“‘I hate Divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel”
Plainly stated, children lose their family. They lose a mom and dad living together as a unit. While this may seem like it is a simple statement, it has monumental outcomes when it comes to living the life of a child. Family is where you are supposed to feel safe, carefree and loved. It is where you learn to navigate life. It is where you learn what you believe and you are able to experiment with values and learn family traditions. It is part of who you are when you grow up and become an adult.
Children go from living in one world, which is hard enough when you are little kid, to living in two completely different worlds with different rules, values and many times beliefs. At times these worlds collide and then continue to change rapidly. It is hard to figure out schedules and logistics. Many times a child doesn’t even know who is picking them up from school or where they are going to spend the night let alone understand what mom or dad believe about God.
Everything may become uncertain to the child. Questions such as,
Who do I believe?
What do I believe?
Who am I?
Where do I belong?
Will I ever have another family?
Why doesn’t my parent love me enough to come back home?
Is there really a God because I’ve asked Him to bring my parents back together?
Just trying to figure out life can be very confusing for the child of divorce. Elizabeth Marquardt puts it very succinctly in her book, “Between Two Worlds” where she writes,
“After a divorce it’s no longer the parent’s job to run together the sharp edges of their two different worlds. Instead the rough edges of their different worlds run together in only one place: the inner life of the child. They feel and act like little adults.”
How unfair to the child, to their inner life, to have to try and navigate their world; to have to smooth rough edges of their lives. There are many adults who can’t even do this and yet divorcing parents force this upon their children.
Now a new study from Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion has found that many children who have been raised in a religious home will fall away from religion when their Christian parents divorce,
“…children who had two religious parents who get divorced are twice as likely to become estranged from their church as adults compared to people whose parents didn’t get divorced.”
They go on to say that this phenomenon could be because parents who divorced aren’t as religious as others. No one knows for sure what causes adult children of divorce to pull away from God and from the church. What I do know is that as children’s leaders it is up to us to come alongside these children. It is our responsibility to minister to them and minister to them deeply.
You might be the only “Jesus” some of these kids get to know. You may very well be the one that brings them to a saving grace and knowledge of Christ. Perhaps God will use you to smooth the rough edges of their lives. He might allow you to be the one that shows them how Christian parents parent and love their children through Him.
One time I asked an adult child of divorce whose parents had each remarried and divorced three times what brought him to do the Lord’s work. He told me there was one Christian man he got to know as a teenager. He said this man really lived out the Christian role of father and husband. Because he had never had anything like this in his own life, he wanted what that man had to offer his family. From one Christian man’s influence and love of Christ this teenager committed his life to the Lord. He now does ministry himself.
Become the child of divorce’s friend. Become the one they can run to, hug and feel safe and comfortable being around. Help them to smooth their rough edges. This doesn’t mean we should become a substitute parent but it does mean we can walk alongside the single parent and the child.
When one considers all the ramifications of losing one’s family unit it is no wonder that God states very clearly and in no uncertain terms, “I hate divorce” Malachi 2:16 (NIV)
Linda Ranson Jacobs is one of the forefront leaders in the area of children and divorce. She developed and created the DivorceCare for Kids programs. DC4K is an international program for churches to use to help children of divorced parents find healing within the arms of a loving church family. As a speaker, author, trainer, program developer and child care center owner, Linda has assisted countless families by modeling and acting on the healing love she has found in Jesus Christ. Linda offers support, encouragement and suggestions to help those working with the child of divorce. She serves as DC4K Ambassador (http://www.dc4k.org) and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free articles and devotions for single parent families in your church can be found at Linda’s website Healthy Loving Partnerships for Our Kids (http://www.hlp4.com).