God’s original plan for the family was to bring the man and woman together in the love and commitment of the marriage relationship. He would then bless their love and commitment with the gift of children. In an environment of intimacy, love, and submission to their Creator, the parents would love and train their children in God’s ways. God desired that the fruit of the marriage relationship would be godly offspring.
Malachi 2:14-15 “… the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth… she is your companion and your wife by covenant…did He not make them one…? And why one? He seeks godly offspring…”
When the man and woman turned from their Creator and sinned in the Garden of Eden, their intimacy with God was destroyed, they were expelled from the garden, and God’s original plan for the family was affected. The Fall resulted in disunity and contention between the man and the women, which continues to dominate and destroy male and female relationships and marriages today. In addition, the offspring from the marriage inherited their parent’s sin nature, and suffered like consequences. Single parent families, resulting from death, divorce and children born to unmarried mothers were a consequence of the fall of man.
Matthew 19:8 “…Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”
The first single parent family recorded in Scripture was Hagar, Abram and Sarai’s (Abraham & Sarah) Egyptian maid, and her son, Ishmael, fathered by Abram. Sarai was unable to bear children, therefore she urged her husband to father a child with Hagar. Sarai later changed her mind and resented Hagar and her son. On two occasions Hagar had personal encounters with God.
Hagar’s first meeting with God was before the birth of her son. Having been harshly treated by Sarai, she fled to the wilderness. God met her there and confirmed to her that He heard her affliction. He then counseled her to return to her home, and instructed her to name her son Ishmael, which means God hears. Her second visitation with God was a few years later when she and Ishmael, driven from Abraham’s home, departed and wandered in the wilderness. Certain that she and her son would soon die, she lifted up her voice and wept. God proved to this single parent once again that He is the God who hears. God comforted her, counseled her and opened her eyes to His will for her and her family.
Psalm 10:17-18 “LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; you will prepare their heart; you will cause Your ear to hear, To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more.”
Read the account of Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis 16:1-16 and 21:9-21. Our culture has changed drastically since this family lived several thousand years ago, but single parents today share many of the same struggles, needs, feelings and emotions. Though this biblical account centers on a woman, single fathers and mothers alike know the hurt of rejection, loneliness, and fear for their children, as well as financial crisis. Consider the following important principles we learn from Hagar’s experience with the God who hears.
- The Angel of the Lord (an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ) found Hagar in the wilderness.
- The Angel of the Lord guided her in the midst of her distress.
- He gave her His promises.
- He gave her hope for her future and the future of her son.
- Hagar responded to Him with faith calling God, Elroi, the God who sees.
- God heard the cries of her son.
- He spoke to Hagar about the welfare of her son.
- God commanded Hagar to lift up her son and hold him by the hand.
- God opened Hagar’s eyes to see His provision.
- God was with Ishmael.
The important lesson that we learn from this story is that God sees, hears, cares and is waiting to intercede in the single-parent family. He loves the children in these homes, children who have suffered loss through death, divorce, or abandonment by those who were called by God to love and train them. We learn that God not only hears, but He heals. God is waiting to demonstrate His faithfulness and power to you and your children. You must respond as Hagar, with trust and obedience.
PRINCIPLES FOR SINGLE PARENT FAMILIES
1. Receive your daily strength and guidance from the Lord.
Single parents must spend time daily with the Lord. If our busy lifestyles overrule our intimacy with Christ, we will soon find ourselves powerless and overwhelmed by our circumstances. We need God’s perspective, wisdom, hope and guidance everyday. Parents must set the example, showing their children what it looks like to live a godly life in the midst of difficult circumstances!
Psalm 10:14 “…The helpless commits himself to You; you are the helper of the fatherless.”
2. Encourage your child to have a relationship with the other parent.
Even if the other parent is not fulfilling their role in a consistent and biblical manner, your children need to have a relationship with that parent. Never compromise your child’s physical or emotional well being. As your child grows and matures they will make their own choices about their relationship with the other parent.
3. Make every effort to promote unity with the other parent.
If possible, agree on your rules and methods of discipline. In order for this to happen, parents must set aside all selfishness and unforgiveness. Life can become very stressful and confusing for a child who routinely has to go back and forth between different homes. When parents are able to work together, it helps to eliminate some of this confusion. When children witness their parents working together, it is a blessing for them. In some cases this is not possible. Never put your child or yourself in an emotionally or physically dangerous or damaging situation.
Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (NAU)
4. Accept your child’s desire to see the other parent.
You must not allow yourself to be overwhelmed that your children are spending time with their other parent. Your attitude can set the stage for behavior problems. This transition is hard enough on the children. Don’t let a poor attitude on your part add to the confusion. Be sensitive to your child when they arrive home after visiting the other parent, ready to listen and express happiness if they had a good time. If necessary remind them that they are home where your rules are the standard.
5. Establish yourself and your children in a Bible-teaching church.
While there is no perfect church, there is a perfect church for you and your children. God’s Word exhorts us to,
Hebrews 10:25 “…not forsake our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…”
Psalm 92:13 “Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.”
The church is God’s family. Your children need the love, stability, mentoring and parenting of other members of the family of God. Children from single-parent families need to see how two-parent families function, and have healthy role models.
Psalm 68:5-6 “A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families...”
James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
6. Pursue friendship, fellowship and fun with other Christian families.
Being unmarried, many single parents feel that they do not fit in with married couples. Although because they are parents, they also do not feel that they fit in with singles. The result can be loneliness and isolation. If parents are lonely and isolated, their children will either follow their example, or pursue a social life on their own. Take advantage of extended family, your children’s school activities, as well as opportunities to participate in fellowship and social functions through your church.
I John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
7. If the need arises, seek godly counsel.
If you feel that there are issues and situations in your life or the lives of your children that need immediate attention and solutions, you may want to seek biblical counseling from your pastor or a qualified Christian counselor.
Proverbs 11:14 “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
Proverbs 12:15 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.”