Over the last few weeks, many of us have friends who have boarded up their homes and evacuated them for safer ground as deadly storms approached their cities. The devastation left behind as these storms have plowed through coastal cities with wind, waves, and rain is both horrifying and humbling. As these storms have worked their way into the heartland of the U.S. countryside, the winds and rain have continued to wreak havoc with floods, tornadoes, and mudslides. How awful for all these families who have lost loved ones, homes, memories, and dreams.

However, these devastating storms are nothing compared to the damage done by the onslaught of the storms that ravage our families from the inside — infidelity, pornography, violence, and divorce. Figures shared by Focus on the Family and others have suggested that the percentages of these problems in families who claim to be Christians are not much different from those in the world. Despite three decades of marriage and parenting seminars, these percentages have only gotten worse. While some of these percentages may have some logical explanations, one truth confronts us as a believing community: there is no spiritual justification for these overwhelmingly high numbers.

With the approach of a whole new era in human history as the post-modern generation enters into adulthood, the Christian community must awaken to a new reality. Touchy-feely explanations and pleasant sounding words about good intentions mean nothing to this new emerging era of young people. They do not trust a truth espoused by those who are unwilling to live it, demonstrate it, or walk its talk. In other words, it's time we put our lives where our mouths are or our young people will not share our faith.

Where do we begin to reverse the lack of faithfulness among us?

I don't claim to be an expert, but I do believe there are a couple of obvious steps where we must begin.

First, we must return to a Jesus-centered solution. Seminars and counseling are crucial; however, these answers are all too often disconnected from their crucial spiritual center — the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We must begin by calling each other to an unconditional surrender to the Lordship of Jesus. This means obeying his words and following his example even when the costs are high. This is the center of the New Testament's teaching on marriage and family relationships. Jesus is both our model and Lord on how to live with each other in relationships — all relationships, including those in our families. (Ephesians 5:21;  Philippians 2:1-11)

This leads us to the second crucial beginning point. In many of our churches and among many of our people, we have come close to making our marriages and families into our real god while relegating our allegiance to the one true and living God to the backseat of life. Think about the following questions and what they suggest.

  • How frequently have you heard someone suggest that we need to cut things out of our hectic lifestyle, especially "kid things" involving extra-curricular activities, so they don't crowd into our schedules and put off our commitments to God?
  • How often do you hear someone suggest that they can't go on vacation because they don't want to give up a commitment they've made to the Lord?
  • When was the last time we emphasized in church, class, or small group that we must love God above our families?
  • How often do we pray that our allegiance to Jesus' commands be demonstrated through our obedience to him as our Lord in our daily lives as families?
  • Have you recently heard a young husband or wife remind us that our commitment to Christ and his work must come before our families' whims, wishes, financial demands, recreational activities, or perceived needs?

This is no simple fix.
Jesus' call was not intended to separate us from our families, but to put our priorities in order. However, he does demand to come first. We don't find our faith by centering our lives on our families, but our families can find their center and their cohesion by being drawn to God at the center of our individual lives. "Seek first his Kingdom," Jesus says to us, "and all these other things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33) We mustn't put the cart before the horse! God will allow no other God to take his place.

We cannot still the storms that rage and threaten to destroy our families any more than we can stop hurricanes. However, we can be better prepared for them. Unfortunately we will continue to be unprepared if we do not challenge each other to Christ-centered commitment, character, and cohesion for families. Maybe rather than renewing our vows to our marriage partner this year, we should renew our commitment to live the way of the Lord in our families — a commitment to live above our feelings, hurts, and weaknesses regardless of what those around us choose to do and to choose the things of the Lord above all other competing interests.

This is no simple fix. In fact, this is an awfully costly commitment. This commitment insures that our relationships are tied to something substantial; something that can outlast the storms. We can get our families through the storms and to the place we want them to be only when we invite the Lord into the center of our storms and ask him to take command of our rocking boat. Let's invite him into our boat!

That evening his disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn't come back, they got into the boat and headed out across the lake toward Capernaum. Soon a gale swept down upon them as they rowed, and the sea grew very rough. They were three or four miles out when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, but he called out to them, "I am here! Don't be afraid." Then they were eager to let him in, and immediately the boat arrived at their destination! (Cf.  John 6:16-21)