Grace for Single Parents
by Gail Lemmert
E

ven though many years have now passed, I can still feel the fear that coursed through me when I thought about becoming the single parent of two teenagers.

My divorce from my high school sweetheart, ending a 16-year marriage, was finalized on Valentine’s Day─the day for lovers.

He said he loved both me and the other woman, and didn’t want a divorce. The other woman─whose face I had never seen and whose name I had never heard─said I had shared him with her for five years. She told me, “If you weren’t such a little church goody-goody, you would not have lost him to me.”

The feelings I had were like a roller-coaster ride I could not stop. I was hysterical at times; in shock, denial, fear, anger, and emotional pain like I had never experienced before.

My daughter had just turned 15 in June; I discovered the affair on July 19; and my son turned 13 on July 29. I felt powerless and totally helpless to know what to do for myself and my children.

It hurts to lose people in our lives, by death or divorce─especially when they are torn away unexpectedly. There were days the simplest tasks overwhelmed me. I could not move off the couch. I would tell the children to make themselves a sandwich or open a can of soup. Sometimes I wanted to die (but suicide was not an option). I prayed I just wouldn’t wake up the next morning.

My mind was so filled with unanswered questions. How could life be so cruel? How could God allow this to happen to me and my children? How and where had I failed?

Christians were not supposed to get divorced. Bad things are not supposed to happen to good people, I reasoned.

Our family had been part of the Church of God in Pontiac, Michigan, for all of those 16 years. My pastor and his wife, Robert and Jeanette Vance, listened to me all hours of the night. The body of Christ came alongside me and the children, undergirding us with prayer and emotional support, phone calls, and visits.

A Healing Balm

After a few days, I began to sort through some of the rubble and debris of the storm. As I searched the Word of God, it became a healing balm to my wounded spirit. Psalm 37 became my promise and my hope. I believe God gave it specifically to me, but you may borrow it any time you need it. I’ve italicized words that were especially helpful to me:

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret─it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land (vv. 1-9 NIV).

These scriptures are not suggestions, but are commands to commit our ways to the Lord, trust Him completely with our lives, and wait patiently on His moves. God then promises to deliver us from evil people.

The body of Christ came alongside me and the children, undergirding us with prayer and emotional support, phone calls, and visits.

Loss, Grief, and Surrender

Psychologist Judith Wallerstein has researched the effects of divorce and its impact on the American family. She said “a significant number of children suffer long-term, perhaps permanent detrimental effects from divorce. The economic, social, and psychological stresses of the aftermath of divorce combine to weaken the family in its child-rearing and child-protective functions.”

The family of divorce experiences a tremendous amount of loss and grief. Grief involves denial, bargaining, anger (where we can get stuck in depression); then acceptance and resolution becomes the goal. In acceptance lies peace.

Hannah Hurnard wrote, “The lessons of accepting and triumphing over evil, of becoming acquainted with grief and pain, is ultimately finding them transformed into grace and glory. Something incomparably precious is learning through surrender, to know and trust the Lord of heaven Himself in a new way and to experience unbroken union with Him” (Hind’s Feet on High Places).

Three Suggestions

Single parenting is difficult, and each family faces and handles it differently. My suggestions begin with finding the true Source of all strength, Jesus Christ, in an authentic relationship.

I suggest counseling for the members of a divorced family. A good counselor is trained to listen for the thoughts and feelings, and offer options or other perspectives of looking at where we are in the journey of life.

Find a good church family if you do not have one. The body of Christ is to be the most therapeutic family on earth, building up our faith, serving one another, and contributing to the needs of others. We are to offer empathy, feel one another’s pain, celebrate one another’s joys, and be role models for children and youth.

As a family of divorce, we are often afraid we will be viewed as weak or less spiritual than others, so we hide our pain and suffering. We are then cheated from having others share our load, and they are cheated in that they cannot come alongside to be of assistance. Galatians 6:2 commands us, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (NIV).

When we as Christians face crises, we are to be there for one another. We are to call, visit, pray; make physical provision by taking food, running errands; just being present with a word of encouragement, ministering God’s grace and love.

“As the body of Christ with His mission to perform, the Church is responsible for utilizing every resource at its disposal,” said Don Bowdle. “These resources are human as well as divine. The Church will become relevant in corresponding proportion to its perceptive employment of those dedicated minds and means that God has placed within its charge. . . . The Church must, therefore, learn the language of the Gospel, the language of the world, and the art of translation” (Redemption Accomplished and Applied).

Redemption and Restoration

As I said, many years have passed since my divorce, and my two children are married with children of their own. I have been remarried for a number of years, and God has been faithful to redeem and restore what was meant for evil in our lives as a single-parent family.

Gail Lemmert, M.A., NCC, is a professional counselor who attends the Westmore Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee.

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