Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14 (ESV)
So much talk about family life in the church can feel like it’s describing near-heavenly experience. “True fulfillment is found in domestic life,” seems a constant refrain. It is true: marriage and children can bring incredible joy and meaning to one’s life. It cannot, however, bring ultimate fulfillment. Only God can do that.
And sometimes, family is hard. Miscommunication and unmet expectations can seem to cloud even the closest of relationships. When children are grown and don’t “turn out” as hoped, we can find ourselves asking, “Why Lord? Did I do something wrong?” When relationships with parents or siblings sour, we can find ourselves lying awake at night wondering how we ever got here and what it might take to mend the rift that has opened up. When our spouses seem distant, we too easily become angry, cold and accusatory. We find ourselves filled with anxiety and fear the moment a new baby is born, wondering, “Will I be a good enough parent? Do I have what it takes to raise this child?” And these are only a few of the challenges that come with family life.
What if, instead of focusing on what we desire and are able to accomplish, we instead focused on what God desires and what He is able to do? The Bible promises that we have God’s ear as we cry out to Him: “This is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Furthermore, it assures us that He is able to do far greater things than we even know to ask for: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:20-21). He is able, but will we ask?
John Calvin’s words can guide us as we seek to pray for transformation in our relationships with family members and other loved ones:
Lord, save us from being self-centered in our prayers, and teach us to remember to pray for others. May we be so bound up in love with those for whom we pray that we may feel their needs as acutely as our own and intercede for them with sensitivity, with understanding, and with imagination. We ask in Christ’s name.
What if, instead of worrying, nagging, accusing, or controlling those we love, we prayed fervently and with great imagination? What if weekly we chose a family member and devoted an hour (or day or week) to interceding on his behalf, feeling his needs as acutely as our own? What if our greatest act of love was not in what we did before others, but what we did privately and in secret before the throne of heaven?
Today, let’s commit ourselves to diligent prayer for transformation in our families!
- Pray for God to transform your family in whatever way is needed.
- Pray that you would be an agent of grace in your family, being quick to listen and empathize with the hurt and struggle of others.
Pray that Christian families would become centers of love, forgiveness, kindness, gentleness, forbearance, and intercession, in Jesus’ name.
Ministry Fellow, Christian Union at Yale
Selected Resources to Explore for a Cultural Revolution in the Family
AUDIO (1:23:30): Understanding and Honoring Marriage in a Hook Up Culture
This seminar by Sherif Girgis, research scholar at the Witherspoon Institute and co-author of the book What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense was recorded at the Christian Union Nexus Conference 2017. Nexus is an annual conference that equips students and professionals to seek God and to live out their faith and change culture.
E-BOOK (30 pages): Sexual Detox: A Guide for the Single Guy by Tim Challies
An honest consideration of the complexities and challenges of following Christ as a single man in our time. Challies doesn’t hold any punches in this practical guide to facing the temptations of the dating world, online pornography and lust. Challies’ advice is straightforward and yet offers hope that is firmly grounded in the Gospel.
BOOK (352 pages): The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller
This book shows everyone—Christians, skeptics, singles, longtime married couples, and those about to be engaged—the vision of what marriage should be according to the Bible. Modern culture would have you believe many false assumptions about marriage and romance. Keller, with insights from his wife Kathy, shows marriage to be a glorious relationship that is also misunderstood and mysterious, and offers instruction on how to have a successful marriage.