You feel like you honored God in the decision you made regarding who to marry and spend the rest of your life with. You continued to honor God as you moved along through your marriage. (That doesn’t mean you had to be perfect or repent of sins from time to time.) So then, how did you end up in this space of impending divorce? Where is God? Why don’t you feel Him protecting you and your marriage?
Just know that when God releases you from marriage, He’s got you! Know that if you did everything you could to honor the marriage and your spouse, however imperfectly, if they choose to break the covenant through abuse, abandonment, adultery, or other unlivable conditions, it isn’t your divorce that has broken the marriage covenant. God is very much there with you. And He is guiding you into a safer and healthier world.
We are going to talk about what this looks like in more detail. But first, I would like to emphasize a couple of points before we begin.
God does hate divorce. You can find those words in the Bible in Malachi 2:16. But He does not have divorce more than He loves His children. He would never put a dangerous marriage ahead of a the wellbeing of who is trapped in that dangerous marriage. He does indeed hate divorce when it is done frivolously or because people just choose not to work hard anymore to honor each other and, in turn, God. For more on how God really hates divorce, click here.
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Signs That God is Releasing You From Marriage
God will not leave you hanging whether your marriage is going extremely well or incredibly bad. As long as you are looking to God, He’s got you–even when you feel like He’s totally gone.
So, how do you know exactly what God is thinking about your situation? How do you know if God is releasing you from marriage or expecting you to stick it out until things get better? Believe it or not, there are some definitive ways to know. I walked down what seemed to be a very dark road without God for a few years. But for that entire time, I was blessed enough to be surrounded with friends, counselors, and church leaders who walked this difficult road with me and literally showed me how God was still very much there and working in me.
I can see it pretty clearly now that I am on the other side. And I know you will too! Here is some of what I learned about how God was releasing me from my marriage.
God is Releasing You From Marriage if You Feel like you are in Any Type of Danger
If you feel like you are in any danger, especially in the moment, remove yourself from the situation and immediately call 911 or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Or you can visit online at thehotline.org. Even if you aren’t sure, call the number above to speak with someone who can give you some clarity about the warning signs to look out for.
If you don’t feel safe in your marriage, then God is certainly not expecting you to stay married for the sake of the covenant you made. That covenant no longer exists if you feel like your spouse is a danger to you and/or your children. And it wasn’t you that broke it.
I was fortunate enough to have counselors and church leadership that saw when the threat became physical for us. As we were working through counseling in church and in a counseling agency, my then husband became angrier and angrier. And they all saw it. About a month before they had him removed from our home, my pastor sat me down to give me all the warning signs that I should look out for. By that time, the kids and I were already keeping our distance from him. But it was good to know that there were people keeping a watchful eye on us. And also making sure he knew it too.
God is Releasing You From Marriage if Your Spouse Refuses to Repent of Unbearable Behaviors Toward You
When two people get married, especially if they are professing Christians, in a perfect world both of them would willingly and gladly work things out when they go awry. They would be eager to be back in right relationship. And so the marriage would go. They would grow old together. And they would live happily ever after.
Unfortunately, this is often not the case, even in Christian marriages. And God knows this is the case. He knows we don’t live in a perfect world even more than we do!
If your spouse is doing things to harm the marriage and family relationships without repentance, especially abusive things, then that is a good sign God is releasing you from that marriage. But what that also means, unfortunately, is that you have to spend some time in a difficult space in your marriage. While that is a difficult time, it is also a good time for you because it allows you to know for certain if there are possibilities that your relationship can get better.
I know a few people who were able to save their marriages during this difficult time of reevaluating and working through huge issues in their relationships. When both people chose to put their whole effort in, beautiful things happened. Life wasn’t perfect. But they were both so much better for it. And neither took the other one for granted anymore.
If both members of a marriage do not work wholeheartedly, this result cannot happen. And when one member falls short and refuses to do what they need to for the marriage to succeed, there is nothing the other member can do to make that happen.
This doesn’t mean your spouse needs to be perfect or you get to leave. It doesn’t even mean that if your spouse is still doing things that are huge pet peeves to you, you can just leave. What it does mean is that if your spouse does things to you that are abusive, you can get yourself to a safe place.
Abuse does not have to be physically dangerous. It can be constant gaslighting (wearing you down by constantly convincing you that you are crazy or unable to think reasonably), lying to you, putting you down, controlling you, or similar behaviors that are harmful to you on a regular basis. Many women (and men too!) stay in an abusive marriage for many years or even decades because they don’t realize the level of abuse they are enduring. They think things will get better over time. Or that they are expecting too much from their significant other. God does not want this for you! And you are not breaking the covenant of marriage by breaking free. That covenant was already broken by abuse.
You may want to read more about this in my article, What Does the Bible Say About Abusive Husbands?
You may also be interested in reading What Does the Bible Say About Narcissism?
God is Releasing You From Marriage if Your Spouse Leaves You/Your Family
If your spouse walks away from you and your children, then God is certainly releasing you from that marriage. In the eyes of the law as well as just plain reality, you can’t remain married to someone who chooses not to honor their wedding vows. Essentially, you can’t prevent someone from divorcing you if they choose to. God will not hold you responsible for that.
But outright leaving your family is not the only kind of abandonment. There are other types of abusive behaviors that constitute abandonment as well. Let’s take a look at a couple of those.
First, when your spouse chooses to control you as though you are a piece of property or a doormat, that is not a marriage and not even a relationship. They are using you for what they can get out of you. That is not a marriage. And it is considered abandonment in the sense that you are not in relationship with that person. They don’t really even see you as a person, but as a means to get what they want. Just because they come home every night for the dinner you serve, the bed you made, and the sex that they insist you owe them, that doesn’t mean you are truly married in the covenant sense of the word.
That doesn’t mean that if you have difficulty relating to your spouse from time to time they have abandoned you and you have the grounds for divorce in God’s eyes. It does mean that if that becomes the prevailing pattern of behavior, then you do have grounds for divorce, even in God’s eyes.
Next, abandonment can be when your spouse does not take care of the family’s needs. When food, shelter, money, friends, and any other necessary aspects of life are not provided, it is considered abandonment. While the spouse is still physically there, they are not providing for even the basic needs of the family. They are not present with their family or alert to their care.
And finally, emotional and sexual abuse is considered abandonment. That is because often, the abuser will use emotional or psychological abuse to force you to believe what they want you to believe rather than reality. And if you don’t choose to believe them, they will threaten, either outright or by insinuation, that they are going to abandon you. And they may actually physically abandon you as well. God releases you from marriage when you are treated in abusive ways like this. Know that God never expects you to be treated so inhumanely, especially for years at a time.
Scriptures That Show How God Releases You From Marriage
The Scriptures most used to show that God releases you from marriage are the ones that speak about adultery (Matthew 19:9 “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”) or an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:12-13 “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.”). But there are actually many more reasons that God releases you from marriage.
First, let’s note that Jesus never specified a list of reasons that God would release you from marriage. I believe there are some forms of divorce that are absolutely justified by God but don’t necessarily need to be voiced. Murder and extreme physical abuse are a couple of those reasons. Does Jesus really have to say that your spouse murdering you is valid grounds for divorce?
And also, I want to note that God releases you from marriage in many ways that are not specifically written for the marriage relationship exclusively, but for all of our relationships with others. Let’s take a look at some of those Scriptures.
God Releases You From Marriage in Times of Extreme Anger
Proverbs 22:24-25 says, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” While it doesn’t specifically say this is regarding a marriage, it absolutely applies. If God doesn’t think you should be friends with someone who has anger issues, how much more would He not want your best friend on this Earth to be taken over by anger?
There are literally thousands of verses in the Bible that speak to how we should relate to everyone that crosses our path. Our spouses should be at the top of that list. If we don’t treat our life partner better than anyone else, how would they feel? Unfortunately, often we all treat our spouses worse than others because we are in our homes, “letting down our hair.” We have to have somewhere that we don’t have to be on our game all the time. But we should still be very aware of how we treat our significant others.
God Releases You From Marriage When Your Husband Doesn’t Live With You in an Understanding Way
1 Peter 3:7 says, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
My counselors and church leaders shared this verse multiple times with my ex. Because my ex professed to be the “best Christian in the room,” they hoped that giving him actionable verses would help him to see ways that he could help us to turn the marriage around. His response was always, “Me and God are fine. It’s my wife that’s the problem.” It didn’t take long for them to all see that our marriage would not be saved.
1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Honestly, I don’t think there is anything I can add to this. It is so perfectly worded already. But I will say, applying this verse in conjunction with all the other verses paints a very clear picture of how we should treat those we are married to and share a household with.
God Tells You to Avoid Those Who Cause Division and Dissention
Titus 3:10-11 says, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” God has no tolerance for those who cause strife and division in the church, in the home, and of course, in our marriages. Especially in the case of a narcissistic spouse, division is their super power. It is so important not to let yourself get dragged down by that.
After reading these verses, you may need some more clarity regarding the condition of your marriage. Does your spouse do some of these things sometimes? None of us are perfect. So grace is important. But when your spouse exhibits these behaviors more as the rule than the exception, your marriage is going from difficult to destructive. And God is certainly releasing you from marriage that is destructive.
The resource that helped me to define my marriage and take action steps to heal myself and move forward was The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick. She starts the book out with a test that helps you to see exactly how your marriage stands. Then she allows you to make your own healthy decisions moving forward. And she shows you specific ways to heal yourself regardless of where your marriage stands. If you buy any book to help your marriage or to decide if your marriage is worth saving, this is the book you need to gain clarity! Check it out here:
The final verse I want to share with you is hopefully an encouraging verse for you. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Just know that God is your biggest cheerleader. He wants the best for you. And He isn’t keeping what He wants you to do secret.
If you have read a significant number of my articles, you know that I don’t assign homework! But for the sake of the subject of finding out what God wants for our marriages, and even more specifically, our lives, I would like for you to do some Bible reading. You don’t have to read the whole Bible all at once (although you can if you want to and have the time!). But here are some specific Bible passages that will help you to see how God helps you to live in peace with those around you.
Psalms and Proverbs
Reading one or two Psalms per day will give you a lot of really good life advice. Adding one chapter of Proverbs per day is perfect because there are 31 chapters in Proverbs. The book of Proverbs, of course, has proverbs that improve your life and walk with God. It is full of wisdom that everybody will benefit from, even the most emotionally healthy people!
My next recommendation is to read through the Gospels. They all show the life of Christ from a different perspective. And they are full of the history of Jesus’ time on Earth as well as His teachings about all of life. Those are the valuable nuggets that you will learn from as you read them with your thoughts directed toward your marriage.
The Epistles (meaning letters) are letters to the various churches in the area of the early church a couple of thousand years ago. But since we know there is nothing new under the sun (that verse is in Ecclesiastes!), we know that the teachings that various apostles had for the early churches is the same valuable teachings that can help us in our marriages, families, and all relationships today!
Here is a checklist to help you read through all of these passages. Print it up. Then take your time, or burn through them, whatever your comfort level. Do it a few times, you will be amazed at how much you continue to learn about all of life! And your marriage or journey away from marriage will be so much better for it. If you need anything in this time of struggle, it would be the Word of God.
Feel free to print multiple copies and share with a friend or accountability partner!
At the end of the day, God doesn’t guarantee us peace and perfection in all things. As long as we live this side of Heaven, we will have grief, pain, and sorrow. All we can do is trust that God has our back and that whatever we are going through will be used to God’s glory.
I begged God to save my marriage. I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t save a marriage if both people were professing Christians. What I didn’t know at the time was that God knew what He was doing. He got me and our children to safety. I now lead a local DivorceCare Support group and have helped hundreds of people. And this website has brought people all over the world to me so that I can encourage them as they heal and grow. I have loved receiving your messages telling me that you are grateful for the help, support, and encouragement that I can offer. And it is my prayer that you will feel comfort and peace as well as you stroll around on my website. Feel free to leave a comment below or contact me here if you do not feel safe commenting publicly.
Blessings and hugs,
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