not really a child of God.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:  "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!  Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. HEB 12:4-11

What about abuse?

If there are other legitimate reasons to separate from a spouse, the Bible does not address them.  In the case of physical or mental abuse of either the spouse or the children, separation for the sake of safety is absolutely necessary.  However, this does not give the right to seek a divorce.  This is only a protective measure, and hopefully a temporary one while the abuser gets some help.  He may decide to seek a divorce himself rather than get the help he needs and that is something out of your control.  God does not want spouses to separate because it causes people to become unfaithful to their spouse among other things.  The purpose for the separation in those circumstances should only be to send a message to the abusing spouse.  That message should be that you will not put yourself or your children in an environment where there is potential for abuse.  But if that potential goes away (by a changed heart), you should return to that spouse.  This may sound harsh, and there would certainly have to be a long period where trust would have to be obtained before returning, but ultimately, unless adultery has not occurred, or the unbelieving spouse has not abandoned his family, reconciliation should be attempted.

Why is this happening?

There’s a reason divorce is so prevalent in our society even among Christians.  There is a spiritual battle raging against all humankind, especially those who belong to God.  While it looks as though we battle against each other, our battle is really against the evil forces that surround us. 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. EPH 6:10-12

We have been fooled into believing that we deserve to be happy or that we should be able to do the things that we want to do, after all, we work all of our lives, shouldn’t we be allowed to enjoy them?  This is a deception of the devil.  When God joins a man and a woman in marriage, He transforms them into one person, just as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are one. As one, a husband and wife no longer have the luxury to think of just themselves but they must consider the other in every circumstance.  It is when they see themselves as autonomous that things begin to unravel.  We are constantly bombarded with messages through different mediums such as radio and especially TV that influence us to behave in ways that are ungodly. If we’re not careful we can begin to act upon those influences rather than the influence of the Holy Spirit who indwells all of God’s people.  So this battle we have rages against evil, spiritual forces which if nothing else, takes our attention and our resources away from God and the work that He has for each of us.  So millions of Christians struggle against their spouses and struggle financially while their children get lost in the shuffle, receiving an influence that perhaps at one time was godly but now is not.  The battle against good and evil in the spiritual realms takes as its victims, children who sometimes never recover from the trauma and even renounce their faith because it didn’t work for their parents.  It is no wonder many children don’t even know who God is. 

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1PE 5:8-9

Here is a chance to stand firm in your faith and not allow the devil to get a foothold.  He prowls around looking for people that he can devour.  He not only devours people, but their resources as well.

Yes, God would love for all of us to be happy, but it is not guaranteed.  It requires work and effort that both spouses have to participate in.  Even then, happiness can be elusive.  But happiness is not the purpose of marriage.  The purpose of marriage is to produce children who will grow up to love God and to produce their own children who love God, each of us doing works of service for His glory.  Happiness in a marriage is a by-product of that service.  There is temporary happiness in our own selfish endeavors, but there is eternal happiness in serving God by serving others, especially our own families.  Although that happiness is eternal, it can be with us here and now giving us the feeling of having a fulfilled life.  That feeling of fulfillment is the only one that is lasting, everything else is only temporary.


I wish I could remember who said this so that I could give him or her credit, but I read somewhere that divorce is the result of selfishness on the part of either one, or both spouses. Looking back on my own situation, I can say that that statement is absolutely true.  Every possible reason or excuse to divorce a spouse can ultimately be traced to the selfish deeds of one or both of the spouses.  Somewhere along the line, someone in the marriage began to think of himself or herself rather than us or we.  In marriage, the Bible says that the two become one.  There should no longer be I or me, but us.  We or us must be considered in everything in a marriage before I or me is considered. Before you go accusing your spouse of being the one who caused all of the trouble, look at yourself first.  Where have you been selfish in the marriage?  Maybe your selfishness led to your spouse’s selfishness, or the other way around.  I believe that this is the root of all divorces.  Somewhere along the line, someone said, “I want...” That was the beginning of the end.  Instead of saying, “I want...”, how about saying, “Let us...”? 

It may be that you’re considering a divorce even after reading this message.  If you’re not a Christian, let your children or your finances convince you that that is a bad idea.  If you’re a Christian, look at what the Word of God says on this subject and know that if you proceed, if you truly belong to Him, He will not allow you to go unpunished here in this life.  If you proceed and He does not punish you, consider that you really don’t belong to Him and before it’s too late, find out how you can.  If you are one of the many who do belong to God but you have already made that error in judgment, if you divorced your spouse without a legitimate reason, you can be reconciled to God.  He is faithful and just and will forgive your sins and purify you from all unrighteousness, if you are willing to confess those sins.  His discipline may be hard, and may continue to be hard for a long time, but have hope and know that it is only because He loves you and considers you to be one of His own.  Look ahead and don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.

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