When Your Family Falls Apart
By Dr. Richard D. Dobbins
- Every month in our country more than 1 million children learn
their family is being broken by divorce. In 85 percent of these
divorces, one spouse desperately wants to save the marriage.
Perhaps you are in that group. You wanted to get the help you needed
to save your marriage, but your spouse was unwilling to go with you.
Let's take a look at some redemptive things the Lord can do to help
you build another future for yourself and your children.
Much of our frustration in life comes from attempting to control
what we cannot control and neglecting to control what we can. Your
spouse has taken out of your hands some of the options you would have
But God is not going to punish you for disobedience on your spouse's
part. Yet there are big issues you are going to have to face.
Dealing With the Loss
Grief and mourning are never pleasant. However, they do vary
in intensity depending upon the timing and circumstances leading
up to the divorce. For example, if the former spouse has been
verbally and physically abusive to you or to your children,
a certain amount of relief comes along with the pain of your
family's falling apart. And you experience a similar mixture
of feelings when the marriage has a long history of infidelity.
However, the most aggravated and intense pain is experienced when
suddenly, almost out of the blue, your spouse announces he or she
is leaving the marriage. Coming to terms with either kind of pain
will take from 6 to 8 months. Attempting to avoid dealing with the
loss will only further complicate your life. As you deal with loss,
you will find yourself going through stages of recovery:
1. A period of shock. You will find it hard to believe that
what is happening to you actually is happening.
2. A barrage of feelings. Anger, guilt, frustration
-- all of these emotions are going to churn up within you. They
will not settle down right away, either.
3. A period of wanting to find God's will. You may tell yourself,
"I know it is not His will that a marriage end in divorce. I did not
have anything to do about this. Now how do I find God? Where is He?"
That is when you want to remember Jeremiah's trip to the potter's
house (see Jeremiah 18:1-4). Just as Jeremiah saw the potter make
another vessel out of the one that was marred, God knows you did everything
you could to save your marriage and He is not going to punish you
for what your mate did. He will help you find a new future for yourself.
Be patient and know that, when you are through this, God will bring
you into a good place.
Reassuring the Children
Children never feel more overwhelmed and powerless than when their
parents divorce. It is very important for you to explain to the children
what is happening as early in the process as possible. They do not
need to know all of the details, but they do need to know why you
are divorcing. The younger the children are, the more likely they
are to be perplexed by the fact that even though their parents are
Christians, they are divorcing.
You need to explain to them as well as you can. You may want to be
prepared to say to them, "Well, honey, it is not God's will for two
people who are Christians to divorce, but we do not always do God's
They should also understand that neither of their parents is divorcing
them. Make it as easy as possible for your children to have a loving
relationship with both parents. Explain to the children when the family
is going to separate and if Mommy is going to leave or Daddy is going
to leave, where he or she is going to live.
It also helps to take the child by where the parent is going to stay,
because the child is going to worry about who is going to take care
of Mommy or Daddy.
As long as there is some hope for reconciliation, that is a good
thing. But when you as a parent feel that all hope for reconciliation
is gone, be honest in expressing that to your children.
Otherwise small children will be praying for reconciliation and wondering
why God is not answering their prayer when one or both of their parents
are not interested in reconciliation.
Establishing a Single Parent Family
The next step in recovery has to do with establishing a single
parent family. The former couple will need to get settled in
two separate residences. The routine of child support payments,
custody arrangements, and parental visitation will need to be
established. All of this will take at least 2 or 3 months. As
soon as possible, the children need to be establishing two residences.
Suitcases should be eliminated so that everything is duplicated
in the home where the child will visit as well as the home where
he will live. All the child needs to do is to go from the custodial
parent 's home to the home of the parent the child is visiting.
As nearly as possible, two homes should be provided for the child
so that he can feel at home with either parent.
This may be difficult because often the custodial parent wants to
feel like the "authentic" or "real" parent. But the custodial parent
needs to recognize that, regardless of the issues with his or her
previous spouse, the previous spouse is still a parent of the children.
And often when the spouse who got the divorce is not following the
Lord, the Christian parent is greatly concerned about the moral values
in the visitation home. But there is nothing you can do about that
if the court has determined what visitation rights are for the ex-spouse.
You have to live your life so that the child will be able to see
the way you live and the way his other parent lives and come to a
judgment in his own life later. Focus on the quality of life you demonstrate
to your child in your walk with God.
Reviewing the Previous Marriage
The wise person will begin to ask himself some difficult, soul-searching
questions as he reviews the previous marriage. How wise was my first
mate-choice? Was I a believer when I married? Did I marry a believer?
Did I bring crippling baggage from my family into my marriage?
If the person came from a divorced family, it is important to ask,
"Did this marriage fail for similar reasons?" In other words, without
blaming oneself entirely for the failure of one's marriage, a person
should use this period of recovery to honestly assess the extent to
which his or her behavior may have contributed substantially to the
failure of the marriage.
Two important benefits should come out of this grueling introspection:
1. A wiser mate choice. Most divorced people will marry
again whether or not they had biblical grounds for their first
2. The opportunity to ask themselves, "What about me?" Are
there things about themselves they need to ask the Lord to help them
change before they go into another marriage?
Learning To Live Again
You want to be sure that you win the battle for your happiness as
a divorced person before you think about another marriage. By this
time, you know from experience that marriage never makes anybody happy.
Marriage only intensifies the state in which marriage found you. Your
happiness is too important for God to put in anyone else's hands but
yours and His.
When He has helped you find happiness as a single divorced parent,
you should be very careful about risking that happiness to any relationship.
As you know, there is only one thing worse than not being married,
and that is being married to the wrong person.
Take a careful look at another person before you get involved
with him or her. It is not enough to know that he or she is
a Christian. You need to know that the person has found happiness
and joy in his or her relationship with Jesus. Then, if you
have found that same happiness and joy, neither of you will
need the other to make him or her happy. Rather, by bringing
your personal happiness into each other's lives, you may both
find greater happiness.
Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? Have you found
happiness in Him? As broken as your life may be, He can help
you put it together again. Put the broken pieces in His hands!
Copyright © Media Ministries
of the Assemblies of God.
The weekly radio program "From This Day Forward,"
hosted by Dr. Dobbins, can be heard online at http://www.dayforward.org/.
"From This Day Forward" is a joint production of EMERGE
Ministries, Akron, Ohio, and the Media Ministries of
the Assemblies of God, Springfield, Mo.
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