Christian Divorce Support and Feeding “Miracle” Thinking


DivorceCare did me a great deal of good. I know I will forever be thankful for the people I met in the DivorceCare group while I was working in St. Cloud, MN. God definitely directed me to that community and group.

As you can tell by visiting my RESOURCES page, I encourage people to find such a group and attend. They have a lot of good information for Christians trying to sort what is happening when experiencing a separation and/or divorce.

That said, I have some very important caveats…

The curriculum is biased towards marriage reconciliation, and as such, it sometimes feeds into “miracle-thinking.”

What I mean by “miracle-thinking” is the sort of thinking estranged and desperate spouses engage in believing God will “miraculously” restore their broken and even adultery-violated marriage.

This sort of thinking can lead to settling for a marriage without true repentance from a cheating spouse. Or minimally, it can add to the suffering of an abandoned spouse who keeps reading in reconciliation hope where none exists.

I remember one expert exhorting all divorced or soon to be divorced individuals to wait for the other partner to come back saying that they always do. This isn’t helpful information.

Not everyone repents. It is a fact as old as the Bible. 

This fact applies to cheating spouses. They might “come back,” yet I doubt they come back in repentance. That means settling and believing one has a miracle when one is really ignoring the dead and rotting body that is the marriage.

To be clear: I am not against marriage miracles.

But I am against selling vulnerable spouses false miracle hope when–as a pastor and someone who has walked this difficult road–we know better. Teach people to test and verify that the miracle is real. In other words, teach that the marriage is dead when violated by adultery with no hope unless one has verified signs of true repentance from the cheater.

God has the power to transform people. However, the world is full of people who refuse such power or transformation. People chose to turn their backs on God willingly. And God’s word tells that God allows them to do so (see Romans 1).

The same goes for marriage destroyed by infidelity. Some will choose sin and see no need to repent ever. 

In my opinion, it is more responsible–as a pastor–to remind Christians of this stark-sin reality than to suggest all spouses are destined to repent–when the Bible teaches us otherwise.

Miracles are great…if they are true miracles.

10 thoughts on “Christian Divorce Support and Feeding “Miracle” Thinking”

  1. I attended divorce care. I would not recommend it to anyone exiting a marriage to an adulter. They do not get it.

  2. A go-to statement for a miracle-thinking Christian is “God can do anything.” And even when you give them scriptural support why God does not enable adulterers a favored response from them is “you can’t put God in a box.” Although these statements are not untrue in and of themselves, using them in this sort of context is dismissive and may well be working against what God has already spoken to the faithful spouse.

    But the most dangerous one always begins with “… But I also believe” signaling that the speaker believes something other than or additional to what scripture says. It can be subtle but it’s heresy because it adds to what God has already spoken. Beware of people like this.

    Which reminds me of Romans 1:21 – “Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like.”

  3. As one who has led DivorceCare groups for 20 years, I must disagree with your position that the program biases toward reconciliation when there has been no repentance. At the same time, I grant you that those who lead DivorceCare groups will always have their own biases, some of which are not healthy or scriptural. Yes, there are those who will latch on to the idea of reconciliation without repentance or major basic changes to the pre-divorce marriage, and they will naively hope for a miracle that seldom occurs. The leaders have a responsibility to encourage these individuals to look closely for God’s will, and at all the elements of a Godly reconciliation/marriage. Sorry, I agree with so much of what you think but feel you are off a few degrees when you assume the program espouses (my pun) ALL reconciliation in all circumstances; that just is not the case.

    1. To be fair, there are multiple voices/experts in the program. I can distinctly remember one voice–just one, to be fair–explicitly talking about how he viewed his job as exhorting spouses to wait for the other as all come back eventually. It might not be in the new videos–I am not sure if it made the edit–but I do remember the regular emphasis on avoiding divorce. Divorce is treated as the primary evil as opposed to the sin around divorce as I remember how the materials were structured. Theologically, I find this problematic as divorce is not always sin whereas adultery is.

  4. Our church has Divorce Care and DC4Kids as well. I can’t participate due to work but I’ve been turned off by this very thing. EVERY TIME it is promoted in church they ALWAYS and ONLY share a story of reconciliation. Never any stories from people who were helped but they never would reconcile or even consider it. It’s as if they can only justify having the program because it will help people see the error of their ways and go back into their marriage.

    1. Yeah, that is the danger with these programs. It really is dependent upon the local leadership to present a broader perspective than just “success” stories (the scare quotes are intentional). The group and church where I attended fortunately did not fall into that common evangelical trap of viewing it as a divorce-busting vehicle.

    2. I have avoided DC for the same reasons. I do not want to be locked in a room full of unrepentive adulterers & treated like one. When I mentioned my concern to my third counselor she agreed. She doesn’t believe that reconciliation should ever be the focus of the sessions or considered the solution. She emphasized that reconciliation or a “saved marriage” is not always what is best for the abused.
      Divorced people do not all fall under the same umbrella and should not be categorized as if they do. I also feel that it is another approacjh to promoting the shared resonsibity lie and encouraging the pick me dance. It’s easier to put another burden on the victim than it is to hold an adulterer accountable for their treacherous actions and for covering their spouse and children with violence.

      1. Led DivorceCare for eight years but finally gave it up because of this issue and pushing their evangelical viewpoint exclusively. One pastor always wanted to know how many marriages were saved by DC. Never mind how many deserted spouses and hurting families benefitted.
        As to your other point, not too many unrepentant adulterers show up in church sponsored DivorceCare. It is almost exclusively those left behind in divorce in my experience.

  5. I lead DivorceCare and I think the circumstances of the divorce of the group leader always shapes the leaning of the class. I don’t see how it couldn’t. If the leader of a DC group reconciled with an adulterous spouse or had a different crisis altogether, they are unlikely to have true empathy for the betrayed–they don’t get it. Ideally, a group would have several leaders who have different stories, but that rarely happens. Lee, I am so sorry you didn’t get validation from your DC group. You deserved that. You needed that.

    As a betrayed spouse who eventually filed for divorce, I have to be especially careful that I don’t lead someone else down the road to filing for divorce just because I’ve been there, done that, and can see the writing on the wall that those in the throes of discovery and and still clinging to hope cannot see. Their lives, their choice–not mine even if I am sure they are chasing a vapor. I hung in there longer than I should have, but I can only see that in retrospect. No one could tell me when I’d had enough just like no one can help a butterfly emerge from the cocoon without damaging its ability to fly later. “What ifs” will kill you if you don’t come to a divorce conclusion all on your own.

    And I agree with Loren. In several years of leading groups, only once did someone admit they’d betrayed their spouse–and with him, he was in DC because his current spouse (his partner in the affair that ended his first marriage) was cheating on him. Things were really different when it was being done TO him. Cheaters don’t think anything is wrong with them so they rarely seek help.

    I see DC as a chance to open conversations about the feelings and issues associated with divorce, to study what the Bible truly says about divorce–not just spouting what someone SAYS the scripture says.

    Do I like it all? No, I don’t. Thirteen weeks is too long to expect people who are barely holding it together to attend consistently. Several of the lessons would dovetail nicely into each other and with less narration and musical segues, the material could be presented more concisely. And I think the testimony of the one who reconciled with a convicted pedophile should be eliminated. But, I’d love to hear about it if there’s something better out there. Until I find it, I will stick with DivorceCare and do my best to not waste the experience God allowed, all the while give all the grace I can to those who are fighting the good fight the best they can–just like you, DM.

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