“Be of good courage and say: ‘Jehovah is my helper.’”—HEB. 13:6.
1, 2. What challenges do many emigrants face when they return home? (See opening image.)
“WORKING abroad, I had a responsible job and made good money,” recalls Eduardo.a “But when I began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I came to see that I had a more important responsibility—to care for my family spiritually, not just physically. So I returned home to them.”—Eph. 6:4.
2 Eduardo knew that by rejoining his family, he pleased Jehovah. But like Marilyn, mentioned in the preceding article, Eduardo had to begin the long process of repairing family relationships. He also faced the challenge of supporting his wife and children in a much weaker economy. How would he make a living? What help could he expect from others in the congregation?
REPAIRING DAMAGE TO SPIRITUAL AND FAMILY LIFE
3. How does a parent’s absence affect the children?
3 “I understood that I had neglected my children when they most needed my guidance and affection,” admits Eduardo. “I had not been there to read them Bible stories, to pray with them, to cuddle them, and to play with them.” (Deut. 6:7) His oldest daughter, Anna, recalls: “I felt emotionally insecure not having our father at home with us. When he returned, we knew him only by his face and voice. It didn’t feel natural when he hugged me.”
4. How does a husband’s absence affect his ability to fulfill his role as family head?
4 A father’s absence also erodes his ability to fulfill his role as family head. Eduardo’s wife, Ruby, explains: “I had to play two roles—Mom and Dad—and I got used to making most of the family decisions. When Eduardo came home, I had to learn what Christian subjection really means. Even now, I sometimes have to remind myself that my husband is here.” (Eph. 5:22, 23) Eduardo adds: “The girls were used to going to their mother for permission to do things. As parents, we realized that we needed to present a united front to our children, and I had to learn to take the lead in a Christian way.”
5. How did one father begin to repair the damage his absence had caused, and with what result?
5 Eduardo was determined to do all he could to mend his relationship with his family and to build up their spiritual strength. “My goal was to inculcate the truth in my children by word and example—not just to say I love Jehovah but to show it.” (1 John 3:18) Did Jehovah bless Eduardo’s acts of faith? “Seeing all his efforts to be a good father and to draw close to us again made a big difference,” answers Anna. “When we saw him reaching out in the congregation, we felt proud. The world was trying to pull us away from Jehovah. But we saw our parents focused on the truth, so we tried to do the same. Papa promised never to leave us again, and he didn’t. If he had, I probably wouldn’t be in Jehovah’s organization today.”
6. What lesson did some parents learn during wartime?
6 Some experiences show that during the war in the Balkans, the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses who lived there were happy despite the harsh living conditions. Why? Parents, who could not leave to go to work, stayed home and studied with, played with, and talked with their children. The lesson? More than money or gifts, children need their parents to be with them. Indeed, as God’s Word states, children will benefit if they receive parental attention and training.—Prov. 22:6.
7, 8. (a) What mistake do some returning parents make? (b) How may parents help their children to overcome negative feelings?
7 Sadly, some returning parents, upon encountering resentment or indifference in their children, respond, “How can you be so ungrateful for all the sacrifices I have made for you?” However, their children’s negative attitude may be largely due to the parents’ having been absent. What can a parent do to heal the breach?
8 Ask Jehovah to help you show your family members extra understanding. Then, when speaking with your family, acknowledge and accept your share of responsibility for the problem. A genuine apology may help. As your mate and children observe that you are consistently trying to make things right, they will sense your sincerity. With determination and patience, you may gradually regain your family’s love and respect.
‘PROVIDING FOR ONE’S OWN’
9. Why should ‘providing for our own’ not require that we constantly strive for more material things?
9 The apostle Paul directed that when older Christians cannot make ends meet, their children and grandchildren should “repay their parents and grandparents what is due them.” But Paul went on to urge all Christians to be content with their daily necessities—food, clothing, and shelter. We should not constantly be striving for a higher standard of living or for future financial security. (Read 1 Timothy 5:4, 8; 6:6-10.) To ‘provide for one’s own,’ a Christian does not need to seek material riches in this world, which will soon pass away. (1 John 2:15-17) We must not let “the deceptive power of riches” or “anxieties of life” put at risk our family’s “firm hold on the real life” in God’s righteous new world!—Mark 4:19; Luke 21:34-36; 1 Tim. 6:19.
10. How can we show godly wisdom in regard to amassing debt?
10 Jehovah knows that we need some money. But money cannot protect and sustain us the way godly wisdom can. (Eccl. 7:12; Luke 12:15) In many cases, individuals underestimate the cost of going overseas to work, and there are no guarantees that they will make money abroad. In fact, there are grave dangers. Many emigrants return with even greater debt. Rather than being freer to serve God, they end up serving those to whom they owe money. (Read Proverbs 22:7.) The wise course is to avoid going into debt in the first place.
11. How can holding to a budget help families to reduce financial pressure?
11 Eduardo knew that to make a success of his decision to remain with his family, he had to be practical about money. He and his wife established a budget based on what material things they really needed. Naturally, the budget was much more restrictive than his family was used to. But all of them cooperated and did not spend money on nonessentials.b “For example,” Eduardo says, “I took my children out of private schools and found good public schools for them.” He and his family prayed that he would find secular work that would not interfere with their spiritual routine. How did Jehovah answer their prayers?
12, 13. What practical steps did one father take to support his family, and how did Jehovah bless his determination to keep life simple?
12 “For the first two years, we barely got by,” Eduardo recalls. “My funds were dwindling, my meager income did not always cover expenses, and I was physically tired. But we could attend all the meetings and go in service together.” Eduardo made up his mind not even to consider job offers that would keep him away from his family for months or years at a time. “Instead,” he says, “I learned to do various jobs so that when one type of work was not available, I could do another.”
13 Because Eduardo had to pay off his debts gradually, he had to pay more interest on the money that he had borrowed. But he considered this a small price to pay in order for him to share with his family in all aspects of their lives, as Jehovah desires parents to do. “I now make less than 10 percent of what I made overseas,” Eduardo says, “but we don’t go hungry. ‘The hand of Jehovah is not short.’ In fact, we decided to pioneer. Remarkably, after that the economic pressure lessened and obtaining our material necessities became much easier.”—Isa. 59:1.
DEALING WITH FAMILY PRESSURE
14, 15. How can families deal with the pressure to put material things ahead of spiritual pursuits, and what may result from their setting a good example?
14 In many places, people feel obliged to give money and gifts to relatives and friends. “It is part of our culture, and we enjoy giving,” explains Eduardo, but he adds: “There is a limit. I tactfully explain to my extended family that I will give as much as I can without endangering my immediate family’s spiritual needs and routine.”
15 Returning emigrants as well as those who decline opportunities to leave their family to go abroad often face the anger, scorn, and disappointment of relatives who may have looked to them as breadwinners. Some call them unloving. (Prov. 19:6, 7) “Nevertheless,” notes Eduardo’s daughter Anna, “when we refuse to sacrifice spiritual things for material advantage, some of our relatives may eventually realize how important our Christian life really is. But how will they ever understand if we give in to their demands?”—Compare 1 Peter 3:1, 2.
EXERCISING FAITH IN GOD
16. (a) How might a person ‘deceive himself with false reasoning’? (Jas. 1:22) (b) What kinds of decisions does Jehovah bless?
16 Upon arriving in a more prosperous country without her mate and children, one sister told the elders: “We had to make great sacrifices for me to come here. My husband even had to step down from serving as an elder. So I really hope that Jehovah will bless this move.” Jehovah always blesses decisions based on faith in him, but how can he bless a decision that is contrary to his will, especially when it involves needlessly giving up sacred privileges?—Read Hebrews 11:6; 1 John 5:13-15.
17. Why should we seek Jehovah’s direction before making decisions, and how can we do so?
17 Seek Jehovah’s direction before you make decisions and commitments, not after making them. Pray for his holy spirit, wisdom, and guidance. (2 Tim. 1:7) Ask yourself: ‘Under what circumstances am I willing to obey Jehovah? Even under persecution?’ If so, are you willing to obey him when it may mean having to lower your standard of living? (Luke 14:33) Ask the elders for Scriptural advice, and show your faith and trust in Jehovah’s promise to help you by following his counsel. The elders cannot make decisions for you, but they can help you make choices that will lead to happiness in the long run.—2 Cor. 1:24.
18. Who is responsible for supporting a family, but what circumstances may afford others an opportunity to help?
18 Jehovah charges a family head with the day-to-day “load” of supporting the family. We should commend and pray for those who fulfill that responsibility without leaving their mate or children, despite pressure and temptation to do so. Unexpected circumstances, such as disasters or medical emergencies, present an opportunity for us to show true Christian love and fellow-feeling for one another. (Gal. 6:2, 5; 1 Pet. 3:8) Can you provide funds in an emergency or help a fellow Christian to find work locally? If so, you can reduce the pressure that he or she may feel to leave the family to find work elsewhere.—Prov. 3:27, 28; 1 John 3:17.
REMEMBER THAT JEHOVAH IS YOUR HELPER!
19, 20. Why can Christians be content with knowing that Jehovah will help them?
19 The Scriptures urge us: “Let your way of life be free of the love of money, while you are content with the present things. For [God] has said: ‘I will never leave you, and I will never abandon you.’ So that we may be of good courage and say: ‘Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5, 6) How does this work out in practice?
20 “People often comment about how happy Jehovah’s Witnesses are,” says a longtime elder in a developing country. “They also notice that even poor Witnesses are always nicely dressed and appear to be better off than others.” This harmonizes with the promise Jesus made to those who put the Kingdom first. (Matt. 6:28-30, 33) Yes, your heavenly Father, Jehovah, loves you and wants only the best for you and your children. “The eyes of Jehovah are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him.” (2 Chron. 16:9) He has given us his commandments—including those relating to family life and material needs—for our benefit. When we follow them, we show that we love him and trust in him. “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.”—1 John 5:3.
21, 22. Why are you determined to show your trust in Jehovah?
21 “I know that the time I was apart from my wife and children can never be regained,” says Eduardo, “but I do not dwell on my regrets. Many of my old colleagues are rich but unhappy. Their families have serious problems. However, our family is very happy! And I am impressed to see how other brothers in this country, even though poor, keep spiritual things first in their lives. We all are experiencing the truth of Jesus’ promise.”—Read Matthew 6:33.
22 Be of good courage! Choose to obey Jehovah and trust in him. Let your love for God, for your marriage mate, and for your children move you to fulfill your spiritual responsibility to your family. As a result, you will experience that ‘Jehovah is your helper.’
a Names have been changed.