For inquiring minds, I have transcribed the complete audio clip from the Saddleback Church website, of question #31 What do I do when I’m miserable in my marriage?
To read and compare, you may also want to read Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on Divorce and Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on Abuse.
Again, the speaker is teaching pastor Tom Holladay.
My question is going back to divorce, if your husband won’t do counseling and you’re just absolutely miserable, then does God still expect you to stay married? Especially when there are children involved and seeing this dysfunction.
Well, God sees you as one. The Bible says that we become one. So the answer, the Bible answer, is yes.
Does God expect me to stay in a miserable marriage? Why would He do that to you?
I often say to people when they are facing this decision, really, you are choosing your pain in this moment. Because it’s going to be painful either way. If you stay in the marriage there is the opportunity for reconciliation and for the loss of pain. But there is going to be short-term pain on the way there. There’s no way to not have pain. Because you’re separate from one another; and it’s not working. And that’s painful.
But if you divorce — what happens with most people when they decide to divorce, is the immediate feeling they have is of freedom. They feel like it’s better now. They feel like a weight has been lifted. And they feel like, “Whew, God’s given me my joy back.”
But it doesn’t take long, until you begin to discover – and many, many, many of you can give testimonies about this – that there is life-long pain in divorce. You’ve got the pain every time you’re with your children; what’s going on. You’ve got the pain with visitation. You’ve got the pain of the fact that you’re separate now. You’ve got the pain of every communication. You’ve got the pain of every little word is misunderstood. You’ve seen that haven’t you? When two people who are one are somehow now separate from each other, every little word becomes subject to scrutiny in a way that you misunderstand it and anger happens, and you can’t, you just can’t seem to put it back together, and there’s incredible pain in that.
I wish there was a way to say there is a choice here where you’re not going to have pain in this situation. But there is pain in relationships.
Now God understands this. He understands pain in relationships, because He has given Himself to every one of us. And if you look at the Old Testament, one of the most common pictures of the nation of Israel — His Bride, He says — is this picture of divorce; of someone who had walked away from Him. And He expresses it in great, great detail of pain. So God understands our pain, and He can be with us in our pain. And He can comfort us, He can strengthen us, He can give us perspective.
He can also give us wisdom. Does God expect me just to live with this pain? No. I think He expects us to ask Him for wisdom to do the things that would cause the pain to begin to be solved. He says we’re one. And as Christians, as believers, the Bible says that a husband is to sacrifice for his wife, a wife is to respect her husband. But if that’s not happening, you have not only a right, but I believe a Christian responsibility, to keep pushing for that. To not just settle for the pain. Does that make sense?
Now, what if you’re married to an unbeliever? Well, the Bible talks about that, too. And you can’t say, “Well, you have to do what Jesus did for the church.” Because they don’t understand that. But I Cor. 7 is the chapter that’s all about that.
Very clear, God is just extremely clear about this when He says, “If you’re married to an unbeliever stay with them. Then it’s got some strange language in there where it talks about “for the sanctification of your children.” Like your children are going to be saved by you staying together. Well, it doesn’t literally mean that they’re going to get salvation because you stayed together. But it does mean that their spiritual life will most likely be healthier.
Now, in every case? No. But in most cases, absolutely yes, their spiritual life will be healthier. If you just take a look at secular studies of homes, with husband and wife in the home, and kids, and even if they’re struggling, even if they’re struggling; and husband and wife separate from each other, raising kids – it’s pretty obvious which one’s better for the kids.
I’m not talking about situations of physical abuse. If you’re in a situation with physical abuse you need to get to a counselor right away. You need to sit down with them, share with them what’s happening, get some advice, and immediately resolve that situation.
And when I say physical abuse, I mean literally when someone is beating you regularly. I don’t mean they grabbed you once. I mean they’ve made a habit of beating you regularly. You need to separate from that situation. That’s the only thing that’s going to solve that. It’s the only possibility of solving it.
So, I wish I had an easier answer, but there is pain.
Oh, Shondelle is asking, are you married to that person then forever? No, you’re not. And some of you are going, “thank God!” right now; I see it in your eyes!
Jesus was clear about this when He talked to the Pharisees, the Saducees, the teachers, about it one time, and He said, “You’ve got this whole thing about marriage, you’re all so confused about what’s going to happen in heaven.” He said, “In heaven there’s going to be no marrying or giving in marriage.”
Now I don’t know what that means, I don’t understand that, because on earth marriage is the ultimate – when it works – it is the ultimate intimacy in a relationship. And to think I’m going to live forever without, not just the physical intimacy, but the emotional intimacy? To think that I’m going to live forever without that, it’s hard for me to grasp; it’s hard for me to understand.
But that’s because I’m on this earth right now. That’s because I don’t understand the intimacy I’m going to have with God in heaven. I’m not talking about, I’m not being weird her and talking about sexual intimacy. I’m just saying that sex for us on this earth is somehow a window into — when it works, when it is true intimacy — is a window into what God is going to be about for all of eternity in our life.
We’re not going to have a sexual relationship with God; I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that this taste of intimacy we have on this earth, God is going to fulfill all those needs forever in heaven.
We’ll know each other in heaven; we’ll have relationships with each other. Will we know the people on this earth when we’re in heaven? Most likely. How do I know that? Well, Jesus had a resurrected body, and all the disciples recognized him. Even though they were still human, they recognized him. Oh that’s Jesus – when they saw Him in His resurrected body.
So I figure when we get to heaven we’re going to be able to recognize each other in our resurrected bodies. And I figure we’re going to get to choose whatever year we want for our resurrected body. I’m choosing 53, right? No! 23! I want that resurrected body. Who knows, in heaven you might be wiser and choose 63, because that’s really the better one. But we’ll see when we get there.