When a Christian marriage unravels, many questions rise to the surface. In this four-part series, Elisabeth Corcoran attempts to provide answers from inside of the unraveling. Read Part I here.

As a Christian, why did you stay so long?

The short answer: God.

The long answer: Well, there are many, many reasons.

First, Part I stirred up some controversy, so I want to reiterate that though I love God and treasure scripture, I am not claiming that what I am about to say is God’s holy word for everyone’s situation. If your marriage is experiencing a hard season, please find much wise counsel to walk you through.

So, why did I stay?

When I was a little girl, my parents divorced. I could probably stop writing right here. I was bound and determined to not repeat the cycle of divorce in my family, even if it killed me. I stayed because my childhood promise to myself was to remain married to one man for my entire life, no questions asked, no matter what.

I don’t believe life is about being happy.  I believe life is about enjoying God and living a life that reflects Christ. I believe there is a deep joy that holds me up. But I do not believe that God guarantees a life of happiness, and I certainly don’t believe we deserve it. If someone bases their marriage on their happiness level, I would suspect that no marriage could stay standing. I stayed because I believe life isn’t about happiness, it’s about holiness.

I thought God would answer my prayers. I prayed a lot. I prayed for God to change my spouse. I prayed for God to change me. I prayed for God to rearrange my expectations. I prayed for God to make me more selfless. And I hoped that God would answer my prayers and heal us. Now, the natural conclusion would be to look at our circumstances, see an unhealed marriage, and therefore determine that God did not answer my pleas for help. But this is where you must take a longer, broader view and realize that God’s ways are higher than our ways. He heard me. He rescued me. But he allows free will. I stayed because I was waiting on God to perform a certain kind of miracle, but as it turns out, he is performing a different kind instead.

I was in a church. Community holds you together and holds you in place and keeps you from doing all sorts of things you might otherwise do if left to your own devices. My spouse and I began attending our current church two weeks after we got married, and we never looked anywhere else. We grew up there, basically.  We had our children there. We served there. I worked there. We were known there. And when you let roots grow deep and people see inside your life and heart and you know you’re going to see those same people another one or two times that week, it’s really difficult to slide into a sin or completely walk away from what you know to be true without a bunch of people taking you to task. I knew that if I up and walked away, I’d have many people in my face – because they loved me – and if I stayed away, I’d probably lose my support system. I stayed because my church body takes care of its own and we try to protect each other from hurting ourselves.

I have two children. I believe to my core that it’s my job to show my kids how to live as adults. I have failed miserably in this respect. But I wanted them to see that what I said I believed – that marriage is for a lifetime – matched what I actually lived out, by actually staying married for a lifetime. Children of divorce have a higher marriage failure potential. I didn’t want to do that to my children, set them up for failure before they even married. I stayed because I didn’t want my children to be raised in a broken home.