Christmas and holidays and birthday parties and family celebrations and extended family vacations….
Do these words fill you with joyful expectations and warm fuzzies as you think about your extended family relationships?
Or, would you rather spend time with your dentist undergoing a root canal?
We choose our friends. We don’t choose our family members. But, for better or for worse, our family members seem to stick with us through life.
What can we do when family relationships go sour?
1. There is no such thing as family relationships without problems and conflict.
Family drama and conflict dates right back to Adam and Eve and the first sin. Immediately after eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve started pointing their fingers and blaming each other for their problems. Then they had two sons, one of which grew up and murdered his brother.
The patriarch Jacob had serious marital problems (including polygamy) and sons who hated each other so much that they were willing to sell their own brother Joseph into a life of slavery.
King David committed adultery, leading to chaos within his home – including the rape of one of his daughters by her half-brother and the death of two sons.
Even Mary and Joseph did not have perfect harmony within their home. Jesus’ brothers mockingly accused Him of trying to gain popularity. They did not believe that He was the Son of God until after He rose from the dead. (John 7:3-5)
There is no such thing as a family without problems and conflict. All families are made up of individual sinners. There will be conflict. There will be minor disagreements. There will be major annoyances. And, at times, there may even be all-out wars.
2. Accept that you cannot change people.
You cannot change any person in your family. As much as you want people in your family to shape up, lose their annoying traits, magically see things from your perspective, or suddenly choose to make completely different decisions, it’s probably not going to happen.
We cannot change people. But, we can take our difficult family relationships to God in prayer. And, the wonderful thing about taking these relationships to God in prayer is that God has the power to transform our hearts and our perspectives within the difficult relationships.
We need to take the difficult people in our families to God – and then let Him change our own hearts and attitudes.
3. Determine your own response.
Family members may try to hurt us. But they can’t control us. We determine our own responses.
We can choose to be bitter and angry over past offenses. We can choose to focus on only the negative.