While it is important that we do our best to live a life that God would approve of, we still live in a world filled with the consequences of sin and shame. And sometimes there is no way to avoid things we never wanted to be involved with. Divorce is one such situation. Nobody wants to be divorced, Christian or not. But for those in the church, divorce feels like a scarlet letter. The shame and embarrassment can be unbearable. And the support among fellow church members can be scarce or even non-existent, even if you could not avoid the divorce and did everything you could to keep the marriage alive.
So, does God really forgive divorce when you find yourself walking down that path? The truth is that God absolutely forgives the people who get divorced just like he forgives all the other sins you commit on a daily basis. While God is certainly disappointed when His people get a divorce, He is quick to forgive those who repent of what they have done wrong. And for those of us who find ourselves in a divorce through little to no fault of our own, He gives grace and strength to get through the difficult road to recovery we are on.
While that was a quick and easy answer, there is actually quite a bit more to the story. Let’s go ahead and unpack it step by step.
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Will God no Longer Love Me if I Divorce?
I know that as Christians, especially newer and younger Christians, we tend to think if we don’t please God well enough, He will no longer love us. Nothing is further from the truth. He knows that not a single one of us will walk the earth without sin. Except for Jesus. And we aren’t Him!
When I was in college, someone once told us that God’s love is like a parent’s love, except not flawed by humanity. So, when a parent finds out about the sin of their child, they may be disappointed. They may even be outright angry. But they still love their child dearly and desire to bring them back under their loving care. (If you were raised in an abusive home, you do not necessarily have experience of this analogy, but can maybe understand it when seeing other families that do show this kind of love.)
God, in His perfect love, sees His children fail in many different areas of life. But when they repent, He is quick to wrap His arms around them and bring them back into His loving care. When you get divorced, God is very sad, not only for the divorce, but for the fallout it will produce for many more people than the couple divorcing. But upon repentance, God is eager to bring you back into His fellowship and love.
Divorce is no different than other sins that you commit in the eyes of God. The only difference really is in the consequences that are unique to the sin of divorce. Every different sin will have it’s own set of consequences. That does not make it forgivable/unforgivable. Just different. Does that mean it’s okay to casually divorce others and then repent? NO! Romans 6:1-2 says, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
Divorce is not the Problem: It’s the Sin That Killed the Marriage
Malachi 2:16 says, “I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “because the man who divorces his wife covers his garment with violence.”
So yes, God does actually hate divorce. But more specifically, He hates the things that brought a couple to divorce. The divorce in and of itself is not the sin. It is the result of the sin. Abuse, adultery, and abandonment are three of the biggest issues that lead to divorce. And generally, it is one partner that causes that, leaving the innocent partner to suffer the shame and fallout of the sin and then the very public divorce.
While none of the above mentioned sins make divorce mandatory, more often than not, they do lead to divorce, especially if the offending partner is not repentant or honest about them. And the partner that is victim to these things should not be further shamed because they chose to get themselves to a healthier and safer place.
In the case of divorces that happen just because the couple no longer feels like they want to be together, God absolutely considers that behavior to be sinful. If you are struggling in a marriage that is not abusive or neglectful, then by all means, you should both be fighting to get it back to life. You both have the potential to work together with God to make your marriage better than it has ever been. And if you both work diligently toward that and actually listen to what your partner is feeling and thinking, you can have that marriage that is better than you had ever hoped!
In the case that you divorced in sin, remarried, and now want to repent of the divorce, you can and should. God forgives you when you repent. But He also meets you where you are. You cannot now divorce your second spouse to go back to the first, especially if the first is now remarried. It is legal. But it is not practical and would make an even bigger mess of the original sin. In the best case scenario, you can repent to God, seek forgiveness from the person you divorced, and then hopefully in the future come to a place where everyone is at peace with all that happened and how it ended.
These are the times that we can be glad that in Heaven we won’t have all the messy life that we had on Earth!
Here are several articles that deal directly with divorce that you may find helpful (this article continues below this list):
What Sins are Unforgivable?
The Bible is pretty clear throughout that God will forgive you if you seek His forgiveness and turn away from your sin. The Bible never speaks about certain sins that you can repent and ask for but God won’t forgive them.
The Bible does, however, speak about one unpardonable sin. But is it divorce? Absolutely not! In actuality, the Bible never specifically says, “The one unpardonable sin is _____.” But we get some really good hints when we take a closer look at what it does say. The two most prominent verses are as follows:
Matthew 12:31-32 says, “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
Mark 3:28-29 says, “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
These Scriptures alone make it pretty clear that the only really “unpardonable sin” is refusing the leading of the Holy Spirit, which leads directly to the refusal of God’s salvation and an eternity in Hell. That means that any other sin committed is something that you can repent of and be forgiven–as long as it is sincere.
Humanly speaking, we tend to put values on one sin over another. For instance, telling a lie is much less significant than committing murder. As indeed it should be treated in the justice system. But in God’s justice system, every sin removes you from perfect fellowship with Him and in need of a Savior to bring you back into His fold. And it is pretty clear that every person that has ever lived has sinned and needed God’s forgiveness.
The point God is making is that nobody is good enough to merit being in fellowship with God alone. We all need a Savior. And it is attainable for all who seek the Savior. But for those who put away the leading of the Holy Spirit to repentance and fellowship with God, no salvation can be found.
Just Because We are Forgiven for Divorce Does not Mean There are no Consequences
While it is really good to know that those of us that find ourselves going down the road of divorce can find forgiveness, peace and comfort, that does not mean that we will not experience the consequences of divorce. Whether you initiated the divorce or not, there will always be fallout from it. Here are some of them:
- Custody issues as well as children who feel the weight of a family torn apart
- Destroyed finances
- Loss of the family home
- Loss of family and friends in the turmoil
- Messy holidays
- Feelings of guilt and/or isolation
- Feelings of loss
- Inability to relate to others in healthy ways (relationship paralysis)
- Clinical depression, exhaustion, eating problems, sleeping problems, and many other physical issues
There are even more consequences than these. For a more complete list, check out my free 57-page guide to divorcing a narcissist well.
Is it a Sin to Remarry After Divorce?
Jesus Himself actually spoke about remarriage. So, certainly, remarriage is not always a sin if Jesus spoke about it. But other places in Scripture speak about those who remarry causing themselves and their new spouses to commit adultery. Clearly, it depends on the specific circumstances of the remarriage. Let’s take a closer look.
In fact, let’s start with the words of Jesus that I just referenced. In Matthew 19:9, Jesus says, “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” This actually hits both of my points above, that is is both acceptable and a sin to remarry based on your circumstances. We know for certain that if a man divorces his wife because she was sexually immoral (this can mean a variety of different things), then he is free to remarry without being guilty of adultery. It wasn’t his fault. But to take this verse to its logical conclusion, it also means that if a man divorces his wife for any reason and then marries another person, he is the one committing adultery, and his former wife is then free to remarry without being guilty of adultery.
Let’s take a look at a few more verses. 1 Corinthians 7:39 says, “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” I have never seen someone who is widowed get negative feedback about remarrying. And that is the way it should be! It would be amazing if we could figure out the divorce/remarriage issues without so much judgment and gossip in the church.
The truth is most of us have no idea what a couple went through that brought them to divorce. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes. And because of that, it makes it very difficult for anyone, even clergy, to be able to make a snap decision as to whether a couple is “okay” to remarry based on vague “rules.” And while religious leaders are to be shepherds and care for their people, sometimes in their zeal to lead, they insert themselves too far in controlling the lives of their parishioners. It is hard to find a healthy balance between shepherding and control.
The one case where we can definitively say that remarriage is a sin is when a person remarries over and over again, either throwing away spouses for minimal reasons or even because they are not wise or emotionally healthy enough to realize that they are marrying a toxic person and will not be able to stay with that person long term.
At the end of the day, we pledge to God to marry someone for life. If we have to break that vow, it must be for a very good reason. God doesn’t want us to stay married if the marriage vow was broken by egregious sin. But He also does not want us to take marriage so lightly that we don’t do everything we can to save a marriage that can be good if both partners work wholeheartedly with each other.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 says that a cord of three strands is not easily broken. That means that if you and your spouse (two cords) intertwine your lives together with God, His third strand will hold your two strands together. And you will be able to withstand just about anything. The key here is that your two strands must stay strong as well. You must both work your hardest while leaning on God.
And with that, let’s talk about how God can bless a second marriage.
Will God Bless a Second Marriage?
I read in a book some time ago that 70% of second marriages end in divorce. I have seen that statistic before. Research has shown (and I believe the same) that the reason for this is because after experiencing divorce once, the second time it is easier to pull the plug.
But on the other hand, the vast majority of people I know who got married a second time are still happily (but imperfectly) married many years later. I believe the reason for that is that most of those people didn’t get divorced because they just didn’t want to be married anymore. Most of them have stories of abuse, alcoholism, adultery, and neglect. If their first marriage could have succeeded, they would still have been married to their first spouse.
God understands all of this. And while He does hate divorce and most notably, sin, He also wants us to be well and whole. And if it takes a divorce and remarriage to do that, then He is good with it.
I base this on the fact that Jesus says in the Matthew verse I shared above that those who marry within reason are not considered to be in adultery. They are free to remarry and find a fulfilling life on Earth if that is what they want to do.
As long as you are in fellowship with God, listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and open, honest and hard working in your new marriage, God will bless you and all those who surround you in the love of God.
In this article, we covered a whole lot of issues surrounding whether God really forgives divorce. First, we covered how God really feels about our divorce and about us as His children. Then, we talked about the fact that it is the sin that leads to divorce that is the bigger issue. Next, we talk about the fact that divorce is not an unforgivable sin and what sin actually is considered unforgivable. We spoke about the painful consequences of divorce that are not triggered based on whether or not we are forgiven and if it is a sin to remarry. Finally, we talked about how God can bless a second marriage.
I hope that all of this has been encouraging to you, especially if you found yourself divorced due to no fault of your own. (We all sin and do harmful things in our marriage; that does not mean we contribute to the divorce though.) What has your experience been like? Did your church impose unfair judgment on you? Or maybe they were super supportive? Were you able to keep yourself in a positive mindset in spite of feeling like your world was falling down around you? I would love to hear your story. Please feel free to share in the comments below.
If you are struggling in your marriage and not sure if you are in a difficult marriage or destructive marriage, you need to read Leslie Vernick’s book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. It will help you to figure out if you marriage is destructive and you need to free yourself to get to a healthy place. Or, it will help you to realize you are in a difficult marriage but it is salvageable and can turn into a wonderful marriage once you both get some guidance and learn how to turn things around.
This book begins with a test to give you a pretty definitive answer as to what your marriage is like. Then, it allows you to make your own decision as to your future based on the test results. Finally, Leslie goes on to show you how to live out your decision well, whichever way you decide to go. It is an amazingly helpful book for anyone who is having a hard time in their marriage, even if they aren’t even thinking about separation or divorce. It could be the perfect book to get your life where it needs to be physically, mentally, and emotionally. Check it out here:
Regardless of the state of your marriage or divorce, know that God loves you and as long as you stay close to Him, He has your back, even when it doesn’t feel like it!
If you found this article helpful, I think you will also be interested in many of the following articles:
- How Narcissists Use Religion to Control and Manipulate You - December 26, 2023
- Do Flying Monkeys Ever See the Truth? - December 16, 2023
- Flying Monkeys Spying: Understanding and Dealing With It - September 21, 2023