Back in August I asked for writing suggestions, and today I’m tackling one of the many topic requests I received (just kidding it was the only one I received!). The subject being dynamics in blended families. And what a topic that is! But I’ll broaden it a bit to what I’ll call “tricky family dynamics,” something most of us will deal with at some point.
Whether it’s having a blended family, a broken family, or simply a family with strong personalities, unsaved relatives, or sinful human beings (which applies to all of us!) — there’s usually a little dysfunctionalness somewhere in each family.
Perhaps what’s so frustrating about these tricky family dynamics is we’d never choose them, but we are stuck with them (the problems that is, I won’t say that about the people). Very rarely do personalities or complicated relationships change to a dramatic degree. Thus, dealing with the dynamics well is crucial — for our sanity of course, but more importantly, because we want to please God through it all.
With that said, here are 5 thoughts on honoring God in whatever type of family drama you find yourself in:
#1 Know your role
The starting point is always understanding the explicit commands God’s given us in relation to our families. Some of these might be easier to live out, while others might prove to be a challenge. Consider passages like Colossians 3:18-20, Proverbs 29:15, or 1 Timothy 5:4 that talk about how to deal with a spouse, children, parents, aging parents, and relatives in general. Even if your family came to be what it is through complicated means (divorce, death, remarriage, etc), you’re still supposed to own the role related to the title of your position as wife, mom, child, grandchild, etc.
At times, this is easier said than done. In which case living out your role becomes a matter of prayer and perseverance. Ask God to help you stick in there and do all he’s called you to do, and sometimes, that’s all you can do.
#2 Be gracious
People all around us think and act and live in ways that are different from us and it’s not that big of a deal; But for whatever reason, family members and their various lifestyles and personalities have a way of getting under our skin! While we could analyze why, ultimately we just need to be more gracious.
The best way to think about the bothersome traits of family members is to consider how you want them to think about you. In all likelihood you don’t do everything right, and it’s possible things about you can easily bother them, but what do you hope they will do? Without a doubt, you want them to overlook the differences and love you anyway! You want them to be gracious with you and all your faults. And so you should do to them (even if you think they have more faults than you)!
#3 See where you can grow
As I said earlier, we are usually stuck with our family problems. However, the bright side is we get to become more aware of our weaknesses. Think about it: short-lived relational issues might reveal sin in our hearts, but we often move on and forget about it. Unless, the relational problems keep coming up over and over again. The repetitive nature of our family issues showcase our deeply ingrained sin.
Even if you play no part in creating the dysfunction in your family dynamics, I bet the messiness of it all shows you that you’ve yet to become as patient and loving and forgiving as Jesus. So see your tricky family dynamic as an opportunity to get more sanctified!
#4 Don’t talk bad about family members
I sometimes wonder if we think the command to not gossip or slander doesn’t actually apply to talking about family. Oh, but it does.
I’m thinking it applies when we vent to people who don’t even know our family members. I’m not saying we can’t ask for prayer about family dynamics or seek godly counsel about our relational issues, but I am saying we should do it carefully, so as to not thoughtlessly slander or gossip.
Not to mention, it does nothing good for our hearts if we verbally throw our family under the bus. It probably just exacerbates our frustration. So back to the old saying, “If we have nothing nice to say, we shouldn’t say anything at all.” Translation being, we should keep our mouth shut instead of venting.
#5 Pray for those you struggle with most
Since we can’t vent, we might feel trapped — until we remember that we can pray! God sees everything, he sees if you are being treated wrong, or he sees how hard you’re working to love your family well. Talk to him.
It’s especially good to purposefully pray for the family members you struggle with most. Maybe they need your prayers, maybe your prayers will help them become better family members, but mostly, as you pray for them, your heart will become softer towards them. You will see them with more loving eyes, you will want good for them, you will care about their needs and their struggles more. And without a doubt, your growing concern for them will help you interact with them in a more God-honoring way.
Embrace Your Mess
The truth of the matter is, no one has a perfect family. In heaven we will, but until then we have the opportunity to please God in so many ways through our family relationships.
So today, thank God for putting you in the family he’s put you in. You might not have chosen all the messiness that comes with it, but you are there for a reason, and God can use you, and grow you right where you are, tricky dynamics and all.