Remarriage after divorce is one of those topics that can make otherwise “good” Christians become prickly, self-righteous, or downright vindictive. And if you’re remarried or contemplating remarriage, the religious messages in church, or from so-called Christians on social media, can threaten to drown you with confusion and shame. I faced those questions when I decided to marry a divorced man.
Before making that decision I had a lot of wrestling to do. Would marrying a man who had been divorced mean God could not bless this marriage? Could my emotions be clouding my grasp of what God truly wanted for me? Would marrying a divorced man prevent me from fulfilling the ministry God had given me? Is remarriage after divorce always adultery? Is it always a sin?
In thinking through those questions I read the Bible, prayed, read what other Christian leaders had to say, and prayed some more. I had a clear green light from the Lord to proceed, and my marriage was very blessed.
This is not the place for a deep Bible study on the subject; there are other sources for that. But I want to outline some things I came to understand through this process, and hope it’s helpful for you.
We might like things to be simple; a list of sins can make those who stay “clean” feel good about being self-righteous. Truth is always truth. But God’s perspective is much more mature than our own. If we want to truly know Him and His ways, we must invest time and effort to fully understand what He has to say.
God Hates Divorce
Oh, how some Christians love to quote that Scripture. The King James version says it like this: “For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: For one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: Therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” (Malachi 2:16)
At the time Malachi wrote, some of the Israelites were divorcing their wives simply because they had grown tired of them, breaking the marriage covenant, dealing with them “treacherously.” Yes, God hates that!
If someone is unhappy in marriage, “falls in love” with someone else, and divorces their current spouse in order to marry someone else, that is treachery and adultery in God’s eyes. Don’t do that.
It’s very different when one’s spouse breaks the marriage covenant through infidelity, ongoing abuse, serious addiction, abandonment, etc. God can heal anyone and anything where He is given opportunity to do so, but it may be that your spouse is truly toxic and refusing to give God that chance. (Is God releasing you from your marriage?)
On a deeper level, God hates divorce not because it offends some heavenly hierarchy of sins, but because it hurts His children. Divorce always hurts His children! Sometimes that pain becomes unavoidable.
Healing Takes Time
Remarriages have a very sad track record of success. Statistically, a second marriage has a much greater chance of ending in divorce than a first marriage, and a third marriage has a still greater chance of failure.
That should lead anyone contemplating remarriage to pause. What’s the common denominator? You!
That doesn’t mean a remarriage will always fail; mine didn’t! But it does point out the most important question, I believe, that must be asked. And that is, What kind of growth has happened that provides reason to believe this next marriage will last?
That applies whether it’s you or your spouse, or both, who was married previously. Even if your ex was unfaithful, an addict, an abuser, etc., why were you drawn to them? Have you done the work in your own heart to deal with your stuff? Are you healthier now, such that you can connect with a healthier person? How have you changed?
And if you’re contemplating marrying a divorced person, what evidence do you see that they have done the necessary work to grow and heal, even if their previous spouse was “at fault?” Have they looked at their own character defects and grown through the experience?
It’s a Package Deal
Regardless of how “at fault” your or your spouse’s ex was, having been previously married brings baggage into your present (or contemplated) marriage. You or your spouse had sex, in marriage, with someone previously. You and/or they have memories, feelings, history. Have you looked at that?
My husband had raised two boys, and they were beginning families of their own when we got married. Their mother (his ex) and her husband were also in the mix. I had to decide if I was ready and willing to embrace the whole thing – warts, history, personalities, etc. That blended family reality would be part of my life forever; could I live with that?
And not only tolerate it, but embrace and love the whole bunch of them.
Every remarriage or blended family is different. But what is always true is that it’s a package deal. Families can get healthier with intentional effort and growth, but that’s only partly up to you. For a remarriage to have a chance at success, go into it only with fully open eyes.
Questions to Ask
If you’re remarried, contemplating remarriage, or contemplating marrying someone who was married before, these important questions will help you assess the wisdom and health of your relationship. If the answer to these questions disturbs you, you know where there is work to be done!
- Why did the previous marriage end? (God can heal anyone who gives Him a chance! But has the truth been looked at and dealt with?)
- Have you fully embraced the journey of healing, so that you are a different person now?
- Has your spouse (or intended spouse) if married before fully embraced their journey of healing, so that they are a different person now?
- Has sufficient time elapsed to allow that healing journey to happen? Have you or your (intended) spouse been intentional with that time?
- Can you fully embrace the whole package involved in remarriage? (You or your spouse’s history, any kids or extended family, etc.)
I am terribly grateful I listened to God’s green light, and moved forward to marry my husband Al. Whatever your stage in the process, seek that peace from God in moving forward. And if that’s remarriage, may you continue to seek God’s presence every step of the way.
Your Turn: Have you wrestled with God’s view of remarriage? How does this perspective impact your thoughts about this topic? Leave a comment below.
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