We’ve heard the statistics. Divorce rates among families with special needs or acute health problems soar to between 80 and 90 percent, depending on the diagnosis. Keeping in mind that the average divorce rate is 50 percent anyway, this is still pretty shocking. You always wonder why families would break apart during seasons in which they need to be the strongest.
The statistics point to the stress of having a child with special needs as being the culprit. While I would agree stress might be the catalyst, the true reason these divorce rates soar is not the difficulty of raising a child. The challenge of parenting was the refiners fire that revealed incorrect attitudes about marriage in general.
I was recently reading a book recently that contrasted verses in Jeremiah. One passage speaks of a foolish nation and the other speaks of a wise man.
My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water. – Jeremiah 2:13
This is what the LORD says:
Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the LORD.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit. – Jeremiah 17:5-8
In these verses, we find the reason for marriages collapsing. Entire books could be written on the subject, so I am going to try really hard to sum it up.
Men: Don’t Marry Your God
Women: Don’t Marry Your God
Ok. So for men, marrying their “god” may actually look more like marrying an a young, attractive female that also serves as their mother. But whatever. When women marry their “god” they believe the person they marry is going to fill the void inside them that is clamoring for affirmation, love, and protection. I am not here to discuss marriage in detail. Spare me the emails on what I left out of this synopsis. I will briefly tell you what it should and should not be.
In Jeremiah 2:13 the people dug their own cisterns. They forsook God, and dug nasty old plastered-up mud holes in which to collect rain water. In other words, they traded the living water for a stagnate mess. And what’s more, the cisterns often didn’t hold any water at all. They cracked, and all the brackish water seeped back into the ground. This is what happens when we try to make our own destiny and fulfill our own needs. We take matters into our own hands and dig cisterns wherever we please. If we come to a place that doesn’t have a spring of living water- fine. We’ll just collect rain water and live off of that. Some people would rather drink nasty water and live where they want, than put up camp near the source of pure water. Need a parallel? Chasing after the man/woman of your choice, to fill a void in your life. First turn to God to fill that void and then wait to see what blessings he brings you.
In Jeremiah 17:5-8, we once again see what the foolish man does. But the wise man is contrasted. He trusts in the Lord. His leaves stay green. His water is always fresh. He sends out his roots by the stream. When we are like the wise man, we realize that our spouse is another human being, just like ourselves. Our spouse should be a blessing to us from God. Our spouse should meet some of our needs. Good spouses help each other and lend various talents to the relationship. However, when we find ourselves disappointed because our spouse isn’t helping us fill that God shaped void in our life, we should be warned. Your affirmation and self worth come from God. Your spiritual and emotional refreshing come from God (although often through the vehicle of an encouraging human being).
Dads. Don’t feel inadequate to parent your special needs child and withdraw. Don’t feel resentment that your wife is not your mother and is lavishing attention on her “real” children. Moms. Don’t find your self-worth in your child and become overly identified with them. Don’t neglect your husband because you feel more affirmed by parenting and being a “good mom” than you do by being a “good wife”. Neither of you need to do anything that is motivated by guilt or fear. Here’s the winning formula: Love God. Love Your Spouse. Together, Love Your Children. And grow up. Be an adult. Be a parent who is sustained by the grace of God through a difficult season. Those parents will…
…not fear when heat comes;
[their] leaves are always green.
[they have] no worries in a year of drought
and[their “tree”] never fails to bear fruit.