Today is one of those key times in which the way we act will not only help shape the outcome of the current coronavirus pandemic at some level, but also to a much greater extent shape how our spouses, children, and neighbors see us in the future. As a husband and father who also publishes a newsletter about Christianity, masculinity, and the modern world, I particularly think about the way to act from that perspective. But most of these thoughts apply to everyone. Our credibility and trustworthiness in the future will be shaped by how we behave now.
What makes this particularly challenging is that we find ourselves in a time of great uncertainty when we don’t always know who to trust or what to believe or what we should do – or even what we can do. Events are unfolding at a very rapid pace that is difficult to keep up with. While the virus has directly affected relatively few people so far, millions of people are suddenly facing real financial risks. Some people, such as restaurant employees and small business owners, are already facing dire financial prospects.
I don’t like to give advice, and that goes double in these circumstances. But I do know we all need to find ways to lead. This doesn’t need to be “heroic” but does need to be about the way we are caring in everyday life for our family and neighbors.
Everyone’s circumstances, personal skills, and inclinations are different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all. Part of leading is to accept that you are responsible for figuring it out in your unique situation. But I want to share two things I’m doing as a Christian husband and father. These are rooted in existing life practices inspired by a pastor of mine who profoundly shaped how I live as a Christian.
The first thing I’m doing is making sure our family is intentionally and corporately putting our trust in God. This sounds like a platitude but it is not.
For a long time when I experienced bad times I was hesitant to publicly express much confidence in God, particularly around non-Christians. Because I wasn’t sure he would come through in the way I hoped, I was afraid this might end up making him look bad to others. I almost felt I had to protect God against harm to his reputation.
What this reveals of course is that my own faith was weak. Something my pastor used to do in these situations was to gather his wife and six children together and pray to God and trust in him corporately for difficult situations they were facing. For example, one time the transmission in their van went out. It was going to cost several thousand dollars to fix and represented a major financial burden to them. He gathered his family together and repeated the prayer of King Jehoshaphat from 2 Chronicles 20. In that story, an army of Moabites and others was invading Judah – an army so big there was no hope of defeating them. Jehoshaphat gathered all of Judah together, including the women and children, and prayed to God, reminding him of his promises to them. He led his people as king by praying before them, “We are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” God provided a great victory for Judah without them even having to fight. Similarly, my pastor lifted his family’s van repair need before God, who provided a means for them to get it fixed.
I have adopted this approach as a pattern, even though my son is still too young to really appreciate what is going on. When we face difficult circumstances as a family, whether that be a health issue with our son or financial challenges, we come together and corporately bring them to God and place our trust in him. While there’s no guarantee of what will happen, he will be faithful to us in whatever the future brings. Just as trying times are our opportunity to demonstrate our leadership to others, they are a time for God to demonstrate his faithfulness to us. Let’s be sure we are once again first putting our trust in him. Because, friends, God is faithful. Those who put their trust in him will never be put to shame (Ps. 25 and Rom. 10:11).
The second thing I’m doing is making sure our family is in submission to the governing authorities (see Rom. 13:1–7). Let’s be honest, this is an age in which the authorities of this world are often not worthy of our trust. But God has called us to submission to authority even and perhaps especially when that authority is not particularly worthy of our trust or when we are in disagreement (see 1 Peter 2:11–3:7). I want my wife and son to respect my leadership, so I need to be sure to submit to the authorities over me, who also have a sort of fatherly assignment from God. Of course my family is praying for them too, as we are also commanded to do (1 Tim 2:1–2).
Those are two of the things I am personally doing right now. I would encourage you to think about how you can lead and conduct yourself as a Christian and a citizen in this time. Trust in institutions has been declining steadily in recent years. I’m not so naïve to suggest that the coronavirus will finally bring a reckoning for failed leaders and institutions. But we can take this opportunity to be part of the rebuilding of societal trust by walking in a manner worthy of our calling, leading well, being faithful in what’s in front of us, and earning the trust of others for the future. And in this time of uncertainty, let’s rely on God for our future. Because, as he said to King Jehoshaphat through his prophet Jahaziel, “Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.”