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Finding Hope for Single Parent and Blended Families, Part 1

From the series House or Home - Parenting Edition

Parenting is a demanding job on its own, but if you’re a single parent or part of a blended family - it’s even more difficult. In this program, Chip talks to those parents and families who may be desperate for hope and encouragement. Hear how Chip and his wife Theresa raised their kids in a blended home and what you can learn from their story to parent under similar circumstances.

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Message Transcript

As we start our time together I want to share a little story. Over the years I’ve spoken on parenting and every time I speak on parenting, I mean literally, scores of people will come up and say things like, “Do you have anything for single parents? Or do you have anything on the blended family?” And the answer is always, “No.”

Now, I will tell you that when I met my wife she was a single parent. She had two little boys and had been abandoned and was raising them by herself. And so we know a little bit about single parenting and so when you become an instant father, I got to marry Theresa when the boys were a little older than four, then we had a blended family.

And so I guess on the one hand we know something about single parenting and a blended family but I’d never taught about it, or thought about it much, in terms of how would you communicate that to other people?

And so you’ll notice on your notes I want to read a story because as I prayed and thought about, you know, I think I could give some practical help and maybe some practical tools but I don’t know that I could give you a biblical perspective of God’s picture of how He wants to help restore single parents and blended families.

And so you can follow along in your Bibles. I’ll read a portion of the book of Ruth. And Ruth, as you’ll remember, is written during the time of Judges. It’s a very dark period.

All I can tell you is every man was doing what was right in his own eyes. People were not worshipping God. They had been involved in intermarrying, which God forbid. They were worshipping false gods, which God forbid. There was a cycle of sin, deliverance, destruction, crying out to God, and then God’s deliverance.

And then tucked in right after the Judges is this short, little book about Ruth, who is a Moabite. And the real essence of the whole book is that when people make very ungodly, sinful, wrong, and even stupid choices that bring chaos to their life and to their families, there is a God who is a God of love, who pierces through all that chaos and fallout and really longs to help people, in spite of what they’ve done or where they’ve been.

“In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land and a man from Bethlehem in Judah together with his wife and two sons went to live for a while in the country of Moab.”

Now, interestingly, God had given them land that they hadn’t possessed and hadn’t obeyed and so now times were hard as God has disciplined, and so now they’re leaving the land that God gave them for a foreign land.

“The man’s name was Elimelek and this is interesting as well. The word in Hebrew, “melek” means “king.” The prefix “El” means “God.” And so really this man’s name means, “God is my king.”

Now what we’re going to see is his life and his behavior is the very opposite of God being his king. A king protects you, provides for you, and you obey him.

He doesn’t believe God will protect him, he doesn’t believe God will provide for him, and he’s not obeying Him as we’ll see from his behavior.

“His wife’s name was Naomi and his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah and they went to Moab and they lived there.

“Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died and she was left with their two sons. And they married Moabite women.” That was forbidden. These are not Israelite women.

“One was named Orpah and the other was Ruth. After they lived there about ten years both Mahlon and Kilion also died. She has lost her sons, she has lost her husband, and her life is in disrepair.

“When she heard in Moab,” now listen to what happens, “that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughter-in-laws prepared to return home. With her two daughter-in-laws she left the place where she’d been living and set out for the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.”

Now as you know the story, Naomi basically says to both of them, “You know, there’s no way that I can provide for you. I mean, even if you had, you know, if I had remarried and had a son tomorrow you can’t wait around for my sons to grow and follow Hebrew law and remarry.”

And she basically, actually says to them, “Go back to your people, and go back to your gods, and I hope that you basically find a husband and I will see you. My life’s a mess, nothing turned out well, I’m going back to my people.”

And then, of course, you know, the classic message of Ruth who says, you know, “Wherever you go I go, and your people are my people, and may only death separate us.”

And Naomi realizes that, you know, no matter what I say, this gal, our hearts have bonded. And she literally ends up, kind of adopting Ruth as her daughter.

And they go back and it’s interesting as you read in later chapter 1, when they go back they arrive in Bethlehem and it says there was a great stir among the people.

One translation, the King James, says, “There was excitement.” It’s something like Naomi and she came back and what’s going on? And, you know, she left with her husband whose name is, you know, “God, Yahweh, the Lord is my King” and two boys and instead of coming back as a fruitful woman, with daughter-in-laws, and grandchildren, and a fruitful life she has experienced the fruit, honestly, of a lot of decisions that were very bad and very wrong.

You’ll notice on your notes she went from being a widow, and then after being a widow she becomes a single parent, and after she becomes a single parent, she ends up with a blended family.

And so she has this adopted daughter but she does some things that I think are very, very right.

It’s interesting she comes to the point of absolute brokenness and when I meet single parents, and often blended families, they are in absolute brokenness.

Not always, sometimes someone dies, and sometimes you remarry, and sometimes it’s a pretty picture of just God’s grace out of sorrow. But a huge percentage of single parents, are single parents because forty-two percent of all the births in America are from unwed mothers.

A lot of people find themselves frustrated in their marriage and the most common reason for divorce is irreconcilable differences, not biblical grounds.

And so you have a lot of people that are in all kind of relationships, blended families, single parents, and if they would really look back and say, “Did I do life God’s way?” the answer really is, “No.” And there’s guilt, and there’s shame, and there’s difficulty, and there’s pain, and there’s consequences.

And that’s why I think the book of Ruth is so hopeful.

Living in a foreign land, she’s without help, and without hope, and she becomes this mother. Now the other is, part of the stir is here she’s coming home with a non-Jewish daughter-in-law.

That is not how to make friends, you know, when you go back to Bethlehem. “Beth” – “House of God.”

And so Naomi has some wisdom for us. She returned to God and to His people. She heard that God had provided, and God is working, and she could have said, you know, “I’ve blown it. I can’t go back there. You know, it’s really going to be difficult. I mean, I have to face some past issues.” But she returns to God, and she returns to His people.

Second, she faced her pain and her loss. She literally is humiliated. She’s coming back empty. And not just empty but with a daughter-in-law of another race. In fact, they say, “Oh, Naomi!” she goes, “Don’t call me Naomi anymore. Call me Mara, because I have been afflicted by the Lord.”

Basically, I don’t bring anything to the table anymore. My life is a mess.

She followed God’s Word and, if you read on to chapter 2:20, and not the world, chapter 3:10.

So when she comes back, immediately she says, “Wait a second. Hebrew law is very clear. We have a kinsman redeemer. I’m going to operate the way God’s Word says.”

And then it’s interesting when Boaz talks to Ruth. And you know the story and how it’s the threshing floor and she sleeps at his feet and she’s getting all these instructions from her mother-in-law.

And Boaz says, “You are a woman of character because you didn’t go after the rich men or the young men.” What she did was God’s Word said, “He’s the kinsmen redeemer. This is God’s plan.”

And somehow Naomi had instilled in this young woman, “Let’s do this God’s way, not the world’s way. Let’s do what God says. Let’s see if He won’t provide by what He says and trust His Word.” And so then Boaz finds himself with a blended family.

And the result is God rewarded and restored her life. You know, there’s grain again. Boaz goes to the elders, and he goes to bat, and he marries, and then you find out later that Naomi will hold a little baby again in her arms. And she’ll have a grandchild and God will begin to restore the pain and the loss.

And the premise is single parents and blended families, for whatever cause, sometimes just the fallenness of life and sometimes there’s sin but it’s never God’s ideal.

God’s ideal is always a mom and a dad, to raise these kids. I mean, that’s the ideal. So any time you don’t have the ideal it’s going to be challenging. I mean, sometimes we get this expectation that, “Oh, it’ll just be a little bit different. But everything’s going to be great.” No, it’s going to be challenging.

But here’s what I want you to hear. His grace is sufficient to overcome any and every obstacle if we surrender fully and wholly unto Him.

God will give grace regardless of where you’ve been or how you got there.

Now what I want to do with our time is I’m going to make this pretty simple. There are a lot of excellent books on… here’s the fifteen things every single parent needs to know, and things you need to watch out for and then, you know, blended families.

I mean, I’ve read a lot of the books in preparation for this. And then I thought, “What is it that I really have to offer that might be helpful?”

So here’s what we know for sure and a lot of this, it just gives perspective. And that’s what you need more than anything else. It’s a high and growing percentage of families.

About forty-two percent of all babies that are born are born out of wedlock so they have a single-parent mom. We know with what’s happening in the military there’s functionally a lot of single moms and single dads as people get deployed. You know that there’s widows and widowers. What we know for sure is that if a child born today over the next eighteen years, about seventy to eighty percent of them will have some window of their life where they’ll live with only one parent.

So all I’m saying is this is huge. I mean, being a single parent isn’t some little group over here. It’s huge.

Second thing we know is a single parent cannot provide the same quality of care, and the quantity of time, as a two-parent home. I mean, we just need to get that on the table. You can’t work and be at home at the same.

Your energy, your bandwidth, you can’t give to your kids and work and take care of all the issues financially, the emotional support and strength that you need.

A single parent has their own personal needs to get met and often those don’t get met so you have less to give to your kids, both in time and energy.

And then there’s some unique, specific gender issues. I mean, the most difficult job in the world, as a pastor for over twenty-five years, is a single mom with teenage boys.

What teenage boys need is a strong, clear male model. And that is really tough for a mom.

The second most difficult job I’ve ever seen is single fathers with very small little kids, especially girls. I mean a dad with a nine-month old. It’s not a pretty picture. He can try really hard but he just doesn’t get it. Because what they need here is nurture, what they need, those boys later need strength.

The third is that with God nothing is impossible. Remember Mary’s response in Luke chapter 1 when the angel said, “You’re a virgin and you’re going to have a child.” “How can this be?” The angel said, “What do you mean, ‘How can this be?’ With God nothing is impossible.”

If you’re a single parent, if you’re in a blended family, God’s Word to you is with Him nothing is impossible. And you say, “Well, but I made a lot of mistakes and, you know, this may happen because I did this, and this, and this.” With God nothing is impossible.

You couldn’t make almost more mistakes. It’s hard to read one chapter of the Bible, like Ruth chapter 1, and see a man, his wife, and his sons that disobeyed God and did more things wrong, going backwards.

And then to see God in His grace. The moment she turned to God, turned to His people, wanted to obey, was broken. “Oh, God, help.” He delivers.

Now, is there pain and consequences? Of course.

Jeremiah 32:17 is one of those verses probably worth memorizing where the prophet, in the midst of a horrendous situation, and someone looks at it and he says, “Was the arm of the Lord too short? Is anything too difficult for God?”

And the answer, overwhelmingly, is no.

So that’s what you know.

Well let me, let’s, what can you do as a single parent?

And a lot of these are just laying out, hey, here’s what you need to do. And there’s whole books written about how to do them.

But number one, make God your number one priority. I can’t emphasize that enough. It’s the key. No matter what, get up, spend time with God. Make His Word, make His people, make your heart the number one priority.

Number two, get connected with a strong, godly, same-sex support group for encouragement and accountability. You gotta get connected. If you’re a single parent, don’t go it alone. You will not make it, you will not do it well, you’ll make very bad decisions in your moments of weakness, and loneliness, and exhaustion, you will get involved in relationships to try and take care of things that you will just add gasoline onto the fire of your suffering.

You need other people of the same-sex who love God who are going to say, “Let’s do this God’s way together.”

Third, accept this season of your life and set realistic expectations for you and your children. I mean, at some point in time, you know, I see single parents that, they just keep going up against this wall and they just think things are going to get perfect, and nice, and easy. Just accept: this is the season that I have. I need God’s grace. And it really resets and recalibrates your expectations.

Number four, remember God can make up for what you can’t give your kids. I’ve watched this over, and over, and over, and over again, like I’ve said, for many, many years being a pastor.

God can make up. He can do for your kids what you can’t do.

Number five, refuse to become a victim, a martyr, or a super-parent. Those are the temptations. As a single parent, “Oh, woe is me. Everyone take care of me.”

You start telling this sad story, playing the small violin of your story with every single person and all you find, you find people doing like this to you. You know? Like, “Oh, we really love you. We really love you. But every time we get you you push that button and you’re the victim.”

Or the other person that people don’t like to be around? The martyr. “He walked out on me but I will trust God.” You know? Okay, lady, lighten up. Or, you know, “She had an affair and this is what happened.” Or, “You know, I was with these three small children and my husband died. And I’m not sure how to handle it.” “Lady, that was forty-one years ago.” You know?

I mean, I don’t mean to diminish things but you just have to accept, you know, don’t be a victim. Don’t be a martyr. The same power that raised Christ from the dead dwells in you. His promises are true.

And the other is don’t be a super-parent. Boy, I’ve watched single parents just try to do it all, be it all, I mean, rise at four in the morning, go to bed at one at night, I’m going to do this for my kids, I’m going to…

Just accept it’s a tough season. God will be adequate. Walk with Him. Get help. Love Him. Accept help.

Number six, don’t compromise your spiritual and moral standard. Don’t settle for second best in an effort to find a mate, or a father, or a mother. Boy, it’s a big temptation.

You start praying and praying, “Oh, God, you know, give these little kids, or not so little kids, a dad or a mom.” And don’t compromise, “Well, you know, maybe he’ll come to Christ later, or he says he believes in God, or she says she believes in God, and of course they haven’t walked with God, they don’t read their Bible, they don’t seem to have any spiritual interest but…if I pass on this one, another one might never come.” Errrrmmmmmm!

You know, that’s the buzzer of the Holy Spirit going, “Stop thinking that way.” Don’t compromise.