When Conflict Fractures Your Family

The mission of Desiring God is helping people all around the globe find joy in Jesus Christ. So many things undermine and destroy joy, maybe none more so than disharmony in our homes and families.

So what things are most apt to steal your joy?

We asked this question in a recent Ask Pastor John episode, and what follows is a lightly edited transcript of John Piper’s transparent self-reflection for ministers (and for everyone facing the pain of family fractures).

My kids. My marriage. My soul in response to my kids and my marriage. If things are sweet at home you can stand almost anything in the ministry, at least that is my experience. The hardest battles for me have been emotional battles within my family. Living by the Spirit doesn’t prevent hard relational things from happening in the ministry, it just gets you through them with hope, and in the end, with joy in the sustaining grace of God.

That is pretty weighty to say the biggest joy-stealers in the ministry are not deacons, not elders, not counseling issues, not people who leave the church, not notes you get in the mail from disgruntled parishioners. Those problems are nowhere as emotionally depleting as conflict in a marriage, or kids that are disappointing you (or you are disappointing them). So here are some implications.

(1) Investment in a happy, Christ-honoring marriage is not separate from ministry. For me it was part of the power of ministry. And I don’t just mean that my ministry is legitimated because elders are supposed to have well-behaved homes (1 Timothy 3:2–7; Titus 1:6–9). That is not what I mean. I mean the actual motivation for doing ministry rose and fell with the authenticity of Christian living at home. And so it wasn’t merely asking, “Do I qualify?,” like some external rule that I had to meet, but rather, “Can I survive?” Is the burden that I feel at home depleting so much energy I won’t have anything for Sunday morning? So to invest in the family was to invest in my survival, not just my qualifications.

(2) Investing in the joy and welfare of your children is not separate from ministry. Part of a sense of authenticity rose and fell with them as well. Hypocrisy is not only a great sin, it is a great weakener. If you feel like you are inauthentic with your kids, like you are one thing in the pulpit and your kids see you as another thing, it is going to be very hard to keep going. It is a power depleter. It is an underminer of real spiritual authority in the pulpit and power in people’s lives.

(3) When struggles inevitably come at home, don’t go underground with them. Entrust yourself to the elders and to close friends. Enlist prayer. Get the counsel you need. This is for the sake of ministry, not just for the family. It’s all woven together.

(4) When the storms come, don’t quit. Satan wants you to quit. He is as active as anybody in this thing, and he wants you out of the ministry, or at least out of fruitfulness. Satan wants you paralyzed with discouragement. Tell him to go to hell, which is where he belongs, and then bank on the promises of God that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). That promise has been very precious over the years as I have gotten in Satan’s face about his temptations.

(5) When storms come — and they will — don’t manipulate your kids or your wife. Don’t tell them, “Now, if you don’t behave, you are going to disqualify me from ministry.” That is just an absolutely wrong thing to say, because that kind of obedience isn’t obedience. You don’t want kids or your wife thinking about your ministry that way and you shouldn’t ever jerk them around like that, or use your role as a kind of lever to try to get their hearts to be right with God. That is counterproductive, and it’s not going to work. There are reasons for children to obey, and reasons for children to walk in joyful holiness, and that’s not one of them. If a kid is just containing his worldliness to keep daddy’s job, that kid is going to explode some day and do more damage than if he had been honest. And so dad shouldn’t encourage that kind of hypocrisy in his kids.

(6) Cry out to the Lord for help. That is what I did over and over again. “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). With temptation we usually think of sexual temptations, but the Greek word (peirazō) means testing as well as temptation: “he will not let you be tested beyond what you are able.”

I have seen light at the end of a tunnel that seemed impossibly dark. So that is God’s answer to that promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13. He will make an opening at the end of this tunnel. “Trust me. Hold on. Don’t doubt me in the dark. I am a God of light and I will be with you.”


You can listen to the audio of the episode here (7 minutes):


Next Week

Five new episodes are queued up for next week, including, “Can Christians cuss to prove a point?” (Tuesday), and, “If my church lacks available singles, should I leave to find another one?” (Thursday).

Tuning In

Ask Pastor John is a daily podcast series of 3–8 minute conversations released each weekday at 10:30am (EST) through the DG Facebook and Twitter feeds. You can tune in to the new episodes through the free Ask Pastor John mobile app for iPhone and Android. We’re currently hosting all the recordings on SoundCloud, a website making it easy to listen to several of the podcasts in one sitting. They’re also syndicated in iTunes, and select episodes are being adapted to video and offered in DG’s YouTube channel.

We want to hear from you. To submit a question to Pastor John please include your first name, hometown, and brief question via email: AskPastorJohn AT desiringGod DOT org.

Thanks for listening!