I did read this letter and I decided to post it,
“Why I Will Not Divorce My Husband.”
Nearly two years ago my husband told me that he had been involved in an adulterous affair with a younger woman for the past six months. That moment began a journey I never expected to take in my lifetime. I’ve chosen not to divorce my husband even though he refused to stop the affair for over a year after his initial confession.
Several people have questioned me about why I have made this choice. In fact, some just assumed that divorce would be an automatic response to his unfaithfulness to me. When Steve [and that’s not his real name, but I’ll just call him that] and I were married almost twenty-five years ago, I made a covenant with him before God and our families and friends. That covenant as I repeated my vows, was “for better or for worse as long as we both shall live.”
I realize that Steve has broken his part of that covenant; however, I do not believe this means I should divorce him and break my part of the covenant. I realize there are differing opinions on the scriptural basis for divorce. Many claim the “exception clause” in Matthew 19 as the only grounds for divorce. Others refer to 1 Corinthians 7and claim abandonment as another ground for divorce. Yet in Matthew 19 when Jesus was confronted with this issue, He made it clear that God’s plan for marriage is until death.
Later in the chapter when pressed further, Jesus replied that it was only because of hardness of heart the divorce was allowed, but “from the beginning it was not so.” In Malachi 2:16, God says He hates divorce.
After studying these passages, it is obvious that God’s intent is that marriage should be for life. Even Jesus did not say to divorce even when adultery has been committed. He reiterated the Father’s heart for a lifetime covenant. I would find it very hard to pursue something or to counsel someone to do something that God says He hates.
There are even some theologians who believe that the immorality or “fornication” to which Jesus refers, [in that exception clause, that that] had taken place in the betrothal or engagement period, allowing for the betrothed couple to be “divorced.”
In Ephesians 5 the marriage union is presented as a picture of Christ and the Church. Think of the spiritual adultery and unfaithfulness we continually commit against our Savior as part of His Church—yet Christ never divorces us. He shows mercy, grace and forgiveness to us no matter how unloving and unfaithful we are. We may break our part of the covenant, but the covenant is still not dissolved because Christ keeps His covenant. His love and forgiveness draw our hearts back to Him.
Yes, He definitely uses pain, sometimes through severe discipline, to bring godly sorrow and repentance. But He also uses His goodness or kindness to lead us to repentance. Based on these and other biblical principles, I’ve come to the conclusion in my heart that I cannot and will not divorce my husband. I want to display the true picture of Christ and the Church before my husband, our children, family, friends, and the world. I want to have a heart like God’s concerning my marriage covenant.
I can only come to the conclusion that His heart is marriage for life. As for the “exception clause” in Matthew 19, I think it is very possible that Jesus was not referring to adultery in marriage but to immorality during the engagement or betrothal period. All this does not excuse my husband’s sin or give him license to continue breaking his vow to me.
First Corinthians 7 speaks of the possibility of separation. I believe separation for a period of time is not unscriptural as long as the intent is to be restored. I had been at this point with Steve for a couple months prior to his stopping the affair.
There is great pain inflicted upon the innocent mate when adultery has been committed. [Some of you know that all too well.] For me, the agony has been indescribable because I felt we had such a good marriage and such a close relationship before this happened. Steve and I were best friends, soul-mates, lovers and had a ministry team for Christ. So to be replaced by another and to experience continual rejection for over a year and a half is crushing. Some would say that this kind of pain is grounds for divorce.
But what am I teaching my children by getting out of a painful relationship? Do I show them that when times get tough you can run and try to find someone else who will make you happy and not hurt you? Or do I show them that God never promises us happiness, but holiness. Do I show them by divorce that God is not strong enough to see me through pain and suffering or do I fling myself upon my Savior and receive His strength and grace and show them He is enough?
Do I present a picture of Christ and the Church that is accurate—Christ never casting us off even when we sin greatly against Him? Or one that presents Christ putting us away when we break our covenant to Him?
John Piper makes this point in his book, A Godward Life. [And now she’s quoting from that book.]
Our culture has made divorce acceptable and therefore easier to justify on the basis of emotional pain. Historically, the misery of painful emotions was not a sanction for divorce in most cultures. Marriage durability—with or without emotional pain—was valued above emotional tranquility for the sake of the children, the stability of society, and in the case of Christians, for the glory of God. In Christianity such rugged and enduring marriages through pain and heartache are rooted in the marriage of God to His rebellious people whom He has never finally cast off.
Covenants are broken because it feels good to free from the commitment. Covenant breaking is a way of short-term pain reduction. But in the process of reducing our pain we destroy life.
Pain-free relationships are assumed as a right. But God promises His people something better. “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12 RSV).2
A few months ago, our son, who is eleven, came to me and said that when he saw what his dad was doing to me and to him and to his sister, he initially decided he never wanted to get married. However, he went on to say that as he had watched me forgive his dad and show love and mercy over and over, he decided he wants to get married so he can show that kind of commitment to his wife and children some day.He wept as he told me this and thanked me for my example.
I wept tears of gratitude to my Lord for allowing all the pain and sorrow I had experienced to be used for good in my son’s life already. I’ve experienced the broadest spectrum of emotions these past two years. I’ve wept many tears. At times I have felt crushed into powder.
Yet I believe everything God has allowed my children and me to go through has been meant for good and for His glory. I see it as a gift to be embraced, for my Father who allowed His Son to suffer so greatly for me would not allow anything in my life with intent to harm me but only to make me more like Himself.
I have blown it many times by some of my reactions and responses. I have been angry. At times I have been so deeply discouraged that I wanted to call it quits. I have been far from perfect through it all. Yet I have such a deep joy in knowing I have chosen to obey my Savior no matter the cost.
Some have suggested that the only reason I have not divorced my husband is because I am insecure. I do not claim to be without insecurities. In fact, I don’t feel very secure in my husband’s love for me right now. I know his heart has been given to another and I find myself grasping for assurance from him that he still loves me and wants me.
But one reason I have not pursued divorce is because of my security in Christ and in His love and faithfulness to me. He has taught me for many years that I must rest in Him and not only surrender to what He allows but accept and even embrace it. I find great security in this kind of rest in my Father’s choices for me.
In fact, I have to sit back and marvel at it all. It is all Him and none of me. Throughout these painful months He has sustained and carried me even above my circumstances. His love has been so sweet and His Word so healing to my soul. I can only fall before Him in awe and gratitude that He saw fit to give me the privilege of suffering. To Him I give great glory and praise for what He has done and will continue to do.
I realize that I have no guarantee that my husband will ever love me the way he once did. I have known of people who have come through this kind of moral failure with more depth in their walk with Christ and ministry to others and with a deeper love for their spouse than ever before. That’s what I am praying and hoping for. But what if that never happens and Steve is never restored to the man he once was, or, as I pray, even better? Does that give me a basis to divorce him?
I believe not. My covenant with this man is rooted in Christ. I am in it for the long haul. All the hurt and rejection I have felt have not lessened my love for my husband. In fact, quite the opposite has happened. I knew I loved him but I never knew how much until this happened. God has given me a deeper understanding of what true love really is—His kind of love. I can only describe it as a fierce love that cannot give up on the one it loves and is committed to. I realize that great men of God disagree on the grounds of divorce. Who am I to tell them they are wrong? But I can only obey what I believe Scripture teaches on this issue.
My journey is not over. My husband and I are in the process of being restored in our marriage. There have been many times since he came home that were as tough to endure as when he was gone from us. Satan is still after him and after our marriage. I know there are still painful times ahead in this process. Yet I believe God will see our family through the days ahead as He has the past two years. I am truly grateful for what God has allowed for us. I believe He wants to use us together for His glory again someday. Until then I can only stay bowed to what God allows and continue to rest in His love.