asked her, “Do you love him?”
She paused, then with tears running down her face, looked at her husband and answered, “I love him, and I miss many things about him . . . but I want a divorce.”
In today’s church world, the number of Christian couples seeking divorce is on the increase. By some reports, it is about the same as the secular average of 33 percent; or even as high as 38 percent. Regardless of the exact number, the divorce rate among professing Christians is heartbreaking, and a terrible indicator of how the church as a whole is not effectively supporting the married couples in our congregations.
As a counselor and minister, it is sad to see the many couples who tell me the same story. Yes, there are different circumstances and events surrounding each couple, yet there are some basic things that always seem to be at the core of strife in the marriage. These core problems are not finances, adultery, or sexual intimacy. Though these areas are sometimes involved, they are not common among all those whom I have counseled.
Scripture gives us insight as to what the core problems are.
How are husbands and wives to treat each other?
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).
“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself” (v. 28).
“Nevertheless each of you must also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (v. 33 WEB).
The wife is commanded to respect her husband in response to her husband’s deep love for her.
So what are the commonalities among these couples who have come for counseling? They are the lack of love and respect in the marriage: the lack of Christlike love on the part of the man toward his wife, and the lack of respect on the part of woman toward her husband.
How can the local congregation help?
What can the local church do to help stave off the growing trend of divorce in our congregations? I believe if we will teach our couples some basic Bible-based relationship principles, we can begin to head off the rising increase of Christians who are divorcing. There are various ways we can do this:
• Offer Biblical teaching in a marriage class and/or from the pulpit on what is commanded by God for the husband and wife to show toward one another.
• Create a weekend getaway, conference, or retreat for married couples, using trained ministers and Christian counselors who may already be in your congregation who are just waiting to be asked to do something for the Lord.
• Reinforce the fact that going to a getaway, conference, or retreat is not a public statement that their marriage is in trouble or having problems.
• Pastors, recognize the fact that some situations may require more than what you are trained for, and be willing to refer to a trained Christian counselor or therapist.
To pastors: I cannot count the number of couples who have told me they wish they had had some form of marriage class, retreat, or seminar offered by their church. Many have stated that if they had learned Bible-based relationship basics, their marriage would not be in the trouble it was currently in.
To couples: If you are in a marriage experiencing distress, I suggest you carefully study Ephesians 5 and the entire Song of Solomon. Also, seek out a pastor or Christian counselor/therapist who is trained in family and marriage counseling.
Earnestly seek forgiveness and direction individually for your own faith and commitment to God and then as a couple for your marriage. Two wounded people do not make one healthy marriage.
Church: As the body of Christ, let us unite together in helping to turn back the tide of Christian divorce. Let us ask the God who created marriage to build a spiritual hedge around all of the families in our congregations so they will be able to stand against the anti-family culture which seeks to overwhelm them.