Parents Prayer For A Married Son Facing Divorce
Changing Allegiance From Parents To Spouse
In Genesis 2:24 we read, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” This principle is repeated in Ephesians 5:31.
God’s pattern for marriage involves the “leaving” of parents and the “cleaving” to one’s mate. Marriage involves changing allegiance from parents to spouse.
Before marriage, one’s allegiance is to one’s parents, but after marriage allegiance shifts to one’s mate.
Importance of Psychological Break from Parents
It is what the psychologists call “cutting the psychological apron strings.” No longer does the individual lean on his parents, but rather on his mate. If there is a conflict of interest between a man’s wife and his mother, the husband is to stand with his wife.
This does not mean that the mother is to be treated unkindly. That is the second principle, which we will deal with shortly. The principle of separating from parents is, however, extremely important.
No couple will reach their full potential in marriage without this psychological break from parents.What does this principle mean in the practical realm? I believe that it suggests separate living arrangements for the newly married couple. While living with parents, the couple cannot develop independence as readily as when living alone. The dependency on parents is enhanced as long as they live with parents.
Living in a meager apartment with the freedom to develop their own lifestyle under God is better than luxurious living in the shadow of parents. Parents should encourage such independence, and the ability to provide such living accommodations should be a factor in setting the wedding date.
Making Spouse Happy Should Take Precedence
The principle of “leaving” parents is also important in decision making. Your parents may have suggestions about many aspects of your married life.
Each suggestion should be taken seriously, but, in the final analysis, you must make your own decision. You should no longer make decisions on the basis of what would make parents happy but on the basis of what would make your partner happy.
Under God, you are a new unit, brought together by His Spirit to live for each other (Philippians 2:3-4).
This means that the time may come when a husband must sit down with his mother and say,
“Mom, you know that I love you very much, but you also know that I am now married. I cannot break up my marriage in order to do what you desire. I love you, and I want to help you, but I must do what I believe is right for my wife and me.
It is my hope you will understand because I want to continue the warm relationship that we have had through the years. But if you do not understand, then that is a problem you must work through. I must give myself to the building of my marriage.
Importance of Changing Allegiance From Parents to Spouse
…The principle of separation from parents also has implications when conflict arises in marriage. A young wife who has always leaned heavily on her mother will have a tendency to “run to mother” when problems arise in the marriage. The next day her husband recognizes that he was wrong, asks forgiveness, and harmony is restored.
The daughter fails to tell her mother this. The next time a conflict arises she again confides in Mom. This becomes a pattern, and before long, her mother has a bitter attitude toward the son-in-law and is encouraging the daughter to separate from him.
The daughter has been very unfair to her husband and has failed to follow the principle of “leaving” parents.
If you have conflicts in your marriage (and most of us do), seek to solve them by direct confrontation with your mate. Conflict should be a stepping-stone to growth.If you find that you need outside help, then go to your pastor or a Christian marriage counselor. They are trained and equipped by God to give practical help. They can be objective and give biblical guidelines.
Parents find it almost impossible to be objective.
Honor Parents, but Not Above Spouse
The second principle relating to our relationship with parents is found in Exodus 20:12 and is one of the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” It is repeated in Deuteronomy 5:16 and Ephesians 6:2.
The command to honor our parents has never been rescinded. As long as they live, it is right to honor them. In Ephesians 6:1, Paul says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Obedience to parents is the guideline from birth to marriage.
Paul’s second statement is, “Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise—that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (vs. 2-3). Honor to parents is the guideline from birth to death.
Honor was the original command and stands forever.
The word honor means “to show respect.” It involves treating one with kindness and dignity. It is true that not all parents live respectable lives. Their actions may not be worthy of honor, but because they are made in the image of God, they are worthy of honor.
You can respect them for their humanity and for their position as your parents, even when you cannot respect their actions. It is always right to honor your parents and those of your marriage partner.
“Leaving” parents for the purpose of marriage does not erase the responsibility to honor them.
How is this Honor Expressed in Daily Life?
You honor them in such practical actions as visiting, telephoning, and writing, whereby you communicate to them that you still love them and want to share life with them. “Leaving” must never be interpreted as “deserting.” Regular contact is essential to honoring parents. Failure to communicate with parents is saying, in effect, “I no longer care.”
A further word is necessary regarding communication with parents. Equal treatment of both sets of parents must be maintained. Remember, “For God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11). We must follow His example.In practice, this means that our letters, telephone calls, and visits must indicate our commitment to the principle of equality. If one set of parents is phoned once a month, then the other set should be phoned once a month.
If one receives a letter once a week, then the other should receive the same. The couple should also seek to be equitable in visits, dinners, and vacations.
Holidays Can Get Complicated
Perhaps the stickiest situations arise around holidays —Thanksgiving and Christmas. The wife’s mother wants them home for Christmas Eve. The husband’s mother wants them home for Christmas dinner.
That may be possible if they live in the same town, but when they are five hundred miles apart, it becomes impossible. The solution must be the principle of equality.
This may mean Christmas with one set of parents one year and with the other the following year.
To “honor” implies also that we speak kindly with parents and in-laws. Paul admonishes: “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were father” (1 Timothy 5:1). We are to be understanding and sympathetic. Certainly we are to speak the truth, but it must always be in love (Ephesians 4:15).
The command of Ephesians 4:31-32 must be taken seriously in our relationship with parents: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
A further implication of honor to parents is described in 1 Timothy 5:4: “But if a widow has children and grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”
When we were young, our parents met our physical needs. As they grow older, we may have to do the same for them. If and when the need arises, we must bear the responsibility of caring for the physical needs of our parents. To fail in this responsibility is to deny our faith in Christ (1 Timothy 5:8). By our actions, we must show our faith in Christ and honor for our parents.
If I could make some other practical suggestions, I would advise you to accept your in-laws as they are. Do not feel that it is your task to change them.
If they are not Christians, certainly you will want to pray for them and look for opportunities to present Christ, but do not try to fit them into your mold.You are expecting them to give you independence to develop your own marriage. Give them the same.
Do not criticize your in-laws to your mate. The responsibility of your mate is to honor his parents. When you criticize them, you make it more difficult for him to follow this pattern. When your mate criticizes the weaknesses of his parents, you should point out their strengths. Accentuate their positive qualities and encourage honor.
The Bible Gives Examples
The Bible gives some beautiful examples of wholesome relationships between individuals and their in-laws.
Moses had such a wholesome relationship with Jethro, his father-in-law, that, when he informed him of God’s call to leave Midian and lead the Israelites Egypt, Jethro said, “Go, and I wish you well” (Exodus 4:18). Later on, after the success of Moses’ venture, his father-in-law came to see him.
“So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent” (Exodus 18:7). It was on this visit that Jethro gave Moses the advice that we discussed earlier. His openness to his father-in-law’s suggestion shows something of the nature of their relationship.
Ruth and Naomi serve as an example of the devotion of a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law after the death of both husbands. Jesus directed one of His miracles to the mother-in-law of Peter, and she in turn ministered to Jesus (Matthew 8:14-15).
Freedom and harmony are the biblical ideals for in-law relationships. The train of God’s will for marriage must run on the parallel tracks of separation from parents and devotion to parents.
This article comes from the book, Toward a Growing Marriage, written by Dr Gary Chapman, which was published by Moody Press (unfortunately, it is no longer being published).
: cleave to spouse, cleaving, leave and cleave
To the Sons and Daughters of Divorce
Few things are more traumatic than a car accident — 2,000 pounds of steel and glass bending and scraping, with no respect for the limits or boundaries of the human body inside. There’s a path of healing that every victim of a serious accident must take.
Children with divorced parents have experienced a different kind of violent, traumatic collision. And every child of divorce must wise walk a path of healing. It will, of course look different for different sons and daughters, but no one can deny that the emotional and relational bleeding needs attention, ly long after the papers are filed.
A chorus of adults with long-divorced parents will dismiss in unison: “I’m not broken, thanks very much. I’m not a project. I’m fine. It’s not even a big deal. I’m not a victim, and it certainly doesn’t deserve this much attention.” I totally get that. Depending on the day, I might say the same thing if I read my first two paragraphs.
My parents divorced when I was nine. I’m not a victim, but the break still broke me. It wounded me in ways I could not control. Years later, because I didn’t have the resources to work through things as a nine-year-old boy, certain forms of brokenness seem native and normal to me.
“The break that happens between mom and dad in divorce happens within the child.”
Divorce “attacks the self, because the self is formed within the belonging and meaning provided by the family. When it is destroyed, the threat of lost place and lost purpose becomes a reality. Without place or purpose, one becomes a lost self” (Andrew Root, Children of Divorce, 21).
More than losing myself, though, I lost the ability to relate to my heavenly Father. I certainly didn’t think that God had anything to say, or even cared, about the mangled, overturned vehicle in our living room. I’m sometimes still tempted to think that way today. But he does. He speaks.
And he cares.Right now, we’re just focusing on what you (and I) experienced, and how you can heal. This isn’t meant to judge divorced parents, or to deter parents from getting divorced for legitimate reasons (abuse or adultery).
The point is to see how, as children of divorce, Jesus Christ is a light in dark places, a hope for the broken, confused, and lonely.
We will piece together some themes from Scripture to explain how God understands and relates to children of divorce, in ten points.
1. Everyone in a family is organically, emotionally, spiritually connected
Paul explains, “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy” (1 Corinthians 7:14). While not the main point of the text (primarily speaking about marriage between a believer and unbeliever), we can note three things:
The family is a unit — an organically connected singular entity (“because of his wife . . . because of her husband . . . as it is”).
The child’s spiritual wellbeing is interwoven with the integrity of their parents’ marital wellbeing (“made holy . . . made holy . . . they are holy”).
A broken marriage, therefore, has breaking effects on the child (“Otherwise your children would be unclean”).
2. For a child, experiencing a divorce is experiencing a violent storm
Malachi argues, “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth” (Malachi 2:15). Ah, yes.
“What was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.” In the Hebrew, “A child of God.
” What does the child experience? The Lord enters the scene to explain what happens to a child when parents fail to guard their marriage “in the spirit”: “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless” (Malachi 2:16). There is always violence in divorce — a scary, violent, destructive storm within and all around the family.
3. Divorce does not just separate parents
“So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6). “I know.” We use a metaphor for divorce: “It’s getting gum a rug. It can’t fully be done.” Okay. We forget that the spouses aren’t the only ones who get “separated.
” The gum metaphor certainly doesn’t capture what happens to a child of a divorce. A marriage can be separated, at least in some ways; a child cannot. A child is an irreducible unit — a singularity cannot be separated from itself. And yet, we are.
What the parents experience relationally, the child experiences internally.
4. Divorce separates you from you
So when your parents — your first example and measure of relational unity and security — were separated, you were torn in a way that a human is not built to be torn. There is no “gum” and “rug.” There’s just you.
You’re one “thing,” and now you feel you’ve been cracked in half into two things. Even if you don’t experience the emotion explicitly, you still feel and experience and respond to the tension, because the separation is real.
“We all fight through adversity, of whatever kind, so that we can fight for the weak down the road.”
Regardless of whether the divorce was justified or biblical — completely aside from any of those questions — divorce was a violence you experienced. What man “separates” in divorce happens to you, too. What happens between Mom and Dad happens in you. “There is no soundness in my flesh . . .
because of the tumult of my heart” (Psalm 38:7–8). The effects are far-reaching, often more than we are immediately aware.
Depression, anxiety, addiction, anger, compulsions, and distractions are all possible effects of being torn, and very often we are not even aware that these things might be related to the “accident.”
5. Brokenness is not unrighteousness
Scripture uses many different metaphors to speak ethically, but theologians have used at least two terms that are relevant here: the “forensic” and the “renovative.” The “forensic” is legal. It’s declarative. It’s right and wrong. Scripture uses the terms “righteous” and “unrighteous” for the forensic (Acts 24:15).
The “renovative” is felt — it’s inside of you. It is helpful and hurtful. Scripture uses the terms “holy” (1 Timothy 2:8) and “broken” (Psalm 44:19; Psalm 69:20; Proverbs 29:1; Ephesians 4:22). To put it in a crass and reductionistic way, the forensic is the external evaluation, and the renovative is the internal state of affairs.
In order to heal, we need to be able to distinguish between our brokennesses.
6. You didn’t do anything wrong, but you still have to heal
Popular therapy for children of divorce will say again and again, “You didn’t do anything wrong.” That’s a forensic category. And it’s true. Your parents’ divorce is not your fault.
But, unfortunately and tragically, it still breaks you.
You are still, in a real way — in an on-the-ground, in-your-fibers sense — overwhelmed by a weight too heavy to lift and twisted in knots too complex to untie in a single counseling session.
The choice given to the child of divorce is not whether or not they should experience the brokenness of their parents’ divorce, but whether they will consciously process or unconsciously suppress the breaking. Henri Nouwen explains, “What is forgotten is unavailable, and what is unavailable cannot be healed.” wise, to intentionally face the reality of being broken is not to face defeat, but healing.
7. Marriage and divorce communicate something about God’s love
Parents represent in a priestly and prophetic way, for good or ill, Christ’s attitude toward their children (Ephesians 6:1–4). This reality happens not only in the direct relationship of parent-to-child, but in an exemplary and indirect way in the public, parent-to-parent relationship lived before the eyes of the child (Ephesians 5:25–33).
And so, in divorce, parents communicate a view of God’s love that speaks more powerfully than words. It is important to recognize, then, that there will always be a painful proverb in the back of your head that has its root in that experience. It’s not the same for everyone.
“Love doesn’t last.”
“Failure in love is always my fault.”
“I need marriage to escape my loneliness.”
“I will never get married.”
“God’s ready to leave me any moment.”
“My love isn’t enough to keep people together.”
“I’m not enough.”
All lies. But lies are powerful when they have good material to work with. Divorce is a fertile ground for lies of justified self-hatred. Children of divorce, myself included, have always searched too hard for love.the song goes, “I fall in love too easily; I fall in love too fast; I fall in love too terribly hard for love to ever last.
” We are searching for a sense of home, a way to convince ourselves the lies in our abandonment and loneliness won’t have the last word.
8. God has a special affection for you
What do we see in the texts we’ve looked at so far? A condemnation of the divorced? No. It’s not even about that. What do we see? God’s caring hand for the child. For you. Even if you’re an adult.
These texts are God speaking, and naming violence that you’ve experienced. Malachi 2:15 is God saying, “You’ve been in a car accident, and you need to heal.” He says, “I’m looking after you. My eye is on you.
You are my child.”
We see God’s protective care for children of divorce. We see the structures that he has set up to care for the weak and his grief over the violence that breaking these structures does. God is the lifter of weight.
He is the untier of knots. His specialty is in redeeming — in healing, restoring, and strengthening.
His forte is in trauma, and in complex pain — not always in fixing or explaining right away, but in being-with (Isaiah 43:2).
He has a singular and unique affection for you: “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13). That verse probably means nothing to you.In fact, it may make God feel further away. The ‘father’ pictures in Scripture have never been anything but painful for you.
That doesn’t change the fact that God does show perfect and intimate compassion to you the way a good father should. He does.
9. God is building you to help others
Through sorrow and tragedy, God gives you an awareness of the world. A sixteen-year-old with divorced parents is, in a sense, more aware of the world around him than the same sixteen-year-old without divorced parents. We all fight through adversity, of whatever kind, so that we can fight for the weak down the road.
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. (Proverbs 24:10–11)
These verses flip suffering on its head. If we had divorced parents as a child (and faint, because it’s too much for us), it is so that we can rescue others when we’ve been made strong.
In the end (and even in the midst) of your healing path awaits a unique strength that will not only deliver you, but will allow you to carry others through the same journey, fighting the same voices, healing the same wounds, building the same faith and perseverance.
10. Reach out to others who have walked this hard path
Ernest Hemingway wrote, “The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” To put it tritely, experiencing the divorce of parents is just really, really hard. There’s no escaping that. It comes with tears. It comes with being very afraid. It comes with anger. You carry the bitter weight of having divorced parents.
“You deserve to be deeply loved, and you are deeply loved by God. He will carry and keep you.”
I don’t presume to know your situation, what your parents are , or what your family has gone through. All I know is that it must be extremely painful, and that God knows your pain. By his grace, it will not destroy you, but make you stronger (Isaiah 42:3–5).
Paul realized that he went through an affliction “so that [he] may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:4). He is a man who once “despaired of life itself” who now “[does] not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1).He learned to be strong because he was weak (2 Corinthians 12:9), and God is still using him to comfort Christians in chronic and excruciating pain all over the world.
I don’t think I have found more help in my own journey of healing than in seeking help from others who have walked the same paths — who have had to do the hard work of finding Christ through the weeds of having divorced parents. Look for other sons and daughters — of God, and of divorced parents — and walk with them.
You are not pathetic. You are not alone. You deserve to be deeply loved, and you are deeply loved by God. He will carry and keep you.