Divorce — When to Hold On and when to Move On
The Bible describes the intoxicating power of passion associated with lust and adultery. Misdirected passion deceives, misleads, and influences…we walk in darkness, stumbling…unable to see what we stumble over. This description well explains why so many caught in sexual sin describe a sense of confusion and a disconnection from God. Adultery moves us from the altar to the courtroom—transforming a couple, once deeply in love, into bitter enemies. Hopes and dreams for the birth of a child, now twisted, become a nightmare for innocent children. Adultery is selfishness at its core. If you are currently dating someone while separated, you are walking on very thin ice.
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How sad that sexual appetites often devour our own children, as well as ourselves. Proverbs 9:17-18 describes adultery, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell.” Adultery hardens the heart toward spouses…those who were once loved and cherished now feel insignificant and discarded. Children often feel to blame for not being good enough…trying hard enough. God help our selfish hearts! It would seem that for loving parents, the thought of this horror would bring sexual sin to a sobering halt.
Sexual sins ultimate goal is to destroy the marriage and any hope for restoration: “Sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15). John 10:10 adds, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Often, the only way out of destructive relationships is to do what is right regardless of feelings. Feelings can be unstable and deceptive, but obedience to scriptural truths can be trusted.
The pain of adultery can make us bitter, or it can make us better—ultimately, it’s our choice. God can restore if the person is willing to admit that they were wrong. True repentance is unconditional and takes full responsibility for wrongs done. A truly repent person is desperate to be forgiven rather than placing blame or responsibility on others. Don’t misunderstand, both spouses have work to do, but this comes later.
There are consequences for past mistakes, but the answer is to live in God’s arms redeemed rather than to live broken outside of His will. Which way will you run?
Back to the question, “When should a person hold on for restoration, or move on with his or her life?” Only God can truly answer this question, but patience, long-suffering, and forgiveness must be sought. If God is ministering restoration in your spirit, wait for it; contend for it; pray fervently for it. “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). If you sense that it’s time to move one, I would still suggest waiting, contending, and praying. This question does not have a one-size-fits-all approach. From my experience, most move forward way too soon because they are in a hurry to meet someone new. This is not wise. We must SLOW down so we don’t zoom past God’s will. He will lead but in His time not ours.
Although many great bible teachers are divided on the issue of divorce and re-marriage, one thing is certain: God will direct those who commit their lives completely to Him…this we know. This brief section is written primarily to those on the “receiving” end…those, who by no choice of their own, are separated or divorced, and are uncertain…should they hold on for restoration, or move on. Before making any decision of this magnitude, I offer three directives.
First, discontinue any relationship that is not God-centered, or that seems to cloud your judgment. Re-bound relationships are often not God’s will. Sadly, countless marriages are never restored simply because of immediate involvements in other relationships. They don’t wait on the Lord. I cannot stress this point enough.
Second, pray, seek godly counsel, and allow God’s Word to direct you. Spend extended time in the Word and be obedient to it…pray and fast as you seek godly counsel. However, another word of caution here: don’t look for people who will tell you want you want to hear; seek godly men or women who can offer wise counsel. Even with that, counsel should not direct, they should only confirm (however, there may be special exceptions that I’m not aware of). All destructive relationships, bad advice, and toxic influences must be severed as you seek direction. The alarming divorce rate leaves one to wonder who’s guiding Christians today—Hollywood or the Holy Spirit? Ungodly counsel, or the conviction of the Holy Spirit?
Third, again, don’t be in a hurry: “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). Restoration is a process. Don’t abort the process because you’re in a hurry. Healing and waiting on the Lord require time and patience. If it took years to damage the marriage, it may take time to rebuild…or for emotional wholeness to be restored. I have witnessed many couples give up on their marriage simply because restoration did not happen in their time-frame and according to their plan.
One of the most difficult Scriptures dealing with divorce or separation is found in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.” This clearly states that those who are divorced and/or separated, unless “scripturally released,” should not remarry. And even in cases where one is scripturally released, the heart of God may be forgiveness and reconciliation.
If this Scripture was obeyed, there would be more serious consideration before marriage and a natural deterrent to divorce. There would be fewer divorces without cause and more reconciliations. Lack of regard for this Scripture has taken us to the other extreme—no fault divorce. However, if the one who left is an unbeliever, 1 Corinthians 7:15 offers direction, “But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.”
If this verse applies to your situation, it’s wise to allow a significant amount of time to pass before considering re-marriage. Time reveals if the spouse left only for a season, or has chosen to leave permanently. We should turn to the Scriptures for direction, not look for loopholes.
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