I repeatedly begged God to let me leave my husband–And every time. God said, “No.”
You may ask how I knew that God said, “No.” Here are the exact words that God spoke to me when I asked Him why He would not release me: “I HATE divorce.” But, God, I would argue, don’t you see all the pain he is causing me? Don’t you know how devastated I am? Don’t you care? My understanding of the Bible is that adultery is a valid reason for divorce, I would try to persuade God. He is committing adultery, so I have reason to divorce him. Maybe you, the reader, agree with many of my arguments. Maybe you have said some of the same things to God that I did. But, I was wrong! Yes, wrong! Divorce is NEVER the perfect will of God. God created marriage as being between one man and one woman for life. From the beginning, God intended for marriage to be a reflection of the relationship that Jesus would have with His bride, the Church. Sin entered into the world through man’s rebellion and disobedience, thereby ushering into existence all the bad, evil, and sinful things that have been destroying people for centuries. Before man sinned, everything was perfect and good. Adam and Eve had unbroken fellowship with God. Their life was easy, enjoyable, and perfect. In one short second, all that God intended for mankind was destroyed and forever marred. When Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they had the capability to DO evil. They had the consciousness to act out of their own will and to please themselves. They became aware of what God calls sin. This realization is evident in Genesis when Adam and Eve realized they were naked and they became ashamed. They hid from God. Why did they hide from God? Because they knew they had done wrong, that they had sinned. Before sin, man knew no shame and no condemnation. They freely communed with God. Sin broke the perfect fellowship. Sin would forever have the capacity to separate men from God. Sin ruined everything! Sin still ruins things. Sin is destructive. The father of sin is here to “steal, kill and destroy.” He does it well, too.
If you have studied the Bible, you know that the Old Testament points to Jesus, whom God sent into the world to redeem mankind. Jesus was and still is the answer for sin. Our relationship with Jesus enables us to enter in God’s presence freely and have fellowship with Him. Jesus shows us how things are supposed to be, and the Bible makes it clear what God intended all along. Even though God’s people sinned against him and were unfaithful to him, He never forsook them. He remained faithful. God entered into a covenant with Abraham, and God has remained true to that covenant. We are the ones who sin against God; sin is spiritual adultery. We are not always faithful to God, but our human failings do not change God’s ways or His nature. God cannot be unfaithful. He lovingly and mercifully convicts us and forgives us when we most certainly do not deserve His forgiveness or mercy. Our spiritual adultery is what sent Jesus to the cross and what kept Him there until the work of redemption was finished. Where would we be if Jesus had disobeyed God or had decided that the pain and agony were too much to bear? Where would we be if Jesus had thought like we think, with minds marred and perverted by sin? What if Jesus had said, “Well, I know what I am supposed to do, but I’m not going to do it because they are not worth it. They will continue to rebel and sin. They will continue to hate me. They will make light of my sacrifice. They will mock me and curse me and ridicule me. I am not willing to endure the pain and suffering for these stubborn people?” Where would we be? I will tell you where we would be. We would be in our sin. We would be separated from God with no hope of ever being right with God again. We would be doomed.
The Book of Hosea is a beautiful account of God’s faithfulness to a willfully unfaithful Israel. Hosea is told by God to take Gomer, a prostitute, as his wife. Did you catch that? God told Hosea to take a wife that would be unfaithful to him persistently. That was who Gomer was—that was her nature. She committed fornication and adultery, but Hosea continued to love her, and he remained faithful to Gomer despite Gomer’s unfaithfulness. The story of Hosea and Gomer is of much significance because it paints a picture of how God continues to love us, forgive us, take us back, and remain faithful to us, His children (i.e. the Bride of Christ) even though He knows we will sin again, thereby committing spiritual adultery.
Jesus’ blood over us is what makes us clean. When we sin, repent, and ask for forgiveness, God casts our sins as far as the east is from the west, and He remembers them no more. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we have communion with God the Father. In Ephesians chapter 5, the apostle Paul makes it clear that Jesus is the head of the Church. His sacrificial blood is what washes us and purifies us continually. Paul compares the role and work of the husband with the cleansing and sanctifying work of Jesus: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body” (Ephesians 5:25-30).
Jesus is the perfect husband, the quintessential lover. He loves us with an unconditional, unending, and pure love. In His love, He begins to work on us on through the Holy Spirit, perfecting us to become more like Him so that on the day of judgement, He can present us, as part of His bride, to God the Father free from sin. Even when we sin, when we are unfaithful, Jesus cannot be unfaithful because we are part of His body. When we accepted Jesus as our Savior and were cleansed from our sin, we became one flesh with Him. He cannot deny his own flesh.
I found it necessary to cover this aspect of the marital relationship, the spiritual significance of marriage, because far too many professing Christians do not realize the substantial and sobering implications of marriage. The Church, by and large, has forgotten that the relationship between a husband and wife is a reflection of the covenant relationship that God, through Jesus the Son, has with the Church, the bride of Christ. In our indifference to or ignorance of the Word of God, we assume that our husband or wife, our marriage, exists to make us happy. Our happiness is NOT the purpose of marriage. Marriage can make people happier, and husbands and wives should try to please one another, but happiness is not the goal of marriage. The perfect will of God is for marriage to make us holier. This truth is evident in Paul’s teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5. Marriage is one of the key tools God uses to make us more like Jesus and to demonstrate His plan and purpose.
In marriage, just as in our relationship with Christ, we are to serve our spouse, to put aside our own needs and desires, and to give of ourselves selflessly, faithfully and without abandon. We are to do these things out of love for God and love for our spouse. My marriage vows were not conditional. There was no exit clause. I did not vow before God and a multitude of witnesses to love, honor, and obey my husband…in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or for worse…’til death do us part” IF he makes me happy, meets all my needs, and never hurts me or disappoints me. My responsibility to fulfill and honor my vows does not depend on whether my husband is honoring his vows. In other words, my husband’s unfaithfulness to me was not justification for me to leave him in the eyes of God. I have committed sins since I became a Christian, but God has never left me because He is faithful. Just as God is faithful to me in the midst of my sins, I am called to be faithful to my husband even when he is in sin. GOD CARES MUCH MORE ABOUT OUR HOLINESS THAN HE DOES OUR HAPPINESS. Perhaps we should care more about holiness, too.
Jesus told his followers how to respond to those who would hurt them, use them, or mistreat them: “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:29-31; see also Matthew 5:39-44). My husband was not loving me the way God commanded him to, but his selfishness and callousness were not a reason for me to sin against God. If I had left my husband and divorced him, I would have been disobedient to God. Disobedience is sin, just as adultery is sin. Jesus plainly said, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh; therefore, what GOD has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:6). God joined my husband and me together, and it was not my right or place to separate from my husband without God releasing me to do so.
Many people use the passage found in Matthew 19 as a reason to justify divorce in cases of adultery. However, many of those same people do not quote the entire passage in context. This is what Jesus had to say about divorce when questioned by religious leaders, “Haven’t you read 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 flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” But this response did not satisfy the religious leaders, so they asked, “Why then did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Notice what Jesus said in answer to their question: “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Matthew 19:3-8). Moses, a hot-headed and imperfect human being, allowed the people he led to divorce, not because divorce is the will of God but rather because the hearts of men are so hardened and calloused. Notice, too, that Moses made the concession, not God. Divorce is not what God intended for marriage, and Jesus points this fact out by referring to the creation of marriage in the Book of Genesis.
I remember the day that God revealed this truth to me. I was sitting at the dining room table talking to my mother-in-law. I was sharing with her how God would not release me to leave my husband. I will admit that I was struggling with this issue. I was hurting so badly and was in profound pain, and I wanted the pain to end. I wanted a way out of my marriage. But God was having nothing to do with that. He reminded me of the passage in Matthew 19 and told me to take note of two things. The first was who made the concession and the second was why the concession was made. I reread the passage and immediately understood why God directed me to it. In verse 9, it appears that God does allow divorce in the case of infidelity. However, as I read the verse again and reread it in context with all of the Bible’s teachings about divorce, God strongly spoke to me: “Just because I say something is okay in my word does NOT mean that is what I want you to do.” He then directed me to 1 Corinthians 6:12, which says, “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is helpful” (HCSB). Other versions of the Bible use the words “expedient” (KJV), “beneficial” (NIV), and “profitable” (NASB) instead of “helpful”. In other words, I had the freedom to choose, but not all the options would have been right or beneficial.
I admit this message is not one I wanted to hear. I had been wrestling with God about leaving my husband, and I was looking for any passage in the Bible that would have justified my leaving. I had been pleading with God to let me leave my husband, but every time I begged Him, he simply said, “I HATE divorce.” At the time, I did not realize why God hates divorce, because my understanding of covenant relationships was inadequate and incorrect. However, now that I am on the other side of what Satan used to try to destroy my marriage, I comprehend why God refused to release me from my marriage. Marriage, as designed and ordained by God, is one way that God can bring glory to Himself and demonstrate his miraculous redemptive plan. Marriage is a representation of the relationship Jesus has with the Church, and it is a magnificent and glorious unfolding of the unconditional, persevering, and perfect love of God. All of these are messages that the world desperately needs to see in action. Simply put, I could not bail out on my husband in spite of his unfaithfulness because God has never bailed out on me. As a Christian, I am to live a life worthy of the high calling of Christ—a life that is surrendered to God’s plan even when it is beyond my understanding. As a disciple of Christ, I am to follow Him and His example. His way is faithful even when I am faithless and unfaithful. Because Jesus has demonstrated these characteristics of Himself to me, I was to freely give these same graces to my husband.