Living in harmony during isolation

Living in harmony during isolation

I do hope that you love your family, whatever form that family takes. And that you like the people in your household if you share a house with others. Even though you do love them, our current confinement together can put pressure on every relationship.

Most people are a little more sensitive than normal and perhaps slightly more anxious and stressed. This can lead to all kinds of arguments in households over little things; something like how a dishwasher should be stacked can lead to bickering and shouting. Having the children home compounds the issue in some families; everyone gets irritable later in the day.

This is something that is often observed in couples who have recently retired. After many decades of more limited contact, a couple now need to navigate spending almost all their time together. Instead of the handholding along a beach that superannuation funds promote, early retirement can be full of conflict and irritability. Unfortunately, it also is a time of life with a higher divorce rate.

When we spend a lot of time together with the people we love, it can reveal a lot about what our relationship with them is really like. If we haven’t been investing in that relationship, now we find we share a house with people we barely know. If we have been working on placing others’ needs above our own, this current situation will possibly deepen what is already deep.

How can Christians navigate relationships in this time of heightened stress and close contact? We need to remember some important principles:

  • The current situation is not the fault of the others in your house. It is easy to snap at someone simply because they are nearby, when they had nothing to do with your stress and anxiety. We need to channel our anxiety into prayer; so many of the Psalms are full of believers casting their anxieties on a loving God. Don’t punish those around you for what they are not guilty of! Make sure you apologise if you are guilty of this.
  • Remember that as people saved by grace, we need to be agents of grace towards those around us. Christ died for sinners, not people who were already perfect (Rom 5:8). Our family members or housemates might be anxious and frankly sometimes deserve us to shout at them; that doesn’t mean we should. We need to be quick to show grace and slow to retaliate. It’s a terrible thing to live in a household where everyone tries to pay everyone else back for every little thing. Let things go. Intentionally show grace where you are tempted to only show justice.
  • Like all situations, this is given to us by God. How can you use this time of closer contact with your loved ones well to the glory of God? Perhaps you have noticed that your relationship with your children is strained and more distant than you would like; do something about this. Get involved in a project together or just have walks in the park with that child. Perhaps you can intentionally spend time talking to your spouse. Really talking, not just exchanging information. Be honest, dream together for the future, and consider how to serve the church together. This could be the making of a much better relationship; it doesn’t need to be the death of it.

Friends, we have an opportunity amid the pressure on our relationships. Be intentional about serving those you love and showing grace. If all we do is pass the time watching TV or reading or doing puzzles, one day our lives will return to normal and our closest relationships will be the same or worse than they were before. Be intentional. How can you love those closest to you today?