The Sufficiency of God for the Single Parent (Rooted Parent)
Six years ago, my husband died of cancer and I became a single mom to our three boys, ages nine, twelve, and thirteen. There’s a reason God involves two parents at every conception; parenting is a job built for partners, too big for any one person to handle alone. Most people would not choose to parent without a spouse: death, divorce, and abandonment add substantial pain to the challenges of raising children. As a mom with her husband, I often felt ill-equipped and unqualified for the task of raising godly young men. As a mom without her husband, well, let’s just say I am in over my head.
I cannot say I am “parenting alone,” because in fact my Heavenly Father has repeatedly reminded me that I am never alone. I am learning that His sufficiency more than meets any challenge I might face. “I lift my eyes unto the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).
But what does this look like, practically speaking? God does not drive carpool, pay bills, call out spelling words, make dinner, or discipline your kid for his lousy attitude. I would have loved for Him to teach one of my boys to drive. When all of these things fall on the shoulders of one parent, the stress, uncertainty, and exhaustion that follow can be overwhelming. As one friend of mine wearily puts it, “We (single parents) just have more jobs.”
We can actually do more “jobs” when we are in Him: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence…” (2 Peter 1:3). He called us to be single parents (He is not surprised by this circumstance, by the way) and His power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. That phrase covers absolutely anything we could ever need to parent our children with divine love and wisdom, with or without a spouse.
There are no exceptions or extenuating circumstances that place us or our children beyond God’s reach. We have what we need because He gives it to us, manna in the moment.
Not only do we parents have all things that pertain to life and godliness, our children do too. The Lord is my children’s Shepherd. I don’t have to be. Jen Wilkin, speaking of God’s sufficiency in None Like Him, says, “Praise God that his plans do not rely on my faithfulness, his joy doesn’t hinge on my good behavior, his glory doesn’t depend on my performance… This is good news for us” (p.61). Good news indeed! God has shown me time and again that while I have a role in my sons’ lives, they are ultimately His responsibility.
One night my son, who is nearly an adult, got himself into a bad situation. He had a choice to make between a very clear “right” and “wrong,” and as we argued over the phone it appeared to me he was not going to do the right thing. The situation was a perfect storm of circumstances: his iron will met with my exhaustion, and his dad was not there to be strong when I was weak. I literally gave up, got in my bed and pulled the covers over my head, ashamed before God because I thought I had failed as a parent.
Fifteen minutes later, my bedroom light flipped on and there stood my son. When I asked him why he came home instead of staying in the situation, he shrugged and said, “I don’t know. I just realized I didn’t need to be there, so I came home.”
That night God not only acted as a spouse, meeting my weakness with His strength, He acted as a Father, speaking directly to my son and leading him back to obedience. I began to realize that God had His own relationship with each of my children, and He would behave as a Father towards them. His grace is in fact sufficient to meet my sons’ needs – and mine – according to His riches in glory (2 Corinthians 12:9, Philippians 4:13).
This does not mean God always meets those needs in the manner or in the time frame that I would choose. Like any parent, I have prayers that appear (for now) to be unanswered. In fact, when my husband died, I puzzled over God’s promise to meet all our needs. Don’t children need both of their parents? Only two conclusions seemed possible: either Scripture was wrong (impossible) or, in some mysterious but very real way, my children did not need their dad. Want him? Yes. Absolutely. To this day, we all would want him back. But in his absence, God meets us and loves us perfectly. God longs to shower us with His blessing and comfort us with His presence. If we turn our eyes away from who we don’t have, we can see more clearly Who we do have, and we are free to accept these gifts from His hand.
So take heart, single mom or dad. God sees you clearly and cares for you tenderly. He was not caught off guard when you lost your spouse (whether through death, divorce, or some other traumatic event), and He has never for a moment taken His eye off of your child. He is not overwhelmed by your neediness, or irritated by your weariness, or bored with your loneliness. The deepest need you and your family will ever have has already been completely and perfectly met: He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32 NIV).