Summary: This is a message about and for single parents
In this series, we’ve been looking at the Book of Genesis and the beginning of families. Families are not what they used to be. They come in all different kinds of configurations. Today we’re going to look at the fastest growing type of family in the US: single parent families. One-third of American children – a total of 15 million – are being raised without a father. Nearly 5 million more children live without a mother. More children are living with unmarried parents than ever before. Even as the total number of American households with children increased by 160,000, the number of two-parent households decreased by 1.2 million. Marriage has declined most significantly among the "moderately educated” and the poor. Between 1960 and 2005, the rate of unwed childbearing increased sevenfold, from 5.3% of all births to 36.8%. The survey finds that the average unwed mother "is more likely to be white than black, and more likely to be an adult than a teenager. …" One of the most eye opening things the Elders learned as they went through the demographic data is that 40% of all households with children are single parent families, significantly higher than the national average.
What should be the church’s response to single parents? Scripture calls us to care for them. Psalm 146:9 says, “He (God) cares for the widows and orphans.” And what God does, we need to be doing as well. The widow, many times, is the single mom. In Biblical times, widows and orphans were the poorest of the poor and needed to be provided for. The same is true for single parent households most of which live at or below the poverty line. Luke 14:13 challenges us to “invite the poor.” 1 Timothy 5:3 advises us to “take care of the widow.” Gary Sprague, who started the Center for Single Parent Family Ministry puts it this way, “Single parents and their kids are modern-day widows and orphans. Helping single parents and their kids is not just good to do; it’s a biblical mandate.”
In our Scripture today, we have the story of Hagar, an Egyptians handmaid of Sarah in Abraham’s household. Sarah had been barren all of her life and now was past child bearing age. Yet God sent two angels to Abraham and Sarah and told them they were going to have a child. But ten years passed and still no child. So Sarah asked Abraham to take Hagar as his concubine so that she might adopt her child. Long story short, When Hagar conceived, she became domineering and then Sarah became pregnant herself. Their two boys fought until Hagar was again cast out in the wilderness.
Imagine how hopeless Hagar must have felt as she and her son were sent away from their home, with food and water strapped to her shoulders to last for how long? The desert stretched endlessly as she wandered with her son, carefully rationing her provisions until, finally, the food and water were gone. With no other options, she laid her starving child under a bush and collapsed at a distance to avoid seeing him die. They both began to cry. In the parched wasteland, God heard their cries and showed mercy and led them to a well to save them. Hagar was truly in a hopeless situation. Only God could rescue her, and He did. God says to single parents today, as He said to Hagar and her son, I hear your cries. He knows the pains of your heart that are too deep for expression, the tears you’ve cried for your children and for yourself, the frustration and hopelessness that weighs upon your heart and the exhaustion you feel. And He hears the cries of your children, too. He says to you from Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” He wants you to have abiding rest now in His Son Jesus Christ, even amidst the busyness and chaos of your daily life.
The role of a single parent may be the most difficult role of all. They are stressed financially. Making ends meet is difficult for many families, but single parents often struggle with finances more than others. Raising children is one of the hardest jobs on the planet--if not the hardest. When you take into account that in 2010, raising a child cost $226,920 on average, it can almost seem overwhelming. Roughly 27% of single parent families live below the poverty line which is $23,400. When you take into account that the household has now gone from two salaries to one but the costs of raising kids has stayed the same, it’s often a paycheck to paycheck existence and there have to be a lot of financial compromises and juggling of bills. It’s not uncommon to have almost $0 in the bank at the end of the month, if they even have a bank account at all.