Have you ever felt like someone else’s family was so much cooler than yours?
Have you ever envied the love you see in another family?
Have you ever been hard on someone in your family because they don’t treat you the way another family treats each other?
Have you begun to let a root of bitterness spring up in your heart because your siblings, spouse, parents, or dependents don’t live up to your expectations?
I understand those feelings. And to be a little transparent and vulnerable, I’ve felt them, too. My family certainly isn’t perfect – no family is – but I know, more than a time or two, I have been trapped into comparison, bitterness, and complaining about my family, as well.
But these are some of the things that God has taught me and reminded me of every time I begin to go down the cancerous path of complaint. (Hint hint: most of these revolve around this theme – I can be the difference maker. #mindblown)
Your prayers for your family are more powerful than you realize. Instead of tearing down someone in your family why not lift them up. Tearing down your family to someone actually brings you all down. But lifting them up to God will do more to make your family better than anything else ever will!
You can create peace by speaking their language(s). Each person in your family processes situations and emotions differently. They see things from different angles, hear phrases with different emphases, and say things with different intentions from you. It’s almost like you’re all speaking different languages. So, learning to be emotionally intelligent, about yourself and your family members, can be incredibly helpful to influencing your family in the right direction. You know what they say: knowledge is power. (Side note: maybe utilizing a knowledge of the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator or the Five Love Languages might help in this area. I personally, love the Enneagram.) If you are aware of how each one of your family members hears, sees, and says things, you are so much further along to creating a peaceful environment at home, one that will honor Jesus and that your neighbors will crave.
Your private character will influence your public interactions. It shouldn’t be as amazing as it often is: who you are on the inside will eventually reveal itself on the outside. You can’t expect to keep up the facade of happy family relationships if you are selfish, mean-spirited, grace-less, or vengeful on the inside. You can’t expect to feel the love from others in your family if you manipulating them to get it. You can’t expect the arguments in your home to hide themselves from the public forever. Eventually, the kids will grow up and move out; eventually, a story will slip; eventually, someone will look for help because what’s happening at home is putting them at risk. And when that happens, what was private will then be public.
The converse it true, also. When you are grace-filled, kind, generous, and forgiving, it will publicly show in peace, joy, and compassion. Though it was never intended as a public spectacle, eventually the kids will grow up and move out; eventually, a story will slip; eventually, someone will look to offer help because of how they saw generosity play out at home. Your private character will influence your public interactions.
You can prevent wildfires by putting out the sparks and smolders instantly. Here’s a revolutionary thought: often the biggest arguments start from the smallest disagreements or offenses. Once I discovered this, it became clear that I could actually do something to completely eradicate of all the huge disagreements, fights, and tension I experienced at home. I discovered that I if was quick to address small misunderstandings, offenses, or disagreements before they ever got big, I would never have to deal with a big fight again (as far as I was involved)! How cool is that? And you can harness this power too! You can prevent huge, destructive wildfires in your family: always be fast to put out the sparks and smolders as soon as you notice them.
Your willingness to make the first move will be proportional to the change that your family experiences. And this cuts both ways: Your willingness to apologize will be proportional to the peace your family feels. Your willingness to forgive will be proportional to the love your family feels. You can lead up and you can lead out. Your words and actions are more influential than you realize, no matter how little you think your family is paying attention. So make the first move (I’m pretty sure Jesus said something about it, too).
You are blessed to be a part of your family. It is not a blessing that everyone is able to experience in this world. For many different reasons, there are millions of foster kids, widows, and enslaved humans (just to give a few examples) in this world who have never experienced what a family feels like. Don’t take this blessing for granted. Stop belittling your family. Instead of complaining about their differences, be the one who makes a difference.
You have been put in your family by God for a reason. God placed you in the specific time and place and home on purpose. It wasn’t an accident. The apostle Paul said in Acts 17, “From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him…” (17:26-27). In other words, God’s glory is displayed in the open invitation of the Gospel and is revealed (or concealed) by how you live within the time and space you have been placed. God’s glory is testified to by how your family relates to each other. You say something about God to the world when there is peace and forgiveness in your family. You also say something about God to the world when there is strife and bitterness in your family. So don’t check out; lean in, and choose to believe that the hard work of creating peace – even at personal cost – is worth it. It is, in fact, eternally worth it!
Keep praying for your family. Again, nothing will change for good if God is not in it. A family that is built on any other foundation than God will not be strong enough to weather this world’s storms. So lift them up to God. Your prayers for your family are more powerful than you realize (yes, I sad that at the top…because it’s the most important one).
Like I said above, these are some of the things that God has taught me – and often reminded me of – when I begin to go down the cancerous path of complaint. And the thing that is so mind-blowing is that most of these revolve around this theme – we can be the difference makers; we don’t have to wait for someone else to make the first move. And when we do, we discover this freedom: we don’t have to complain about our families anymore! In fact, we can finally be a part of a family worth bragging about!
What about you? What are some other things that God has spoken to you about your family? I would love to keep the conversation going in the comments below!