Summary: Marriage is the foundation from which a family is created. Children are born, and grow up in the gentle care and training provided by both mother and father.
Marriage is the foundation from which a family is created. Children are born, and grow up in the gentle care and training provided by both mother and father. Marriage is sacred, a decree of God himself when he said, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24 English Standard Version). Marriage is binding, and the scriptures say that when two are brought together they become one. Matthew 19:6 (ESV) says "So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” God makes it clear that marriage ought to be binding until death. Again and again in the scriptures it's made clear that marriage between a man and a woman should not be broken except in extreme circumstances (1 Cor 7:10, Luke 16:18, Mat 5:32, Mat 19:6, Rom 7:2). As a result, is it any wonder that a marriage ending in divorce leads to such chaos and destructive for all involved? Divorce is very harmful to the husband and wife. But perhaps those most harmed by a divorce of husband and wife are the children. Children face many unique challenges in a divorce situation. Thankfully God provides ways to heal from divorce.
Outcomes of Divorce on Children
Children of broken families are at much higher risk of negative outcomes in life than those in stable married homes (Kim, 2011, p. 487). Negative outcomes can include dropping out of high school, social problems, decreased cognitive skills, and poor psychosocial well being (Kim, 2011, p. 487). Although social stigma regarding divorce has decreased in society, these outcomes have not changed over the years (Kim, 2011, p. 487). In the United States in 1860, 1 in 1,000 marriages ended in divorce (Balswick & Balswick, 2014, p. 301). In 2013, the divorce ratio was up to 17 divorces in every 1,000 marriages (Balswick & Balswick, 2014, p. 301). Divorce rates doubled between the 1950s and the 1980s (Stewart, 1997, p. 691). Today, about 50% of marriages end in divorce (Stewart, 1997, p. 691).
The consequences of divorce on children can last a lifetime (Sammons & Lewis, 2001, p. 1). There is increasing research that shows the effects of divorce on children can be devastating, yet society seems to lag behind in providing support for children of divorced families (Sammons & Lewis, 2001, p. 1). How can society provide supports for children of divorce? It's an important question to consider. Despite support from parents, siblings, friends, church leaders, counselors, and support groups, the effects of divorce are never-the-less devastating. Is it any wonder then why the scriptures say God hates divorce? (Malachi 2:16).
Healing from Divorce in Light of the Bible
As previously discussed, the marriage bond is extremely important. Although in modern society marriage is often not taken particularly seriously, to God it is a sacred covenant relationship. Divorce in light of the Bible is a serious and difficult situation. Suffering is the natural outcome. Yet what possibilities for healing from divorce are there, in light of the Bible?
Jeremiah 17:14 (ESV) says "Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise." Ultimately the only way for children to heal from divorce is to reach out to God for healing and comfort. Jeremiah 33:6 (ESV) says "Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security." The passages from Jeremiah are extremely important. Consider the situation Israel was facing: Israel had turned from the Lord, and the king of Israel was listening to false teachers. Israel was about to face the Babylonian captivity, a terrible time of discipline and suffering. It is much the same after a divorce. A family has been splintered due to sin. The parents could not work it out, and thus suffering results. Yet God still offers healing, forgiveness, and love despite the poor choices people make in life. Even out of great tragedy, God can bring prosperity and security.
Psalm 103:2-4 (ESV) says "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy." Psalm 103 illustrates how God offers forgiveness, healing, redemption, steadfast love, and mercy to those who come to him. Children must be encouraged to "bless the Lord." Remind children again and again that though their foundation has been lost, the family, they must seek out and find the true foundation which is God almighty. He is the only unshakeable foundation.
James 5:15 (ESV) says "And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." Divorce often brings about chaos for children, and causes numerous problems in mental health and functionality. Thankfully prayer is a powerful weapon against brokenness. The Lord will raise up children who have suffered the horror of divorce. Sins related to the divorce should be confessed, and then they will be forgiven (James 5:16). It must be underlined, that the suffering child does not need therapy, counseling, or interventions as much as the child needs the real presence of God the Father. "Self-help" style counseling is foolishness, and God-less (James 4:7, James 4:10, Romans 12:2) It leads to a repeating loop of suffering. Instead the scriptures say that one must submit themselves before the Lord, and he will lift them up (James 4:10).