“We shape our families. Our families shape us. The cross should shape both.”

I am a daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, cousin, wife, mother, aunt, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, daughter-in-Christ, sister-in-Christ. At the very least, you, too, are somebody’s child and grandchild. And if you’re a child of God, you’re included in a spiritual family as well.

Families are harbingers of great joy and great sorrow, often at the same time. Your family past and present may be picture-perfect or full of trauma, or even some of both. Whatever our experiences, God designed family flourishing as an integral element of creation and therefore one of our deepest, natural desires.

The family is one of the ways God has imprinted his relational nature on us.

But, as author Dr. Russell Moore points out very early in his manifesto, “The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home”:

All of us are part of families. And all of us our fallen.

So, families are also one of the ways God has put the Gospel on display in our messed up world.

Reshaping Perspectives on Family

I strongly believe that the only effective advice comes from the Bible, and when we have a problem or a question the only lasting solutions and truths are those affirmed by the Word of God.

But too often, when it comes to discord among family and especially in marriage and parenting, we are too quick to turn to wordly advice, step-by-step guides, and Christian self-help. We don’t really need more of love languages or parenting theory, we need more of Love Himself.

That’s why Dr. Moore’s book won me over from the first page. In his scripture-saturated view and in every chapter, he continually posits that “[the topic at hand] ought to remind us of what we see at the cross.” And then he shows us how Jesus’s work on the cross reshapes our perspectives of the church as a family, men and women, marriage, sexuality, divorce, children, discipline, family tensions and trauma, and aging.

Dr. Moore’s goal for writing can be summed up in the conclusion of Chapter 1:

… sometimes whatever home you make for yourself will seem to be tossed about in an uncontrollable storm. To make it through, we must recognize why family is so important to us, and why family can never be ultimate to us. We must see the family clearly, but we must see beyond it. The only safe harbor for a storm-tossed family is a nail-scarred home.

Empathetic Truth-Telling

Throughout these 300 pages, Dr. Moore takes aim at both the commonly accepted views of our modern culture and, perhaps even more poignantly, American church culture. He is very direct yet empathetic in his attitude, showing deep concern for the actual people he’s addressing while not being afraid to talk bluntly about pornography, divorce, abuse, and how Halloween is secretly his favorite holiday. And he riddles every viewpoint with references to scripture.

Ultimately, in constantly pointing back to the cross, Dr. Moore reminds us of our calls to:

  • approach the family as spiritual warfare
  • die to ourselves
  • first be disciples
  • stick to our commitments
  • be humble
  • offer radical forgiveness
  • focus on the eternal, not the temporal
  • be families on mission together
  • approach “discipline” as training
  • dependence on Him and others
  • expect storms

We start to be made right when the subtle whisperings of the Holy Spirit show us just how terrible and messed up and wrong we really are, but how good and powerful and steadfast God is. In the horror and beauty of the crucifixion, we find the horror and beauty of the family, and the answer to living it out well. 

If you give attention to more than just the wind and the waves, you might see some hands reaching out for you. In fact, you may notice that those hands already have you, holding you safely above the waters below. You are not as tossed about as you think you are. If you stop to recognize it, you just might notice that those hands holding you have spike-holes. Do not be afraid. The scars remain, but the storm has passed.

Whether your family story is in the midst of the storm or floats peacefully on calm waters, this book is for you. Let Dr. Moore’s teachings bring fresh, Biblical understanding to the family experiences you’ve had as well as the ones to come, offering freedom, hope, and wisdom to live out your cross-shaped home.

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