Family Distress—A Sign of the Times
FAMILY distress—many see it as a sign that the traditional rules of marriage and parenting are obsolete. Others see it as the product of political, economic, and social change. Still others see it as just one more casualty of modern technology. In reality the problems families grapple with today point to something of far greater significance. Note the Bible’s words at 2 Timothy 3:1-4:
“Know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.”
Do not these words get to the very root of today’s problems? Today’s family distress is clearly a direct result of the conditions prophesied to take place during this world’s last days. And there is persuasive evidence that this period of distress began in the year 1914.* Since then, the influence of the superhuman spirit creature called Satan the Devil has been particularly lethal.—Matthew 4:8-10; 1 John 5:19.
Confined since 1914 to the vicinity of the earth, Satan has “great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:7-12) Since Satan is a sworn enemy of the God “to whom every family in heaven and on earth owes its name,” is it any wonder that earth has become a hazardous place for families? (Ephesians 3:15) Satan is determined to turn all mankind away from God. In what better way could he accomplish this than by assaulting families with problems?
It will take more than the glib theories of presumed experts to shield families from such a superhuman attack. Nevertheless, the Bible says of Satan: “We are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Corinthians 2:11) There is a measure of protection in knowing some of the specific ways in which he makes his assault.
Money and Work
Economic pressure is one of Satan’s most potent weapons of assault. These are “critical times hard to deal with,” or as the Revised Standard Version renders 2 Timothy 3:1, “times of stress.” In developing lands, problems such as unemployment, low wages, and shortage of basic necessities cause families much hardship. However, even in the relatively affluent United States, economic pressures take their toll. One U.S. survey revealed that money is one of the main causes of family conflict. The book Secrets of Strong Families explains that the “time, attention, [and] energy” devoted to meeting the demands of work can also be a “subtle enemy” that erodes marital commitment.
Circumstances have forced record numbers of women into the job market. Writer Vance Packard reports: “Presently, at least a fourth of America’s infants and toddlers under age three have mothers who hold down some sort of an outside job.” Caring for the almost insatiable needs of small children as well as a job can be a grueling, exhausting endeavor—with negative effects upon both parents and children. Packard adds that because of the shortage of adequate child-care provisions in the United States, “quite a few million children today are being short-changed on good care in their early years.”—Our Endangered Children.
The workplace itself often undermines family harmony. Many workers are drawn into illicit affairs with workmates. Still others become caught up in a vain quest for success and sacrifice their family life for career advancement. (Compare Ecclesiastes 4:4.) One man became so consumed with his job as a sales representative that his wife described herself as a “de facto single parent.”
Weakened Marital Ties
The marriage institution itself has also come under assault. Says the book The Intimate Environment: “In the past, the expectation was that a couple would stay married unless one of the spouses committed some gross offense against the marriage—adultery, cruelty, extreme neglect. Now most people see the purpose of marriage as personal fulfillment.” Yes, marriage is treated as an antidote for unhappiness, boredom, or loneliness—not as a lifelong commitment to another person. The focus now is on what you get out of marriage, not what you put into it. (Contrast Acts 20:35.) This “major change in the values surrounding marriage” has greatly weakened marital ties. When personal fulfillment eludes their grasp, couples often seize upon divorce as a quick solution.
People in these “last days” are described prophetically in the Bible as “having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.” (2 Timothy 3:4, 5) Many experts feel that the decline in religion has played a role in undermining marriage. In her book The Case Against Divorce, Dr. Diane Medved wrote: “According to most religions, God said marriage was to be permanent. When you aren’t sure about God or don’t believe in Him, then you do what you want.” As a result, when a marriage has problems, couples do not seek sound solutions. “They hastily junk the entire endeavor.”
Youths Under Attack
Children are reeling from today’s pressures. Shocking numbers of children are being violently battered and verbally or sexually abused by their own parents. Through divorce, millions more are deprived of having the loving influence of two parents, and the pain of parental divorce often lasts a lifetime.
Youths are bombarded by powerful influences. By the time an average American youth is 14 years old, he will have witnessed 18,000 killings and countless other forms of violence, illicit sex, sadism, and crime simply by watching television. Music also exerts great power on youths, and much of it is shockingly suggestive, sexually explicit, or even satanic in content. Schools expose youths to theories such as evolution that tend to undermine faith in God and the Bible. Peer pressure prompts many to participate in premarital sex and alcohol or drug abuse.
The Roots of Family Distress
The assault on families is therefore broad in scope and can be devastating. What can help families survive? Family counselor John Bradshaw suggests: “Our parenting rules have not been seriously updated in 150 years. . . . My belief is that the old rules no longer work.” However, more man-made rules are not the solution. Jehovah God is the Originator of the family. He knows better than anyone else how important a role family life plays in our personal happiness and what it takes to make a family happy and strong. Should it surprise us that his Word, the Bible, provides the solution to family distress?
That ancient book explains how family life went awry. The first human couple, Adam and Eve, were placed in a beautiful garden setting and given the rewarding challenge of transforming the earth into a global paradise. God decreed that Adam was to be the head of the family. Eve was to cooperate with his headship as his “helper,” or “complement.” But Eve rebelled at this arrangement. She usurped her husband’s headship and disobeyed the one and only prohibition God had placed upon them. Adam then abdicated his headship and joined her in this revolt.—Genesis 1:26–3:6.
The destructive effects of this deviation from God’s arrangement became apparent immediately. No longer pure and innocent, Adam and Eve reacted with shame and guilt. Adam, who had earlier described his wife in glowing, poetic terms, now coldly referred to her as ‘the woman you gave me.’ That negative remark was simply the beginning of marital misery. Adam’s vain attempts to regain his headship would result in his ‘dominating her.’ Eve, in turn, would have a “craving” for her husband, likely in an excessive or unbalanced way.—Genesis 2:23; 3:7-16.
Not surprisingly, Adam and Eve’s marital strife had a damaging impact upon their offspring. Their first son, Cain, became a cold-blooded murderer. (Genesis 4:8) Lamech, a descendant of Cain, added to the decline of family life by becoming the first polygamist of record. (Genesis 4:19) Adam and Eve thus passed on not only a legacy of sin and death but a sick family pattern that has been the lot of the human race ever since. During these last days, family discord has reached an all-time peak.
Families That Thrive
Not all families, however, are buckling under today’s pressures. One husband, for example, lives with his wife and two daughters in a small community in the United States. Though many of their neighbors have a generation gap between parents and their offspring, he and his wife do not, nor are they worried that their daughters might experiment with drugs or sex. On Monday evenings, when other youths are glued to the TV, their entire family is gathered around the dining-room table for a Bible discussion. “Monday night is our special night to be together and talk,” he explains. “Our daughters feel free to talk out their problems with us.”
On the other hand, there is a single parent in New York City who also enjoys an unusual family cohesiveness with her two daughters. Her secret? “We keep the TV turned off until the weekend,” she explains. “We have a daily discussion of a Bible text. We also set aside one evening for a family Bible discussion.”
Both families are Jehovah’s Witnesses. They follow the counsel for families set out in the Bible—and it works. Yet, they are not exceptions. There are hundreds of thousands of families just like them who are obtaining good results by applying the rules for family life found in that book.* Just what are those rules? How can they benefit you and your family? In answer we invite you to consider the articles beginning on the next page.
For further evidence that the last days began in 1914, see chapter 18 of the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
By means of a free home Bible study, Jehovah’s Witnesses offer personal assistance in applying Bible principles in the family. They can be contacted by writing the publishers of this magazine.
[Picture on page 4]
Poor economic conditions cause much distress for families in developing lands
U.S. Navy photo
[Picture on page 7]
By applying Bible principles, many families are standing up to today’s pressures