by Debbie Altman

Both my husband Craig and I come from divorced homes, so I have experienced first-hand the effect divorce has on families.  We have also ministered to adults and teens for over 30 years, and seen the heart-breaking effects of divorce in the lives of others. 

The last thing I want to do is to put anyone who is already divorced under condemnation. And I do believe that there are Biblical and moral justifications for divorce in specific types of situations such as infidelity, abuse and chronic addiction.  However, with the alarming increase in the amount of divorce that we see all around us, it has been on my heart to write out some of my thoughts on this subject, based on Biblical scripture, scientific findings, and again, personal and ministry experience.  This is a difficult subject to cover in a short blog, but I pray that it might cause some to re-think.

Unfortunately, in today’s culture, too many feel that divorce is an easy answer without thoroughly considering the deep and lasting spiritual, generational and practical costs of this decision.  In writing this, my hope is not to judge, but to encourage great pause, intense prayer, and accountability to anyone contemplating divorce. 

Truth #1:  Divorce hurts children

More than 30 years of research continues to reveal the negative effects of divorce on children. Most of these measurable effects are calculated in increased risks. In other words, while divorce does not mean these effects will definitely occur in your child, it does greatly increase the risks.

Research comparing children of divorced parents to children with married parents shows:

  • Children from divorced homes suffer academically; are more likely to be incarcerated for committing a crime as a juvenile; experience more illness and recover from sickness more slowly; are much more likely to engage in drug and alcohol use; and view premarital sex and cohabitation more favorably.
  • Divorce can affect quality of parenting.  Some parents become overly close, inappropriately elevating the children to the role of companion to replace the lost spouse. Other parents can become authoritarian as they direct the stress, anger and  loss they feel toward the children, doling out more negative and punitive discipline. Children might be unsupervised for longer periods and see parents less.  Parents can feel more exhausted and overwhelmed and have little left to devote to their children, which can lead to disruptions in affection, discipline, and even the daily household routines, such as meals and bedtimes. A hallmark of parenting after a divorce is that it is more erratic and inconsistent.  As psychologist Judith Wallerstein observed, “It’s not that parents love their children less or worry less about them. It’s that they are fully engaged in rebuilding their own lives – economically, emotionally, socially and sexually. Parents’ and children’s needs are often out of sync for many years after the breakup.”
  • Anxiety and doubt regarding marriage, leads many adult children of divorce into making bad choices in relationships, giving up hastily when problems arise, or avoiding relationships altogether.
  • Children of divorced parents suffer more frequently from symptoms of psychological distress, and the emotional scars of divorce last into adulthood. Getting caught in the crossfire of bitterness and revenge between parents after divorce only increases this distress.

Divorce is a loss that will affect children forever. It is like a grief that is never over. All special events, such as holidays, plays, sports, graduations, marriages, births of children, etc., bring up the loss created by divorce as well as the family relationship conflicts that result from the ‘extended family’ celebrating any event.

Divorce is no small thing to children. It is the ripping apart of their parents, and a loss of stability.  While we often think of children as resilient, going through such trauma is a lot to ask of our kids.

Truth #2:  Divorce has devastating financial effects.

  • The process of divorce is expensive.  The income that used to support one household is split and now must support two households.  The possibility of extensive litigation regarding finances and child custody further depletes financial resources.
  • Researchers estimate divorcing individuals will need more than a 30% increase in income, on average, to maintain the same standard of living they had prior to divorce.
  • About one in five women fall into poverty as a result of divorce.
  • Three out of four divorced mothers don’t receive full payment of child support.
  • Most men experience a loss in standard of living in years after divorce as well, of about 10%-40%. 

“When it comes to building wealth or avoiding poverty, a stable marriage may be your most important asset,” say Drs. Linda Waite & Maggie Gallagher, noted marriage researchers.

Truth #3:  Divorce affects health and well-being 

While there are some positive benefits to divorce for some individuals, the overall picture documents how hard the process of family breakdown can be on adults, not just children.

  • Yale researchers concluded that being divorced is almost as detrimental to a person’s health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.  And both men and women suffer decline in mental health after a divorce.
  • Divorced individuals, especially women, are more vulnerable to depression.  They have higher levels of psychological stress, lower levels of psychological well-being, and poorer self-esteem.
  • Divorced individuals see a doctor more often and are more likely to suffer from serious illnesses.
  • Divorced individuals are more likely to die at earlier ages.

Truth #4:  Statistically, divorce does not make people happier

A study conducted by University of Chicago sociologist Dr. Linda Waite, found no evidence that unhappily married adults who divorced were typically any happier than unhappily married people who stayed married.  Even more dramatically, the researchers also found that two-thirds of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years later.

Why doesn’t divorce typically make adults happier? The authors of the study suggest that while eliminating some stresses and sources of potential harm, divorce may create others as well. The decision to divorce sets in motion a large number of processes and events over which an individual has little control that are likely to deeply affect his or her emotional well-being. These include the response of one’s spouse to divorce; the reactions of children; potential disappointments and aggravation in custody, child support, and visitation orders; new financial or health stresses for one or both parents; and new relationships or marriages.

Perhaps it is for all these reasons, that Malachi 2:16 says, “… I hate divorce, says the Lord God …”

“For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; consequently, they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.”  Mark 10:3-12

The tearing of one flesh into two again is not without pain and lasting scars. 

Obviously, there are times when divorce is truly unavoidable, and in those situations, God will provide the grace and provision needed through the difficult times.  But, in light of the fact that most marriages heading for divorce can be salvaged and turned into great marriages, parents should take a long pause before choosing divorce. While it may initially seem like “everyone is doing it” and the logical choice, it is not an easy out for you or your kids.

In conclusion, divorce is one of the most serious and consequential decisions we can ever make, and I plead with anyone contemplating divorce, to do everything in your power, including consistent professional Christian counseling before you make that kind of life and generation-altering decision.  We have seen many couples who were in extremely difficult marriages who have enlisted professional Christian counseling, entered into the life-giving community of the church, weathered the storms, and find themselves contentedly married years later.  Unfortunately, we have also heard far too many divorced people express regrets that they did not work harder to make their marriage work.

And lastly, if you are considering marriage, I implore you not to enter into this most holy of institutions lightly, flippantly or quickly.  Seek Godly counsel and accountability before you make this most important of decisions. 

Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago.  She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son.  She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading and the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games.

Editors Note: Debbie has compiled a paper on divorce which features the information and references from this article and additional research she has conducted. She is happy to provide the document anyone who may be interested in reading more on this topic. If you would like to receive a copy, please email beautiful@gfconline.com.

by Terri Owens Blanchard

The letter did not say that my husband’s request for retirement from the Army was approved. Instead it read, “You are ordered to report for mobilization…for combat support…for 400 days. Purpose: Iraqi Freedom.” As my heart dropped to my stomach, I thought, “Oh no, this cannot happen.”  I just couldn’t bear my husband leaving me for 400 days to go to a war zone!   I begged God to please make a way for him to get out of the deployment. I pleaded to God not to send my husband away. I wanted my husband home. Somewhere amidst all my begging and pleading though, God showed me that this was not about what I wanted but was about what He wanted. God had a purpose and a plan and I was going to learn it.

As I was crying out to God one day, He reminded me of when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before He was to go to the cross. “He went a little farther and bowed His face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” (Matthew 26:39 NLT). I sat silently as these words penetrated my heart. I was being asked to “go a little farther,” to a place of surrender. To completely surrender my wants to the Father’s plan.

Well, the day finally came to say good bye to my husband. I cried so hard. I felt like I was dying inside. I cried, cried, and cried some more. For days and weeks I cried. Interrupting my pity party, there was a women’s conference at church. I went and it seemed that she was there just to speak to me (of course I cried through this, too). Everything she said encouraged me to seek to know God on a deeper level, “to go a little farther.” So I did. For an entire year I sought to know Him more. By the time my husband came home (hallelujah!!) God had changed me. I was a new woman! Had my husband stayed home, I don’t believe those changes would have happened.

The truth I learned about Good Friday is that sometimes God has a greater purpose and plan for us on the other side of our suffering. I learned this by looking at what Jesus went through. From the Garden where Jesus surrendered, to Golgotha where He suffered, to the Grave where He sacrificed His life, to the surprise of His resurrection on that “Glorious Day,” it was all to give us the Gift of Salvation.

So, the next time it feels like Friday, just remember…Sunday is coming!!!

“Glorious Day” by Casting Crowns

Terri Owens Blanchard is a wife, mother, and Mimi to her precious granddaughter. She is a Mary Kay Consultant, a small group leader to the Military Wives group, and an assistant small group coach. She loves to shop, travel, and shop as she travels! She also enjoys spending time with family, friends and her crazy pets.  

April is the Month of Truth at A Beautiful Blog. Our stories this month will challenge you to face the lies in your life and seek the truth of God’s word to set your free.

by Leslee Stewart

My husband and I recently watched “Hugo,” the story of an orphaned boy who lives in the walls of a Paris train station in the 1930s. Hugo has a talent for working with clocks and machines, something he learned from his father. But without any parents to guide him, he struggles to find his purpose in life.

There is a very poignant scene in the movie where Hugo and his friend, Isabelle, who is also an orphan, are perched atop the station clock tower, looking out over Paris. As Isabelle questions why her parents had to die and what her life is all about, Hugo says, “(Up here), I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.”

As I watched the rest of the movie and all throughout the next day, I couldn’t get Hugo’s comment out of my head – there are no extra parts.

My son loves Legos. He recently completed his first “big” Lego build – an over 600-piece police station. He was super proud (as he should be). And even though he followed all the step-by-step directions, there were still parts left over after the build was complete. My father-in-law jokes that when you put something together and you have extra parts left over, it just means you must be a better engineer than the person who originally designed the product.

In Romans 12, Paul shares that in God’s design for the world, there are no extra parts. God has given each of us a gift. Be it prophesy, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, or showing kindness , each person has a unique and specific gift.

Just like our bodies have many parts (feet, eyes, heart, spleen), and each part has its own specific job, so it is with those who believe in Christ. “We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” (Rom. 12:5) Everyone has a function to fulfill in the Body of Christ and the goal is for each believer’s gift to work together.

Yet too often we allow doubt, anxiety or even pride get in the way of using our God-given gifts. We say, “If only I could sing….,” or, “They don’t need me….,” or, “I’m too important to be bothered…..” The interesting thing is people who have poor self-esteem and those who are conceited are actually quite similar. They both look at life through “me glasses,” using their own fears or desires as a filter to make decisions. To deny using your gift is to tell God you think you have a better design for your life than he does.

As believers, we have a responsibility to use our gifts. “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” (I Cor. 12:7) When you use your gift, God will mature your faith, strengthen your hope, and make you more like him.

There are no extra parts. So, get up. Go. Serve. And play your part in the Body of Christ.

Leslee Stewart oversees communications for GFC Beautiful. She is a wife, stay-at-home mom of two boys and former communications executive. She openly admits she owns too many throw pillows, loves junky old furniture and can sing all the parts of Bohemian Rhapsody.