Child of divorce, do not fear marriage.
I had been dating my boyfriend for one month when my parents separated. So, when our relationship turned to questions about marriage, I was terrified. How could I trust anyone again? What did I know about healthy, lasting marriages? What if my marriage ended in divorce, too? My now-husband tried to understand my fears, but he never fully could.
While many people experience fear and “cold feet” as they consider marriage, children of divorce often wrestle more intensely and destructively with relational and marital fears. These fears “rise to a crescendo in adulthood” as they find themselves standing where their parents fell (Wallerstein, 298). This was certainly my experience.
But if you, too, are a child of divorce, God does not leave you to statistics. I don’t mean that everyone should marry — some are called to singleness (1 Corinthians 7:7) — but if you find yourself quavering on the shores of marriage, I understand. If you are tiptoeing toward it as I once did, I want to share some loving truths God pressed into my fears during that time.
“Child of divorce” is not your primary identity.
You may be a child of divorce, but if you are Christ’s, “child of divorce” is not your first and deepest identity. Your identity is “child of God” (John 1:12–13). You are not damaged goods, the mere byproduct of a failed marriage. God purchased you gladly and willingly at a costly price (1 Corinthians 6:20).
This identity supersedes any other. The gospel defines you more deeply than earthly roots and the generational merits or sins that come with your family name, because God is effectively conforming you into the image of his Son (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Thicker and purer than the blood that binds you to your earthly family is the blood of Christ, spilled for your redemption.
You are not bound to your parents’ sins.
You are not destined to repeat your family’s sinful history — infidelity, betrayal, abandonment, abuse, violence, self-worship. You may bear its scar, but you do not have to bear its poison.
In Christ, no sin — not even generational sin — has an irrevocable pull on your life. Statistics may tell the story of children becoming like abusive or dysfunctional parents, or of children becoming like “victim” parents (the abused, the abandoned). And with cruel intention, someone may have even told you, “You will become just like your father,” or “You will become just like your mother.”
But the gospel changes the natural trajectory of your life because God changes you (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christ has set you free (John 8:36), so you are not bound to repeating sinful history (Romans 6:14). By grace, you can reset your story.
The Lord is your confidence.
God does not promise protection from suffering or the risks of marriage (John 16:33). He does not promise that if you do everything right, he will reward you with a bulletproof marriage. Your spouse could fail you. You could fail your spouse.
You could give your heart only to have it broken again. You could be abandoned, betrayed, and hurt. You could lose love, family, and home once more.
In the weeks leading to my marriage, my fears intensified. What will our marriage look like? Will he regret his choice? What if all of my greatest fears about marriage play out one by one?
But when we met with our wedding coordinator for the final time before the big day, she mentioned in passing that the venue’s theme for the year was, “The Lord is our confidence,” based on Proverbs 3:25–26.
Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence.
The Lord will be my confidence. My firm trust. My security. And the haggard, pacing woman inside of me sat down at those words.
Christ will never leave you.
When my parents split, I lost so much of my earthly security. I felt lost and vulnerable. Like someone had taken a chainsaw to my heart and my home and split it down the middle, spilling all its contents for everyone to see and judge.
But here was a permanent resting place for my trust: the Lord.
And he gives you a better, unbreakable family (Ephesians 2:19); a better, eternal home (John 14:2–3); and a better, irrevocable love (Romans 8:37–39). He will never reject you, because he chose you in love and made you alive in Christ (Ephesians 1:4; 2:5), even as your heart and all its contents were laid bare before him (Proverbs 15:11; Romans 3:10–18). And he will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
You have unfailing security in the hand of God.
So, what can flesh do to you? What can you stand to lose in marriage that will utterly ruin you? The earthly shadow of marriage may fail you (Ephesians 5:22–33), but the heavenly reality (Revelation 19:6–9) — never. Secure in such a Bridegroom, you can take a risk on earthly love.
Child of God, pour out each fear to him in prayer, and hear his tender, firm words to you through Scripture, because “it is only from the Scriptures, applied to our hearts by the Holy Spirit, that we receive the grace to trust God” (Bridges, 18).
Do not be afraid. You are no fool to put your confidence in him. He is with you. He is your God. He will help you. He will strengthen you. He will uphold you.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
This article was first published at Desiring God.
A little note:
1,000 words is very little space to speak to the fears and pains a child of divorce might face in this situation — and words apart from a warm person speaking them, pressing your hands, weeping with you, can come across as a cold bandaid slap on a wound. But inasmuch as a stranger’s words can speak to your fears, I pray these words give comfort to anyone who walks the same path I did.
Every child of divorce experiences their fears or pain differently, but if you find your experience shaping to be like mine, I pray these words from my heart, reaped from deep pain, would minister to your heart.
P.S. And if it wasn’t clear, the point of my article is to battle the lies in children’s hearts as a result of parental divorce, not to blame parents or condemn all divorces. May God bless not only the children of divorce but the parents as well — deeply. ♥