So you met that guy or gal and you thought … “Life was going to be wonderful!” You loved each other, so you were sure everything else would just work out. You knew there would be some adjustments, but you weren’t prepared for what has happened. It seems like conflict has broken out on every front and no one seems to even like each other anymore to say nothing about love!
Blended Families Part 3: Loving Not Liking Each Other
In part 1 I talked about the losses that many members of blended families have faced. Understanding those losses can increase our understanding and patience and lead to great gains.
And in part 2 I shared that while blended families have unique problems, the root issues are the same as those we all face. I also shared an incredible promise from God’s Word that applies to blended and biological families alike.
This week we’ll look at the incredible opportunity we have in blended families to demonstrate God’s love, beginning right now, even in the midst of the turmoil and strife.
In some ways it’s understandable that problems surface. You see … in biological families love grows naturally over a period time. Mutual attraction, shared interests, and loving feelings draw a couple together and, hopefully, continue to grow as the marriage progresses. Children arrive and their parents fall in love with them as they hold them, care for them, and nurture them through infancy and childhood. Children’s feelings for their parents form naturally, as well.
But in a blended family, couples marry and then realize their “ready-made” family has all the problems, personality issues, and pressures of other families, plus some, without the bonds of affection and loyalty that naturally form over time.
Instead, those bonds often exist only between the husband and wife. Children are expected to welcome new siblings and another parent into their lives without any real bonding, in many cases. And step-parents may find it hard to like children who are often hostile or indifferent. Before long it can even put a strain on the husband and wife relationship.
But God has provided all the help Christian step-families need. First, remember some of the promises we discussed in earlier blogs. 1 Corinthians 10.13 says that He won’t give us more than we can handle if we’ll focus on doing things His way and Philippians 1.6 says He’s going to complete the work He started in us.
The book of James should encourage us yet more. James wrote:
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. 5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking (1.2-5 NLT).
Instead of being discouraged, see your trial as an opportunity for great joy! As believers, we can trust God to use it for our good (Rom. 8.28-29). It’s spiritual “weight training” that God is using to grow us into mature believers.
And if we need wisdom, we can ask God who will give it—generously!
But we must start asking for His wisdom and when we do, we’re to ask in faith, not doubting (Jas. 1.6-7). Part of not doubting is trusting that God’s way is the best way (Is. 55.8-9), in spite of our feelings to the contrary.
Much of God’s wisdom has already been given to us, but we need to look for it in His Word. As we discover God’s wisdom, it will mean change, beginning with our thinking.
If a blended family is going to thrive, or even survive, they need to adopt some different goals and strategies. Rather than learning to like each other or just get along, they need to choose to love one another biblically.
Why is that so important and how can it possibly work?
When asked about the most important commandment, Jesus responded, “’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. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matt. 22.37-39 NLT).
Your family members are your closest neighbors and Jesus said we’re to love our neighbors as we already love ourselves. That may seem impossible in the midst of turmoil, but Philippians 2.13 says “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Loving each other may be impossible in your own strength, but if you pray and allow God to work in and through you, He’ll give you the willingness and the grace to do it.
What does it mean to love one another? Does it mean to conjure up warm, fuzzy feelings? No, in fact, that’s not even possible. But biblical love isn’t primarily a feeling. We might define it this way:
Biblical love is a purposeful, beneficial action for the benefit of another and the glory of God without expecting anything in return.
Love is action. It’s doing. It’s how we treat those we’re called to love.
1 Corinthians 13.4-7 says:
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
We can choose to do the things that love does. We can choose to exercise patience even when the other person is tempting us to be impatient. We can choose to demonstrate kindness to those we live with, even if we’re not getting the same in return.
Kindness might be taking a rebellious step-son to the movies or out for pizza without lecturing him about his behavior. It might mean tucking a small iTunes gift card into your step-daughter’s algebra book. It might be playing catch or going to the park with that child who defiantly said, “You’re not my dad!” the night before. It might be giving a frustrated spouse a hug instead of responding in anger. Look for ways to show kindness to those in your family.
Love doesn’t demand its own way. It’s not selfish. It doesn’t matter how you’ve always done things. Love lays down its rights for the benefit of another (Phil. 2.3-4).
Love is not irritable! Ouch! It’s easy to be irritable, but it’s not helpful or loving. Irritation is just low grade anger and it’s often used to get our own way or punish someone we think has wronged or inconvenienced us.
It keeps no records of wrongs. Love doesn’t keep score. It covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4.8). It forgives.
It doesn’t rejoice over injustice. It doesn’t secretly gloat when someone “gets what they have coming.”
It “never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
That might seem impossible but the Apostle John said, “We love, because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4.19). Because He has loved us, we can love others. We can take the love He has poured into us and bend it out toward others. He didn’t wait for us to act right or show appreciation. While we were still sinners, He died for us (Rom. 5.8).
John goes on, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn. 4.19-20) and in an earlier chapter he said, “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions” (1 Jn. 3.18 NLT).
Love—it’s the “Great Commandment.” It’s what we’re called to do as followers of Christ. So quit trying to merely like each other or just get along. God has called us to something much grander, something much more powerful! Love—it’s the most powerful weapon on the face of the earth! More soon …
Next week … Part 4: God’s Way & Our Goal
If you have any questions on the subject of blended families or things you would like to see addressed, please let me know in the comments at the bottom. I’ll be glad to keep them anonymous if you request it.
Some of the subjects I’ll cover in future blogs:
Blended families in the Bible
The goal of life for blended families
The F-word in blended families—favoritism
How to prepare your children for being in a blended family
Damage control—healing the mistakes
Dealing with in-laws and out-laws
Helping your child be part of the “other” blended family
Dealing with “exes”
You’re not my dad!
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