Single Parent Homes

In the months leading up to the opening weekend of Courageous, I was asked to speak at various churches or functions concerning my role with the film.  While I had access to the script and an early edit of the film, I was bound by certain stipulations concerning what I could or could not say about the film.

Since I was only a part of the curriculum development process, I would share my story of how I got connected with the film, but then I normally would preach from Ephesians 6:1-4 and explain the pivotal nature of fathers in the lives of children.

The same thing happened in every church at which I spoke.

While I taught on the irreplaceable role of fathers, I could identify the single mothers in the congregation by their desperate attempts to keep their emotions at bay.

In those moments, I was tempted to soften my appeal to fathers.

In every church, I spent time with a weepy mother as she tried to receive counseling from me — while also trying to make sure her kids didn’t burn the church down as they impatiently waited for their mom to finish conversing with the preacher.  I heard different stories with similar threads.  Each of the stories ended with an absentee father and a mother trying to give her children the best that she could provide on her own.

In those moments, I was tempted to back down on my previous claims presented in my sermon.

While my heart was breaking for these single moms, I couldn’t back down from the biblical truth or the simple reality: children need godly fathers.

The scenario of a godly father leading the home is unashamedly God’s ideal.

The problem is that the ideal is now a diminishing reality for a large percentage of homes.

Unfortunately, I cannot back down in stating that the ideal situation is for the father to lead the charge.  Understanding this to be the ideal, I must also share another piece of information with you: God is still the Father to the fatherless (Ps 68:5), and he specializes in bringing beauty from the ashes (Is 61:3).

What your child may lack in an earthly father is overshadowed by all that he or she has in a Heavenly Father.

As mentioned earlier, none of the biblical families would be labeled as ideal; yet God used people with unfortunate pasts to change the future.  Even Jesus’ earthly family line was filled with troubled characters.

In 2 Timothy 1, Paul provides insight into the family of Timothy.  Paul’s “son-in-the-faith,” Timothy, was an early church pastor trusted by Paul.  This pastor came from a less-than-ideal home, and God used the women in his family and a step-in father figure to make him into a pastor who would change his community.

The Family Faith

2 Timothy 1:3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.  4 As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.  5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.  6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

In Paul’s introductory comments of his second letter to Timothy, the apostle indicated that his prayers for his son-in-the-faith had been constant.  In the tumultuous times surrounding his ministry, Paul revealed his consistent prayer life toward his mentees.  Paul observed a genuine faith in Timothy (2 Tim 1:5), and he prayed that Timothy would be a faithful minister of the gospel.

As Paul described his own faith and the involvement of his family in his own spiritual upbringing (2 Tim 1:1-3), he then wrote of how Timothy’s journey is similar to his (2 Tim 1:4-5).

While Paul regularly confronted Jews concerning the need for Christ, in this passage, he showed gratitude for his and Timothy’s Jewish spiritual heritage, a heritage that Paul often esteems due to his impressive Jewish education (Rom 7:12; Phil 3:4-6).

Paul’s first impression of Timothy was a young man possessing genuine Jewish faith due to the involvement of his mother and his grandmother.

These women showed evidence of being God-fearing Jews since they were able to recognize the Jewish Messiah in the person of Jesus (Rom 2:28-29).

Timothy’s mother is first referenced in Acts 16, but this passage is the only record of her name, Eunice.  Lois, his grandmother, is mentioned only in this passage.

The Impact of a Non-Christian Parent

Luke records Paul’s first interaction with Timothy and his family (Acts 16:1-3).  Timothy’s mother, Eunice, was Jewish, but his father was a Gentile.  Jewish circles viewed Timothy negatively concerning his Jewishness since he was not circumcised, but Gentiles essentially viewed him as a Jew.

Lois is believed to be Eunice’s mother since both are believers, and Timothy’s father is never referenced as a believer.

Timothy’s father is assumed not to possess saving faith, considering that Luke referenced his unwillingness to circumcise his son (Acts 16:1, 3).  Whereas he is never mentioned again, most believe that he was never involved in the church.  Some scholars believe that Timothy’s father was dead at the time of Timothy’s first encounter with Paul, as the verb states that Timothy’s father “was a Greek” in the past tense.

In the absence of Timothy’s father, Paul served Timothy in a fatherly role.

Foreseeing the problems that Timothy would face as a minister in a religion comprised of many converted Jews, Paul had Timothy circumcised to quiet possible opponents.

In his letter, Paul exhorted Timothy to persevere in order to endure the obstacles of ministry.  As Paul attempted to instill perseverance in Timothy, he reminded Timothy of the perseverance that his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois possessed.

In the struggles of ministry, Paul encouraged Timothy to endure for the sake of his family’s legacy.

Paul urged Timothy to recall his privileged familial spirituality and never to retreat from that commitment to God.

Surprisingly, this epistle addressed to Timothy does not begin with ministry strategies or pastoral advice, but rather with praise concerning multigenerational faithfulness.  Within a short amount of time since the church’s inception, Paul was revealing the impact that family members can have on their relatives’ spiritual health.

Spiritual Ancestry

Every person possesses spiritual ancestry, whether it is positive or negative.  While each individual must come to Christ on his or her own regardless of one’s family’s spirituality, people can begin at an advantage when family members display and share a genuine faith.

Eunice and Lois were faithful Jews who taught Timothy the Jewish sacred writings (2 Tim 3:15), but once they converted to Christianity, this change had a significant impact on Timothy’s life.

While Timothy was at a spiritual disadvantage — not having a believing father in the home — Timothy’s example serves as encouragement to people in similar homes.

The absence of Timothy’s father was compensated for by his mother, his grandmother, and a volunteer father figure.

Considering the absence of Timothy’s father, Paul served the role of a spiritual father who served as a role model and encouraged him in the ministry.

Even if a home is less-than-ideal, God is able to use whatever resources available to impact a child spiritually.

The people used to impact Timothy reveal an effective partnership between a family and a local church.

Only God knows the impact that Timothy had on the Church at Ephesus.  Without the influence of Timothy’s mother and grandmother, this church could have missed out from his leadership.

Many families are not in the ideal situation, much like Timothy’s family was not.  Timothy’s example proves that no matter what the family situation is, lives transformed by Christ can counterbalance any disadvantage.  No matter what role a family member possesses, that person can positively impact a relative for Christ and change future generations and even congregations due to his or her faithfulness.

How to Lead a Single Parent home

Divorce is plaguing the church.  Statistics are essentially the same concerning the divorce rates for Christians and non-Christians.  Fatherlessness is like a cancer sweeping through our country.  While both men and women leave their families to follow other pursuits, more often, men are leaving behind single moms to work overtime within the home.

In some homes, two spouses physically live in the same house, but one parent practically exists as a single parent.  Married to a detached, inconsistent spouse, one parent often carries the spiritual and emotional weight of raising children.  Whether you are legally or practically separated from your spouse, the challenges are great in either situation.

The way in which you handle yourself in front of your children will speak volumes to them.

Believe that God is able to do extraordinary things through broken situations.  Timothy’s mother, Eunice, is remembered for her faith in God, not her complaints concerning her unbelieving husband.  If your spouse is out of the picture, make sure to focus on the hope found in all that Jesus provides and not on all the heartache that your ex has brought.

If your ex-spouse is remarried, be cautious how you speak of your children’s stepparent.  No matter who is mostly to blame for your divorce, as a believer, you are still called to live at peace with everyone as much as it depends on you (Rom 12:18).  Refrain from teaching your children bitterness, and show them Christ in the way that you forgive all the people who are involved in your child’s life.

One other word of caution: in your desire to provide a stable family for your children, don’t settle for anything less than God’s best concerning a new spouse.

Oftentimes, a lonely and desperate parent will date or marry someone to fill an empty seat at the dinner table.  There is some thing worse than being single: getting remarried to someone who does not love God and can do more damage to you and to your children over time.

For those who have lost a spouse in death, the same applies to you.  Be wise in how you go forward.  Your children do not need a simple replacement.  Trust God that in your attempts to follow him, God will do exceedingly abundantly of what you ask of him (Eph 3:20) as you raise your children.