Divorce in the Church: “I literally asked Jesus to end my life because, in my mind, I could not end my marriage.”

Unknown-1Divorce 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.

UnknownElisabeth 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 elisabethkcorcoran@gmail.com if interested in joining.

2 Responses to Divorce in the Church: “I literally asked Jesus to end my life because, in my mind, I could not end my marriage.”

  1. Kris October 4, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    This could have been the story I wrote! I prayed to die for years and cried when I woke up. I only left when the abuse started extending to my kids and honestly believed that I was going to hell but it was worth the sacrifice for my kids to have a chance at life. Of course, that isn’t what I know or believe now that I was introduced to the true gospel of grace by a church that literally saved my life!

  2. Epimenides part deux November 12, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    I was in an abusive marriage for many years. I’ve endured every kind of harsh word imaginable, and had every sort of object hurled at me or bashed over my head. I even jumped out of a 2nd story window to end a drunken thrashing with a metal rod. But what gave me hope in the midst of this was NOT hope in this life, but hope in Christ. This world is a broken place, but as Christians we hope for something better, and that something better will come when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead.

    It is a gracious thing when you suffer for doing good:
    “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
    …Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”(1Pet2-3)

    But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
    …The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
    Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.(2Pet3)

    Almost 20 years later, I am now happily married to that same spouse, who is now a Christian believer. My vow was until death do us part, and I meant it. Although it was brutally hard, and although I wanted to die a lot, I could not get past 1 Cor 7:16.

    “To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her… For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”(1Cor7)

    As Americans we are raised in much comfort, and when we lose that comfort we’d rather die. It is because we are spoiled and selfish. But God doesn’t promise us comfortable lives, but comforts us with hope in a kingdom that is still coming. We don’t need comfort when we have news, the good news that in God’s mercy Jesus has saved us from the coming wrath that we justly deserve. This news is so good, that we can with all the saints rejoice in our sufferings, and praise God that He has granted us the faith to suffer.

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