The more serious a woman is about her Christian faith, the more devastated she is about a divorce. So, if a divorce happens for any reason, a Christian woman is not only distraught about the divorce, she feels as though she has disappointed God, too.
Not long ago, even the idea of Christian divorce was not acceptable. Christians were taught, and many still believe, that divorce breaks not only our promises to each other, but also our sacred promises to God.
Women, who are looking for Christian divorce recovery resources and who come to Midlife Divorce Recovery, often feel guilty because of their divorce. They often feel as though they have let down God, their families and the Church, even if they tried everything they could to save their marriage.
Churches and parishes usually do not know what to do with Christians going through divorce. Churches don’t want to appear to endorse divorce.
Churches often shy away from, or even shun, the Christians in their own congregations who need Christian divorce recovery advice. The Bible encourages us to “comfort the broken-hearted,” but most churches ignore those who are broken-hearted because of divorce.
In a perfect world, all marriages would be based on strong moral guidelines. All marriages, including Christian marriages, would be encouraging, safe and uplifting to both husband and wife. Our marriages would be full of joy and just plain fun. Divorce wouldn’t happen.
Of course, even Christian marriages aren’t perfect. My husband eventually wanted something – someone – else. And after three long years of giving him every chance to give up his girlfriend, he made the choice to keep seeing her. Finally, after I realized he was not going to give her up, I filed for divorce.
As a Christian woman who promised to be faithful ‘“Til Death do us part,” it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I was devastated that I was now one of those Christian divorce statistics.
I didn’t believe in divorce. Divorce wasn’t supposed to happen to us. We are both Christians. We had had a good marriage and four amazing children and even grandchildren.
But I finally decided I couldn’t be the woman God created me to be and stay “one” with a man who could spit in God’s face every day by having an emotional and sexual relationship with another woman while he was married to me.
Infidelity and Christian Divorce
There are verses in the Bible that seem to say, irrefutably, that the only reason for divorce is infidelity. But my Christian mom, who was married to my Christian dad for 63 years, both always said, “There are a lot of ways to be unfaithful.” I agree with that.
- Adultery is infidelity on a sexual level.
- Abuse is infidelity on a physical, mental and emotional level.
- Addiction is infidelity that creates personal and family chaos and destruction.
And there are infinitely more ways that one partner can destroy a marriage relationship. Lack of physical intimacy. Lack of real communication. Not respecting and valuing his or her partner.
Institutional churches seem to focus primarily on sexual infidelity to determine if a divorce is what they call “permissible” or not. if a Christian marriage is not working because of other problems, it is often not considered an acceptable reason for divorce.
Things are changing a bit within the Church. I believe they should.
Divorce & The Bible
In my own experience, people can use the Bible to bolster either side of any argument. All of us can find Bible verses that make “our side” of the Christian divorce conversation seem right.
The New Testament tells a women to respect her husband. A husband is commanded to love and care for his wife like he loves and cares for his own body. They are each encouraged to leave their parents and “cleave” to their spouse and be faithful to each other.
The Bible also demands sexual fidelity and fulfillment within marriage. In the Old Testament, men often had many wives. Men were also allowed to “put aside” (ie. divorce) their wives for almost anything. However, if they did so, they were required to give her a “Certificate of Divorce,” so that she could remarry. If she did not have that protective document, she could not remarry, had no means of financial support and would often be destitute.
Realizing that there are many interpretations of the very same verses in the Bible, here’s what I believe: God’s perfect plan is that marriage is a place where two people are stronger and better and more fulfilled together than they are apart. And that marriage lasts last until one partner dies.
But we are all fallible creatures. We are not perfect, and even Christian marriages end in divorce. But I do not believe that divorce is the “unforgivable sin,” and that if we divorce, we are destined to live a life of loneliness and guilt until we die. I believe we can still fully participate in the life of the Church even if we are divorced and remarried.
The glory and beauty about Christianity is that we always have a chance to start fresh with a clean slate, and God covers us with his forgiveness and grace, continually. That is an awesome reality!
The question of the acceptability or validity of Christian divorce has strong opinions on both sides of the question. We do not have the space or time to thoroughly discuss all parts of the various viewpoints in this blog. But there are several books that have helped me look at Christian divorce in a more clear, and I think, Biblical, way.
Christian Divorce Recovery Books
During my divorce, I read dozens and dozens of divorce recovery books on divorce in general, and many on Christian divorce. Below are three books that are very helpful if you’re a Christian going through divorce looking for Christian divorce recovery help.
These books are all published by Leafwood Publishers located in Abilene, Texas. Leafwood is a subsidiary of ACU Press, an accredited University publisher which means that they meet certain academic and scholastic requirements.
Below are three “must read” Christian divorce recovery books :
Divorce and Remarriage: A Redemptive Theology by Dr. Rubel Shelly
The best Christian theological book I have come across about divorce (and remarriage) was written by Dr. Rubel Shelly. This is how the Divorce and Remarriage book describes Dr. Shelly.
Rubel Shelly preached for the Family of God at Woodmont HIlls in Nashville, Tennessee, from 1978 – 2005. During that time he also taught at Lipscomb University and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He holds a PH.D. from Vanderbilt, and is author or co-author of many books, including The Jesus Community: A Theology of Relational Faith and The Second Incarnation. He presently lives in the Greater Detroit area where he teaches philosophy and religion at Rochester College.
Dr. Shelly, who also served as an elder in the church, felt compelled to write a book dealing with divorce and remarriage because those discussions were coming up more and more in all of his different roles.
Here is what others are saying about Divorce and Remarriage:
“With the high rate of divorce and religious confusion on this subject, there is a desperate need for a book that is comprehensive in its appeal to the original Hebrew and Greek languages, that challenges the traditional interpretations, that is caring, compassionate, wise and practical, this is it!
– Kenneth R. Greene, Pulpit Minister, Metro Church of Christ, Cedar Hill, Texas.
“Even though there are no pat answers to this challenging cultural epidemic, Shelly grapples with the complex biblical issues surrounding divorce, tackling even the most difficult ones. But Shelly integrates his in depth textual study with real life stories and a strong spirit of compassion. The result is a book that radiates the spirit of Christ and the amazing grace of the gospel.”
– Rhonda Lowry, Nashville, Tennessee; frequent conference speaker.
I Will Change Your Name by Dana Hood
A practical and sensitive word of encouragement to all who are going through the stress and difficulties of divorce. Writing out of her own experience of a heartbreaking divorce, Dana Hood shares 53 devotional messages to encourage and inspire women going through divorce.
The author writes: “Through the excruciating pain of divorce, the Lord was truly changing my name. From abandoned to welcomed. From rejected to cherished. From defeated to victorious. At times I listen to the deceiver’s lies and forget my name. But the Father is always there to remind me of my true identity: I am his.”
“And so it is with you. If you will call on him, he will change your name, too. What names do you carry? Lonely? Abandoned? Bitter? Hopeless? Go to the Father, and let him speak your true name into your heart.”
Dana Hood chairs the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas. Her books include Beautiful in God’s Eyes: Building Character, Wisdom and Faith in Young Women, Let All the Children Come to Me: A Practical Guide for Including Children with Disabilities in Your Church Ministries, and Along the Way: Conversations about Children & Faith. Since writing this book Dana has married Glenn Pemberton and they live in Abilene, Texas.
Radical Recovery: Transforming the Despair of Your Divorce Into An Unexpected Good by Suzy Brown
“Wherever you are on the midlife divorce trail, take a deep breath and realize there is a plan for you after divorce. Radical Recovery is a resource guide to help you survive those first awful days, weeks, months, and, of course, all the nights of a midlife divorce.
But the goal is not just survival, it’s life-transformation. You can change absolutely everything in your life for the better. In spite of your divorce, there is a destiny for you beyond your wildest dreams. Believe that truth and get your new life started today.”
Unsolicited testimonials about Radical Recovery:
“Suzy, I wanted to thank you for writing your book, Radical Recovery. I can’t express to you the encouragement and peace of mind it gave me to read your words. I feel like you reached inside my heart and my mind and captured the feelings that have been swirling around in there for many years now. The emotional roller coaster is unreal and so very hard to explain to someone who’s not been there. Thanks for validating my feelings and making me seem “normal” and not a complete freak walking through this world with everyone else who obviously has it all figured out =). Blessings!!”
“This book will shake you out of your lethargy, knock you out of your bitterness, and bounce you out of your self-pity parties. If you want something that is pie-in- the-sky and full of pleasant theories, skip this book. If you want to get better, you have come to the right text.”
– Dan Knight, Minister
“I thank you for the courage it took to write this book, to invest yourself in this mission, to respond to God’s call to help other women in healing gaping wounds, to guide us on so many practical issues, to counsel us about our children, and once again, to offer your loving spirit to so many. Though you address hard issues, you also slip in such terrific humor. I love it!”
Learn more about Christian Divorce Recovery through Midlife Divorce Recovery:
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Thank you for this helpful resource and the useful items contained in it. I pray for God to continue to use you as you minister to women going through and recovering from divorce.
Again. I’m a Christian man that has been cheated on and insisted on the second occasion that she leave me and the children which she did. But can I find help for a man. No. It’s all aimed at women and female recovery. What about me. What about my feeling of failure. Letting God down and the church down. And 2 years on still searching for that good Christian support. For me and my kids.
Thank you for this article. My situation was a unique and complex one. As far as I know, my husband was never unfaithful to me sexually or romantically (thought I can’t swear to it). Instead, he began to put everything else before me and my son (his stepson). We slowly became invisible. We rarely had any intimacy for the entire 8 years we were together. He cited health problems (of which he had many), but he neglected to give me ANY physical affection of any kind. He ruined me financially. He forced me to lie and hide things for him. He was constantly addicted to painkillers, and then to weed. He was constantly getting in trouble over minor legal things, like traffic court or not managing his small business affairs legally. I was nothing but a roommate, live-in nurse, maid, personal secretary. Most days I saw him for maybe 5-10 minutes at most; he lived in his office, and slept in there, too. I was in a constant state of loneliness, neglect, depression, worry, stress, and despair. I felt doomed to a life of playing nurse and maid to a man I barely knew, and who didn’t seem to care for me or my son much. I didn’t want to spend my life living in filth and sadness, waiting to become a young widow to a man who didn’t take care of himself, his home, or his family. I could never approach him about anything; I was a quiet and non-confrontational person, but even so, when confronted, he would shut down and become like stone; emotionless and uncaring. I eventually became ill physically and mentally. At last, I came to a point where I said to myself, “If divorce will condemn me in God’s eyes, then I’ll have to throw… Read more »