By Pastor Nel Sewraj
Covid-19 has put many nations in lockdown. People have been asked to stay home in an effort to reduce the number of infections. But, staying at home by coercion and not by choice can present its fair share of challenges. It puts a huge strain on the family. Couples face the challenge of working from home while minding their children in the house all day. They are anxious about financial security, paying the bills and keeping their families safe during this pandemic. Such stressors may place undue strain on marriages and families. One thing is for certain, the quality of Christ life and character we have built will be tested in this lockdown, and our family circles will be the laboratories. Here are seven biblical principles to help you navigate this season of family lockdown:
Seven Principles for Surviving Family Lockdown
1) Family responsibility takes precedence over other obligations
As mentioned, parents are inundated with challenges and inconveniences because of the lockdown. For kids, their accustomed routine is off, play is restricted and physical activity is hampered. Teenagers, in particular, may miss their friends and the freedom of being outdoors. Notably, all of these challenges are external challenges triggered by external factors. The source of most family problems is very rarely the family members themselves; it comes from external factors. Problems surface in our homes when we allow our external obligations and challenges to override our family responsibilities. Cain did not kill Abel because of any interpersonal conflict or domestic dispute. He killed Abel because of his offering (Genesis 4). An external stimulus triggered Abel’s murderous intents.
Consider also the relationship between Abraham and his nephew Lot. They had no personal problems between themselves. But, their relationship became strained when strife arose between their herdsmen (Genesis 13). Again, strife entered their household as a result of external influences. So, parents please be realistic about the hours you work from home, considering that your kids are home as well. You should concentrate first and foremost on your children. If work takes precedence, children will feel neglected and unappreciated, and this can lead to their adverse behavior and negative attitudes. American author Anna Quindlen puts it simply: “When in doubt, choose the kids. There will be time later to choose work.”
2) A healthy marriage is the most important element of a strong family
In the family circle, the couple are the kingpins. They are the key persons. Their relationship is the principal and cardinal relationship; it is the most essential and supreme. They are the source and flow of spirit dimensions and grace in the home. The direction of heaven’s flow is always from top to bottom, from headship to the body (Psalm 133). That’s why, every other relationship within the family and home will piggyback on the relationship of the couple. For this reason, couples should use this lockdown to recover their marriages and consolidate their union.
Capitalize on this lockdown by discovering more about your spouse by spending quality time. Marriage must be a journey of discovery. Don’t ever reach a stage in your marriage where you think you know everything about your spouse. This lockdown season is the best time to recover the dwindling affection, love, care and kindness for one another. A healthy marriage will ensure that your seed is protected, preserved and brought up in the right environment and with the right values. This is how we transfer legacy to the next generation. God is a transgenerational God. He is always concerned about the future generations. That’s why, he describes Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
3) The war in your home will cease when the battles within your soul are won
Our homes must become Paradise. We all would like our homes to be our piece of paradise, and it’s no doubt a remarkable quest to pursue. The Garden of Eden was also called Paradise. The real reason it was a paradise was because the Tree of Life was in the midst of it (Genesis 2:9). You would agree that the Tree of Life is a symbolic reference to Christ, who is the life (John 14:6). So, a proper definition for Paradise will be any place “where Christ is present”. This idea is also expressed in Luke 23:43 when Jesus Himself says to the repentant criminal “today, you will be with Me in Paradise”. Note the words “with Me in Paradise”, meaning that wherever Jesus is, that is Paradise.
In our homes, we learn that the war on the outside is caused by the war on the inside. When Jesus is positioned as the center of our hearts and homes, contention is swallowed up, and our homes become Paradise. It is imperative that you shut down every storm on the inside of your heart. It’s not the war on the outside that destroy us, but the war on the inside. The storm in your heart must come to an end. It is almost impossible to hear the voice of God when there is too much chaos in our hearts.
4) We must be gracious enough to cut our families some slack because they are our life structures
Life structures are not systems, structures or organizations. They are people, especially people we relate to and interact with regularly. Life structures are given to us by God e.g. our parents, spouses, children, our spiritual parents and covenant relationships. Life structures carry the blueprints for our lives and destinies. They programme, and sometimes reprogram, our lives. Life structures impart life to us and arrest death within us.
This is why we never fight with life structures and we don’t collide with our covenant relationships. Covenant enables us to forego things. Learn to have a gracious heart with your immediate family members. David did not harm Saul although he had the opportunity and right to destroy him. The rules are different for those you covenant with. The graciousness of your heart will not allow you to impose laws and rules upon such life structures. Sooner or later, you have to learn to cut some slack with your family.
5) The strength of relationships is measured by the power of forgiveness
If you constantly bring up the past, it means that you have not come to terms or dealt with the past. It means that you have not forgiven your loved ones and found grace in Christ to be healed. Constantly insulting and hurting your loved ones, speaking down at them, being negatively disposed towards them and refusing to let things go are all symptoms of unforgiveness. The power of forgiveness is the strength of relationships. Forgiveness is a biblical injunction. Consider Hosea and Gomer, Christ and His Church, Joseph and his brothers. It may sound absurd, but sometimes even committed Christians and church leaders may have to literally forgive their loved ones for the hurts they may have cause them. How do you do this? First, recognize and admit that you have been hurt. Secondly, release the hurt to Christ. Thirdly, forgive the person in the presence of God. And finally, find the grace in God to heal your heart and your past hurts.
6) The home is a place of safety, and family is about being naked and unashamed
In your homes, you must to prioritize speaking the truth and place high value on honesty. It starts with you first. Learn to communicate honestly, openly and freely with family, and teach them to do the same. Be honest about your feelings. It’s okay to disagree, or share a different view, but be teachable and prioritize Kingdom values. The home is a place of safety, and family is about being naked and unashamed. This is how you cultivate and build the culture of the Kingdom in your home.
Also, value communication. Don’t shut down honest and open communication. Learn to talk about things. Don’t opt to use indirect and ambiguous ways to communicate with your loved ones e.g. by getting angry and mad, raising your voice, insulting, speaking vicariously through others or projecting on others, using silent treatment, tears and hysteria and so on.
7) Honour in the home will be tested when the goings get tough
Honour means that you hold your family members in esteem no matter what they do. It means that you show respect for your loved ones, irrespective of what they do or don’t do. It means that you think no evil of your spouse, children or parents. We are all familiar with Job’s suffering in the Bible. But, Job also provides a sterling example of maintaining honour in seasons of adversity. Throughout his ordeal, he refused to accuse God of wrongdoing. Another honourable man was Joseph. He maintained honour for his brothers, even though he had both the opportunity and reason to destroy them. How did David retain honour for his conniving son Absalom, even though he deserved to die? Think about that.
Your honour for your family members must proceeds out of your heart by choice – not because of their actions. Honour is easy when the times are good but honour is tested when the goings get tough. Rest assured, the honour you have for your loved ones will always be tested in times of crisis and pressure. Some biblical examples to consider in this regard include Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 12:10f and 20:6f, and Isaac and Rebekah repeating Abraham’s mistake in Genesis 26:1f. Consider also how the heathen king of Moab, when under pressure in the heat of battle, sacrificed his firstborn son to Chemosh, his god. So settle it in your heart that, in times of disagreement, you will maintain the honour and dignity of your family members. Wean yourself out of insulting your loved ones, demeaning them, name calling, cussing or becoming violent. Your family members are your life structures, after all.