It’s an intense time we’re living in. It’s not the first time things have been so critical, and it certainly won’t be the last, but many families have taken a number of serious blows. Covid has been wreaking havoc on families here in Israel with some 1.6 million suffering from acute emotional distress, according to one report.1 But the Bible offers us great hope.
As we try to get back on our feet from the devastation of Coronavirus, good family relationships are key to a stable society. Families can be a source of strength, comfort, security and encouragement to help us weather all kinds of storms. How can we help strengthen our families?
Families under fire
Life is stressful even without pandemics. This fallen world is no stranger to tragedy, loss and brokenness, but many of our coping mechanisms were taken away by the lockdowns. We can’t just go and visit friends, give or receive hugs, share meals with extended family or even stroll around where we’d like to.
Speaking to Tel Aviv based media outlet, ILTV, psychologist Dr. Kamila Forkosh Lavan warned that at least 20% of Israelis have been emotionally traumatized by Covid-19.
Dr. Forkosh Lavan warned that children were taking the brunt of the stress. They have been put in and then whipped out of their schools and kindergartens at a dizzying speed, all while at a stage of life critical for forming relationships and social bonds. This young generation has received the message that other people and the outside world are a source of danger rather than delight. Social situations now cause anxiety like never before for many children, and their social and educational development is suffering as a result. It’s not just children who are suffering either – lack of access to entertainment and other facilities mean that people of all ages are losing their ways of handling stress and blowing off steam. The elderly don’t have access to lifelines of visits and seeing family, and family shabbat meals and holidays are no longer times to get together.
In order to try to support families and repair the damage, Forkosh Lavan suggested that maintaining calm at home would give children the message that they did not need to be afraid, and that the same applied within society in general. Certainly, an atmosphere of peace at home can be a great bulwark against a raging storm outside.
The importance of family
Families can look very different, but there are some important principles God has put in place to give us that strong foundation in life. The Torah has many instructions for healthy, happy families, including the importance of marital faithfulness, respect for parents, and family times such as Shabbat and the feasts. Following the Torah kept the families of Israel remarkably strong throughout the millennia, especially when out in exile.
Ironically since returning to Israel and becoming more secular, families have been sadly suffering. Over 130,000 households are now single parent families – that’s one in eight children growing up with only one parent at home, the fifth-highest rate in the OECD.2 Abortion is legal, easily accessible and state-funded. Approximately 40,000 Israeli babies are aborted every year, 3 killing children who had a right to live, and leaving women with heavy emotional baggage to carry.
While God has been clear and consistent throughout His word about the sanctity of marriage, promiscuity is rampant in Israel and same-sex unions are celebrated. But you cannot have the security of loving families without the commitment of loyalty and covenant. In giving us His laws God is not stealing our freedom, but showing us the path to healthy communities built on the foundation of loving homes. As is so often the way, we think we know better than God, and only when we’ve gone too far down our own path we can see it has taken us far away from where we wanted to be. God knows us and He loves us. His law is good.
These are the days of Elijah…
It all reminds me very much of Elijah’s battle with Jezebel to win back the heart of the people. Our society suffers from a chronic fracture between children and fathers, but this is something God longs to address. He is our ultimate Father, and He is able to turn hearts around.
Elijah’s prayer, so short and simple, seems as pertinent today as it was on Mount Carmel almost three thousand years ago.
“Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” (1 Kings 18:36-37)
This passage about turning hearts back is referred to by the prophet Malachi, saying that God would send Elijah to, “turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents” (Malachi 4:5-6). Later, Luke’s gospel reveals that John the Baptist was the one Malachi spoke of, preparing Israel for the Messiah:
“He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16-17)
John the Baptist, the unborn cousin of Jesus, was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb and was the first to recognize the Messiah! His calling was to prepare the way of the Lord, and point to the One who can bring healing between fathers and children, between Israel and their God.
1. ILTV https://youtu.be/x5WRwM10zmA
This article originally appeared on One For Israel and is reposted with permission.