“A family is a place where principles are hammered and honed on the anvil of everyday living.”
If you and I are supposed to believe every happy photo we see on social media, then almost all of our friends have perfect relationships with their parents, siblings, spouses, children, and grandchildren.
If you read the prayer requests on the Blessing Counters Pray Page. you will quickly realize the number one thing driving people to God’s throne of grace is the need to have their closest relationships healed and restored.
Relationships are hard and it’s understandable, really…
We’re all uniquely created with different personalities, interests, likes, quirks, gifts, talents, wants, abilities, opinions, and flaws.
Besides all of those personal differences, there are countless social, economic, and environmental issues that put strains on our relationships. Not to mention a whole host of private and public concerns that impact our lives every day.
Some say there is a war being waged against the family. I don’t know, maybe it’s true.
Something I do know to be true—because relationships are hard, they require a lot of work.
Which leaves us with a choice…
We can either fight for our relationships with those closest to us or we can give up, focus on the problems and just wait to see what happens.
If you’re ready to fight with all you’ve got, I’d like to share the five things I believe are most important when it comes to building strong family relationships that last.
1. Strengthen Your Family – Make Loving the Lord Your Greatest Family Priority
Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”
I almost made this one simply, “Make the Lord Your Greatest Family Priority.” But it’s too easy to get caught up in the “doing” of faith and forget about loving the Lord.
We’re a ministry family. Seriously, we were at church all the time. And yes, we talked about the shoulds and shouldn’ts of faith and living for the Lord—the “doing of faith.”
I wish we had spent more time with our children simply LOVING him…simply responding to his love. Less “doing” and more resting, trusting, seeking, relying, praying, and praising.
You can find out more about what it looks like to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength – here.
2. Strengthen Your Family – Make Showing Love and Extending Forgiveness Non-negotiable.
A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.
1 Corinthians 13 says love is…
Patient, kind, enduring, and hopeful!
It also says it’s not…
Boastful, envious, irritable, or rude.
Loving our neighbors like that is hard … loving the people who share the place where we let down our hair and reveal our ugly parts … that requires extra grace and forgiveness!
We call it EGR – Extra Grace Required.
And we all have days when extra grace is required, don’t we?
Yep, forgiveness is essential if we want strong family relationships.
Besides forgiveness … loving each other well includes honesty, respect, and kindness. Which is why it’s important to be thoughtful and patient, as well as being a good communicator (someone who chooses their words well, listens intentionally, and controls ugly and unpleasant emotions).
See why you and I need to make forgiveness non-negotiable?
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
The verse before says…
Clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Maybe we should make a visual reminder to leave those important “clothing” items on when we walk through the door rather than hanging them with the jackets in the closet.
Whew! I need that reminder myself!
3. Strengthen Your Family – Make it Important to be Intentional and Present.
Being a strong family takes time . . . working and playing together.
But it’s hard to spend time without our tech distractions, isn’t it?
Last weekend, I heard one of the If:Gathering speakers say the following when asked how she balances family, ministry, business … you know, how she balances LIFE?
She answered by saying she tries to be intentionally present where she is.
When she’s at home with her children, she allows them to hide her phone so she can focus on her family. When she’s at the office she concentrates on the tasks and people there. When serving or traveling for ministry, she pours herself into ministry. (If you can remember who said this, please let me know in the comments. I’d like to give her credit.)
And I love that message! It’s simple!
With so many things vying for our attention … I love the idea of simply being intentionally present wherever we are.
Jesus was the perfect example of intentionally being present and you and I are called to represent Him…
Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
4. Strengthen Your Family – Make Prayer Powerful in Your Family.
They all met together and were constantly united in prayer.
Looking back on the years our children were living at home, I wish we had been even more intentional about prayer.
Oh, we had several memorized prayers for mealtime and bedtime. We prayed over problems and big needs. We prayed in church and during devotions.
But if I had to do it again, I’d teach my children to take every little thing to the Lord in prayer.
We would praise him in prayer. We’d confess, repent, and ask him for forgiveness. We’d be more honest about our fears and surrender each day to his care and direction. We’d talk to him about our needs and celebrate every little blessing of provision.
Here’s a list of things you can pray for and with your family…
5. Strengthen Your Family – Make It Easy to Laugh and Have Fun.
The other night, I was sitting in the living room looking at my iPad. It was our usual time to sit down and recap the day for an hour or so.
When Rev saw that I was distracted by my email and social media he grabbed his iPad and joined me.
After about 10 minutes, I realized … that this time typically spent in conversation and laughter was passing without any engagement at all. I set my iPad down and so did he.
I want to make it more important for me to laugh and make memories with my family, than it is to check the latest posts on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.
As I watch our daughter’s family … they play tons of board games. They encourage our grandson to tell jokes, riddles, and funny stories. They play catch. And they sing and dance around the house. They’re making memories!
I can’t remember ten percent of the things I read on social media, but I will always remember the heart imprints left when I laugh and have fun with my family.
Maybe you’d call me old fashioned … in many ways I am.
But with so many of our family relationships being labeled as strained or broken, it may be time for us to intentionally do some of the things that at least give us a fighting chance.
It’s a simple list really…
- Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
- Love out loud and forgive each other always.
- Be intentional and present wherever you are.
- Pray about everything.
- Laugh, have fun, and make happy memories ofte.
“Life is short, live it. Love is rare, grab it. Anger is bad, dump it. Fear is awful, face it. Memories are sweet, cherish them.”
Don’t give up! You can strengthen your family.
Your family is worth fighting for!
And if you have broken or strained family relationships … don’t give up on them either.
Keep praying. Keep hoping. Keep loving!