Why do some children of divorce have a distorted view of God?


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Most of us who minister to children recognize that children’s earliest impressions of God are related to the relationship they have with their own parents. Several studies indicate this is particularly true of the father-child relationship. In other words, how a child relates to his earthly father and how he interacts with his daddy shape the child’s image of Father God.

We also recognize that Christian parents’ faith-filled beliefs and practices can be strong indicators their children will maintain a relationship with Christ and with the church as children and as adults. Let’s face it, in most cases, children do what is modeled for them.  

How many of you have stood off to the side as a little boy got excited when his daddy picked him up after class? Or when mamas scooped up the little ones after church and hugged on them to squeals of laughter? We’ve seen young children idolize their daddies and delight in the love their mamas have shown them. We’ve watched with smiles on our faces as families walk into church together and walk out after church together.

What happens when a divorce shatters the family? What happens to a child’s trust in a heavenly Father if the earthly parent walked out the door and the child can no longer trust that parent? Let’s take a moment to look at a family’s religious practices before divorce interrupts family life.

Before the divorce, families might have:

  • Prayed together
  • Attended church together
  • Held family devotions
  • Had parents who talked about religious convictions around the dinner table
  • Attended church events and fellowships as a family
  • Served together in special projects
  • Even taken part in missions in another country

Many times the filters through which a child of divorce views life are filled with the muck of anger, sadness, distrust, and diminished parental attention, equating to a lack of love to young children. Stress infiltrates their lives, and everything changes in the wake of a divorce. The filter they view life through is the same filter that clouds spiritual influence. Look at the difference in the family and spiritual guidance after the divorce.

After the divorce:

  • Children are often left to pray alone.
  • Church attendance becomes sporadic as the children shuffle back and forth between homes.
  • Stressed and exhausted single parents may not have the energy to have family devotion time.
  • There are no longer two parents in the home discussing religious convictions, so dinner conversation about religion ceases.
  • At the beginning of the divorce, rarely do single-parent families take part in service projects. Many times they are the project the church family is serving.
  • As for a mission project in another country, it doesn’t happen.

Church life changes

Because of all the changes after a divorce, for many of these kids church life changes drastically. No longer do we see the excited little boy running into the arms of his daddy. Or the toddler’s mom scooping her up and loving on her. The squeals of laughter and joy of seeing daddy disappear from the child’s landscape of life. All that’s left is an obscure, shadowy image of parents who used to shine and radiate as they worshipped God.  

The child’s view of the church becomes distorted, as does his view of Father God. Why do some children of divorce have a distorted view of God? Because divorce cracks the very foundation the family was built upon. Some parents may even appear to not believe in the heavenly Father, and this too can distort a child’s image of a loving God.

Some children of divorce view God as their Father

Please understand that not all children will experience a distorted view of the heavenly Father. Many turn to God as Father. They realize that He is faithful and will never disappoint them. Sadly, though, some hold distorted views of God for years.

In the Institute for American Values report Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith? contributing author Chris Kiesling tells the story of John, a child of divorce whose view of God was distorted for three decades. Chris explains:

“For thirty years he tried diligently to construct a life that would bring wholeness. Until one day at church, the preacher stepped from his pulpit toward where John was sitting, looked at John and quoted a passage from Scripture that said, ‘I did not give you a spirit of fear but a spirit of sonship by which we cry out ‘abba, father.’ John said that in that moment he knew who his father was, that he received in that moment a full measure of God’s mercy such that life has never been the same.”

Think about John’s story for a moment. For thirty years his image of God was distorted. He couldn’t find wholeness. He continued to attend church but something was lacking, and then one man brought it all together for him by quoting one passage of Scripture. One man allowed the Holy Spirit to use his sermon to change the life of an adult child of divorce.  

Questions to ask yourself

As you ponder this distorted view of God for some children of divorce, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What can I do to influence a child’s view of God?
  • Does my relationship with Father God model what a child of divorce needs to see in a church leader?
  • Will my influence pull a child closer to the heavenly Father?
  • Will the child of divorce who sporadically attends our ministry want a relationship with our Creator?
  • What are we doing in our children’s ministry to combat the negative and distorted image children of divorce have about God?

Will the children of divorce in your church have to wait thirty years to find wholeness? What are you going to do to change a child’s image of God?


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Want to learn more about how to start a DivorceCare for Kids group for the hurting children in your community? Click here.

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