One of the few podcasts that I subscribe to and make a point of listening to on a daily basis is Al Mohler’s “The Briefing.” This past Friday, Mohler dealt with several articles related to the contemporary view of family.
The first article on which he commented was a piece that appeared in The Washington Post titled “Unlike the 1950s, there is no ‘typical’ U.S. family today.” The writer is Bridget Schulte, and the opening line of the article is perhaps the most significant: “The iconic 1950s family of the breadwinner father going off to work and caregiving mother taking care of the homefront, has been described by economists as the most efficient family structure.”
Schulte goes on to note that this type of nuclear family structure is no longer accepted as normal in the United States, and South Africa is never far behind America. She cites statistics to the effect that only 34% of American children are raised in this typical family structure. She adds a further four statistics to highlight how different things are today than in the 1950s.
- 23% of American children are raised by single mothers, only half of whom have ever been married.
- Seven percent of American children live with a parent who cohabits with an unmarried partner.
- Three percent of American children live with a single father.
- Three percent of American children live with grandparents, but no parents.
There are, of course, a range of other options to be added to the above, including orphaned or abandoned children, but the point is made quite clearly that the nuclear family has decreased from 65% in 1950 to a mere 34% in 2012.
Christians have long recognised that the decreasing value placed on the nuclear family is a negative thing. It comes as no surprise, then, that economists have described this form of family as “the most efficient family structure.” And the reason that this comes as no surprise to the Christian is because Christians recognise that God, who designed and created all things, knows how things work best. God designed marriage and the family structure, and we can be sure that his way of doing things is always the best way to do things. David Wilkerson writes, “The truest satisfaction in life comes from being in the perfect will of God, doing His work, living according to His choosing.” And another David—this one inspired—wrote, “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true” (Psalm 18:30).
God’s design for marriage and family is the lifelong union of one natural man and one natural woman, whereby offspring is produced. Society thrives best when families are comprised of homes in which children live together with their married mother and father. Human society has recognised this for centuries, but it has become quite the fad in recent decades to buck this trend. But, as always, casting off God’s restraints has proven foolish. God’s design for family is indeed “the most efficient family structure.”
Humans learn the hard way when they contradict God’s norms. God created all that is, and designed it to work in accordance with the norms that he established. Everything in creation works best when it works with, rather than against, God’s design.
Isaiah recognised this when he wrote by the word of the Lord, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9). The psalmist pronounced a blessing on those who walk in God’s ways (Psalm 128:1).
Numerous biblical figures learned that God’s ways, even if they seem to make no sense, work. How much sense did it make for Elijah to travel to Zarephath of Sidon, Jezebel’s own country, when fleeing from Jezebel’s death threats? How much sense did it make that a widow would sustain him? How much sense did it make for the widow to first feed Elijah before making what she thought was her last meal for her and her son? Yet both obeyed God and things worked out.
God’s ways may well seem confusing, but they always work best—whether in a personal capacity or in a society-wide capacity. But we do not expect non-Christians to understand this. The natural mind is incapable of comprehending the wisdom of God. But the believer knows and rejoices that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). For, as Charles W. Naylor wrote,
God’s way is best; if human wisdom
A fairer way may seem to show,
’Tis only that our earth-dimmed vision
The truth can never clearly know.
God’s way is best, I will not murmur,
Although the end I may not see;
Where’er he leads I’ll meekly follow,
God’s way is best, is best for me.