Single parents, both mothers and fathers, often describe a strong sense of isolation and loneliness. Recently divorced single parents can feel cut off from friends and family, even in their company. Early in my own season as a single dad, though I loved the company of my kids, I felt very alone. Indeed, I really thought I was on my own: my former spouse refused to be involved with our two toddlers, most of my family lived two states away, and my friends seemed to withdraw from me. They too, I would later learn, were hurt by the breakup of my marriage. And though a Christian from childhood, since the age of 19 I had turned my back on God. So, now alone at the age of 32, I had no involvement in the body of Christ.
The breakdown of the marriage found me unprepared spiritually, emotionally, and mentally for the sudden rigors of parenting on my own. No one—not relatives, friends, coworkers, my boss—seemed to “get” what I faced. Adding loads of material issues to the isolation--financial problems, car troubles, home repairs, and too much to do in the day-to-day with no time to do it--I felt stone-cold alone.
It was in this crucible that God finally got my attention and showed me the one person to whom I needed to turn: His Son Jesus Christ. Looking back now on that season as a single parent I see four ways God provided for me in my isolation and loneliness:
God revealed people in my life who had been there all along, right in plain sight. Convinced I was all alone with my challenges, I did not notice until much later that, when my neighbor invited me to her church, it had been God who set up that conversation. Sharon, a single parent herself in her late sixties, lived next door with her youngest daughter who babysat for me. In hindsight, I realized Sharon had always been there: checking in with the kids and me, encouraging me, and finally, inviting me to reconnect with Jesus.
I started going to church…and not just on Sunday. Because of Sharon and her daughter, in the darkest days of my life I got invited to the church my family worships with to this day. I soon received another invitation: to come to a small group. Starved for adult company and friendship, I leaped at the chance, and entered a community of people who cared about each other and who cared about me. When things got tough, my new church family stepped in with support. One couple would pick up my children from daycare when I worked late. Another family invited us to spend a holiday with them. Someone else would babysit a sick child so I could still go to work. Eventually, it hit me what God had done: He changed my life and the lives of my children through His people.
I slowly stepped into new friendships and pressed into family. As my heart reopened to God, I suddenly found I made friends much more easily. I was forming deep and lasting friendships; and I seldom felt alone. And because Christ was the fabric and thread of these friendships, they withstood hardship. What’s more, my parents moved closer; my mother even stayed a few months with me. Their presence gave my family enormous support. God did not leave me in my isolation and my loneliness. He surrounded me with His people.
I learned that I could trust Jesus when He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). The feelings of isolation and of being alone were real. When my son woke crying at 2 AM, I was the only one there to comfort him. All the cooking and cleaning; just one guy did it all. Bathing, dressing, putting to bed; I did all that myself. In all of it, because of the love of Christ I saw around me, I knew that I was never truly alone. He was really with me.
Are you alone as a parent? Do you feel isolated? Your feelings are valid. Every circumstance in single parenting and in divorce is different in the experiences from one person to another. So I do not present you a list of to-dos to make everything all right; I offer no kind of formula. God, however, is always absolutely consistent. Your experience will be different from mine, yet, God’s love and goodness will be wholly the same. Ask Him to meet you in your isolation and loneliness. He will do it, because He too is a Father; your Father in Heaven.
Rev. Joel Vande Werken
Rev. Joel Vande Werken