Keeping Your Family Together
Family life has always been stressful. It is difficult to keep your family together in a world where families are falling apart. Remember, Adam’s family was so full of stress and tension that their oldest son, Cain, killed his younger brother, Abel (Genesis 4:1-15)! Bible families certainly were not foreigners to stress.
The stresses and storms of life tear some families apart and make others stronger. We can learn what ingredients make strong, happy homes that withstand the storms of life. Here are 5 ingredients of a happy home:
The one principle God places first is commitment. The word means “to give in charge or trust, to deliver for safekeeping.” Sin began with a broken commitment. God committed part of the universe to Lucifer, and Lucifer broke that commitment, trying to elevate his throne above God’s (see Isaiah 14). Human sin also began when Adam and Eve were deceived by the enemy into breaking their commitment to God and betraying His trust of them (see Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-24).
Commitment to God and commitment to others are related. If one is committed to God, he or she is more likely to be able to commit to another person and be responsible for that commitment.
Commitment is at the core of the wedding ceremony, with each person committing to the other for life. There are many times when married people do not feel like being married, but they are committed to marriage. They committed themselves to God and to each other, and with God’s help, they are able to keep that vow.
Love and Affection
Love and affection are the glue that holds healthy families together. One of the devil’s most effective weapons in destroying our relationship with God and each other is to cool our affection and cause us to take each other for granted.
The Greek language has four words for love, all of them important in a marriage:
- Agape: This is the unconditional acceptance that love invites a person to participate in. This is the type of love that enables trust.
- Storge: This is family love. This is where we many times fall short, because we do not create a love for the idea of family or the sense of family. It is the underlying commitment you have made to God and to each other that helps you get through the tough things families experience.
- Phileo: This is sibling love, “brotherly love,” and parents are largely responsible for engendering this sibling love in children – rather than sibling rivalry.
- Eros: This is the passionate form of love, from which we get our word “erotic.” Some people want eros without agape, without storge, without phileo. But we need to see the whole concept of love developing a dimension at a time, from unconditional love that permits trust to passionate love between husband and wife.
Do you know that God unconditionally accepts you in Jesus Christ? He has an agape love for you. He wants you to open your heart to Him today.
Compassion may be defined as sorrow for the troubles of another with an urge to help them. So compassion is really the ability to imagine yourself in another person’s place – to feel their pain, sense their need, have an urge to help them.
Most couples struggle with having compassion for each other. It is hard for a man to have compassion for his wife, or a wife to have compassion for her husband. There is this thing we call the gender barrier that makes it hard for us to understand each other’s world.
Men and women are different hormonally, chemically, and structurally. All this goes into making the world look different to us. A woman generally views life relationally, a man instrumentally. That is, a woman thinks in terms of another person’s feelings; a man thinks more in terms of just the facts. A man can help a woman be more objective about life. And a woman can help a man have more subjective feelings about life.
Christ was able to have compassion on us because, through the mystery of the Incarnation, He became one of us (see Hebrews 4:15). He put himself in our place so He could see the world from our point of view. Through the miracle of the new birth He helps us put ourselves in His place to see the world from His point of view.
Healthy couples mentally practice putting themselves in each other’s place. This is difficult, but it really increases understanding and compassion for couples.
If you want to keep your family together in a world where families are falling apart, become a compassionate family.
If you have ever been in a country where you were a foreigner, you know how important communication is to meaning and direction in your life. When other people cannot understand you and you cannot understand them, frustration comes easily.
Here are seven skills that will improve any couple’s marital communication:
- Become an accepting person. Do not expect to improve everything a person says in order to accept him or her.
- Be an active listener. When you are listening to a person talk, give him/her your full attention.
- Have compassion. Develop a real sense of what the person is saying by developing a real desire to help him or her.
- Develop the skill of mental rehearsal. Play out in your mind what you are trying to say and how to say it. Rehearse before you say it. Do not “shoot from the lip.”
- Develop the skill of mental editing. Put yourself in the hearer’s position, listen to what you have mentally rehearsed, then reshape it accordingly before you say it.
- Learn the skill of self-disclosure. As an expression of trust, share something with your spouse that he/she would not know about you unless you told them.
- Practice feedback. Self-disclosure is what I say to you; feedback is your supportiveness and what you say to me about my self-disclosure.
The Importance of Passion in a Marriage
The dictionary says passion refers to extreme, compelling emotion. As it relates to marriage, passion refers to strong love or affection, including strong sexual desires.
How does this intense passion find expression in Christian marriage? Paul uses the relationship between Christ and the Church as a model for teaching married couples how they should love each other. There is no doubt about the intensity of Christ’s love for the Church, and Paul admonishes husbands to follow that example (see Ephesians 5:22-33).
Here are 10 things a couple can do to keep the sparkle in each other’s eyes and the flame in each other’s hearts – to keep the passion alive in their marriage:
- Give each other visible evidence of maintaining a passionate relationship with Christ. Let each other see your interest in the Word and worship and prayer life.
- Deliberately address each other in affectionate terms. Tell each other in the way you address each other how much you love and adore each other.
- Frequently express physical affection to each other. Touch each other. Put your arms around each other. Kiss each other. There are discreet and appropriate ways to express affection for each other in every situation.
- Keep regular date nights. I would recommend once a week; I think your marriage is going to starve on less than two or three a month.
- Do not neglect each other sexually. Mentally remind yourself of how long it has been since you made love and do not neglect this part of your lives.
- Develop the ability to discuss your sex life freely and comfortably. Only about 10 percent of couples can do this – and that includes both churched and unchurched couples.
- Do something fun together every day. Play games together. Take walks. Do something both of you consider to be fun.
- Plan thoughtful surprises for each other. This does not have to be expensive, just something that shows you care and are thinking of your spouse.
- Take three or four weekends a year to go away together and nurture your marriage.
- Remember each other on special days.