by Rev. William M. Cwirla
You knew something was wrong. Mom had been crying a lot. Dad hadn’t been home much, and when he was home, he seemed angry or distant. You were afraid to make a sound, much less bring home a problem from school. Then came the dreaded “family meeting” and the news you didn’t want to hear: “Your Dad and I are getting a divorce.” Now what? Here are some things to keep in mind should the divorce demon invade your house.
BRING ON THE GRIEF GREMLINS – Divorce is a kind of death. Fasten your seatbelt. Welcome to the emotional roller coaster of death. Things are going to get bumpy. You can expect:
Denial (“This can’t be happening to me.”)
Anger (“I hate you guys for divorcing. You ruined my life.”)
Bargaining (“I promise to get better grades if you guys stay together.”)
Depression (“I hate my life.”)
These are normal responses to loss. You’re grieving. Grieving is adjustment to change and loss. It’s okay. You’ll go through it many times in your life. If you find yourself getting stuck, especially in anger or depression, get some help. Talk to your pastor or a guidance counselor. They might suggest a professional who can help. Don’t be afraid or hesitant to ask for help. It’s never good to be alone in grief.
The light at the end of the grief tunnel is Acceptance. Divorced parents are not the hand you wanted, but this is the one you’ve been dealt. You can’t change this, but you “can do all things through Him who gives you strength” (Philippians 4:12-13). Really, you can.
THE BLAME GAME – Let’s be clear from the outset: This isn’t your fault. Divorce happens, even to “good Christian families.” The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh are constantly chipping away at the foundations of marriage. There are probably things going on between Mom and Dad you know nothing about. But know this: Their divorce is not your fault. Sin has had its way with them and their love for each other, and you’re going along for the ride. It’s not your fault.
YOU NEED A TEAM – Even if you’re a loner, this is not the time to go solo. You need a support team—some good friends, your pastor, the high school counselor, a trusted member in the congregation, an aunt or uncle, a neighbor, a professional counselor, any and all of them. You need someone to scream at, a shoulder to cry on, a person who will listen, advise, reassure, sympathize, and toss you a life preserver when you need one. If you’re old enough to be reading this article, you’re old enough to form a support team. Do it!
THIS IS WAR – The devil is hard at work here. He’s less concerned with destroying marriage than he is with getting everyone isolated and away from Christ. Nothing serves his diabolical purposes better than a messy divorce. People stop forgiving, praying, and going to church. They are so distracted by temporal things they completely lose sight of things eternal, which is exactly what the old evil foe wants.
You need the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-19). This is spiritual warfare, not against flesh and blood, much less Mom or Dad, but against the forces of darkness and evil, against the Lie and the Father of Lies. Recognize that your old Adam is an opportunist. Mom and Dad are pitted against each other, and your old Adam will look for every opportunity to exploit the situation.
Be on guard! Run, don’t walk, to Holy Communion. Don’t enter the battlefield starved! The Body and Blood of Christ are your strength. Use the gift of confession and absolution. There’s going to be plenty of sin, guilt, and shame to go around. Let Jesus take care of that. Take up the Word, which is the sword of the Spirit. And pray. Pray for Mom and Dad, for your brothers and sisters, and for protection and peace.
NO WINNERS – Mom or Dad may try to enlist you against each other. Don’t go there. Unless one of them truly is hurting you in some way, and you have to get away for your own safety, you are going to need both Mom and Dad in your life, so don’t take sides. There are no winners in divorce, only survivors.
THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH – Divorce is, in part, a legal matter that will involve family court, lawyers, judges, and social workers. You’ll be talking with total strangers about your private life. It can be embarrassing, unpleasant, and just plain weird. Speak the truth in love and don’t let others put words into your mouth. Be as open and honest as possible. This, too, shall pass.
GOD FORGIVES AND MAKES GOOD IN CHRIST – I know this is hard to hear and even harder to believe, especially in the beginning. Divorce is not the will of Him who made them male and female in the beginning and declared them to be “one flesh.” This is not how it goes with Jesus and His Bride, the Church. He washes, woos, and forgives her. But Moms and Dads are simultaneously sinners and saints, just as all of us baptized believers are.
Remember that you are baptized into God’s family. Your Father in heaven will never abandon or reject you as His child. Nothing, including divorce, can separate you from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:28-30). He endured the agony of rejection, separation, and loss. He made peace in His death and promises to make all things new in His resurrection. He’s in the middle of this mess—calling to repentance and faith, forgiving, blessing, reconciling, and making good.
Trust Him. He’ll get you through this.
Rev. William M. Cwirla is the pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hacienda Heights, California.