There are terrible things that happen in life that leave us forever marked--scarred by sin and slightly more aware of our complete dependence upon God. Divorce is definitely one of those things. My journey through it was awful . . . and eye-opening . . . and a source of many lessons and of incredible wisdom that I find myself using now to encourage others. It seems as if lately there is a spike in the threat of divorce against married friends of mine, and I find myself drowning again in the messiness and heartbreak of it.
Much of what I have been taught about divorce is based on several passages in scripture. It seemed so clear to me when I was younger and even pretty clear when I went through my own separation and divorce. But after a decade of listening to stories from others, of seeing complicated situations, and aching with dear friends over decisions they didn't want to have to make but were forced into, I've learned so much more about applying God's Word to such a messy choice.
I don't want to confuse anyone. I DO believe that God's Word is to be taken literally. I believe that it is the supreme and final source of guidance in any situation because 2 Timothy 3:16 says it is. I think I've just come to realize that as sin compounds and collides with the sins of others, often the clean application of God's Word doesn't seem as easy as it does in simpler circumstances.
I do believe that God never wants divorce--that it is a very last resource to be used carefully by believers in very specific circumstances. However, I also believe that while man looks on the outward appearance, God looks at the heart. I have heard stories of people who divorced under "biblical allowances," and at that particular time it was clear from the way they expressed themselves and pursued it that divorce was not being used for the purpose that I believe God has given us laws--to draw us closer to Him and to reconcile relationships between sinners. I also wrestle with some of the specifics of the few New Testament passages that instruct us on divorce. What does it mean for an unbelieving spouse to "leave"--are we talking physically, legally, or relationally? What about a professing "believer" who leaves, initiates divorce and doesn't repent? How do you know he was really a believer? Are marriage and divorce even things that God has given the state the right to regulate, or is there some higher law that He governs? There are just so many things I don't understand.
So I come to it like this. It is my DUTY as a sister in Christ to confront sin that I see, supporting it from scripture. I do that because I know how dangerous sin is--it is a slippery slope straight to hell, and into an abyss of feeling abandoned by God. Willful and continued sin dishonors God and makes His name which we as believes bear a mockery instead of something of wonder and awe. However, because sin is very, very messy . . . because it quickly becomes complicated, and is compounded by the confusion and consequences of tons of sins committed by all of us sinners, all converging upon each of our lives, there are many times it is hard for me to tease apart another person's specific sins from those of others. Only God can see an individual's heart. I have to trust Him to be better than I am at convicting you and drawing you away from what is devastating.
For those put in the difficult place of considering divorce, my counsel would be first of all to pray FERVENTLY about every decision you make. Pray for Him to close the doors and prevent you from doing something if it is not His will. While godly counsel and submission to church leadership is ESSENTIAL, you must also seek and follow the Holy Spirit's leading, being very careful to try to discern your motives. Because separation and divorce are so emotionally and personally charged, move slowly if you can, and be prepared at any time to wait or stop if the Lord so directs you. DON'T worry about the money or risks if you feel like He is slowing you down or stopping you. Just trust Him to provide or to perform a miracle! I can attest that even though there were a few times in my process that I was very unsure about the biblical legality of what I was doing (although my church leaders and wise friends assured me I was justified), eventually the Lord took the whole thing out of my hands and worked it out so I didn't and still don't have to wonder about my role in the process. Finally seek restoration and repentance at all cost. Even if you don't feel like it, even if you don't think it's what you want, pray for what would best reveal Christ in your life and to the world. It is amazing what God can do to repair our emotions even when we think we are past the point of forgiveness and healing.
One image that has kept coming to me as I've wrestled with this was that our God, who DESPISES human sacrifice, commanded one of His own people to sacrifice his son. Abraham obeyed right up until God stopped his hand with the knife in it. Sometimes God asks of us things that don't make sense with what we know about God and His commands, but He wants us to do what is right, so He will not let us go too far if we are sincerely pursuing what He wants and instructs us to do. It is really up to you and God to try to discern your heart's motives and desires, and to bring them into submission to Him. Thankfully, He is a God of grace and mercy, forgiving us of our sin. Although you will see INCREDIBLE things happen if you totally submit to God, even in those things you do not think you can give or do, He will work out His best for your life even if you cling to some of your own will and make some wrong choices.