I know friends that you are doing your best to try to prepare us singles for marriage. I know that your heart is in the right place. Still, I need you to understand how we interpret what you say and the fear that's being fed through your well-intended words.
Lies I've heard about marriage or re-marriage:
God hates divorce.
I have heard it over and over through the years. It's the churches way of trying to convince people to work on their marriages and heal and restore them. Good! The intentions of your heart are good then, but this verse is so misquoted and interpreted to leave out the heart of God.
God LOVES us! He loves us so much that He gave his Son to die for us. The God that loves me doesn't love me unless I'm divorced. Let's take a look at that verse to dig a little deeper. It's Malachi 2:16 and although some translations say '"I hate divorce," says the Lord', I prefer the NIV translation that says:
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
This verse is intended to protect, not to condemn. It's completely misconstrued by the church to mean that divorce is unacceptable, when the truth is sometimes divorce is a rescue mission. Yes, I do believe that God hates divorce, just as much as He hates lying, cheating, stealing, abuse, idolatry, and all the other things that harm others or harm ourselves. I do think God hates divorce, but I don't think He hates it more then He loves the individual.
When I went through my divorce, it was terrible. Had someone told me I should remain in my marriage, I may have given up on life and God altogether, because staying would have been equivalent of a death sentence. My ex husband was not a believer. I would take 5 steps towards pursuing Christ, just to be dragged backwards into sin and sorrow. My husband didn't love me. He didn't love God. He loved himself and everything he did in our marriage was for his own benefit. It was using and abusing. It was not out of love. Jesus told us himself that if an eye or a hand causes us to sin, to gouge it out or cut it off and throw it away. Better to lose one part of your body, then the whole body be cast into hell. That's what my marriage was. The man I had become one flesh with was causing me again and again to sin. I had to cut him off and cast him away in order to be saved. It was God's rescue mission.
Church, please think outside of yourself. I know your marriage is beautiful, but not all marriages are. Some are not good. Some are abusive. Some are toxic. A general answer of "God hates divorce" puts God in a box. The truth is that God loves the individuals in the marriage far more then He loves the marriage. If both will follow Him, He would nurture and heal the marriage. But if only one chooses Him, the believing spouse may just be rescued by divorce and that is God's rescue mission.
2. You cannot remarry.
1 Corinthians 7:12b-13, 15
If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him...But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.
And this verse isn't talking about who filed for the divorce by the way, because I've heard that a lot too. It doesn't matter who filed. What matters is who left. Who didn't put their heart in the marriage. Who decided that they weren't going to keep their covenant. Who used or abused. Who left emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically. You can't force someone to love you, want you, or keep you. If they don't care, don't want you, don't stay, they have left. You are not bound.
The Bible permits divorce in order that the wronged person may remarry. This is why they gave a certificate of divorce. So if you were the abandoned, wronged, cheated on party in the marriage, you are permitted by God's grace to remarry. That is what it means when it says "You are not bound."
Instone Brewer says it like this: "The only freedom that makes any sense in this context is the freedom to remarry…All Jewish divorce certificates and most Greco-Roman ones contained the words ‘you are free to marry any man you wish,’ or something very similar."
3. Marriage is hard.
Friends, this is more personal than Biblical. Marriage is hard. No one said it wasn't or disagrees! The issue is that when a happily married couple tells a single or divorced person that marriage is hard, it adds fuel to the fire of their already lingering fears and doubts.
I understand the intention brothers and sisters.
You're trying to help your friend be more considerate about the person they choose to marry. But you could also be making them more considerate about if they should even bother with marriage. After all, marriage is vulnerability and trust and why should a single person do that when they are already satisfied in the walls they've built around their hearts? Why take those walls down for a theoretical husband or wife who is just going to make life harder for them?
You're trying to help your friend have realistic expectations and understand that marriage isn't all sunshine and rainbows. The problem is they already know it isn't. They've already either lived through a bad marriage or else experienced relationships that broke or had friends whose relationships broke and being bold enough to step into a marriage isn't appealing at this point. No, marriage isn't all sunshine and rainbows, but their experience has been fear, abuse, or abandonment. Encourage your friends that good marriage isn't this.
Good marriage isn't perfect, but it's worth it.
4. Be content in your singleness.
Oh...that's not a good enough answer? God doesn't want us single. You know how I know?
Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
He created each of us, stitching us string by string together into the ones He created us to be. We are each unique in every aspect, including the desires of our hearts. He specifically and intentionally placed these desires on us. Why would God do that? Because, He loves us. He puts this ache in us so that we will chase after Him. As we pursue Him, as we delight, He is delighted. Just like when you are delighted with someone, you want to be good to them and do good for them, so is God. As we delight in Him, He delights to give us the desires of our hearts, those desires that He purposed in us. So I already know it. If you have a desire to be married, that's God. There are very few people who have been called to singleness and if you're recognizing the desire in your heart for marriage, you're not one of them!
So the question really is what is keeping you from the thing your heart desires. The answer is simple and also challenging. You.
We are afraid. We've been traumatized. We've gone through difficult things. We've believed things about ourselves or others or about God that aren't true. Lies that we've started to believe. Those lies are causing us to react and live in ways that are counter to our true selves. Because of that, we find ourselves in relationship over and over again with the same kinds of people. We never break out of the pattern and routine, because the lies we believe have created identities that are not us, but are making all of our decisions. It's time to start digging deep. What lies have you believed? You're unattractive or too attractive, too rich or too poor, too smart or too stupid. People just want to use you, you have nothing to offer. There's no good ones out there, all the good ones are taken. I am not good enough. Whatever it is that is holding you back from living as your true self. Once you've found the lies, start submitting them to Christ. We can't keep letting the lies that we believe cause fear in us cause walls around our hearts that keep us from living the lives God has planned for us. We were made for so much more!