Editor’s note: On Monday, we began to look at how a child’s view of their earthly father impacts their view of God. This is particularly pertinent to children of divorce so many of whom end up without any substantial relationship with their earthly father. We finish that series tonight by looking at some first hand accounts from children of divorce and examining what we can do to help these kids overcome this issue. Click on the link to the pdf file for both articles combined in one easy to share format.
In Their Own Words
At Divorce Ministry 4 Kids, we are conducting an ongoing survey of children of divorce. The purpose of this confidential, eight question online survey is to gather information about the experiences of children of divorce to help children currently going through their parents’ divorce. Many of the respondents have expressed how their view of their earthly father impacted their view of God the Father. The following represent selected excerpts from some respondents (names have been changed to maintain confidentiality, the first number reflected after the name represent the age at time of divorce, the second number represents age at the time the survey was completed).
“So much of my view of God is tainted by my view of my father.” (Isabella, 5, 34)
The divorce of Kayla’s parents when she was 5 has left her still struggling to grasp the idea of God as father nearly 30 years later:
“To date I seem to struggle with the picture of God the Father…It is a concept that I find very difficult to grasp.” (Kayla, 5, 34)
Jacob grew up not understanding that he had another father infinitely superior to what he experienced in his earthly father:
“Not having a father around I didn’t understand that God was my ultimate father.” (Jacob, 2, 32)
Daniel expressed a similar sentiment and spoke to the years it took for him to finally overcome his view of God based on the actions of his earthly father:
“It took years to understand that my heavenly father, unlike my earthly father, would always keep His promises and never leave me.” (Daniel, 8, 52)
Anna is still wrestling with her view of God based on her relationship with her Dad. Her view on prayer is particularly notable:
“It’s affecting my view of God now… growing up without Dad has messed me up, and that’s affecting my relationship with God the Father. I can talk to Jesus, His Incarnate Son, a lot easier.” (Anna, 7, 23)
Laruen still struggles with an image of God born out of her relationship with her father some 35 years after her parents’ divorce:
“I often felt afraid / intimidated by my father. He provided for me materially, but he worked a lot and also drank a lot. He was distant. I have applied that to how I see God sometimes – distant, towering, dissatisfied and disappointed in me. Even at 40, at times I struggle to see God as my loving Parent.” (Lauren, 14-15, 40)
How Can We Help?
These kids, and many like them, come to God with a viewpoint which has been tainted by their relationships with their fathers following their parents’ divorce. In order to reach out to these kids, we must understand this hurdle and provide these kids (and adult children of divorce) with the tools to help overcome these views. This involves:
Providing a firm basis in scripture that reveals the true nature of God. When children of divorce begin to revert back to their distorted view of God based on their own earthly fathers, it is important that they be firmly rooted in scripture in order to maintain a right view of God the father.
Praying for them that they would develop an understanding of the true nature of God the Father. Pray that God would work in their life to overcome whatever damage their relationship with their earthly father may have had. Pray for reconciliation and healing in the relationship between the child of divorce and their father.
Providing an ear to listen and understand. So many times, these kids are left to suffer these things in their own heads and hearts without anyone to talk through these issues with. Be willing to listen and empathize with these kids. Help them to work through the issues they are having, or have had, with their fathers and talk about how our relationship with God the Father is different.
Providing role models of earthly fathers. One way to help these kids overcome the hurdle of their own relationships is to show them earthly fathers who better exhibit some of the characteristics of God the Father.
Being persistent. While simply telling kids that their Heavenly Father will never leave them or forsake them may fall on deaf ears. If they hear it often enough, it is more likely to stick and become something they can rely on in the long term.
Being a trustworthy friend. Many children of divorce say that they had trouble trusting their fathers following a divorce. Demonstrate in your words and actions that you can be trusted and that you are there for them.
Exhibiting the character of God in your all interactions with them. Reflect the light of Jesus to them in your own life and in your relationship with them.