So you’ve grown up shuffled back and forth between divorced parents? No one can know what that is like unless they’ve experienced it. And each family handles custody issues so differently. The divorce settlement has a lot to do with it. Bitter memories and financial hardship and custody arrangements all play their part and affect the growth and development of children—you. And, of course, you are not a party to any of those decisions but you are certainly caught in their web. Add to this the inner rages going on in and between your parents that you felt but didn’t understand…. My, my. As a Christian woman, you have some things to work through….
Well, we live in a world impacted by sin and have relationships with people who break God’s laws and refuse his wisdom for living. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). You have no trouble seeing that, do you? Look what your family life has illustrated so well, not to mention your own reaction to what was going on. It is a good lesson to learn early, especially if you apply it to yourself too. In addition, there is no question that your experience shows the truth that sins of parents affect their children. A self-pity party is not going to help you much; I am sure you’ve been there many times. There is little you can do about your parents. But, now as an adult, these sin principles can be something of real help for you if you keep looking.
Is your heart tender or bitter? Let’s review the tender heart we talked about earlier (see the blog for 5/02/16 under family life). If you want to spit out that lingering taste of bitterness, then you need to make sure you are developing a tender heart. It starts by answering the questions you’ve been asking a long time: “How could God do this to me?” Why couldn’t I have been brought up by two parents who loved each other?” I don’t know. You may never find out. It is rather futile to ask. But, the overriding cover for those unanswered questions is what leads to that tender heart. Bitterness goes away if you learn to take a sunbath in God’s love or to swim in the ocean of forever love he has for you. To bask in the warmth of God’s love leads to a heart yielding to his wise order for our lives. It feels good to believe verses like:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son (John 3:16). (bold is mine)
…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6).
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7).
We are meant to experience this love, to “be rooted and grounded in love,” and “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:17-19). This has to be experiential. It starts with your mind, believing it, thinking about it. Then it must go further. You must feel it. Warmth from sunshine is something you can feel. You can know about God’s love all day long, but if you do not really believe it, or doubt it because of what has happened to you, then you will taste bitterness instead of feeling loved. That root of bitterness is only going to dig itself deeper into the soil of your inner being and spring forth when you least suspect it. Think of God’s specific forever love for you as a shovel. Pick it up and dig out that bitterness. Bask awhile in love’s warmth. Swim around in the ocean of God’s love for you.
God’s love and kindness toward you is mysterious. It did not just start because you did something really “good” or even when you started to believe in him and even exercised faith in Christ Jesus, trusting that his death guarantees your life. No, he loved you when your parents were fighting, hating, divorcing. Your heart will grow tender if you can say, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17-18). David said this even when Saul was trying to kill him. So you can believe that God was thinking about his love for you even when your parents divorced. “Then why allow it?” your soul cries? Mystery. But, the truth remains: If God loves us while we are yet unborn, his power enables him to use bad things for our benefit.
Samuel Rutherford, a 17th century Scottish Protestant, knew what it was like to have troubles. But, he also knew how to enjoy the sunshine of God’s love. Here is his pastoral advice to you:
I find his sweet presence eats out the bitterness of sorrow and suffering.
To live on Christ’s love is a king’s life.
Glorify the Lord in your sufferings, and take his banner of love, and spread it over you.
O, that Christ would break down the old narrow vessels of these narrow and ebb souls, and make fair, deep, wide, and broad souls to hold a sea and a full tide, flowing over all banks of Christ’s love. (17th century Scottish)
O, our souls are like an outgoing tide in a narrow channel (filled with trash and weeds). If only Christ Jesus would make our souls deep and wide with an incoming tide of clean, clear water, flowing over with his love. (my Florida translation of the above)
Deep and wide; deep and wide; there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide. (An old chorus from my youth camp meaning the fountain of God’s love for his people or a fountain of blood paying for their sins.)
A tender heart is what you want. It takes awhile. Sometimes our hearts aren’t wide open to God’s love. But, his love is there whether we feel it or not. He sets his love on his people; it is free; it is unconditional; it lasts forever. He loves whether we have troubles or not. His love covers a multitude of our sins and living under love, instead of condemnation, roots out bitterness and anger over the unanswered “Why?”. A tender heart starts forgiving others–even parents! If God can be merciful to us, then surely we can be merciful to our parents. I hope your heart is growing more and more tender toward our great God each day. That is a first step toward sorting out all affects of divorce upon children.
(I will be happy to answer your questions. Go to contact Carol. If you want more about Samuel Rutherford and Richard Sibbes (who used the tender heart concept in the 1600’s), just go to Resources and click Banner of Truth. They sell books by each.)