I submit this humbly. I truly don’t mean this to be the FINAL word on the matter. I’d love others to present Scriptures / principles / concepts that seem missing or off here, and I’d be eager to change it.
Further, I know there are a million different scenarios, many of which I can’t imagine and my heart goes out to you–truly. I think we all have to be careful not to carry on a Pharisaical stance on either side. This could look like jumping on an “opportunity” to exit a marriage when a spouse isn’t living up to their part in serving their spouse. This could also look like people slavishly following the “letter of the law” of staying married when the heart/spirit is in defiance and divorce-mode already.
My Brief Statement on Marriage and Divorce
Marriage is a covenant between man and woman that represents God’s covenant with His people. It is not a contract. A covenant says: “Till death do us part,” “I will never forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5) “Even when you’re faithless, I’ll remain faithful.” (2 Tim. 2:13). A contract says: “You do your part, I’ll do mine.”
With this definition of marriage, the God-honoring reason for divorce would ultimately be when your spouse refuses to stay committed, even though you continue to love and serve them in the Lord (see 1 Cor. 7:10-15). This is akin to God’s covenant with us: “If we deny Him, He also will deny us.” (2 Tim. 2:12).
Q & A
Question: If someone says their spouse has denied them, is it right for them to initiate divorce?
Answer: I’d turn the tables. How soon would we want God to leave us? There are times where we’ve been unfaithful, and may have looked like we denied Him (look at Peter who literally did so). Aren’t we glad that He doesn’t “jump” on such an opportunity to leave us? I think we need to mirror God in this. I don’t think there’s is a magic formula for when denial takes place, but I think we should hold out and try all we can to reconcile until/unless denial is clear and inevitable in the other party.
Question: Did God divorce Israel?
For Israel (Northern part): Their Assyrian captivity was a divorce (see Jeremiah 3).
For Judah: Their Babylonian captivity was seen as temporary discipline (perhaps separation), but not divorce.
I’d add the caveat that the “divorce” to Israel seems more akin, in type, to divorcing a betrothal than a marriage. But in practice I don’t think that changes anything for us today when we marry/divorce.