One of the positive sides of the current lockdown is that we have been spending a lot more time with our families. Being around our wives and children has been a joy for us as individuals and as families. We have had more opportunities to eat meals together, to appreciate the hard work of our wives, and to take a closer look at our children growing up. And even as we enjoy all of these, it remains true that God has given us fathers and husbands the responsibility to lead our families—lockdown or not. Here are some encouragements of how we can shepherd our families through this lockdown:
1. Do your Personal Devotions
We should be men who delight to be in God’s presence (Ps. 27:4), and this lockdown should not be an exception. In fact, this season in life is perhaps a good opportunity for many of us who have slacked, to recapture our discipline and delight. Along with the spiritual benefit to our souls from spending time with the Living God, this is an opportunity for our family to see that God is our priority in all situations. And along with setting a good example, we will be able to encourage our wives and children to spend time in the Word and prayer with a clear conscience.
2. Open the Word with your Family
God calls us as husbands to invest God’s Word in our wives and lead them in their sanctification (Eph. 5:25-30), and God calls us as fathers to instruct our children in the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Set aside time for your family to gather around the Bible. Read a Bible passage or story (appropriate to the age of your children), help your children to understand it and think about it, and pray. Don’t bore them with an hour-long sermon or intense Bible study, but apply the Scripture to their hearts in a way that engages them. And make sure to look for opportunities to sow God’s Word in their hearts throughout the day so that it takes root in their hearts (Deut. 6:6-9). Don’t waste any opportunity to apply the gospel in your children’s hearts, and be intentional about having spiritual conversations with your wife.
3. Pray with your Family
The time when your family gathers around the Word is also a good time to pray. Teach your children to pray for their family, for friends from church, and relatives. And teach them to pray for spiritual things as well as material things. For example, when you pray for a sick grandparent, pray for healing, but also pray for them to trust God and grow their character in their sickness. And if the grandparent is not a Christian, make sure to pray for the healing of their souls. Make time to pray with your wife too—praying especially for your marriage and your children, but also for church members and wider concerns. Another opportunity to model and teach your family to pray is at meal times. Make sure to thank God for the food that he provides (even if the lockdown has limited your variety), and help your family to grow in gratitude. And along with your conversations, let your prayers teach gratitude and trust in God when the world is grumbling and living in fear.
4. Make Sundays a Day of Worship and Rest
In a time when churches cannot gather together for worship, it would be easy for Sundays to be just another day. But make an effort to make Sundays different, just like Sundays break our routines without lockdowns. Spend the time you would normally spend in the church leading your family in time around God’s Word. Perhaps listen to a sermon together; or if your church organises an online service, make it an important time of the day. Try and spend the day resting (including as much as rest is possible in the kitchen) (Ex. 20:8-11), spending time with your family, and spending time in prayer. And keep reminding your family that we will return to normalcy when we once again gather together regularly as a body (Heb. 10:25).
5. Work Hard
God has given us men the responsibility to work and to provide for our families (Gen. 1:15). This lockdown is a “thorn and thistle” which makes our work difficult, and we should be careful not to take it as an opportunity to be lazy. When you are working, make sure that you really are working, and not wasting time browsing the internet or sitting in front of the TV. If you cannot do your normal work, think of ways in which you can spend your time now to improve your skills for when you return. This is a great opportunity for pastors to spend time writing, and preparing sermons and other resources for the church. As you work hard, teach your children that work is good and important, and teach them (even toddlers) that they should allow you to work without distractions.
6. Spend Time with your Family
Be careful not to be so obsessed with your work that you neglect your wife and children. “Living with your wife in an understanding way” (1 Pt. 3:7) is impossible if you don’t spend time talking to her and listening to her. And make sure to help your wife with house work and instead of being another mouth to feed. Like your wife, your children will respect your “work time” if you spend time with them when you are not working. So, do (age-appropriate) things with your children: carry them, play games with them, read books with them, talk to them, listen to them, laugh with them. And when they are disobedient with you around, instead of leaving the dirty work to your wife, take the lead in talking to them, disciplining them, and applying the gospel to their hearts.
Even as we adjust to new routines and wait for things to eventually return to normal, let us use this lockdown as an opportunity for us to grow in how we shepherd our wives and children. And let us do this with seriousness, remembering Paul’s words about the qualifications of an elder: “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4-5). And when the lockdown is lifted, I pray that we would continue to give God the first place in our lives and invest God’s Word in our wives and children.
May God help us to be godly husbands and fathers.
Jonathan George serves as an elder at Satya Vachan Church, Lucknow. He is married to Hina, and they have a son and a daughter