Hi, this is Pastor Ken I appreciate you joining me today for the Monday Marriage Message. We continue today with our series on Parenting 101. This is Session Six and today we will explore some of the nuances of single parenting and next week I will focus on parenting in a blended family.
As I shared with you a few weeks ago, I have filled the role of a parent in three different scenarios. First as a part of what would meet the criteria of what I call “Original Design”, later as a single parent, and finally as a step-parent. Having experience in each of these situations does not make me an expert in any of them, although I believe that as a counselor it has given me a valuable perspective. As a said a few weeks ago, I do not rely on my experience as the source of unchangeable truth, I have God’s word for that, and that is and will continue to be the basis for my counsel. My experience however, like that of anyone does offer me understanding of the particular struggles that I need God’s word for guidance on how to navigate if I am to be successful. Thankfully, there are some great books and other resources from trusted Christian authors and experts who have addressed some of these special parenting concerns. They have done some of the heavy lifting, and have addressed many single and step-parenting issues with the pertinent scriptural admonitions to help guide people through those often-difficult waters. I agree with much they have to say and encourage you to use those very resources…but not exclusively. Each of us need to discover what God’s word has to say about our unique lives. When we are taught something it has value, but when we discover a biblical truth for ourselves, we accept it for what it is. God’s word will guide you into successful parenting no matter the scenario or situation better than anyone else no matter how much of an “Expert” they may claim to be. As I said a moment ago, ancillary to God’s own word there are several good books on these subjects, and I would recommend beginning with Single Parenting That Works by Dr. Kevin Leman or The Smart Step-Family by Ron Deal.
For no other reason than it is often the first situation experienced by a parent not or no longer a part of “Original Design” I will begin by addressing single parenting. Some years ago, I was in conversation with a father who is a part of an “Original Design” family. I was explaining the three parenting tasks best accomplished by him, and the three his wife was more capable of. Our conversation was fruitful and he asked several questions and offered a few experiential observations that reinforced the things he was learning. As our conversation came to a close, he offered one more thought. He reminded me he had been raised by his mom who is a single parent, and made the following statement with a newfound empathetic understanding. He said “So this is why mom struggled so much raising my brother and I. She was trying to perform all six of these parenting tasks and was not designed to do that.” With an entirely new view of his childhood, he continued with a question for me. “Was it because of her attempt to fill all of these roles, that she was unable to excel at the ones she was designed to fill naturally?” That question opened my eyes to one of the biggest challenges single parents face. That young man was not being critical of his mother’s parenting skills. Quite possibly for the first time he was seeing the struggle she had dealt with all those years, and was giving her the latitude she had most certainly earned.
Single parenting is hard. Anyone of us who have had to practice in that arena, or are currently doing their best to, understand that description to be a colossal understatement. I believe single parents have numerous occasions when they just seem to know, even if they don’t know how, that they were not “Cut out” to parent alone. I believe most of them understand there are parts of parenting that come quite naturally to them, but because necessity dictates so often they must act in ways beyond what they are “God gifted” to do, they struggle…with all of it. Let me be clear, I know plenty of awesome single parents. I do not want to give the impression that single parents are not able to raise wonderful, children who grow to be productive, incredible, valuable adults. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I noted in an earlier episode in this series a full 25% of children live in a single parent home. Single parenting is a very real thing and can be done with amazing success if the challenges faced are addressed correctly. I only mean to point out what some of those challenges are, and what God’s word indicates are the appropriate responses to them.
God’s word is clear, He does not want you to single parent…alone. That statement might seem nonsensical or an oxymoron but it is actually true. God desires for single parents to look to him to stand in the gaps. Psalm 68:3-5 in the New Living Translation says, But let the godly rejoice. Let them be glad in God’s presence. Let them be filled with joy. Sing praises to God and to his name! Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds. His name is the Lord – rejoice in his presence! Father to the fatherless, defender of widows – this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God invites single parents to have some of expectations of Him. This scripture indicates that there is reason for the Christ following single parent to rejoice…even in their current circumstance. Why? For starters because He is present. According to these verses, God is with the single parent in a unique and special way. Obviously, the connotation here is that the widow who in Old Testament times had little ability to meet her own needs and her children who were seemingly even more helpless, could count on the goodness of God for their supply. I believe these verses to apply to many single parents today as well. Becoming a single parent happens in all kinds of ways. I became one as the result of divorce. Some become single parents because of a deceased spouse as this scripture is describing. Some become single parents because they have children, but never married the other parent. I believe beyond any doubt, and will use scripture to verify, that God cares equally for single parents in each of these situations. Any person, single parent or otherwise who loves God and seeks to be a Christ follower can count on God to be true to His word.
Let’s begin with widowed parents simply because that is the clearest interpretation from this particular scripture. The promise here is also found in Psalm 146:7-9; He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly. The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows. I like this scripture because it lists several people groups that God is indicating he keeps a special eye on and moves to meet the needs they have. The Lord loves godly people, or in other words people who look to Him to be their God and their supply. Among those listed here are those who are weighed down, certainly single parents feel that way often, but also specifically the orphans and widows. Those who have lost a spouse to death have by the very definition of marriage lost a part of their own existence. The measure of “aloneness” that follows “oneness with another” is immense. Jesus has experienced that condition of the heart and in His moment of being separated from the Father whom He was one with throughout eternity, could not help but scream out in anguish, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” If you are a widow or widower, Christ knows your pain. As a result, He is more capable to meet your needs, emotionally and spiritually than anyone else. Furthermore as the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10-11) your God is very rich. He claims that the entire earth and all of its contents are His. (Psalm 24:1) As the owner of it all who is Himself omniscient and omnipotent he knows what you need and has the power to get it to you, in other words His ability to meet your physical needs as well, is more than sufficient. Your part of the equation is to know Him, love Him and look to Him for your supply. As I mentioned, His eye is also especially on the orphan or as noted in the first scripture the fatherless. This means God understands that the widowed is often a single parent. He desires to be the one who stands in that particular gap. A side note to the church at large. God is also clear that the church has some very real responsibilities to these widows, widowers and their children. He wants to use His church to be an integral part of His supply for them. There is no excuse for a church that claims to be connected to God to avoid acting in concert with the written wishes He has to meet those specific needs. Churches need to be seeking out those specific scriptures and expediting plans to carry them out. No excuses!
Another way people find themselves single parents today is the way I entered that status, divorce. God says clearly in His word that He hates divorce, but He never says He hates divorcees…because He doesn’t…He loves them. In my ministry I work with divorced people every day. I know that there are a plethora of reasons people become divorced. Marriage is incredibly important to God, His word makes that abundantly clear. It is a part of the plan He has to teach us more about Himself and the relationship He desires to have with us. I won’t even use this time today to make a case for whether divorce is a sin or not, but it certainly isn’t the unpardonable sin. There are many ways, too many to name, that take us away from God’s best for us. Each and every one of those ways has a remedy…His name is Jesus! Jesus wants to make right all that we have made wrong in our lives. Divorce, no matter who filed, is no exception. Jesus said Himself that God did not send His Son (Jesus) into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17) Jesus desires above all else to be the one to make right our mistakes and missteps. How is He able to do that? He went on to say in the next verse “He (or she)who believes in Him (Jesus) is not condemned… So, if you are divorced, what differentiates you in God’s thinking toward you from a widow or widower who had no choice in their separation from their spouse? Nothing…if your heart is to follow Jesus and obey His voice as you move forward through the rest of your life. In Him, you have become righteous. Isaiah 61:10 says; I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels. This means that as a result of following Christ with everything you have, you are viewed by God as righteous because He has given you His own clothes to wrap yourself up in. When we allow Him to adorn us with His righteousness, we look like someone He wants to join Himself with, and provide for our every need. In response to that love He has for us, divorced people who are seeking Him can look for Him to interact with us just as He has promised to interact with the widows.
Finally, to those who are single parents because they have children but have not married the other parent. The same words of affirmation for the divorced single parent belong to you. Jesus loves you immensely, intensely…and intentionally. Christ’s desire is not to make our sin the object of His attention but rather to help us make His ultimate sacrifice for our sin the object of ours. He understands that the focus has to be the cure and not the disease. He said himself that his heart is to heal the sick, to seek out and save that which has been lost. He is all about redemption, not retribution. So, if a single parent of any persuasion seeks to have Christ be their supply, spiritually, emotionally and physically, Jesus wants to meet those needs. More than that, He wants to fill the role of a spouse in our lives. He has no desire to see us single parent…alone.
Ephesians 5:30-32 is clear, Christ desires to be as close as a spouse. This is true of widows, divorced people, and those who have chosen not to marry another. It is true for all of us. These verses say directly of those who are willing to be in that kind of relationship with Him; For we are members of His Body, of His flesh and bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh” This is a great mystery but I speak concerning Christ and the church. When Paul wrote that He was speaking of Christ and the church he was saying that Jesus left His Father and came to make a way to cover our mistakes and missteps with His own blood, so that He could become one flesh with us…to marry us!
So what does all this mean for single parents? Jesus wants to help you. He wants to stand in the gap of the missing one. He wants desperately to empower us to be able to fill all of the roles of parenting with His assistance. What do we have to do to get that all important help? Be in relationship with Him. Trust Him expectantly to meet all of our needs…even our shortcomings as a parent. Choose to follow Him and not repeat the mistakes and missteps He has saved us from. He died for you, so live for Him and He will ensure you never have to single parent…alone…ever again.
Questions to answer:
Have you ever considered that Christ wants to help you in your single parenting so you don’t have to go-it-alone?
Can you think of times you have already seen Him doing this for you?
Actions to take:
Thank God for having a spousal heart toward you and ask Him to remind you as necessary to trust Him to help you where you need it as it pertains to being a single parent.
So now, looking expectantly to God to empower you as you trust Him in ways only a single parent understands…Go be Awesome!