Should I Get a Divorce If I’m Miserable in My Marriage?

This week, Pastor J.D. answers a question that has been submitted by several listeners: “Should I get a divorce if I’m miserable in my marriage?”

Show Notes:

  • My heart goes out to people that are in these types of situations. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than being in a relationship that supposed to bring life and joy than when it ends up feeling like misery.
    • That’s why at multiple points the Bible will advocate caution as you approach marriage because you are about to tie yourself to someone for the rest of your life. It’s not a covenant to enter lightly.
    • We have done a podcast before here on Ask Me Anything, which is linked here, that walks through the biblical reasons on whether or not divorce is OK.
    • But I do want to acknowledge, like I stated on the previous podcast, that there are some reasons where the Bible teaches that divorce is justifiable. This can be remembered by the three A’s: adultery, abandonment (1 Corinthians 7), and abuse.
  • But the specific question wasn’t if adultery, abandonment, and abuse were present should I get a divorce but if I am just miserable, can I get a divorce, and the Bible is pretty clear that in that case, you don’t have a justifiable reason to leave.
    • Divorce has never been about you and your happiness. It’s about a covenant that reflects God’s unconditional love and sometimes you show that by being with somebody that at the time is not giving you warm fuzzies or meeting all of your needs.
    • Jesus didn’t stay with us because we made him happy. It was that love that ultimately showed his greatest glory.
  • So somebody might hear that and say, “Well then does God want me to be miserable?”
    • Of course not. God does not want you to be miserable at all but here’s the thing, the way to happiness in the Bible is never through a change of circumstances. The way to happiness in the Bible is the way to holiness.
    • What this might mean is that you stay married even if you feel unfulfilled. Let me be clear, I’m not talking about the situations where there is abuse. I’m only talking about the situations where you feel unhappy.
    • Russell Moore said, “Remaining faithful to a wife that you wish you had not married might seem miserable to you but taking up a cross and following Jesus is miserable in the short run at least. That’s why the book of Hebrews presents the life of faith in terms as sometimes not receiving what was promised (Hebrews 11:39) but seeing it and embracing it from afar.”
      • Sometimes the happiness that you’re embracing in the midst of a difficult marriage is the happiness that’s not now in the present but a happiness that is there in the future.

So how do you stay in a difficult marriage?

  • Reject the “Right Person” myth.
    • We talked a lot about this in our relationship series, but the “right person” myth says that there’s a right person out there for you and that a good marriage—and therefore your happiness—is determined by finding that person. If you aren’t happy in marriage, you probably aren’t with the right person. Press reset and try again.
    • But here’s the thing: You always marry the wrong person. How do I know that? You’re both sinners who will disappoint and fail one another! Plus, you’ll both change over time.
  •  Do it for Jesus.
    • The covenant you made in marriage was first and foremost to him. Even if you weren’t a Christian when you got married, marriage was  still God’s creation, and you did it in his name. You may not feel, in the moment, that the person standing in front of you is worthy of forgiveness or your continued faithfulness. But Jesus always is.
  • Soak yourself in God’s grace.
    • What precedes Jesus’ teaching on marriage in Matthew 19 is his teaching on forgiveness. That’s no accident. Ultimately, what kills a marriage isn’t a specific infraction; it’s hardened hearts that’s unable to forgive and live in grace. It’s not the fights or the frustrations or the lack of fulfillment. It’s a posture of the soul.
    • The good news is that Jesus can soften your heart through the gospel and his Holy Spirit. So lean into that. In the cross, we find forgiveness for the sins done by us and healing for the ones done to us.
  • Do it for others.
    • In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul urges that a spouse stuck in an unfulfilling marriage to an unbeliever lift their eyes beyond themselves to the positive effect that remaining in the marriage will have on others, particularly their kids. Sociology has borne this out today: Except in cases of abuse, dissatisfied spouses who choose to remain together lead to much better outcomes for their children than children of those who separate.
  • Get some counseling.
    • Me and Veronica have at several points…
    • But make sure you go to a godly counselor that you trust. I can’t tell you the number of people that have ended their marriage because some counselor told them they might as well go ahead and do it since they don’t get along.
    • When we consider leaving or divorcing, we, as believers, must consider what that communicates to those around us about the love of God. When we walk away from a marriage because we are unhappy, we implicitly tell others that God’s love is conditional, that when we annoy him or disappoint him or make him unhappy, he leaves us.
    • The world desperately needs to know a different kind of love—the patient, steadfast, never-giving up love of God. Let’s show them.
  • Don’t give up hope. 
    • Keep being faithful and praying. Sometimes God really will change the person. Give God’s grace space to work.

When you consider leaving your spouse, consider what it communicates about the love of God. That really is what is God’s primary purpose in marriage. It was a gift to us but it’s also about him—he’s teaching us about himself through marriage. So when we walk away from a marriage because it’s not fulfilling or because we feel miserable, we implicitly or sometimes explicitly tell us others that God’s love is conditional. We tell them that we annoy God or disappoint God, we can expect him to walk away from us, too. 

Want to ask J.D. a question? Head to our Ask Me Anything hub to submit your question.

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