Given the state of our culture today, it may appear that a lot of men don't care enough about their families. Perhaps there's some truth to this. However, I believe that most husbands and dads love their wives and children a great deal. Yet, overtime, a sense of apathy has taken hold of their lives. They truly care, but they just don’t know how to break free from the rut they find themselves in.
I've been there before as well. We all have big plans and want to be successful for our families. However, things happen and life doesn't always turn out the way we thought it would. For most men, it's times like these that too often define our identities, and the passion we once had for our families begins to fade. Yet it doesn't need to be this way.
Here are four reasons why some men often fall into a season of apathy toward their families and some ways to help them reignite their passion as a husband and a father.
1. Failure has overtaken their courage.
Given time, every man will fail at something. Some of the most honored men of our times were perceived as failures and lived through some very tough years. I can only imagine the Facebook posts or tweets that would have been created regarding the lives of Winston Churchill or Abraham Lincoln—most would have been very negative and demeaning. Yet history proves that these men rose to a level of success that made them true heroes. Their courage ultimately won over their failures.
As men, we need to see success and failure like Churchill:
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." –Winston Churchill
When courage fades within a man's heart and soul, apathy and discouragement are likely to take its place. For the Christian man, courage goes hand-in-hand with one's faith. I love John Wayne's definition of courage, "Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway." Regardless of our past or sense of hopelessness, we walk by faith and not by sight. We look to God as our source and strength and not ourselves. We always saddle up—whether we feel like it or not, and we trust God with the results.
Look at the life of Moses. Before he rose as God's instrument of delivery, he went from royalty to becoming an exiled shepherd living in obscurity for 40 years. I have no doubt that he fought with the idea of failure and lacked courage at times. However, by trusting in God, Moses found the courage to become one of the greatest leaders of all time.
I once read that courage is the willingness to show up even when the odds tell us not to. Our wives and children need us to show up every day for them. Wives, believe it or not, your words can help make or break your husband. When a wife speaks words of encouragement, versus nagging or complaining, it fuels courage within a man's heart and life's many failures are kept in perspective.
"Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." Proverbs 12:25
2. They've allowed the circumstances of life to define who they are.
Within every man's life, battles will be won and lost. Yet it's not the battles that define us. Our identity needs to be defined by The One who has called us to the battlefield. When we hold fast to Christ, we bear His fruit and all things are possible. Apart from Christ we can do nothing (John 15 Mark 10:27). As God's men, the circumstances around us don't define us—Jesus Christ does. This is exactly what David did when he literally ran to the battlefield to fight Goliath. He knew that the battle was in God's hands and not his own. William Carey, a missionary to India, expressed it like this: "Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God."
Whether we "win or lose" a battle, God is with us. While winning is important, God cares most about the character of the man and not our winning percentage (1 Samuel 16:7). If we can root ourselves here, in Christ, the good and bad circumstances of life will not define who we are and how we live. Rather, the circumstances of life will become opportunities to display God's character and hope within us.
"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5
3. Their wives don't respect them as men—at least, this is what they perceive.
If a man has the sincere sense of respect from his wife and feels valued by her, he is a blessed man and will tend to thrive in his role as a husband. Yet the opposite is just as true. If a man perceives that his wife doesn't respect him, he’ll struggle as a man and will grow to resent the wife he once loved.
A number of years ago, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs' book Love and Respect became a best-seller around this one simple concept: A wife needs to know that her husband loves her, and a husband needs to know that his wife respects him. Based on my own marriage and having counseled many others, this simplistic ideal of love and respect is an undergirding truth that can make or break a marriage. It is based on a verse that many married couples know well.
"However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." Ephesians 5:33
Wives, don't let your husbands kid you. Even if a man doesn't deserve respect or act like he wants it from his wife, it is something he desperately desires. Every man wants to be respected by his wife and needs to know that she values him as a man. However, for many men it's hard to break away from their past and set a new course to follow. The encouragement of a faithful wife can make a world of a difference in a man that is trying to regain his courage and confidence.
For husbands, the more we love our wives in a regardless manner, the more they will show us the respect we need to have. Dr. Eggerich makes it a point in his book to tell both the wife and the husband not to wait on the other. As men we are called to lead our families and need to be willing to take the first step—regardless. Jesus set the example for us. We lead best when we love most.
4. Their children don't value them as a mentor.
As a father, there's nothing more humbling than to know that my life is helping to set an example for my kids. God's word directs our children's attention toward their parents, and the father plays a key mentoring role. The book of Proverbs is filled with a father's instructions to his children. Our lives as dads should mirror this. However, too often, our schedules are filled with the busyness of work and other activities and our children are given the "leftovers" of our days. As days turn into years, it's not uncommon for children to lose respect for their absentee fathers. It pains me to think that I've done this at times over the years.
Yet it's not over until it's over. For every dad out there, regardless of our past, we can resolve to be involved in our children's lives from this day forward. While it's not a guarantee, most children will respond favorably over time when they see their dad making a sincere effort to build into their lives. If your child's pain is deep and filled with years of building bitterness, it may take some time to heal those wounds. Just remember Moses. He spent 40 years in the desert before God showed him the way out. Never give up on your kids and keep praying to God to show you the way.
These are four reasons that can lead a man into a season of apathy toward his family. However, for most men out there, it's not where they want to stay. As Christian men, we must continue to be there for each other—three cords are not easily broken. If a man falls down, another man is there to pick him up. Even when we don't feel like it, we need to saddle up and be the men our families need us to be. Like Moses, our courage is not defined by who we are. Our courage is made real by the God we serve.