Marriage breakdown is a startling problem in Australia, with around one in three marriages eventually ending in divorce. Around half involve children who often feel dislocated, misunderstood and hurt. Do kids of divorced parents struggle to connect with God as a result of their emotional upheaval? Is an unseen parent hard to reconcile with the flaws of an earthly example? Of course, a lot depends upon the make-up of the child and the attitude of the parents.
Yet a 2006 publication of research into 1500 US adults whose parents had divorced in their childhood reveals some interesting findings regarding the long-term effects of divorce on spirituality. Kids from divorced families were just as likely to be spiritual as kids from intact families, but claimed to be 14% less religious. Kids from divorced families were also 16% more likely to see God as the parent they never had in real life. They were more likely to turn to the evangelical faith that presents a loving Father who seeks a relationship with them.
There are no absolute outcomes, only patterns. Yet we see that, amidst the suffering that divorce brings, there is an opportunity to present a God of hope and restoration who is found through relationship and not religion. Many well-adjusted adults may well have grown up feeling no need of God, yet God has been a source of encouragement, growth and stability to others. Rejecting church is often used as a means of buying time or dignity to cope with pain, yet true restoration often comes as God is allowed to be our strength through that pain, even sharing it with others who care enough to offer some perspective.
The last decade has actually seen an increase in marriages but a decline in divorces. Although it is hard to be too precise about projections into the future, we can only hope for a return to the nuclear family life that God ideally intended. But may God also be central to the lives of everyone concerned so as to see the best values brought to the relationships involved. After all, He not only created the people, but was the originator of marriage itself. For those enduring the angst of divorce, avoid it if at all possible, but know that even after divorce, God does not give up on you or your kids! He is the God of the second chance.