Divorce is one of those topics we don’t really like to talk about in church. We all know people who have been wounded by divorce, and we all know people who have been wounded by staying in an unhealthy marriage. We know that the Bible speaks against divorce, yet we also know that God allowed divorce because people’s hearts are hard, and divorce is sometimes better than the alternative. When the “D-word” comes up, it’s so much easier to either fall into black-and-white legalism (“do you have biblical grounds?”), or politely ignore the subject and all the pain that goes along with it.
That’s why I’m so excited about Elisabeth Klein Corcoran’s new book Unraveling: Hanging on to Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage. Elisabeth gets really honest about what it’s like when a marriage between Christians comes apart at the seams. We need more courageous truth-tellers like Elisabeth, and I am honored to have her posting here today.
One of the things that I picked up along the way after I became a Christian as a teenager was that divorce was the unforgiveable sin. I made this up through bits and pieces of sermons, Christian books, things pastors would say, my own self-imposed guilt, and the often-quoted-not-fully-in-context verse of shame: “God hates divorce”. I dragged this belief into my difficult marriage with me, and it colored my prayers and actions for years.
My marriage was hard, with all kinds of abuse and addiction issues, and I handled it all wrong for many, many years, adding to my pain and my then-husband’s pain. I prayed and I asked for help and I read books, but for some reason, I wasn’t getting the right kinds of answers.
I believed not simply that I shouldn’t get a divorce or that I wouldn’t get a divorce but that I could not get a divorce. As in, it was impossible for me as a Christian. A non-choice.
So after a few years of praying for healing for my marriage, I changed the kinds of desperate prayers that I’d pray. I skipped over praying for release and went straight to, “Kill me, Jesus.” I literally asked Jesus to end my life because, in my mind, I could not end my marriage.
I wasn’t suicidal. I knew I would never take my own life. But I begged Jesus to kill me, on more occasions than I want to remember. My marriage was simply that bad. I felt simply that stuck. And I felt the Church would agree more with my prayer for my death than my prayer for divorce, though I was ashamed of both.
It turns out that divorce – though hated by God, for certain, right along with violence being done to the one who should be protected (if the verse is to be read in full) – is not the unforgiveable sin.
Is it wrong to divorce? Yes, in some cases.
Is it okay to divorce? Yes, in some cases.
Is death preferred to divorce? Absolutely not.
God is a God of life. God is a God of restoration. God is a God of making new things and making all things new. God is a God who can do anything. And God is a God of grace.
So this is my call to the Church. We must look at this issue. We must hold the individuals inside of the institution of marriage with at least as much if not more value than the institution of marriage itself. God created marriage for people, not vice versa.
Too many women and men – who love Jesus – are dying in their marriages. We must reach out to them with deeper, better, truer help. And if resolution just can’t come, we must reach out with grace.
Elisabeth Klein Corcoran is the author of Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, speaks several times a month to women’s groups, and is a member of Redbud Writers’ Guild. During her time at Christ Community Church’s Blackberry Creek Campus in Aurora, Illinois she began and led their women’s ministry for ten years prior to moving to the city’s Orchard Community Church. She lives with her children in Illinois. Visit her online at http://www.elisabethcorcoran.com/difficult-marriage-divorce/ or https://www.facebook.com/ElisabethKleinCorcoran. She is the moderator of two private Facebook groups: one for women in difficult Christian marriages, and one for Christian women who are separated or divorced. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in joining.