For a more full conversation on this topic, be sure to check out this podcast conversation with David Leventhal, Brett Billman, and Wes Butler.
What a crazy month our families have experienced! Consider all the areas of our lives that have been upended: we can’t gather corporately as a church, many of us can’t go to work, some of us have no work to go to because we have lost our job, and many of us who have had the luxury of investing in the stock market have watched as the value of those accounts have dropped materially. And that’s just the adults! Our children have had their world tossed into chaos – they are unable to attend classes together, sports activities have been canceled, and their small groups have become virtual groups depriving them of much-needed face to face hang time. What a crazy month, indeed.
Amid the chaos one thing has not changed: the Biblical call for husbands and fathers to lead their families well. No matter the temporal circumstances, we have been appointed by God to lead, and I hope to encourage you to stay strong and stay engaged.
I. Reset our Perspective
Of first importance is to properly set (or reset) our perspective. The title of this blog post is “Leading Your Family Through Uncertainty” and the truth is our circumstances on earth have always been uncertain. God's word is crystal clear on this point. I was reading in the book of James yesterday and was reminded in James 4:13-17 that man is free to make his plans about what he wants to do today or tomorrow but ultimately God determines whether or not we stay or go. The James passage brought to my mind the parable in Luke 12:13-21; In a very different context, Jesus reminds us of the same thing - that we can make plans to relax, eat, drink, and be merry, but there is no guarantee that those plans will be fulfilled. Jesus says to the man in this parable, “this night your soul is required of you.”
The reality is that none of us know when that day is coming for us. We are called to live, day-to-day, by faith in an uncertain world. Whether it's the coronavirus or your average, normal, run of-the-mill Tuesday, there has always been uncertainty about our temporal circumstances. (See also Proverbs 16:9, 19:21; Psalm 33:10)
What's different about our current circumstances is that we have all been confronted with this reality in a new and fresh way. I suspect that most of us would confess that what I just wrote is true all the time, but the hard truth is that sometimes we don’t live our lives that way. We live our lives as though we are in complete control over our temporal circumstances and that our thoughtful plans will continue with certainty. And God, in His mercy, has allowed this coronavirus to confront our lack of truly embracing biblical truth.
We all must operate from the same biblical foundation – we can be certain that God alone is in control. He alone is sovereign. He alone sees the beginning and the end in one glance. He loves us and is coming back for His people.
Having been reminded of these truths, let’s talk through a couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to leading our families through this current iteration of uncertainty.
II. Lead Self
The number one rule when it comes to leading others is to make sure that you are leading yourself. As you think about leading your family through these uncertain circumstances, you need to make sure that you are being led well. The best way for a disciple of Jesus to lead himself is to spend time with the Chief Shepherd. Let's not waste these days. Whatever we do let’s make sure that we dig deep into God's Word (Psalm 119:9-16), spend time in prayer asking for wisdom (James 1:5-7), and continue to pursue one another (even if by FaceTime). You cannot give what you don't have. Let's make sure we have something to give our families.
III. Be a Stress De-amplifier
It's part of the post-Genesis 3 human condition to experience worry, fear, and doubt. The Bible reminds us constantly that we need not fear. The terms “fear not”, “do not be afraid”, and “do not fear” appear 103 times in the ESV translation of the Bible (I know that there are some who say the command to “fear not” is repeated 365 times – one for each day of the year, and while that would be fun, it’s not true). Perhaps the reason it's repeated so frequently is because God understands that we are fragile (Psalm 103:13-14) and that we can’t quite see all the pieces clearly (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).
As we seek to lead our family, we want to be men who help create a “fear not” environment in our home. We use the phrase around Watermark that we should be “stress de-amplifiers.” When those in our homes are experiencing bouts of worry, fear, and doubt, it's a great opportunity for us to gently, patiently, and tenderly remind them of what is true. It's helpful to remember that being a stress de-amplifier is both verbal (i.e. what we remind them of) and non-verbal (i.e. soft voice, tone and body language that does not communicate disappointment, frustration or anger). We serve as stress de-amplifiers when we give our family room to express what they're feeling and then respond with gentleness, kindness, and patience - always pointing them back to the thing that we know is certain: God is in control and God loves them.
IV. A Season to Remember
Yes, things are a bit crazy right now but let’s be clear – this is a season and this season will come to an end. Wouldn't it be great if when our wife and kids look back, they remember their husband and dad as being present, fun, patient, and engaged?
Scientists are generally united on the fact that during traumatic events our bodies increase the release of cortisol and norepinephrine (aka. “stress hormones”). These increased hormones put the hippocampus region of the brain into what Harvard University professor Jim Hopper describes as a “super-encoding mode.” If your kids are over 7 or 8 years old, they will likely remember the Great Coronavirus Panic of 2020 in the same way that I remember the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. What that means is that you and I have an opportunity to make memories that will likely be forever lodged into the brains of those we share a home with. If we lead well right now, those memories will be a blessing.
V. The Next Wisest Step
Leading our family well right now does not mean having all the answers to all the questions that might come up. But it does mean we ought to be committed to processing and praying through what the next wisest step might be for us on any given day. Don't be overwhelmed. We don't need to try and figure out how all these temporal COVID-19 circumstances are going to work themselves out. We can just remember that God will work them out, and all we need to do today is trust God, stay connected to those we are sharing life with, and avoid making any big decisions without seeking the collective wisdom of those who know you, love you, and are following Jesus. Then, take the next wisest step.
This is exactly what Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:25-34. I strongly encourage you to go back and read, and reread and reread this passage. Meditate deeply on the truths found in these verses:
* Do not be anxious about your life
* Don't worry about your body or your food or your drink
* Look around at the birds and the flowers and see how God provides for them
* Remember that we are so much more important to God than the birds or flowers
* Remember that those who follow God do not need to panic the way those who don’t know Him might panic
* Focus first on the things that are of first importance - seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness
* Know that God will take care of the rest – we just need to take the next wisest step.
You and I have a great opportunity to lead our families right now through this current pandemic. I think Paul's closing words to the church in Corinth are as true for us today as they were when Paul penned them: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). This is our time, men! Let’s go!
SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
- What successes have you had in recent days of leading yourself well through the uncertainty of our current situation? Where have you struggled? How would resetting your perspective help you lead yourself?
- Are you naturally a stress amplifier or “de-amplifier”? What are some practical ways you are striving to be a source of calm and peace in these uncertain times?
- When you consider that your children will likely remember this season of life more than perhaps any other in their childhood, what are the memories that you hope they have of how dad led them through this season?
- How are you disciplining yourself to stay focused on the next wisest step and not get anxious about the “worries of tomorrow”? Who are the other men you are turning to in order to confess worry or fear that is not from the Lord?
Mentioned or Recommended Resources
- Message: Finding Freedom From Worry by David Marvin
- Family Devotionals: “Not Alone” — daily devotionals for parents & children on dealing with anxiety and fear
- Blog: "Remember the Past as you Face an Uncertain Future" by Bob Lepine
- Podcast: How to Talk to Children about the Coronavirus by John Piper [13 minutes]