Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on “Miserable Marriage”

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.

2 Responses

  1. I agree with a majority of this column, but I do think that not just physical abuse needs to be addressed, but also emotional and spiritual abuse. Now you may say (especially if you’ve never experienced this) that if he is not laying his hands on you, then it is not really abuse…but I will confirm that there were many times during my husband’s rages when he was destroying everything in our household and telling me how he ‘hated me’ and ‘wanted to punch me in the face so badly’ that I almost felt as though I would rather take a blow to the face and have it be over with because the emotional fear and stress on a daily basis was far more painful.

    This may sound ludicrous, but if you have been in a marriage like this, you would understand. Besides, there are many “Christian” men who know that if they lay a hand on their wife that it will be clear grounds for her to leave him, and so they ‘beat’ her in every other way possible, breaking down her very soul to the point where she no longer recognizes who she is or what he has become.

    This is a very real manipulation and punishment that is just as effective as slapping a woman across the face…it all accomplishes the same goal in an abusive mind which is ‘power and control’ over the other person, this is abuse. I just felt that I needed to stress that, and point that out because I have had so many predicaments, including having a Christian counselor encourage me to reconcile with my husband after he had brought a loaded gun into one of his rages against me, simply because my husband hadn’t ‘physically’ harmed me…yet.

    This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed in the church as a whole, because people are being abused in horrendous ways and the church is allowing it simply because there is no bruise. But I can tell you from extensive experience the bruise on the heart, mind, and soul takes much longer than a physical bruise to heal. Thank you.

  2. Oh, I do not agree that you should just ‘remain separated’ from an abusive spouse. I have come to the conclusion that if after you leave there is no true repentance and miraculous change (you would know it if it was truly a change from the Lord Himself or just a facade) then divorce is eminent.

    I am not condoning divorce in any way, and I struggled personally (still do) about this for many a season when trying to decide prayerfully if I would reconcile with my husband again. I was not going to remain separated for the rest of our life (he actually wanted that), because I came to fully realize that I would still be tethered to him and that he would still continue to use manipulation, guilt, and any other tactic to either just make my life miserable or to try to get me back under his control.

    We did not have children, I must mention, so this made the decision a little less weighty…my heart goes out to those that do. I understand that God hates divorce…in fact, I hate divorce. But I will not allow that to make me believe that God will hate ME if I choose to divorce. Our God is not a God of guilt and shame, He is a God of redemption, life, love, grace, patience, kindness, understanding, perfection, and compassion. There will be a season where God may be upset or brokenhearted about His children divorcing…but He also clearly states that He is slow to anger and will forgive anyone who comes to Him with sincerity and repentance.

    I have done just that…and walk in His love, knowing that He will never leave me or forsake me (even over the sin of divorce) and that He still has plans to prosper me and to harm me. And part of that plan was to lead me safely out of a relationship with a person that was doing just that…harming me.

    Don’t give up hope, dear one. I understand what you are going through right in this moment as you contemplate changing your life with the thought of divorce. I feel your pain, I have felt it for many years now…and I understand the confusion that is in this world. Turn to Jeshua…Jesus…God the Father…and tell Him every single word that you are feeling. But I challenge you to first, before any of those words are uttered, to kneel down and praise Him, even in this moment…for it is in that praise that revelation and peace will come and every word spoken after you praise Him will be seasoned with understanding and quickened aid.

    I promise you this…blessings in this moment, and just know someone cares…

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