Jesus said, regarding marriage, “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (See Matthew 19:6.) There are many areas of life where God has left us free to choose. In the Garden of Eden, man was able to choose his diet from any tree in the garden; but there was a limit to this choice. God reserved one tree as off limits. In regard to this one tree, a divine command was given not to eat of it. “God might have created them without the power to transgress His requirements, but in that case there could have been no development of character; their service would not have been voluntary, but forced. Therefore He gave them the power of choice—the power to yield or to withhold obedience.” Education, 23
This restriction was not arbitrary but came from the infinite wisdom and knowledge of God as to what was for the happiness of His creatures. “God, in His great love for man gave him that law by which to order his conduct, that he should be restricted to doing those things which would tend to increase his real happiness, and that of his fellow creatures even in this life. The principles of the commandments, carried out in the daily life, ennoble and sanctify the heart and mind and give one a moral fitness through Jesus Christ for the society of holy angels. Our all wise heavenly Father knew what rules were required to guard man from sin and to regulate his life, leading him to practice such virtues as would make him a fit subject for heaven.” Signs of the Times, July 18, 1878
While we should be cautious, in much prayer and seeking for counsel before marriage, and we are forbidden by an express command of God to unite in marriage with unbelievers (see 2 Corinthians 6:14–18), human beings are forbidden to put asunder what God has joined together. Only one reason is sufficient cause for divorce in the New Testament. (See Matthew 19:9.)
Many times Adventist pastors are asked by this one or that one for permission to obtain a divorce for other than this biblical reason. This is permission that no human being has a right to give—Jesus, the mighty God and everlasting Father, has already made that decision; and His decision is, “What God has joined together let not Man put asunder.” “It has ever proved a dangerous thing for men to carry out their own will in opposition to the requirements of God. Yet it is a hard lesson for men to learn that God means what He says.” Ibid., May 19, 1881
“The instruction given to Abraham touching the sacredness of the marriage relation was to be a lesson for all ages. It declares that the rights and happiness of this relation are to be carefully guarded, even at a great sacrifice. Sarah was the only true wife of Abraham. Her rights as a wife and mother no other person was entitled to share.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 147
Any minister or person helping the public comes in contact with cases which are so serious that sometimes a separation is necessary, at least temporarily, because of physical danger or serious mental trauma. Ellen White had to deal with these, too, but notice that she did not advise divorce, even when separation was necessary.
Example 1: “I cannot see what more can be done in this case, and I think that the only thing that you [Walter C] can do is to give up your wife. If she is thus determined not to live with you, both she and you would be most miserable to attempt it. And as she has fully and determinedly set her stakes, you can only shoulder your cross and show yourself a man.” Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce, 57
Example 2: “I have received your letter; and in reply to it I would say, I cannot advise you to return to _____ unless you see decided changes in him. The Lord is not pleased with the ideas he has had in the past of what is due to a wife. . . .
“I feel very sad about this matter. I feel indeed sorry for _____, but I cannot advise you to go to him against your judgment. I speak to you as candidly as I spoke to him; it would be perilous for you to again place yourself under his dictation. I had hoped that he would change. . . .
“The Lord understands all about your experiences, Sister _____. Be of good courage in the Lord; He will not leave you nor forsake you. My heart goes out in tenderest sympathy for you.” Letter 148, 1907(Next month we will look at more examples and consider counsel given, relative to dealing with difficult marriage situations.)