How to Deal with Condemnation in Divorce

This great subject came up on another thread, so I wanted to copy it as it’s own post.

Viktoria said:

…I have a question. I am getting a divorce from an abusive marriage. The thing is that I have been a youth leader for many years and there were several times when I had to talk to the christian girls (often members of our church) who decided to marry non-chrisitan men… Now, as I am divorcing from a chrisitan marriage I hear it in my head all the time “How could you tell all these girls not to marry non-christian but GOOD men when your own christian marriage is falling apart?” I was praying about it but this just doesnt go away, especially that this last friend of mine has a much better marriage than mine. This steals my peace of mind. And these thoughts come to me again and again.

Danni replied:

This is a great question and there are actually two parts to the answer.

I think as Christians who end up divorcing, one of the things we all have to deal with is condemnation. We usually get a bucket-load of it put on us by others, but then there is the even greater pile we put on ourselves.

There are a variety of reasons. One is just that Satan is the accuser of the brethren and he will try any trick he can to put a believer into a defeated position. And if we are feeling condemned we ARE in a defeated position. Satan comes for nothing but to kill, steal, and destroy – and he will use condemnation to do it.

The idea that your friend who married an unbeliever has a better marriage than your Christian marriage is straight out of Satan’s bag of tricks. There are too many variables in that judgment to be able to make such a definitive statement. God’s Word is still true – a believer must not marry an unbeliever because it puts us in a spiritually adulterous position. There are no two ways about it. Whether the fruit of that has yet been manifested in your friend’s life isn’t the test of truth.

We also condemn ourselves. We have a paradigm of belief regarding what Christians “do” and “don’t do.” And divorce is definitely on the “don’t do” list. So even if we land in a situation where divorce is the only option, our hearts will condemn us because we are violating the “don’t” list.

I John 3:20-22 is very helpful with this. It says that if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and He knows all things – He sees the whole picture. And if our hearts do not condemn us (the position we can be in before God – because Rom 8:1 there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus who walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh) then we have confidence and boldness toward God and our prayers will be answered.

The truth is that our acceptance before God is based on Jesus’ sacrifice – not on anything we do or do not do. God does not look at us with displeasure, anger, or judgment – He sees only Christ’s sacrifice and it is more than enough. The same grace that provided our eternal salvation is the grace that provides for all of our todays, too. (That’s the subject for a much more in-depth study.)

And God’s grace is not only enough, but if we are attempting to add to it or “do” for God by our “works” – even after salvation – we are stepping outside the bounds of His grace (of which condemnation is a sure sign) and are cursing ourselves (Gal. 1:8-9). God isn’t cursing us – we are cursing ourselves. That’s what condemnation is!

Another factor that enters into your question is the qualification of a Christian vs non-Christian marriage. God tells us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. But who is an unbeliever? Unfortuately, church teaching on this subject is woefully lacking. We accept anyone who has “prayed the prayer” and says/does the right things as being a Christian. That is foolish and dangerous.

The Word describes a godly union –

A man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife. Then — and only then are they one flesh. Anyone who puts asunder that union has committed adultery. Putting asunder happens a long time before a legal document is handed down by the courts! And the person who has “put asunder” that union is the one who is at fault.

Also the Word says that a man who does not provide for his family is worse than an unbeliever. Among other things, this points back to the definition of a godly union. If a man (or woman) puts asunder s/he has demonstrated that they are an unbeliever – regardless of what they may say they have prayed or whether they go to church and serve regularly and “do” all the “good Christian” things. An abuser most definitely puts asunder – an abuser puts his/her spouse away in every action they take toward their spouse. There is no union, no cleaving, no one-flesh.

And the Word has a process of how a Christian should be able to take this offense to the church, in Matthew 18. Ideally, the church would ultimately judge an abuser as an unbeliever and put them out of fellowship. This doesn’t happen in today’s church, but it is what the Word says is supposed to happen (I Cor. 5 – an abuser is a railer, even if no other of these applies).

Once someone has been judged an unbeliever by Biblical standards the guidelines of I Cor. 7 apply, and a believing spouse is not required to remain with an unbelieving spouse who isn’t “pleased” to dwell with them. An abuser isn’t pleased with anything! It doesn’t matter if that person refuses to remove him/herself from under the same roof. They are not being pleased to dwell with their spouse. There is no peace there. And the believing spouse is NOT bound to remain in that marriage.

So, this is what the Word says. You weren’t in a Christian marriage. You were unequally yoked to an unbeliever – though you didn’t know it.

You have no condemnation. And you can use the truth of the Word to stand up to those voices – whether external or internal. That, in turn, gives you boldness and confidence with God.

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9 Responses

  1. Good reply, Danni! Viktoria was married to a closet unbeliever who practiced serious sin repeatedly, and 1 Cor. 5:11 tells us we should put such people out of the fellowship and declare them unbelievers.

    And to Viktoria, I’d add:
    Someone who has married an professed unbeliever may have a reasonably ‘happy’ marriage when it comes to the everyday interactions, affections and care for each other that good marriages can provide. But she is sleeping every night with someone who (unless he converts to Christ) will ultimately go to Hell. What a heartbreak, to love someone and yet know they are heading for eternal destruction!

    These matters often fade into the background when we are engaged in ordinary life with its pleasures and challenges. But from the viewpoint of eternity, they are weighty indeed.

    Being married to an unbeliever will also mean that one’s work for the kingdom is compromised. How can one give to missions as one might like, spend as much time in good deeds for the poor, evangelism, bible study, etc, as one might wish to do, when one is saddled with a spouse whose aims and aspirations in life are different at core from one’s own. You are in two different kingdoms.

  2. I see, Babrbara, what you mean. Unfortunately, there are so many bad examples of christian marriages (including my own now) that more and more people choose to marry good non-christian people to have a good family and be happy and dont think about this issue from the perspective of eternity.

  3. You’re right, Viktoria. In fact, a friend of mine suggested to me a couple of months ago, “No more guys from church.” Sadly, I think that twisted theology gives abusers a layer of entitlement to dominate that might be more intransigent than the patriarchy we see in society generally.

    Another friend, who is a devout Christian, is now married to her third husband. Her first two were abusers and were Christians (closet unbelievers?), and her current husband is Jewish. Her Jewish husband is a wonderful man, she has told me, the best husband any woman could hope for.

    And by the way, Barbara, I love that very descriptive term, “closet unbeliever.”

  4. What do you do about the kind of condemnation that comes from your ex-husband remarrying and having your daughter-in-law make comments about the new wife and all of the work shes doing to your former residence and how great it looks etc. She has also made comments that she thinks that their marriage is probably not great but ok. Even though I have forgiven him and try to walk in that forgiveness how do you handle people that are still close to your abuser and still in relationship with you? Why do I feel like some other woman has walked into my former life and is doing a better job than I did? Why does my abuse and the stand I took against it seem to be totally forgotten in the face of his new relationship? And why do I care?

    • Mary,

      I had the same thought about my ex and his new wife/family just in the past couple days. They look like everything is just perfect. But I know I looked like everything was just perfect for many, many years, too. And I know he never repented so he took himself with him. It doesn’t matter what it looks like on the outside, the same fruit has to be happening out of sight, just like it did in my marriage to him.

      I have also had feelings of jealousy – not in wanting him back, but feeling like she has taken over what was mine, she has had a child with him and that was my place. Weird.

      Another thing is that feeling that he has moved on with his life and everything is just rosy, while I’m still living daily with the aftermath of what he did. I’m the one how paid all the price and am still paying it. And it seems like no one else even realizes that reality. I just take this one to God and cry on His shoulder. HE knows and He cares about it.

      It is a bit difficult dealing with family or close friends who have remained close to him. With friends, I just put them off – if they are his friends they aren’t mine; that’s a fundamental impossibility. But with family it is different. One of my sons believes I was wrong to get a divorce and he has “forgiven” me while remaining close to his dad as ever. (He was the sheltered one.) And of course, I have a daughter who goes to visit her dad every other weekend and I deliberately foster her adoration for her daddy. I think she needs to have that for as long as possible. And I pray that because her visits are special, he treats her better than he would have if she lived under his roof.

      It was hard when he remarried and the one son and my daughter participated and were excited about it. The other son refused to attend and wrote his father a letter about how he had no business remarrying when he had never addressed any of his behavior in his first marriage. He wanted to tell his father he couldn’t come this his own (son’s) wedding and I had to tell him that was just not an option. But the other son and my daughter adore their daddy. And it is hard.

      But I also know the end of the story isn’t written. Since he did not repent, there will be more to this sooner or later. I refuse to feel condemned; I know the truth. All those externals are just that — external. I don’t know why we care.

      To some extent it makes sense that we care. That relationship and position was rightfully ours. There is injustice in the way it is now. But there is also a difference in feeling the natural feelings associated with that and wanting the relationship back. None of us want that. But it is part of natural grief to have feelings of loss for what we should have never had to give up.

      — Danni

  5. Mary, my first thought was that I am sorry for a new wife of your former husband! If he never repented then she might end up in the same situation and the fact that she is trying to be a good wife will not help her. My husband (we are separated and in the process of getting divorced) is already telling me that he is going to get married. I am really sorry for that woman who will marry him.

    I think that all these comments bother you because we are humans and have our feelings and emotions which dont just go away when we wnat them to. Dont be hard on yourself, when it bothers you! But rememebr that even if you tried to be a better wife (I am sure that you were a great wife) it wouldnt help your husband because the abusers abuse because they choose to, not because someone makes them act this way.

    Also as women we identify ourselves with our home and family and of course you feel that some other woman is at your place! She is actually at a place that was yours for many years. I am sure that God has a much better place for you and will take care of you!! Because He loves you! And also it might be a good opportunity to work on seeing your indentity more as dependent on being God’s child rather than dependant on the things which can be easily take n away from us.

  6. Danni, I just wanted to say that I dont know yet how your blog works in terms of leaving comments. Like after I read Mary’s post I felt like I had something to say to encourage her in response to what she wrote. Is it ok?

  7. I married a non-ordained “God-called” preacher. Though he’s impacted many people’s lives, we were definitely not equally yoked. I believe in GRACE setting me free (yes, even from divorce when I’m not loved as Christ loved His church). He’s more OBEDIENCE, and even told me that I belonged to him. When we’d be intimate, he’d say “Oh yes, Jesus, I love You more than this woman” — Many other Spiritual abusiveness that I could not handle and my only way out was divorce. He’s been critically ill for almost 3 months and has wanted me to be his medical power of atty, of which I’ve stepped up to the plate to do….I’m feeling like I’m being “emotionally and spiritually blackmailed” — I know this is going to pass because “Greater is He that’s in me than he that’s in the world” and I continually run into God Word which is a strong tower. I refuse condemnation, though hard, and all those other people have not known this man as I have — God does, though and am relying on Him knowing my heart was in the right place and still is….Rom. 8:38 & 39 are my life verses. This creature can’t take it away…. Thanks.

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