By Robert Beeson, Crosswalk.com
I remember vividly the gravity of the moment when I knew my wife was never coming back.
Even though often our marriages show signs of problems, when the finality and certainty of our spouse being gone for good sets in… it is such a deep blow of dreadful reality to our being. Fear, grief, exhaustion, and overwhelmed are feelings that became so real in that moment and carried with me in the years to come. A new normal had begun, and honestly, I doubted I had what it took to raise my three girls on my own.
The following eight and a half years of solo parenting with full custody were undoubtedly some of the most difficult of my life, but truth be told, they were most defining and transformational.
If I had to distill it down to a single insight that became the core understanding that changed my life, it would be this--God is close to the broken. In fact, I would dare say God uses our broken season to perfect His plan for us. To quote Paul from 2 Corinthians, “God’s power is made perfect in weakness.” and he goes on to say "I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
For so long, I had been consumed with my career and the appearance of success that I had neglected to be in touch with some very simple realities. I discovered that my view of how God saw me had been mixed up with the things I did, the distinctions I so often clung to… my performance, behavior, and achievements.
When those were stripped away, it was certainly uncomfortable, but instead of seeing it as an impairment, I began to see it as an opportunity. The very difficulties that were now a part of my reality were the very things that would transform me.
I can remember days where I hardly felt the strength to go on. Constantly fighting custody battles, trying to get a new venture off the ground, providing for my girls, and being everything I could for my daughters, who were experiencing their own brokenness and hurt. It was almost too much to bear.
My mom was a constant inspiration to me--I would talk to her every day. Her health had been deteriorating, yet she tried hard to be strong for me. One day she called and said that she feared that she had limited time left and asked if I would bring the girls out to California to visit. We flew out, excited to visit, even though I thought she was being a little overdramatic.
While there, she asked me to film some video messages to the family of things she wanted us to remember. Again, thinking she might be slightly exaggerating, I obliged. Tearfully I watched my mom pass on to me, and our whole family, individual messages and scriptures she hoped would carry us on.
As tears welled up in her eyes, she looked directly into my camera and said, “To Robert, I want you always to remember that you are doing a great job raising your girls. Hold on to this verse that has been a theme for me while I was a solo parent: Isaiah 41:10 'So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.'"
Those words passed down from my mom became the theme verse for thousands of solo parents across the globe now through Solo Parent Society. My mom passed a few months after making that video.
This verse means so much to me not only because of the memory of my mom, but it also because it reminds me that in the darkest of seasons, I came to fully know and trust that He will sustain his children through the valley of the shadow of death. But even more, He can use that time in the valley to do far more than we can ever dream or imagine, if we allow Him to.
The struggles that I encountered as a single parent in those days were real, just as real as the struggle Jacob had all night with God in Genesis 32.
When the morning was coming, and God needed to leave, Jacob asked for a blessing, so God crippled him. Before my solo season, I never understood the blessing of being impaired, or in Jacob’s case, being crippled and walking with a limp from that day on. But what God did next to Jacob rings true to what I believe God wants to do for single parents.
After the all-night wrestling session with God, and then being stuck crippled, God says, I am changing your name from Jacob to Israel, which means ‘he who has struggled with God and prevailed. God changed Jacob’s entire identity because of the struggle. His limp was a forever reminder of God using struggle, our impairment, as a testimony of His power perfected in our weakness.
That is how God sees and uses a solo season. He sees the very real struggle and promises to be with us, to strengthen and help us.
But here is the redemptive truth that so often we miss because we are just trying to get through the hard times. If we look for God’s transformational presence in our struggle, we will be forever changed.
I am here to tell you that is what happened to me. I am a different person, a better person because of what so many of us are tempted to run from, struggle. I say lean into the struggle; I know how difficult it can be; but God is with you, upholding you, helping you and if you ask God to reveal how He wants to use this season to transform your very identity He can transform your life beyond what you can even imagine, like He did for me.
National Single Parent Day is Sunday, March 21. Visit www.singleparentday.com to learn how you can support and celebrate the single parents in your life.
About Solo Parent Society
Solo Parent Society is a nonprofit that helps single parents raise healthy kids by providing support groups in person and online, creating resources and advocating on behalf of the 34 percent of U.S. homes that are single-parent homes. Learn more at soloparentsociety.com and follow on Instagram @SoloParentSociety.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Kaan-Sezer
Before founding Solo Parent Society in 2017, Robert Beeson was the founder of Essential Records as well as former Senior Vice President of Sony / Provident. He oversaw the signing or development of artists like Jars of Clay, Third Day, Michael W Smith and Casting Crowns and many others. He was responsible for winning 35 Dove Awards, 5 Grammy Awards as well as being nominated for 13 Grammys.
Beeson is also the founder of iShine, the largest Christian Tween media company in the world and has served on the Gospel Music Association, Sony /Provident executive team, WOW Partnership, and BEMA ministry boards.
Most recently, after spending 8 1/2 years as a single parent raising 3 girls full time, he authored GOING SOLO, Hope and Healing for the Single Mom or Dad from Focus on the Family and founded Solo Parent Society. Robert is now remarried, a licensed minister and lives in Franklin with his daughters and three new stepsons.