by Eric Dunbar
Divorce is a legitimate concern of many married couples, especially in marriages in which one spouse has a drug addiction. I have a friend who was contemplating whether he should divorce his wife. He told me that his wife was a drug addict and he wanted to know if it was right for him to divorce his drug addict spouse. It was evident that he was fed up with the actions of his wife, and I could clearly see that he wanted out of his marriage. At first, I did not know how to respond to his question, but after momentarily thinking about the question that he posed to me I decided to voice my honest opinion on this very sensitive subject.
These are the kind of questions that many married couples are seeking answers to. I knew that my friend was a Christian, so I thought I should tell him what the Bible had to say about marriage and divorce. While there are no generic answers in the Bible, the Bible offers an answer to any question to any question that we might encounter in life. God has created us to be uniquely different from each other, and though our challenges may be similar, their solutions are uniquely different, so what works for me may not work for you.
I told him that only he could decide whether or not he should divorce his drug addict spouse. I told him that as a Christian, his decision concerning his marriage should not be based on theory or emotions, but that it should be based purely on the Word of God.
What Does God Say About Divorce?
Society’s view of marriage is quite different from what God originally had in mind when He created the first couple. Man is a reflection of God and the structure of the human family is a reflection of the relationship between God and His Son.
The Bible says a man should love his wife as Christ loved the church. What does that mean? It means that a man should be willing to lay down his life for his wife just as Christ did for the church. To lay down your life does not necessarily mean that you have to die a physical death. It means that you should put your wife first and foremost in your heart and mind. With this being said, it is impossible to read the scriptures and not see that God intended for marriage to be a lifetime union between a man and his wife.
Marriage is sacred to God, and just as God enters into a lifetime covenant with those whom He loves, a man should enter into a lifetime covenant with his wife, whom he loves. However, there are certain circumstances under which God will allow a couple to divorce.
The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” Jesus responded by telling them of how God, when He joined the first couple said to them that they should become as one for life. He further told them that Moses only permitted divorce to prevent a married couple from hardening their hearts against each other.
Sexual immorality defiles the holy union of marriage (Matthew 19), and here’s why. The act of adultery destroys the elements of trust and respect — the two unifying forces of marriage. Jesus had just finished teaching on forgiveness (Matthew 18: 21-35) when the Pharisees, testing His knowledge, asked Him if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason. (Matthew 19:3-9).
Jesus answered by asking them if they had not read how God had joined the man and his wife in marriage, and for this reason (the union) a man should leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two of them shall become (as) one flesh. Jesus closed his answer by saying, “Therefore what God has joined together let a man not separate.” It is evident in Jesus’ answer, that God favors a lifetime relationship between a husband and his wife. The implication here is that couples should make every effort to save their marriage by exercising forgiveness on a regular basis.
Violence, physical, mental or sexual abuse should not have place in a marriage. Acts of violence and abuse corrupts the marriage in the same way as adultery, because it destroys the common trust that each spouse has for the other. Whenever trust becomes an issue in the marriage, it then becomes difficult to function in forgiveness and it will soon lead to a hardened heart (hatred). You cannot love what you despise.
Abuse breaks the fellowship between the husband and his wife, thereby making it impossible for either of them to wholeheartedly focus their love and devotion towards God.
Drug Addiction Destroys Marriage
The consequences of drug addiction in a marriage are very similar to those of adultery and abuse. As an ex-crack-cocaine addict, I can say with a great deal of certainty that drug addiction produces chaos in the family structure. Trust is completely destroyed and the only fruit to be reaped by either spouse is bitterness. In most instances, the impact of drug addiction damages a marriage beyond repair and the only recourse is divorce.
Marriage gives birth to a unique set of commitments that are not found in any other kind of relationship. When couples take the vow of marriage, they should immediately begin to see themselves as a single entity. But drug addiction disrupts the natural progression of marriage, and because of the emotional damage exacted by the guilty party is often too painful, the innocent partner is unwilling to forgive.
Moses recognized this hardness of heart among married people who had become bitter with each other in his camp, and rather than have them exhibit bitterness toward each other for the sake of keeping the law, he allowed them to divorce in order that they may keep peace among themselves.
Resolve to Go Forward
Drug addiction ruined my relationship with my family and divorce eventually claimed my marriage. At first, I was angry with the world, I was especially bitter with my wife. But the more I looked in the mirror, the more I saw the justice of the divorce. Throughout my marriage I had been a good husband, but in the last years of my addiction I turned into someone that not even I would trust.
God gave us the ability to choose and He honors the choices we make. It was never God’s intention for anyone to do anything against their will. Although God desires that we love Him, He does not make us love Him. He urges us to make a choice, saying, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15). By this same principle, God does not compel anyone to remain in an abusive relationship. If your marriage has fallen apart because of drug addiction it should be in your best interest to move on. If you stay in an abusive relationship chances are, it will lead to violence.
Not Just for Any Reason
Bitterness begins with the unwillingness to forgive. That is why Jesus connected his response to divorce to the lesson He taught on unforgiveness. When we do not forgive we become bitter. If you have allowed your unwillingness to forgive your partner to escalate to this point, then it is probably already too late to save your marriage. That is why God urges us to forgive as many times as necessary. Think about how many times God has forgiven you.
When you read the scriptures with an open heart it is evident that God does not approve of divorcing your spouse just for any reason, but if you are in an abusive relationship, or you are married to a drug addict, and you have done all that you know to do to save your marriage, then if God permitted Moses to allow divorce, He will likewise permit you to divorce your spouse.
In well meaning, religion teaches us that we should not divorce our spouses no matter what. But nothing is as important to God as a human life. So ask yourself is it worth the risk of losing your life, or having your children become victims of some uncertain fate brought on by an angry spouse?
A Note of Caution
If you are in a violently abusive relationship, do not subject yourself to such treatment. It would be wise for you to part ways and move on. When it is all said and done, no one can be the judge of whether you should seek divorce. If your spouse has a serious drug problem and it causes you physical harm, or emotional damage, then divorce would obviously be within reason. Just be certain that you are not divorcing your spouse out of selfishness, anger or spite.