DOES “FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE” MEAN I CANNOT DIVORCE?

 

When committed people of faith promise "for better or for worse" in our wedding vows, we take those words seriously.

 

They mean we promise to stay during the ups and downs of life. When life throws us difficulties such as illness, job loss, death of a child, mishaps, tornado damage, car accidents, job layoffs, or the eventualities of old age, it’s a promise that says we’ll stay together and be supportive partners protecting one another in the storms of life.

 

These are the external problems in life we cannot control.

 

 

But saying “for better or worse” does not promise we will stay if the ups and downs are due problems internal to the relationship, behaviors stemming from a spouse’s destructive character issues. It is not a blank check for bad behavior, or a "get out of jail free card" that absolves them from all consequences.

 

Do our vows mean we will stay...

  • —no matter how much our spouse cheats or betrays us?
  • —no matter how many venereal diseases they bring into the marriage?
  • —no matter how much they lie and deceive and coerce us?
  • —no matter how much their addictions squander the rent and grocery money from the family bank account?
  • —no matter how much they hit, slap, shove, or threaten?
  • —no matter how much they fondle kids or watch illegal child porn?
  • —no matter how much they insult, humiliate, bully, or intimidate?

 

How does it honor God or the holiness of marriage to stay when there are repeated marriage-destroying sins happening behind closed doors?

 

What are the marriage-destroying sins? They are the serious behaviors and entitled attitudes that are due to character issues. Not the little garden-variety sins. Not disagreements about decorating taste or food preferences, or how one squeezes the toothpaste or inserts the toilet paper roll.

 

They are the big issues that turn a home from a safe nest in the storms of life to a source of tension or fear or stress or hatred or humiliation.

 

For example, a pattern of

  • —sexual immorality
  • —physical abuse
  • —chronic emotional abuse
  • —life-altering addictions
  • —abandonment or severe neglect.

 

All of those are mentioned in the Scriptures as valid grounds for getting away. God himself divorced Israel due to her spiritual adultery. There are simply some things that God views as too extreme a betrayal of the covenant.   www.lifesavingdivorce.com/abuse-in-bible

 

  • —How is an adulterous marriage “holy”?
  • —How is an abusive marriage “good”?
  • —How is a violent marriage “godly”?
  • —How is a marriage full of lies and threats “undefiled”?

 

These marriages make a mockery of the one-flesh union. We aren't fooling anyone. This not what God intended. Our friends know it. Our children know it.  Polite society knows it. As one woman in my private Facebook group (Life-Saving Divorce) commented,

"For better or for worse" means "No matter what life throws at us"
NOT
"No matter what you do to me"

 

In 1788, after the Revolutionary War, an anonymous Philadelphia author, disturbed by the news that an unhappy wife had taken her own life, published an essay stating that America was famous for her love of liberty and hatred of tyranny of every kind.[1]

 

"But where is there any relief to the miserable, hen-pecked husband,

or the abused, and insulted, despised wife? . . .

They are not only confined like a criminal to their punishment,

but their confinement must last till death."

 

“Refuting religious objections, he asked: ‘Doth God require this sacrifice of our happiness, or in other words, accomplishment of our destruction?’”

No, he says, God doesn’t want us to end up destroyed by a toxic marriage.

 

He suggests that the only the Devil who would approve of a wife committing suicide rather than divorcing. He wrote:

 

 “…[divorce] would

—decrease suicides,

—prevent cruelty in marriage and encourage loving care,

—prevent fraud in courtship,

—save parents from irreparable sorrow at their children's unsuitable marriages,

—keep bachelors from avoiding marriage and practicing vice, and

—provide husbands for girls who could then become virtuous wives.”

 

“It would inculcate more friendly and beneficent ideas of the wisdom and goodness of Divine Providence in the disposition of human affairs, and dispose mankind more sincerely to reverence and adore the great Author of their being.’"

 

He suggested that allowing divorce in these cases would bring honor to God for his wisdom and goodness and would cause others to revere and adore the Lord.

 

As a Christian divorce recovery leader in churches for more than 20 years, I can affirm this is true. A much-needed divorce brings glory to God. The victim and the children praise the Lord for freeing them.


Footnote:

[1] Nelson Manfred Blake, professor of history, Syracuse University, The Road to Reno, MacMillan & Co., 1962, p. 48-49. The quotes are from An Essay on Marriage; or, The Lawfulness of Divorce in Certain Cases Considered .. . (Philadelphia: Zachariah Poulson, 1788), p. 3.


Do You Need Support?  I’d like to invite you to my private Facebook group, "Life-Saving Divorce for Separated or Divorced Christians." ANSWER the 3 QUESTIONS. This is a group for women and men of faith who have walked this path, or are considering it.


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