Marriages fail for many reasons – infidelity, abuse, irreconcilable differences. And while divorce should always be a last resort, there are times when it’s the healthiest choice. But how can you know if divorce is God’s will for your life? This is one of the toughest questions a Christian can face.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: While the Bible says God hates divorce, there are a few exceptional cases where divorce may be permitted, like adultery or abandonment.
To know if divorce is God’s will, look for guidance in His Word, seek wise counsel, examine your motives, and listen for His still small voice.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through the biblical principles regarding divorce, the signs that it may be permitted, how to discern God’s will in your situation, and finding hope and healing after divorce.
The Biblical Principles on Divorce
God Desires Lifelong Marriages
The Bible teaches that God’s ideal plan is for a husband and wife to remain married for life. Several passages describe marriage as a sacred covenant that should not be easily broken (Malachi 2:14-16, Matthew 19:4-6).
God intends for marriage to be a loving, lifelong union between a man and a woman that reflects Christ’s love for the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Marriage also serves social and familial purposes that provide stability and nurture the next generation.
Divorce Is Permitted in Some Cases
Although God desires lifelong unions, Scripture does permit divorce in certain situations. Jesus himself acknowledged that divorce was allowed due to the hardness of human hearts (Matthew 19:8). Grounds for biblically permissible divorce include:
Remarriage After Divorce
Views on remarriage after divorce differ amongst Christians. Some believe remarriage is never allowed after divorce, while others permit it in certain cases. Key factors to consider include:
|Remarriage not permitted
|Literally interprets Jesus’ words banning remarriage after divorce as adultery (Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18)
|Remarriage permitted in some cases
|Allows for remarriage when the grounds for divorce were biblically legitimate
Those holding the latter view argue that passages warning against remarriage after an illegitimate divorce do not apply to permissible cases of divorce previously described.
Regardless, divorced people considering remarriage should thoughtfully and prayerfully evaluate their unique situations according to Scripture under wise pastoral guidance.
Signs That Divorce May Be God’s Will
Infidelity, or cheating on one’s spouse, directly goes against God’s commands for faithfulness in marriage. Though God can bring restoration even after infidelity, repeated unrepentant infidelity may be a sign that one’s spouse is no longer committed to the marriage covenant.
In Matthew 5:32, Jesus said divorce is permitted in cases of infidelity. However, divorce should never be the first option when infidelity occurs. Seeking guidance through prayer, Christian counseling, and God’s Word should come first.
But if the unfaithful spouse remains hard-hearted and unwilling to end the affair, divorce may be the only option.
When a spouse willfully deserts their marriage partner, divorce may be permitted. God calls husbands and wives to mutually fulfill marital duties to one another (1 Corinthians 7:3-5). When one spouse utterly abandons these duties and leaves the marriage for no biblically valid reason, the abandoned spouse may be released from the marriage.
However, every effort should be made at reconciliation before considering divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
Repeated Unrepentant Sin
God can bring healing, restoration, and forgiveness even in situations of repeated sin. However, when a spouse is engaging in unrepentant, destructive sin and refuses to get help or change, divorce may be permitted.
This is especially true when the sin places the other spouse or children in danger, either physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. God permits divorce for desertion, which could include emotional or spiritual desertion as well as physical desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15).
Always seek godly guidance through prayer and Christian counsel first.
Physical or Emotional Abuse
God cares deeply about the plight of victims of domestic abuse. Physical or emotional abuse goes directly against God’s commands to love others. When a spouse abuses their partner, it inflicts terrible damage physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Though God can bring healing and restoration even in abusive marriages, persistent and unrepentant abuse indicates an ungodly, unhealthy situation. Many Christian and secular counselors strongly advise separation in abusive situations.
Some even see divorce as the proper, biblical choice, and necessary to protect the abused spouse and children (if applicable) from further harm (see https://www.focusonthefamily.com/family-qa/biblical-grounds-for-divorce/). Each situation is different, but safety should be the first priority.
Discerning God’s Will About Divorce
Search the Scriptures
The first step in discerning God’s will is to examine what the Bible says about divorce. Key passages include Matthew 19:1-12, where Jesus teaches that divorce should only occur in cases of sexual immorality, and 1 Corinthians 7, where the apostle Paul addresses divorce between believers and unbelievers.
Christians must carefully study these and other relevant Scriptures rather than relying on personal feelings or experiences alone.
Seek Godly Counsel
In addition to studying the Bible, Christians considering divorce should seek out wise and godly counselors. Pastors, mentors, or mature Christian friends can help give much-needed perspective and discernment.
According to Focus on the Family, seeking outside counsel provides accountability and prevents hasty, emotion-based decisions.
Examine Your Motives
Self-reflection through prayer is also crucial when making major life decisions. Christians need to humbly examine their hearts before God. Key questions to ask include: What is motivating this decision? Is divorce an excuse to pursue happiness outside of God’s will?
Am I considering all options for reconciliation?
Listen for God’s Still Small Voice
After searching the Scriptures, seeking counsel, and examining one’s heart, Christians should listen for the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. God promises wisdom to those who earnestly seek Him (James 1:5).
While His voice can be drowned out by fear or anger, taking time to be still and know He is God opens the heart to receive His supernatural wisdom and peace to make the next step.
Finding Hope and Healing After Divorce
Release Anger and Bitterness
Letting go of anger and bitterness after a divorce is vital for your mental and spiritual health. As difficult as it may be, make an effort each day to forgive your ex-spouse and release the negative emotions. This can free you to move forward.
Prayer, journaling, or speaking with a counselor or pastor can help you process these feelings in a healthy way. Leaning on God for strength rather than holding on to bitterness allows room for emotional healing.
Embrace God’s Forgiveness
It’s common to struggle with guilt during and after a divorce. But remember that we serve a God of grace who offers complete forgiveness. Accept His mercy and forgive yourself as well. Don’t allow shame to weigh you down.
God gives us the gift of new beginnings. Let go of regrets over the past by embracing His forgiveness today. Be gentle with yourself during this season.
Look to the Future with Faith
While divorce brings loss and pain, it also opens new doors to the future God has prepared. Reflect on Jeremiah 29:11 – God knows the plans He has for you. Ask Him to reveal the next steps He has for your life.
Pursue the passions He’s placed in your heart with fresh expectation. God promises beauty from ashes. Trust Him to bring purpose out of your suffering.
Rely on God’s Strength
You may feel overwhelmed adjusting to a new normal after divorce. But you don’t have to walk through this alone. God promises to be your rock and refuge, giving you His strength when yours runs out (Psalm 18:2).
Abide in Christ through prayer, Scripture reading, and Christian community. Let His powerful grace renew you each day as you heal from divorce’s wounds.
Divorce is one of life’s most painful experiences. No one gets married intending for it to end. But sometimes, even after much prayer and effort, divorce becomes the wisest choice.
If you find yourself considering divorce, know that you’re not alone. God sees your pain and longs to comfort you (Psalm 34:18). Seek His wisdom every step of the way. Though it may not feel like it now, He promises to work all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
With Christ by your side, you can find healing, hope and a new beginning. May God grant you His peace and guide you forward in faith.