In the middle of stormy trials it is tempting to just stop the roller coaster and get off. We may reason that we aren’t helping anything by staying in the family and working at solving any problems. Every attempt we make to solve some challenge ends in an even bigger argument with the whole family involved and the whole family in pain when it is over. It is a common question in such times as different family members ask each themselves, “why can’t we discuss things calmly instead of all this screaming at one another when we disagree?”
All kinds of things put stress on a family. Sometimes the stress comes in from the outside and operates like a suicide bomber, who looks like a normal person but as soon as they get into the house they set off their bomb killing many of the people there along with themselves. These outside forces may originate on the job, in school, in athletics or in some relationship that has nothing to do with family. When mom or dad has had a rough day at work and come home hoping to relax and are faced immediately with some problem the child is having in their relationship with someone of the opposite sex it is easy to explode and turn a minor question into a major area of conflict. Too often things are said that everyone will regret when it is all over. In such times there aren’t any solutions gained. It only adds to the pain already going on in a family. Some times we stack those pains and disappointment one on top of the other until they are ready to come tumbling down upon us. What is amazing is that often the family doesn’t recognize that this is the whole area of conflict that has been piled high and not just the single issue that caused it all to fall upon you.
Think of that closet in your house where everything goes that doesn’t have another place. You may have been putting things back into the closet for years, always thinking to yourself, “I’ve got to take some time to organize all of this stuff and throw most of it away.” But it just doesn’t ever seem to be the right time for such work. One day you open the closet door to put one more thing into its crowded shelves, when you reach beyond the capacity of the closet to hold anymore and the whole pile comes down on you. Who would be foolish enough to think that last thing you were putting into the closet was the cause of all this mess. We tend to reason in just that way when it comes to family stresses.
In times of family stress it is vital for everyone to remember you don’t come into the situation with an empty slate. You don’t arrive on the scene without any preconceived ideas or attitudes. Truthfully, all of us tend to walk into such times of stress with our minds already made up as to what is right and what decision is to be made.
In a calm moment, if you can find one, think of the most well known chapter of the Bible. It is the 23rd Psalm written by David the shepherd king. First notice that when we allow our Lord to shepherd us we don’t face any lack of care or blessings. The Lord as shepherd leads us by quiet waters where we can be refreshed and renewed. When we lose our connection with the Lord we tend to still seek the refreshing waters, and not understand why we can’t find them. In John 4 when Jesus talked with the woman at the well he told her, “If you knew who I was you would ask me for water and I would give you living water.” She couldn’t understand what he was talking about. He didn’t have a bucket to hold the water so how could he give her anything? He told her if she drank from this living water she would never be thirsty again but out of her would flow springs of living water. In John 7 Jesus was at the feast in Jerusalem and on the last and great day of the feast he stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink and out of him will flow rivers of living water.” John explains Jesus statement this time by saying, “he spoke of the Holy Spirit that he was going to give to those who come to him.”
When I grew up in Alabama there were numerous artesian wells in the area. These wells were springs of water flowing up from the ground. They had a different taste and were loaded with iron. No one had to draw water out of these wells. The water gushed out. This is what the Lord is offering us as the living water of the Holy Spirit in us.
The good shepherd “makes me lie down in green pastures.” He provides for us the spiritual food needed for us to have our needs taken care of . If we are feeding regularly on God’s word and applying what we read to our own lives then we won’t allow every day stresses to overwhelm us and turn little issues into major problems.
The good shepherds leads us in the paths of righteousness. When we are tempted to go down a lane of unrighteousness it isn’t the good shepherd that is leading us. Whatever path I take is up to me. But the path I take will determine what I reach.
Following the good shepherd we will go through the dark and lonely valley of the shadow of death. Whether going through the valley of shadows destroys us or makes us stronger depends on whether or not we “walk through” the valley or whether we stop, settle in the valley, losing everything as we do. What are the dark valleys we face in life? They come from all kinds of different directions. Sometimes we enter the valley of shadows because of the death of a loved one. Sometimes it is there because we lose a job and don’t know where to turn. Sometimes we go through the valley because of sickness or poor health. Sometimes we go through the valley because of marriage problems or even the break up of a family. Sometimes it is because a child goes astray to live in the world of sin.
What is important is that we not stop walking when we enter the valley of shadows. It is a valley we are to “walk through”. Also it is vital that we follow the good shepherd. David said in the valley he wouldn’t be afraid of what evil might attack since the shepherd was there with his rod and staff. The rod was used to correct the sheep, to fight off any wild animals or people who attacked. The staff with the hook on the end was used to pull a sheep back on to the path and save them when they got off base.
Jesus didn’t promise us a rose garden. He didn’t tell us life for him would be smooth and easy. He promised instead that he would be with us every step of the way. With his help we can make it though every valley.
Think of the different things that bring stress into a family as rocks. Each time something happens you pick up another rock and put it into a bag. When some significant problem arises in the family you add another rock to the bag. But you also tend in those times of real stress to reach into your bag of rocks and pull different ones out to throw them at other family members that aren’t in agreement with you. If they are pointing to some wrong in your life to try to get you to change, you may pull out of the bag some failure of theirs to remind them they have problems too. The writer of Hebrews 12:1-2 challenged us to run with perseverance the race set before us and LAY ASIDE EVERY WEIGHT AND THE SIN THAT SO EASILY ENSNARES US. Instead of collecting rocks as we pass through life we need to empty our bag. When one stress arises deal with that one stress instead of bringing back up every failure from the past. When the focus stays on the issue at hand it can be solved and everyone can pass through the valley into the sunlight of a better day and better life.
Family stress points don’t have to be destructive to the family. They can be opportunities to grow stronger as a family.