Anger. Harsh Words. Hurt feelings. Lashing Back. Tears Flow. Voices raised. Accusations. No one wins. Everyone loses…
Why is it that in the place where we should feel the greatest love and joy we often feel instead the greatest hurt and pain? We love our families – really we do. But when things happen a certain way, something just seems to rise up in us. And when the dust has settled, there is pain.
It’s easier to be nicer to people outside our family sometimes. Things we wouldn’t say to our coworkers come pouring out of our mouths at home. Behaviors that we wouldn’t tolerate in ourselves with more distant relatives flow freely throughout the house. Attitudes that would kill our friendships never even come up in those relationships; it’s unthinkable. But it’s not unthinkable at home. There…we DO the unthinkable. We hurt each other.
The Bible is rampant with stories of families fighting: Cain with Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau with Jacob, Joseph and his brothers, and even James and John arguing with the others over who would have the highest place of honor. Sometimes their conflicts impacted not just them but their children and their descendants for generations to come.
I wonder if that’s why God knew we’d need self-control. To NOT say the words that are bubbling up on your tongue…to not give way to the anger you feel inside…to not hold someone hostage by not speaking to them or excluding them – it takes a powerful amount of self-control that few of us possess.
Add to that an abnormal amount of stresses and everyone gets stretched to the breaking point. Things that should be insignificant blow up like nuclear bombs. So here we are in the midst of a world-wide pandemic, a state-wide quarantine, the loss of many jobs, and the destruction of most of life’s routines. It’s a recipe for disaster – were it not for our God.
He knew this would happen. And He’s prepared us for it by teaching us in His Word the principles of navigating relationships in tough times. So here are a few steps to talk through as a family.
1. Acknowledge together that it will happen.
Sit down together as a family and admit together that it is strongly possible that, sometime during this quarantine time, you are going to get very angry with each other. That doesn’t mean you don’t love each other or that you are bad Christians. But it does mean that, to get through this time, we have to be ready. Read 1 Peter 5:8 together to talk about how the enemy might try to stir up conflicts and fighting in your home and how you can be on your guard.
2. Develop a plan for how to respond.
· Create a short term plan for the moments when a conflict starts: talk about how to give each other space. Sometimes being in separate rooms for a while helps people cool down and be able to talk with less anger. Maybe create a signal that anyone can use when they need some space to cool down.
Consider also – what does a “soft answer” look like for each person (Proverbs 15:1)? What would it mean in your family to put other family member’s interests your own (Philippians 2:4). Be sure to talk about how to avoid passive ways that people often show anger – locking someone out emotionally is just as bad as screaming and yelling.
- Invite each family member to come up with a plan for what will help them exercise self-control. What pushes our buttons is different for each one of us. Do you KNOW what your buttons are? Once you know, what can you do to respond better when one of your buttons gets pushed?
- Create spaces – either physical ones or spaces in the family schedule – to come back together and talk through conflicts, work through compromises, and to reaffirm your love for one another.
3. Do the hard work of following Christ
Being a Christian is never easy because God calls us to do what’s hard – but do it in His strength. So ask His help to FORGIVE (Ephesians 4:32)…to OVERLOOK AN INSULT (Proverbs 19:11 and I Peter 4:8) …to PUT OTHERS NEEDS BEFORE OUR OWN. To do so sometimes goes again everything that is in us! But sometimes that which is in us is our sin nature which God is gently but forcefully overcoming in us. And God may be using each family member to shape us to become more like Christ – are we willing to let God have a free hand in doing that?
This season – for however long it is – can end with us rushing away from each other, eager to get away from the irritants of family members, feeling vaguely guilty but somehow “freed”. Or it can end with great reluctance to return to “normal” life because our relationships have grown deep in ways we never thought possible. Instead of being stretched to the breaking point, maybe God is stretching us to a new point of spiritual maturity…
Happening this weekend:
Friday, April 3 – Movie Night Ideas & Lessons – Access Movie Night
Sunday, April 5 – Sunday Morning Worship – Access at eatoncommunitychurch.org
Take care of yourself and take care of one another!