4 ways the gospel comforts children who’ve experienced divorce

December 16, 2019

I should have never believed in marriage. Growing up, I was surrounded by hurting and broken marriages. My parents divorced when I was in kindergarten, leaving my mom to raise four children under eight. Most of my friends’ parents were divorced as well. We spoke a common language of custody and visits and holidays with only part of your family present. We divided our lives as “before” and “after” divorce.  

Much of my generation grew up in divorced families. The no-fault divorce policy from 50 years ago opened a floodgate of divorces for the parents of my peers born in the 70s and 80s. The no-fault divorce legislation wasn’t the beginning of family problems, though. And even though current statistics show hopeful numbers that divorce is on the decline, broken families will always exist this side of heaven. My kids have many peers with divorced parents, and divorce is just as hurtful for them as it was when I was little. 

It’s hard to articulate how much of my life has been impacted by my parents’ divorce. It was decades ago now, but the effects still go on. Holidays, significant events in life, relationships, and family dynamics are complicated to navigate. Fear and hurt linger from being raised without my dad in the home. 

The gospel changes everything 

I should have never believed in marriage, but when I was 13, I heard the gospel for the first time and became a member of a church. There, I got to know peers whose parents were still married. I saw families who were striving to be a picture of Christ’s relationship with his Bride, the Church. And I began to believe that there was a different plan for marriage than the one I had seen. 

Since my parents' divorce was a long time ago now, I have enough distance from it to reflect on some of its consequences. Many of them were hard, terrible things in my life, but some of them were gracious gifts. I can see how God used their divorce to change my life for my good, even amidst the suffering. I was exposed to the gospel because of the move we made after the divorce. I have family members I wouldn’t have otherwise. My entire adult life is built upon the events in my childhood and adolescence that led me to meet my dear husband—events that happened because of my parents’ divorce. I would never minimize the pain from my parents’ divorce, yet I also rejoice in the goodness of the Lord to make something beautiful in the midst of that pain. Here are four areas where the gospel changed how I looked at marriage and divorce.

I would never minimize the pain from my parents’ divorce, yet I also rejoice in the goodness of the Lord to make something beautiful in the midst of that pain.

1. Identity: When I was young, I eagerly anticipated getting married so my last name would change; I didn’t want my name to be a constant reminder of my parents’ divorce. I hated explaining to people why my mom’s last name was different than mine. My own name, something so fundamental to my identity, caused me pain, making me question who I was. But when God saved me, I got a new identity and a spiritual family. 

This new identity isn’t one that changes when earthly relationships end or begin—it’s an eternal identity. It’s an identity that is perfect and without blemish because there is no sin or hardship or failure in life that gets to brand those who belong to God, including divorce. The effects of divorce are real, but divorce does not claim ownership over the believer’s identity—not the divorcee, not the children. Our identity is not in any sin; it is in Christ alone. 

2. Family: My girls all have pictures of my husband and I hanging on the wall next to their beds because they like to see us when they fall asleep and wake up. My girls know what so many people in our culture want to deny: their parents’ marriage is good for them. They are safer and happier and flourish more when mom and dad are striving for a healthy marriage.

But when a divorce changes the family, God’s most fundamental institution for our well-being and belonging is shattered. It can cause a child to question their place in the world. For the child of divorce, the family of God becomes all the more important. In the Church, we have mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers in the faith who can teach us. In my church, I have seen how my faith family comes alongside my husband and me to help shepherd our children. Even intact families will fail us, but as Christians, we have the church to encourage us—and our children—in our faith. 

3. Father: Like many of my peers, I grew up without my biological dad in my home. I can still see how the effects of his absence linger, but praise be to God the Father who is always with his children. Where earthly parents are absent, God is not. Where the marriage covenant has failed, Christ is already victorious in fulfilling God’s promises. We can rest in a faithful Father who will not—who cannot—fail us. God is the standard for parenting, not any earthly parent. We can rest in knowing that his love is perfect. As his child, we can turn to him, knowing that he will not let us down, and he will always care for us.

4. Sin: Divorce is not an unforgivable sin. Although we may feel the effects of different sins with varying degrees of consequences, God hates all sin. My sin is not better and less wicked than the sins that lead to the end of any marriage. When I am tempted to harbor bitterness over some of the circumstances of my parents’ divorce, I must remember that my sins nailed Jesus to the cross, too. The cross is a constant reminder to me that no sin is outside of grace and forgiveness. 

The Bible’s plan for marriage is for humanity’s good 

God created marriage for our good and his glory. Designed to represent the relationship between Christ and the Church, marriage gives us stability, companionship, and love that helps us grow in faith and righteousness. And as children are born into a family, marriage provides them with the safest relationships for their development. 

A friend of mine avoided marriage for years out of fear of divorce. He saw the aftermath of his parents’ five cumulative divorces and wanted nothing to do with marriage. After he was saved, however, he began to see how marriage between two redeemed people reflects the gospel. He began to see that his parents’ divorces didn’t mean that marriage is bad or that God was wrong; it’s just evidence of the effects of sin marring the good gift of family and marriage. 

No marriage is perfect in this sinful world, and divorces will continue to happen. But, the gospel changes everything. While divorce can be devastating, the cross is sufficient for our hurt and grief. Even in broken families, God is working for our good in the midst of pain and suffering. Children who have experienced the devastating effects of divorce don’t have to despair. They can experience the goodness of God and the redemption that he offers and, in turn, offer the comfort they’ve received to those who are hurting around them.

Jessica Burke

Jessica Burke is married to her high school sweetheart, and they have four children. The Burkes lived in Skopje, Macedonia, as missionaries for three years before moving to North Carolina where Jessica’s husband is a chaplain at a local jail and a pastor. A former public school teacher, Jessica home educates her … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24