“He is a shield to them that walk in integrity.” (Proverbs 2:7)
All fathers have a natural instinct to fight for their kids. However, as I work with single moms to bring healing and restoration in the wake of divorce or broken relationships, I often see men fighting for their kids in ways that are hurtful and damaging to their ex and their children. I believe much of this harm could be avoided if these men were fighting the right battle against the right enemy, and better understood their role as a father and what this “good fight” looks like.
So here are five important ways a single dad can and should fight for his kids:
1. Fight with Your Faith
In other words, let go of control. I know, this goes against everything you want to do. As strong, action-oriented creatures, most men want to take charge. But God moves when his people humble themselves and acknowledge His authority over their lives.
No one understands your situation and what is best for you and your kids better than God. Seeking His wisdom and direction in the Bible and in prayer will always yield more favorable results than powering up on your ex or plowing forward and taking matters into your own hands.
Fighting with your faith also means trusting God with circumstances that seem unfair. Maybe you didn't ask for the divorce, or she betrayed you and still ended up with everything. But real faith means forgiving those who have wronged you and believing God is sovereign over all the details of your life, including the terms of your custody or divorce.
Finally, fighting with your faith means taking seriously your role as your kids’ spiritual leader. Your primary responsibility as a father, regardless of your parenting time arrangement, is to teach, encourage, discipline and show your kids how to walk in God’s ways. If you don't know how, ask for mentorship from a godly dad you admire and get busy learning. Nothing else you do is more important than this. Period.
2. Fight with Your Presence
Don’t believe the lie that moving far away to land a better job is the best thing you can do for your kids. Although they may not say it, most kids translate a parent moving away as abandonment, and their hearts are devastated.
Recently, a single mom I know was informed that the father of her children, who had been present for most of their childhood, had decided to move across the country. Her adolescent son was so hurt that he refused to acknowledge his father at all.
Distance and long expanses of time without you are not what your kids need. They need your consistent, physical presence and to be able to count on you to be there for them, even if it means accepting a less desirable job or living in a location you don’t prefer.
3. Fight with Your Example
Have you ever heard the phrase, "Your example speaks so loud I can't hear what you're saying"? Even if your kids don't see you every day, they still see you. Your choices. Your priorities. Your lifestyle. Your character.
Be a father they can be proud of. Walk with integrity. Keep your word. Earn their respect by the way you speak to and about their mother, regardless of her behavior toward you. Show your sons and daughters how a man ought to honor God and women by refusing to engage in sex outside of marriage, including co-habitation or pornography. Show them what it looks like to lay down your life (your dreams, your desires, and your pride) to do what’s right so when they model you they will be following a path that leads to blessing and life.
4. Fight with Your Provision
Some single dads may think they're clever for fooling the system and evading child support, but God is not fooled, and He is not pleased with any man who refuses to provide for his children. In fact, in 1 Timothy 5:8 God says such men are "worse than unbelievers."
Instead of thinking about child support as something to resent, or trying to get back at your ex or exert control over her by withholding it, see your role of provider as a privilege and honor, and a place where God has allowed you to retain influence and impact in your kids’ lives. Whether you pay it voluntarily or it gets deducted from your paycheck, decide and take pride in making it an act of love. Pray for how you'd like God to bless your kids every time your money is sent to their home.
Even if there’s another stepdad in the picture who is also providing, don't cheat your kids. God sees you guys who have no problem finding enough cash for the latest gadgets, vehicles, or substances that please your flesh, but withhold money to meet your kids' basic needs. God also sees you single fathers out there who are struggling but willing to drive junky cars and eat peanut butter and jelly so you can pay every penny of child support.
Test God in this, and see if providing for your kids won't bring you peace and honor. Remember, it is God who assigned you the role of their provider, and ultimately you will have to answer to Him.
5. Fight with Your Heart
No matter what mistakes you've made, there is still time to redeem your relationship with your kids. They need you.
Fatherless kids are vulnerable to all kinds of harm. Statistics show that kids growing up without a father's active involvement in their life are far more likely to experience poverty, struggle educationally, have behavioral problems, and be vulnerable to abuse. The good news is that even with limited access you can love your kids as well as full time dads just by fully engaging and being intentional with the time you do have.
The greatest gift you can offer your kids is the constant reminder of what they are worth and how much they matter to you and to God. Pursue their hearts. Ask them questions. Be involved in their life. Speak encouragement and blessing over them. Your loving involvement is their shield against a frightening world of unknowns.
Single dads, there is a battle going on for your kids’ hearts. But it shouldn't be between you and your ex. There's a dark and evil force that desires to steal your kids’ trust in a good Heavenly Father. But the greatest weapon on earth to overcome this evil is you - a father who loves them, fights for them, and never leaves them. So fight the good fight, single dads. Your kids need you more than you know.
Dawn VanderWerf is the founder and Director of Single Parent Missions and co-founder of the Single Parenting Summit. Author of The Daddy Gap and Hope Notes, Dawn is passionate about encouraging single parents and envisioning and equipping the Church to respond to the growing population of non-traditional families. Now remarried and in the trenches of blended family life, Dawn lives in Hudsonville, Michigan with her husband Steve and their four kids. To find out more, visit singleparentmissions.com.
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