That being said, I think it's very alarming and disheartening that divorce is on the rise, especially in the church. I've seen couples in conservative churches attend church together, get divorced, and then continue to attend the same church...and nobody says anything. I don't know the details or the background or who knows what or what others have said privately. All I know is that it makes me very uncomfortable that divorce is just accepted.
Andy and I were both raised with the mindset that divorce is not an option. Our parents have come from broken homes, and divorce is rampant. Our parents all started out with somewhat rocky marriages with issues that they had to work through, and yet they stuck it out and stayed together. Today both marriages are happy, healthy, and incredibly strong. I'm so thankful to have these influences in our own marriage. When Andy and I got married, it was with the understanding that it was for a lifetime. There was no disclaimer, no pre-nup, no "way out". We were entering into this together and we were going to stick it out together...no matter what.
So why are so many Christian marriages crumbling and falling apart? Aren't these people entering into marriage with the same commitment and resolve? Anymore, I'm not so sure.
As a woman, I want to speak for the ladies here. I think that a huge issue in our marriages is that we feel we have the "right" to certain treatment, love, and respect. Think about it: how many times have you heard women complain about their husband's in some way? "My husband is at work all the time". "He doesn't care about my feelings." "I never get romanced anymore." "My husband never helps at home...he just sits on the couch and watches football." Aren't these all common to hear?
Or, it could be more grievous, such as emotional and verbal abuse, an addiction (to alcohol, pornography, etc.), or adultery. (Let me step in here right now and say, I am by no means condoning staying with a man who is physically abusive. If you are in such a relationship, you need to get out and seek help NOW!!!) The point is, all of these "issues" with our husbands really point back to us and our desires, needs, and "rights".
In a healthy marriage, the wife is loved, cherished, and respected...highly. However, if we don't receive this, does that somehow give us the grounds to leave our husbands and seek a divorce? How is that in any way Biblical? Sure, Moses allowed for a divorce on the grounds of adultery. Yet, Jesus "stirred the pot" up, so-to-speak, in Matthew 19:4-9:
And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”
Yes, divorce on the grounds of adultery is allowable...but is it the best way? (And, notice, adultery was the only grounds...not disrespect, not being treated right, etc.)
As Christians, we are called to lay down our lives, take up the cross, and follow Jesus. Our "rights" become forfeit for the sake of the gospel. We are called to bring the good news to everyone, at the risk of persecution, loss of possessions, and even death. Where are our "rights" then?
Paul instructed those married to an unbeliever to stay with them, unless their spouse wanted to leave. Do you think that came with the disclaimer of "unless you are mistreated or don't receive the respect and love you deserve"? No way!!! Peter told wives to submit their their husbands, even if they weren't following the Word. Why? Because, in staying in a marriage, forfeiting her "rights", and submitting to a perhaps tyrannical husband, a woman is exhibiting what it means to be like Christ. She is glorifying God and furthering the gospel by letting Christ live in her and through her.
Let me end with a story that has impacted me in this area perhaps more than anything else. We had some family friends who were struggling in their marriage. The wife was a God-honoring and following woman and the husband was not. He finally revealed that he had had multiple affairs on her. They were separated for awhile, and then something miraculous happened: God got a hold of the husband's heart. He went to his wife and asked her forgiveness, saying he wanted to make things right.
Now, by all accounts, the wife had every right to seek a divorce, even biblically. Furthermore, why should she believe him now when he'd lied so many times before? Taking him back would be just setting herself up for further heartbreak...needless heartbreak. I honestly think most Christian women in the church would have counseled her to divorce him and move on. But here's the thing: she didn't do that. She took him back, they sought counseling, and now their marriage is stronger than it's ever been.
Isn't that an amazing picture of what it means to lay down our own lives for the sake of Christ? I know it is for me.
I can't begin to fathom what it would be like to have your husband cheat on you. I can't even speak for every marital situation, as to whether the wife should stick it out or move on. What I can tell you is that we give up to easily. We focus so much on ourselves and our needs...emphasizing how our spouse is not meeting them. In reality, our spouse can never be the one to meet all of our needs...only God can. Until we realize this, our marriages will continue to crash and burn.
It's time to start rising up and fight for our marriages. Satan knows that if he can kill our marriages, then he can kill our influence and our work for Christ. Do you want to continue worrying about your spouse's actions or treatment of you...or do you want to lay your "rights" aside and fight Satan's schemes by fighting for your marriage?
I for one, am choosing to fight.
Love is a shelter in a raging storm,
Love is peace in the middle of a war,
And if we try to leave, may God send angels to bar the door,
No, love is not a fight...but it's something worth fighting for
~"Love is Not a Fight" by Warren Barfield