Happiness Is Possible in a Divided Household
“How do you know but that you will save your [mate]?”—1 CORINTHIANS 7:16.
CAN YOU FIND THE ANSWERS?
What can Christians do to have peace in a divided household?
How might a Christian help his family to accept the truth?
What can we do to help those who live in divided households?
1. When someone accepts the truth, what can be the effect on his family?
ONE time when Jesus sent out his apostles, he said: “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” (Matthew 10:1, 7) This good news would bring peace and happiness to those who accepted it with gratitude. But Jesus warned his apostles that many would oppose their preaching work. (Matthew 10:16-23) Family opposition can be especially difficult.—Read Matthew 10:34-36.
2. Why is it possible for us to be happy even if our family is not in the truth?
2 Does this mean that we cannot be happy if our family is not in the truth? No. Even though some Christians have strong family opposition, not all do. Also, family opposition may not be permanent. Whatever our situation, it is possible to be happy if we react in the right way when family members oppose us or when they show no interest in the truth. Also, Jehovah helps those who are loyal to him to be joyful even under difficult circumstances. Christians can be happier if they (1) work hard to have peace in the home and (2) sincerely try to help their family accept the truth.
WORK HARD TO HAVE PEACE IN THE FAMILY
3. Why should a Christian work hard to have peace in the family?
3 The family is more likely to accept the truth if there is peace in the home. (Read James 3:18.) Even if the family does not yet worship Jehovah, a Christian must work hard to have peace in the family. How can he do that?
4. How may we keep our inner peace?
4 We must keep our inner peace, or calmness. To do this, we need to pray for “the peace of God that excels all thought.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) Happiness and peace result from learning about Jehovah and living according to Bible principles. (Isaiah 54:13) We also need to have a share in congregation meetings and to be zealous in the field ministry if we want to have peace and happiness. Those who live in a divided household can usually find a way to do these important things. For example, one sister named Enza has a husband who is violently opposed. * (See footnote.) She goes out preaching after she has finished her housework. Enza says, “Jehovah richly blesses me with good results each time I make the effort to share the good news with others.” These blessings give her peace, satisfaction, and happiness.
5. What can be hard for those whose family is not in the truth? Where can they get help?
5 We need to work hard to have peace with family members who are not in the truth. This may be difficult because sometimes they may want us to do things that are against Bible principles. Some in our family who are not in the truth may become angry when we loyally follow the Bible. That should not stop us from doing what is right. If we work hard, someday we may have peace in the family. Of course, we do our best to cooperate with the family when something is not against Bible principles. In this way, we avoid unnecessary disagreements. (Read Proverbs 16:7.) When there is a problem, it is important to seek Bible counsel from publications of the faithful and discreet slave class and from the elders.—Proverbs 11:14.
6, 7. (a) Why do some oppose family members who begin to study with Jehovah’s Witnesses? (b) How should a Bible student or a Witness react to family opposition?
6 We can have peace in the family if we trust in Jehovah and try to understand how our family feels. (Proverbs 16:20) Even new Bible students can try to do this. Some unbelieving husbands or wives may not oppose their mate if he or she studies the Bible. They may even say that this could be good for the family. But others may show strong opposition. Esther, who is now a Witness, admits that she got very angry when her husband began studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses. She says, “I either threw out his literature or burned it.” Howard opposed his wife when she began to study the Bible. He says that many husbands are afraid that their wives are joining a religious sect that has deceived them. He also says that since a husband may think that his wife is in danger, he may speak and act harshly.
7 We should help a Bible student whose mate is opposed to understand that he does not have to stop his Bible study. He or she will often be able to improve the situation by being gentle and by showing respect for his or her mate. (1 Peter 3:15) Howard says, “I am so grateful that my wife stayed calm and did not overreact!” His wife explains that Howard demanded that she stop studying the Bible because he thought that the Witnesses were deceiving her. She explains: “Instead of arguing, I said that he could be right, but I also told him that I could not honestly see how. So I asked him to read the book I was studying. He did so and could not disagree with what it said. This deeply affected him.” It is important to remember that people may feel lonely or think that their marriage is in danger when their mate leaves them behind to go to the meetings or in field service. But the Bible student or Witness can speak kindly and lovingly to his or her mate. This will help the mate not to worry.
HELP THEM TO ACCEPT THE TRUTH
8. What counsel did the apostle Paul give to those whose mates were not Christians?
8 The apostle Paul advised Christians that they cannot leave a marriage mate just because he or she is not a Christian. * (See footnote.) (Read 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.) It will help a Christian to be happy if he remembers that someday, his mate may accept the truth. But it is good for him to be careful about the way he tries to help his mate understand the truth, as the following experiences show.
9. What must a Christian be careful not to do when he introduces Bible truth to his family?
9 Jason was very excited when he first learned the truth. He says, “I wanted to tell everyone!” When a Bible student realizes that what he has learned from the Bible is the truth, he may be so happy that he talks about it almost all the time. He may expect his family to accept the truth immediately, but they may not agree with him. How did Jason’s wife react to his excitement? She says that she felt that he never stopped talking about the truth. One woman who accepted the truth 18 years after her husband did says that she needed to learn it gradually. You might be conducting a Bible study with someone whose mate has no desire to accept the truth. It would be good to show the student how he can explain the truth in a kind way that does not upset his mate. The prophet Moses said: “My instruction will drip as the rain, my saying will trickle as the dew, as gentle rains upon grass.” (Deuteronomy 32:2) A few words about the truth said in the right way and at the right time will often do more good than a flood of words.
10-12. (a) What advice did the apostle Peter give to those whose mates are not Christians? (b) How did one Bible student learn to follow the advice written at 1 Peter 3:1, 2?
10 God inspired the apostle Peter to give wise advice to Christian wives whose husbands were not Christians. He said: “Be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:1, 2) By being humble and showing deep respect for her husband even if he treats her harshly, a wife may be able to help him accept the truth. And a believing husband should behave as God wants us to behave and be a loving family head even if his wife opposes his beliefs.—1 Peter 3:7-9.
11 Many Christians today have benefited from following Peter’s advice. Selma is one example. When she began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, her husband, Steve, was not pleased. He says that he became angry, jealous, and afraid. Selma says that even before she learned the truth, he was not easy to live with. She had to be very careful about everything she said and did. She also says that he had always had a bad temper, but this problem became even worse when she started studying the Bible. What helped to improve the situation?
12 Selma remembers a lesson she learned from the Witness who studied with her. She says: “On one particular day, I didn’t want to have a Bible study. The night before, Steve had hit me as I had tried to prove a point, and I was feeling sad and sorry for myself. After I told the sister what had happened and how I felt, she asked me to read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. As I did, I began to reason, ‘Steve never does any of these loving things for me.’ But the sister made me think differently by asking, ‘How many of those acts of love do you show toward your husband?’ My answer was, ‘None, for he is so difficult to live with.’ The sister softly said, ‘Selma, who is trying to be a Christian here? You or Steve?’” Selma realized that she needed to change her thinking. She said: “I prayed to Jehovah to help me be more loving toward Steve. Slowly, things started to change.” After 17 years, Steve accepted the truth.
HOW OTHERS CAN HELP
13, 14. What can we do to help those who live in a divided household?
13 Just as gentle drops of rain soak the ground and help plants to grow, each of us in the congregation can help those who live in a divided household to be happy. Elvina in Brazil says, “The love of my brothers and sisters was what helped me to stand firm in the truth.”
14 Kindness and interest from the brothers and sisters in the congregation can change the heart of an unbeliever. A brother in Nigeria who accepted the truth 13 years after his wife did says: “While I was traveling with a Witness, his vehicle broke down. He sought out fellow Witnesses in a neighboring village, and they gave us accommodations for the night. They cared for us as if we had known them from childhood. Right away, I felt the Christian love that my wife had always spoken about.” In England, a sister who came into the truth 18 years after her husband did remembers: “The Witnesses invited both of us for meals. I always felt welcome.” * (See footnote.) A man from England who eventually became a Witness says: “Brothers and sisters would visit us, or we were invited to their homes, and I found that they had a caring attitude. This was especially noticeable when I was in the hospital and many came to visit me.” Can you show similar interest in the families of those who are alone in the truth?
15, 16. What can help those who are alone in the truth to continue to be happy?
15 Of course, even if we do what is right and witness in a kind way for many years, not everyone in our family will accept the truth. Some will still show no interest or will remain strongly opposed. (Matthew 10:35-37) But when we show Christian qualities, this can have very good results. One man who became a Witness after his wife did says that one may not even know how those beautiful Christian qualities will affect the mind and heart of the unbelieving mate. He also says, “Don’t ever give up on your unbelieving mate.”
16 Those whose family members do not accept the truth can still be happy. One sister has made an effort to witness to her husband for 21 years, but he has not accepted the truth. She says that she has been able to keep her joy by trying to please Jehovah, by being loyal to him, and by working to have a stronger relationship with him. She also says that she keeps herself busy by doing personal study, going to meetings, preaching, and helping others in the congregation. This has helped her to feel closer to Jehovah and to stay faithful to him.—Proverbs 4:23.
DO NOT GIVE UP!
17, 18. What can help a Christian in a divided household not to give up?
17 If you are a faithful Christian in a divided household, do not give up. Remember that Jehovah will not leave his people. (1 Samuel 12:22) He is with you as long as you stay close to him. (Read 2 Chronicles 15:2.) So find joy in learning about Jehovah, and “rely upon him.” (Psalm 37:4, 5) “Persevere in prayer,” and have faith that our loving heavenly Father can help you to endure all kinds of difficulties.—Romans 12:12.
18 Pray to Jehovah, and ask him for his holy spirit to help you have peace in the family. (Hebrews 12:14) If you do this, it is possible that you will have a good influence on those in your family who are not in the truth. You will be happy and will have inner peace when you “do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Also, you can be sure that your brothers and sisters will give you their love and support.
^ par. 4 Names have been changed.
SOME EXPRESSIONS EXPLAINED
Religiously divided household: A family where not everyone is a Witness of Jehovah
Unbelieving mate: A husband or wife who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses
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Our worship of Jehovah gives us peace, satisfaction, and happiness
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Jehovah helps us to be joyful even under difficult circumstances
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It is important to have patience when you try to help your family learn the truth
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Choose the right time to explain your beliefs
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Show interest in unbelieving mates