In Divided Families—Can Happiness Be Found?
1, 2. (a) What is the application of Jesus’ words at Matthew 10:34-36? (b) What is most desirable, and how may this often be achieved?
THE message of truth, the word of God, acts like a “sword” and at times it brings sharp divisions among family members. Jesus Christ himself, in speaking of such situations, said: “I came to cause division . . . Indeed, a man’s enemies will be persons of his own household.” (Matt. 10:34-36) Of course, unity in the family is most desirable, and those who heed the Kingdom message should do everything within their power to remove the obstacles raised by Satan, so that “the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ” might shine through to other family members.—2 Cor. 4:4.
2 In this, the believer’s showing the kindness, mildness and long-suffering that go along with a new Christian personality, his or her tactful presentation of the truth—being careful not to “harp on it” all the time—and the placing of stress on the practical, positive aspects of Christian living, may in time help the unbeliever to reason on the Bible. (Col. 3:10, 12) Appropriate visits by elders or others in the congregation—for example, accepting meal invitations—can help in removing wrong impressions or prejudices. Patient endurance has often been rewarded, even after many years, in that unbelievers have made an about-face, to become most zealous advocates of “this good news of the kingdom.”—Matt. 24:14.
RELIGIOUSLY DIVIDED HOMES
3. (a) What is the basic reason for religiously divided homes? (b) What two types of unbelieving mates are herein discussed?
3 Nevertheless, we are confronted with the situation where many believing mates—and Christian women in particular—must face up to the problem of a divided household. This brings its train of difficulties. These faithful women know the advice of God’s Word, to marry “only in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 7:39) However, most of Jehovah’s servants in divided homes have learned the truth only after marriage, and have then found that their mates are not interested in pursuing the way of the truth and sharing with them in the Kingdom service. They are in the married state with one who does not share their views of the truth of God’s Word, which Jehovah’s Witnesses earnestly embrace. How can a woman in such circumstances show herself truly capable as a wife to her husband and a mother to their children? Much depends on the attitude of the unbelieving mate. If he is a person who does not interfere with the belief of his wife, and allows her a certain freedom for attending Christian meetings and sharing in the Kingdom proclamation, then the path is not as difficult. If he allows the wife to give the children training in the teachings of the Bible, so that they can grow up in the Way, this is not so great a problem. The real difficulties arise when the husband opposes the Christian activity of his wife and children and places many obstacles in their path.
4. (a) What Scriptural advice will the believer have in mind when it comes to retaliation, and what good result will this have? (b) How did the apostle Peter counsel wives as to their conduct?
4 Coping with such problems can be a test on the Christian. To return unkindness for unkindness might be a person’s natural reaction. However, bearing in mind the words of the apostle Paul to the Romans, the Christian wife must not so respond. Paul said: “Return evil for evil to no one. Provide fine things in the sight of all men. If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’ But, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing this you will heap fiery coals upon his head.’ Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” (Rom. 12:17-21) Doing this will result, first, in praise to Jehovah, and, secondly, in peace of mind to the Christian wife. It will be a following of the apostle Peter’s good advice: “In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect. And do not let your adornment be that of the external braiding of the hair and of the putting on of gold ornaments or the wearing of outer garments, but let it be the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God.”—1 Pet. 3:1-4.
5, 6. Outline the steps that a believing wife can take in order to teach her children the truth.
5 What can the Christian woman do when the unbelieving husband seeks to prevent her from teaching and raising the children in the family in the discipline of Jehovah? Of course, she will do all that she can to show her husband the advantages of such training for the children, outlining, if at all possible, how Christian education is going to be in the children’s best interests. Her explaining what the children will learn and how they will personally benefit from the meetings and association, may soften the attitude of the unbelieving mate so that he will allow them to attend Christian meetings.
6 However, if the unbeliever proves adamant in not allowing the children to attend Christian meetings, the wife will have to use discernment and understanding in her teaching of the children in the ways of everlasting life. Under the circumstances the wife, though always manifesting chaste and upright conduct, will have to rely on Jehovah’s help and direction in giving assistance in a spiritual way to her children. She can always seek the advice of the elders in the congregation on what might be proper under her particular circumstances.
7. What should the Christian wife aim to accomplish?
7 One thing that the Christian wife should be interested in is doing all that she can to make the marriage relationship a happy one, praying to Jehovah and looking to the day when her mate might come to his senses and join her in Christian worship. That would serve to make the marriage truly a happy one, as the two of them together work in the interests of their family, with eternal life in view.
BROKEN HOMES AND MARRIAGE
8, 9. What responsibility does an abandoned wife have toward her children, and how can she fulfill this?
8 Sometimes, due to the Christian wife’s stand for righteousness, the unbelieving husband has separated from her. On other occasions women have come to a knowledge of the truth after they have been legally divorced or separated from their husbands. When the issue of separation arises, children have to be considered. While rearing children in a home with an unbelieving mate can be difficult, certainly for a woman to be raising children in a home without a husband and father present can also be most trying at times. The arrangement of Jehovah, of course, is for the parents, father and mother, to train the children. The united family circle offers the best environment for training children. But what can a mother with young children do when there is no father in the home to train the children and assist her? It is obvious that she cannot neglect the children. She cannot spend all her time in sharing the good news and teaching others to the neglect of her family. Nor can she spend all her time worrying about herself, and forgetting about the children that need her attention and care. Hers is the responsibility to train the children, offering them every opportunity within her power to grow up also as children of Jehovah and his Son, Christ Jesus.
9 This means her bringing the children to the Christian congregation so that they may associate with the Lord’s people. This can be a great burden if there are a number of young ones in the family, all needing attention. There might be a tendency to give up, feeling that the effort is too much. However, by trusting in Jehovah, making the effort and showing a desire to train the children, she can do much. The same could be said of a husband who must care for children without the aid and support of a wife. Often there are others in the congregation who can lend a helping hand. While they cannot assume the responsibility for the children, they can assist.
WHERE HELP IS TO BE FOUND
10. (a) What are some possible ways of assisting these children? (b) In line with Galatians 6:2, what may be accomplished locally?
10 It is possible that someone in the congregation can help your children to a degree. For example, there may be a young brother or sister who has struck up a friendship with your son or your daughter and who can study with them, providing wholesome association, and thus encouraging them in the way of righteousness. Perhaps there is a married couple without other heavy responsibilities that could offer some help, thus aiding to bring your children into a closer relationship with the congregation and the brothers and sisters.—Gal. 6:2.
11. Show how the believing parent can be a fine example to the children.
11 But a parent in such a situation should have in mind providing a good pattern personally for the children, by his or her own association with the congregation and personal upright living. A woman in this circumstance would want to maintain a clean home for the children, and to develop Christian qualities that will show that she is working to set a fine example for others. And though at times there may seem to be reasons for her to become exasperated and to lose self-control, she should call on Jehovah for help and refrain from saying and doing things that would not reflect favorably on her way of life as a Christian. If you have problems along these lines, why not speak to the elders in the congregation? Each circumstance is different and it is not easy to give blanket advice on what to do in all instances. At times children need the rod of discipline, but at other times a straightforward talk with them, appealing to their sense of right and wrong, may suffice. Frustration is one of the greatest enemies in child training. Especially can this be so when there is only one parent doing the work of both the father and the mother. But the calming, soothing words of God, as outlined in the Bible, should be of help to all.—Prov. 16:24; Isa. 57:15.
ANOTHER PROBLEM OF DIVIDED HOMES
12, 13. (a) Name another problem in divided homes. (b) How can one cope with this problem?
12 Some whose marriage mates have separated from them, or divorced them, have written to the Watch Tower Society asking for advice on overcoming the loneliness that results from not having their marriage mate with them. This certainly can present problems in the lives of such ones. The Bible’s sound advice is that married people should stay together. (1 Cor. 7:10-13) However, through no fault of the believer, the unbelieving marriage mate may have departed. How does one cope with this problem in life?
13 Of course, if a person is separated from his or her marriage mate such one is thereby deprived of the marriage “due.” This can be a cause of anxiety and depression. Under some circumstances the distressed mate can follow Paul’s advice to “make up again,” thus ending the separation. (1 Cor. 7:11) In other circumstances this may not be possible, especially if the marriage mate does not want a reconciliation, or if that one is agreeable only on terms unacceptable to the Christian, such as renouncing the truth or entering into unchristian conduct that defiles the marriage bed.—Heb. 13:4.
14, 15. What suggestions are offered to believers in these difficult circumstances?
14 It becomes apparent, therefore, that the Christian will have to make an effort to pursue a course in keeping with Christian principles that will, at the same time, help to combat the depressions and feelings of loneliness that arise. Perhaps it is possible to arrange one’s affairs to spend more time in telling others about God’s kingdom or in studying the Bible with newly interested persons. (Compare Luke 2:36, 37.) Becoming more involved in helping those in need in the congregation is another way of overcoming loneliness.—Ps. 105:1, 2; Rom. 12:12, 13.
15 If you are a woman there may be older women in the congregation who need companionship, someone to study with them, or in some way to look after them. That can be one way to spend extra hours profitably, if time hangs heavy on your hands. Why not look around in the congregation and see where you might be able to render that kind of loving assistance to some in the congregation? There is much happiness to be found in this kind of giving. (Acts 20:35) Or there may be other women in the congregation in circumstances similar to yours, perhaps their husbands have left them, or maybe they are widows, and you can have companionship in spending time profitably in some features of the Kingdom service, building one another up spiritually by your association together.
16, 17. Where can one turn for comfort and solace, and what good counsel of Peter should be kept in mind?
16 There is no doubt that there are difficulties in facing these problems of loneliness and anxiety and depression due to a broken home. But if you heed the advice of the psalmist, to “throw your burden upon Jehovah himself,” you will find that, “he himself will sustain you” and help you to meet successfully even these challenges in life.—Ps. 55:22.
17 Always bear in mind the reason why you are in your present circumstances. Since it is because you want to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, then certainly God’s Word will bring you much comfort for your course of action. (1 Pet. 3:17) Seek to walk in faithfulness, doing Jehovah’s will, and rest assured that your good conduct will not go unnoticed by our Grand Creator, Jehovah God.—Matt. 10:36-39.
HAVE JOYFUL ASSOCIATION TOGETHER
18. What gives Jehovah’s servants joyful hope for the future, and what may help, according to John 13:35?
18 Jehovah, the happy God, has outlined in his Word of truth what it takes to be happy and how genuine joy and happiness can be the lot of true Christians. (1 Tim. 1:11; Matt. 5:3-5) Within the congregations of Jehovah’s people earth wide you will find all kinds of people from all walks of life. They have one thing in common, their faith in Jehovah. That gives them a joyful hope for the future. Like a united family, all of Jehovah’s people are and should be interested in the welfare of their spiritual brothers and sisters. All should be working together exhibiting true fellow feeling and love for one another. After all, Jesus said that people would know that we are his disciples if we have love among ourselves. (John 13:35) This is the identifying mark of true Christianity.
19. (a) As indicated in John chapter 10, how may true happiness be found? (b) How may all have a part in promoting and maintaining happy family arrangements?
19 World wide, the brotherhood of Jehovah’s people grows by leaps and bounds. Literally tens of thousands are flocking into the fold of the Fine Shepherd, desiring to be led and shepherded by the Lord Jesus Christ. As Jesus so aptly put it: “I am the fine shepherd, and I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10:14) By staying within the “sheepfold” we will find the blessings, joy and true happiness that are the lot of the servants of Jehovah. Whether married, single, living in divided homes or even in broken homes due to the old world’s problems, all of us together have the prospect of life eternal under the Kingdom arrangement. By our course of action in day-to-day living, and by our putting ourselves in line with the right conduct and discipline outlined in the Holy Scriptures, we can be a living witness to the truth of God’s Word that his servants are indeed a happy people, serving the interests of the eternal kingdom of God and his Son. Each of us, then, can have a part in promoting and maintaining happy family arrangements to the glory of Jehovah’s name!