Q. I was wondering if you could shed some light and answers on some questions I have regarding divorce. After 20 long years my unbelieving husband wants to leave me and wants a divorce. We’ve only kept the marriage going this long because 1 Corinthians 7 says I should stay in the marriage in case he eventually gets saved, and for the children who are now grown up. This week he admitted he wanted to leave me but we are in deep financial hardship and it’s best if I file for divorce as I can get legal aid with the costs, where as he can’t. But if I file for the divorce, will it be as if I left him? Or, because he wanted to leave me anyway, it will not matter?
A. From a Biblical perspective, it doesn’t matter who files the divorce papers. That’s a provision of man’s law, not God’s. What matters is if your unbelieving husband has decided to leave you. In 1 Cor. 7:13 Paul wrote, “If a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.” In 1 Cor. 7:15 he said ,“But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.”
By the way 1st Corinthians does not advise a believing wife to stay in a marriage with an unbeliever in the hope you can save him. In 1 Cor. 7:16 Paul concluded the thought, saying, “How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”
Therefore, as long as it’s your husband’s desire to leave the marriage, you are not bound to him. You can let him go and be free to marry someone else in the future if you choose. If you do, I urge you to follow another piece of Paul’s advice. In 2 Cor. 6:14 Paul wrote, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”
Marriage can be a struggle even when both parties are believers. But as you know, when one of the parties is not it can create whole new set of difficulties.