The COVID-19 pandemic has put extraordinary pressures on marriages and families. I was speaking to a family attorney yesterday who told me that he has received more calls to initiate divorce proceedings in the last three weeks than in the past two years. While we do not know all that God is doing in and […]
The COVID-19 pandemic has put extraordinary pressures on marriages and families. I was speaking to a family attorney yesterday who told me that he has received more calls to initiate divorce proceedings in the last three weeks than in the past two years. While we do not know all that God is doing in and through the global crisis, we know he wants to use this time to draw us closer to him and to strengthen our family relationships.
What will it take to come through this pandemic with our families closer to God and to one another? Perhaps you serve as a pastor or Christian counselor, or you are simply eager to see your family grow in Christ. Here are four essential ingredients.
As a father, I confess I was unprepared for the emotional impact that quarantine would have on my kids, especially my high schoolers. Once we hit the two or three week mark of “shelter at home” they were increasingly depressed and discouraged. I did not do a good job understanding and validating their feelings because I did not put myself into their shoes. The virus caused certain things in my life to “pause.” My ministry travel “paused.” My seminars and conferences “paused.” Those things will come back again. But for my children, important things in their life were lost … sports seasons, graduation ceremonies, senior proms. And those things are not coming back. Once that hit me, I was able to empathize with my children, and afford them space and permission to grieve. Each member of your family will be impacted in different ways through this pandemic, and emotions will run the gamut. If we want our families to unify rather than fracture during this time, we need to extend grace to one another.
For most of us, “family time” has dramatically increased due to the various quarantines that have been imposed on us in our different states and nations. More family time can be a welcome blessing, but with more time together comes more conflict, anger, and arguments. When you put sinful people under the same roof, and keep them there, you get sin and problems. God created the family as a powerful sanctifying agent in our lives. The garbage in our hearts comes out at home, and God gives us the opportunity to learn how to forgive and be forgiven. The bottom line is that the Christian family has to become an expert in giving and receiving forgiveness. When you sin against a family member, quickly take responsibility, repent and ask for their forgiveness. Don’t sweep family conflicts under the rug, wrongly thinking that time heals all wounds. Instead, “do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26).
Grow in Family Worship
In my judgment, nothing is more important for our families during this time than to draw closer to God through family worship, the regular practice of praying and reading the Bible together. The call for family worship comes to us in many places in Scripture but perhaps most clearly in Deuteronomy 6:5–7.
Love the Lord your God all with your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. These commands that I give to you today are to be upon your hearts. Teach them diligently to your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.
In this passage, we find the great commandment to love God with all our heart, and then God’s call to families to talk about Him and His Word at home. In fact, God gives us four power packed moments of the day for spiritual connection with our children. He calls us to have spiritual conversations:
When we sit at home
When we walk along the road
When we lie down
When we get up
I have been struck with all that the virus has taken away from us. School. Work. Entertainment. Sometimes it seems like all we do is sit around, take walks, go to bed, and get up again. Could it be that during this time God is stripping away our “normal” life so that we can focus on drawing close to Him during these four times of the day that He gives us in Deuteronomy 6? Families often tell me that they have a hard time doing family worship because their schedules are too crazy. Well, not anymore! All the excuses are out the window.
Would you like your family to grow in prayer and Scripture together? There is no better time than right now to take a big step forward with family worship in your home.
Engage in Mission
God wants the love in our homes to overflow to our neighbors. In the same way that families have been pressed together, so have our neighborhoods. People are out walking. Conversations are taking place on street corners that did not happen before the pandemic. What a time for God’s people to shine! Be intentional about reaching out to your neighbors, letting them know that you are available to help – sharing cleaning supplies, getting groceries, assisting with yard work, helping with transportation, or supporting in prayer.
However, the great need in our neighborhoods right now is not physical or material but spiritual. The 24/7 headlines are focused on sickness, death, corruption and injustice. The world is crying out for answers. Those answers can only be found in the Bible and in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a time for loving boldness. People in your neighborhood may be afraid of sickness and death. They need to hear the gospel, that the reason for sickness and death is sin, and that the only solution to sin is the love of Jesus, expressed to us through his death and resurrection. Be prepared to share your testimony. Now, more than ever, let us never be ashamed of the gospel.
God wants to use this time to strengthen our faith and our families. We can experience this transformation as we extend grace, practice forgiveness, grow in family worship and engage in mission.
Find more resources on coronavirus response at OutreachMagazine.com/coronavirus.