Brokenness is standard fare for families in today’s culture. Many homes are literally broken apart, while many others are broken from within. In fact, brokenness has become the norm. In today’s American family, strife, contention, anger, and resentment are quite common. Weak marriages, frustrated parents, sin ravaged home environments, argumentative teens, neglected children—this is the stuff of family life in 2010. Sad. The fact that Christian homes also fall into this category is even more sad.
Brokenness is certainly not what God intended. Perhaps this article finds your family in the midst of brokenness—your home life has been reduced to contention. Nobody likes this—not parents, not kids. And everybody knows this isn’t how it’s supposed to be—especially for Christians. So what’s the solution?
The difference between a contentious family and a happy one is not as elusive as you might think. It’s not fate or luck. It’s not that one family just happens to get along and another doesn’t. All families face the same potential for contention and conflict. Successful ones just handle it differently—biblically.
Your family probably doesn’t need a complete rebuild, months of counseling, or psychotherapy. And you’re certainly not stuck in mediocrity. There is hope. The difference between happy families and fractured families is smaller than you think—simple values and practices that any family can learn.
What are they? What simple things does God’s Word teach us that have huge impacts on family life. I would liken these practices to atomic bombs—small packages, big results! Why? Because God honors them. These are the things that move God to work in family life. So, suppose you’re in over your head with family contention. Suppose we were sitting at a coffee shop with a Bible. These are the “prescriptions” God would give you to heal what is broken in your home.
Step One—Regularly Ask for the Filling of God’s Holy Spirit. If you are in over your head, welcome to the club! That’s why we all need God’s supernatural help to overcome our natural tendencies. Ephesians 5:9 teaches that the fruit of the Spirit “is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” Only God’s Spirit can bring together the different personalities in your home to dwell together in peace and unity.
Step Two—Pray Together Consistently. Pray as a couple, pray with your kids, pray as a whole family. Pray on the way to school, before bed, and just randomly during the day. As simple as this is, it’s difficult for many families to do. Why? Because the devil fights it big time! God will accomplish more in three minutes of prayer than you will accomplish in three hours of arguing or three days of resentment. Every night before bed, take a quiet moment with each child, kneel by their bed, focus on them, and pray a short prayer of love, protection, and gratitude over them. Let them pray too, if they will. If not, just pray out loud. I promise, your relationship will change! James 5:16 teaches that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” and 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.”
Step Three—Resolve Conflict Immediately. Contentious families have mounds and mounds of built up hurt that has never been resolved. When arguments fly, tempers flare, and anger rages, the mess is left like a truckload of trash dumped in the living room floor. It rots. It stinks. It keeps hurting our hearts. And future flare ups are made more frequent and more intense because of the pile of past hurt still laying around.
Conflict isn’t absent from happy homes; it’s just resolved. Healthy families pick up the mess when an explosion has occurred. Parents apologize to kids. Kids apologize to parents. Spouses apologize to each other. And prayer together puts every heart back on the stable ground of relational sanity. Whatever you do, don’t let conflict go unresolved. Colossians 3:13 teaches us to forebear and forgive one another, and Romans 12:18 admonishes us to “…live peacably with all men.” A good start to resolving conflict would be to approach a family member and sincerely ask, “How have I hurt you?” Listen. Don’t defend yourself. Eat humble pie and make it right.
Step Four—Play Together Abundantly. Contentious families have usually stopped playing together. They stopped having fun with their family a long time ago. Healthy families still plan fun. And frankly, kids who grow up loving God will nearly always tell you of someone (usually parents) who helped them see and experience the joy of being a Christian! Are you making life enjoyable for your family, or do they go elsewhere to find enjoyment? What light does that cast on your faith, your relationship with God, and your values? Does your joy make biblical living more attractive to your children?
When is the last time you planned a great time for your family? Healthy families balance rules with relationships and never get over the fun of just being a family. Isaiah 61:10 says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul will be joyful in God.” It’s hard to do that if you’re always grumpy. And grumpy people repel kids—it’s that simple.
There are three practices which we will examine in part two of this article which will post soon. Ask God to help you consistently apply His principles in your family.