Abandoned . . . Bewildered . . . and Searching for Answers

Walkaway Spouse 1 Cropped (iStock_000007434507Small)

The following letter from a reader illustrates a very common problem among Christians.

I am facing divorce. I want to reconcile with my wife but she is unwilling at this point. I believe as followers of Jesus that there is no room for not seeking reconciliation and so I am not wanting to even participate in divorce proceedings, mostly out of hope that she will reconsider. So I am not sure even what to do. There is no adultery or abuse or any grounds. She just wants a different life without me.
 
Even if the worst happens, I want to do my best to honor the Lord, my commitment, and to offer love and forgiveness in the hope of reconciliation.

Blessings,
Steve

Naturally, I changed the man’s name to protect his identity; however, I didn’t alter the details of his circumstances. I didn’t have to. His situation is so tragically common, this letter could have come from any one of a thousand different men or women over the last couple of months. He finds himself abandoned, bewildered, and timidly trusting that no response is the best response.

Many people in his position have adopted a similar stance, saying in effect, “If my spouse wants to sin by pursuing a divorce, I’m not going to participate because that would be aiding and abetting his/her wrongdoing.” Their mistake is thinking that remaining passive will leave room for reconciliation and that hiring an attorney is responding to evil with evil. They also nurture an unspoken hope that bravely absorbing all wrongdoing will somehow prick the conscience of their sinning partner and eventually bring about repentance. Unfortunately, nothing will kill their chances for reconciliation faster than passivity. Here are at least three reasons to avoid a passive response to sin, including the sin of abandonment.

First, a passive response reduces respect, the life-blood of marriage. Dr. James Dobson explains this dynamic well in his book, Love Must Be Tough:

Successful marriages usually rest on a foundation of accountability between husbands and wives. They reinforce responsible behavior in one another by a divinely inspired system of checks and balances. In its absence, one party may gravitate toward abuse, insult, accusation, and ridicule of the other, while his or her victim placidly wipes away the tears and mutters with a smile, “Thanks, I needed that!”[1]

If respect is attractive, a passive response causes the abandoned partner to appear even less attractive to his or her mate.

Second, passivity actually hardens a sinner in his or her sin because a passive response to sin never brings about repentance. (If repentance occurs, it is because the sinner felt pressure from some other influence.) It is part of our fallen, sinful nature to silence the voice of our own conscience and to drown out the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And we will go to extraordinary, even bizarre lengths to do it. Moreover, we find it easier to justify wrongdoing as long as continued sin remains convenient.

It is a sad truth that morality only becomes an important issue when the consequences of sin cause us enough pain.

Third, a passive response to sin—including the sin of abandonment—empowers the partner who is least capable of making rational, godly decisions. When one partner dedicates himself/herself to pursuing sin, the primary issue at stake is no longer morality, but power. This is an unfortunate truth, but one all too frequently forgotten.

It is pointless to argue morality with someone who has abandoned morality. It is equally pointless to reason with an unreasonable person. Before any substantive talk can take place, the balance of power must be restored. When the wayward spouse no longer has the power to do anything he or she pleases, then he or she will be open to hearing about “right” and “wrong” from the godly influences.

The best response to sin—including the sin of abandonment—is an active response. All actions should be carefully measured and kindly firm. This means retaining the services of a tough family law attorney, preferably one who is Christian. These are terribly difficult to find, so abandoned partners may have to settle for a nonbeliever who sympathizes with the goal of saving the marriage.

Retaining the services of an attorney is not sinful, especially if the stated goal is to fight for reconciliation. On the contrary, a strong legal position can be the best means of bringing a wayward spouse around. If a wayward spouse is ever to consider reconciliation, it will be because the possibility of reconciliation is a more attractive option than facing a brutal legal fight.


[1] James Dobson, Love Must Be Tough: New Hope for Families in Crisis (Dallas: Word, 1996), 19.

2 thoughts on “Abandoned . . . Bewildered . . . and Searching for Answers

  1. An Elder and Prophetess at the church I belong to have been divorced for two yrs. now. They both had councling with our Pastors, but she walked out. He came home from work one day and she was gone,took her stuff and left him and our church. She attends their old church, he is still a member of our church. Based on the word of God, Can he remarry due to abandonment by a believing spouse. He tried to reconnect before he filed for a divorce and a year after the divorce, but she said no. She doesn’t want him back. She told him they must go their separate ways. I am a minister at the same church he attends. We have been talking about starting a personal relationship, but if he can’t remarry then there is no need for us to go any further. We both want to do what is right, please God and be a positive example for the body of Christ. I am also divorced. 7yrs. My ex-husband is not saved and committed adultry, I held on to the marriage though he kept doing the same thing over and over.we separated, but for years he kept going back to prison,Commited adultry once and ended it. I told my husband he forgave me, because I had forgiven him. But I filed for a divorced 7yrs. ago and I have not been in a relation since then. My ex continues to live the same old lifestyle of fornication, I thought we were going to get back together at one time, but we both agreed that it wasn’t a good idea because neither one of us were going to change.So can we move forward, or should we just stop now?

    1. Hi, LaTonya

      I am not in a position to grant or deny anyone theological permission to remarry after divorce. I can only offer a studied theological opinion.

      In both marriages–yours and his–sin and unwise choices mingled to create a horrific mess. We can try to dissect the past to determine what the Law says, but we must remember that in all cases, God’s grace rules. The Lord doesn’t expect us to undo the past or to spend the rest of our days trying to live down our old mistakes. He only expects us to repent of our sins, learn from our mistakes, trust Him to guide our future, and to make godly, wise decisions today.

      I would say (purely my opinion here) that if either of your ex-spouses completely repented of their wrongdoing and made significant efforts to rebuild trust, you MIGHT have good cause to delay pursuing another relationship. In the absence of a near miraculous change in their characters, however, I think you’re wise to put the past behind you and do your best to honor God with your future.

      I think the question you’re asking is, “Can we get married with God’s blessing?” The answer: “It depends.”

      It doesn’t depend upon your having divorced. Even if you had divorced without good cause, this is not an unforgivable sin. God’s grace covers all. All sin. All poor choices. All undeserved tragedies. All past events.

      Will God bless your union with this particular man? It depends upon his character now. Is he a Christ-honoring man? It depends upon your motives. Do you look to Christ for your fulfillment? It depends upon the place God will have in your new marriage. Will Christ remain at the center of your union? It depends upon the wisdom and timing of your romance. Is he the right man for you and is this the right time?

      Commit your future to the Lord. Seek His wisdom. Consider the opinions of wise friends. Heed your intuition. Pay attention to your instincts. Pray for guidance. Same as any other big decision.

      Finally, let me say something that should be obvious, but sometimes isn’t for people after divorce.

      It’s okay for you to be happy.

      Really.

      There is no moral requirement for you to be miserable for the rest of your life just because your first marriage fell apart.

      Honor God and pursue what makes you happy.

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