Blended Families Part 4: The Goal of Life
In previous posts (see list at bottom) we’ve looked at some of the problems that are often present in blended families. We’ve talked about taking the logs out of our own eyes so we can see clearly. We’ve looked at some of God’s promises and, in the last blog, we talked about changing our goal from liking each other to loving each other with God’s kind of love. But there’s an even bigger goal that needs to become our number one priority. Paul talked about it in 1 Corinthians 5.9:
9 So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him.
Our primary goal individually and as a family should be to please God—not to get along, not to have our needs met, not to feel loved or appreciated, but to please God. We please God by becoming more like His Son (Matt. 3.17; Rom. 8.29), by obeying His Word, and by making His priorities our priorities.
Psalm 128.1-4 (NLT) says:
1 How joyful are those who fear the LORD—
all who follow his ways!
2 You will enjoy the fruit of your labor.
How joyful and prosperous you will be!
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine,
flourishing within your home.
Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees
as they sit around your table.
4 That is the LORD’s blessing
for those who fear him.
The Lord’s blessings are contingent on fearing God and walking in His way. Isaiah 43.7 says we were created for His glory. Whatever we do, including blending a family is to be done in a way that brings Him glory.
What is “His way” concerning the family?
It starts with the husband and wife relationship. Genesis 2.18, 24:
18 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
The man and the woman are to leave their parents and be joined to their spouse in a covenant of companionship. The parent-child relationship is a temporary one. That means we’re not only to leave our parents, but we’re to be preparing our children to leave our home one day.
The husband and wife relationship is to be permanent and given priority. The one flesh relationship is much more than just sexual, it’s a bonding of two lives: physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, and socially.
When the Apostle Paul gave instructions for the Christian family, he first addressed our relationship with God, then the husband-wife relationship, and then the parent-child relationship (Col. 3.16-21; Eph. 5.15-33, 6.1-4). The husband-wife relationship is to be second only to our relationship with God.
The husband and wife are to be a unit, functioning together as a team, making decisions and working to solve problems together.
But, sadly, in many blended families, biological parents side with their children in disputes, are more permissive with them, and grow to have an us versus him or her mentality.
A biological parent may believe the step-parent is harsh or lacks understanding. All of this can be complicated by shared custody, different parenting styles, angry or manipulative children, feelings of guilt over a divorce, or a general lack of understanding about biblical principles.
One step-mother’s experience (the names and some of the details have been changed):
“Monday through Friday things are pretty calm. But come Friday night when Joe picks up his son, Jesse, everything changes. Jesse is younger than my two children, so they’re expected to let him have his way. I’m not allowed to discipline him because his mother wouldn’t like it. He’s a picky eater, so he usually demands something special for meals, often requiring a trip to the store. The whole week-end is structured around what Jesse wants. He stays up late, is over-tired the next day, and whines when things don’t go his way. My children are hurt and angry and I usually end up taking them to the movies or out for pizza just to keep the peace. Joe and I both end the week-end exhausted. I got married so Joe and I could share the load, but I feel like I do everything I always did, plus trying to keep conflict to a minimum. On top of everything else our relationship is suffering. We don’t talk because we just end up arguing and we don’t have the energy to do anything else.”
“I guess I expected Liz to understand. I don’t get to see my son all week, so I need to give him my undivided attention. It’s true that I do worry about how we handle things involving discipline; I want to keep the peace with my ex-wife. Liz gets upset about everything anymore. She complains that I don’t discipline Jesse, but he’s only three. And she thinks I talk to my ex too much, but what can I do: sometimes she needs my help. I thought Liz and the kids would want to do things with Jesse and me, but they take off and do their own thing. Sunday night we fall into bed, sometimes hardly speaking to each other. And it takes a couple of days before Liz even wants to talk to me. I feel like we’re growing apart and I don’t know what to do about it!”
If the marriage relationship is to become the priority, what changes can Joe and Liz make that would be pleasing to God?
First, they need to understand that having a solid marriage is one of the most important things they can do for all the kids. Protecting their marriage provides stability and gives children a godly example for their own future marriages.
Liz is fearful that her children aren’t being treated fairly and Joe is too concerned about what his ex-wife will think. They need to stop making decisions based on guilt (Rom. 8.1; 1 Jn. 1.9) or fear (1 Pet. 3.6). Instead, they need to seek God’s wisdom (Jas. 1.5) and get input from one another (Eph. 4.15, 25-27, 29-32).
They need to begin to see the family, including all the children, as a whole. They need to make plans for their time together and find activities that will benefit everyone.
Joe isn’t loving his son biblically by allowing him to think he’s the center of the universe. Instead, he needs to reassure him of his love while teaching him to love others and see their needs as more important than his own (Phil. 2.3-4). And contrary to what some might think, he’s not too young to begin understanding these principles.
Joe also needs to realize that while he should keep the lines of communication open with his ex about their son, he shouldn’t spend undo time talking to her or trying to “keep her happy” (Prov. 29.25). His primary focus needs to be pleasing God and developing his relationship with Liz. He needs to be extremely wise in his conversations with his ex and any communication he has with her needs to be with Liz’s knowledge and input.
Liz on the other hand needs to understand Joe’s hurt and loss concerning the time he has with Jesse and she needs to accept the fact that there needs to be some godly communication with his ex about their son. Any concerns she has should be shared lovingly and privately, and not discussed and complained about with her children. She needs to teach her children to love Jesse biblically instead of being focused on themselves (Phil. 2.3-4). But that needs to be accompanied by an effort on Joe’s part not to show partiality and his willingness to discipline Jesse if he is acting selfishly toward them.
Both Joe and Liz need to sit down with all the children and confess their sins of partiality and other ways they’ve failed to love one another biblically (Matt. 5.23-24). They need to seek their forgiveness and let them know that they are working to do things God’s way.
Joe and Liz, also, need to work on their relationship with one another. They need to find some way to spend time together as a couple. It might be taking an evening walk together, going on a date night, meeting for lunch regularly, or having a quiet dinner after the kids go to bed. They need to find time to really talk, not just about the kids and problems, but showing interest in each other, and doing things they enjoy doing together.
Joe needs to start leading his family spiritually with Liz’s help (Eph. 5.22-6.4). If they’re not already going to church, they need to begin attending a good biblically sound church where all members of the family can grow (Heb. 10.25).
They should look for ways to serve God together, as well. Getting involved in something bigger than themselves can add an eternal perspective to their lives.
Each of them needs to develop a personal quiet time where they pray, read their bibles, and if desired, other biblically sound material (Ps. 1.1-3, 119.9, 11; Phil. 4.6; Lk. 18.1). Joe needs to take the lead in having family devotions on a regular basis, whether that’s once a week or more often. It can be something as simple as reading a chapter of Proverbs together or using a family devotional book.
All of them need to be growing through their own personal time with God, their family devotions, and church involvement (possibly including small group attendance, youth activities, etc.).
God’s Way & God’s Help
Doing things God’s way is a high calling and none of us can do it without God’s help. The good news is that God wants to help us have the kind of families He desires for us. But His help starts with a personal relationship with Him. We won’t have the will or the power to do those things that please Him without His Holy Spirit living in us.
If you’re not sure of your relationship with God, talk to a pastor or another mature Christian. You can also read my post, “Salvation by Grace Alone through Faith Alone” or feel free to ask questions in the comments section.
Pleasing God on Your Own
You may be trying to do things God’s way without the help and support of your spouse. I want to encourage you that one person seeking to do things God’s way can make a huge difference. Simply focus on your part and do it faithfully, in spite of anyone else’s reactions or behavior. And let God begin to deal with the other people involved. Again, please feel free to ask any questions you might have.
Share Your Story
If you have a blended family I would love to hear from you. How have you applied these and other biblical principles? How has God worked? Please share your testimony. You never know what an encouragement it might be to someone else.
In Blended Families Part 1: The Losses & the Gains I talked about the losses that many members of blended families face. Understanding those losses can increase our patience with each other and lead to great gains.
And in Blended Families Part 2: The Same Only Different 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.
In Blended Families Part 3: Loving Not Liking Each Other we looked at how we must learn to love each other biblically and what biblical love looks like on a practical level.
Some of the subjects I’ll cover in future blogs:
Blended families in the Bible
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!
Your questions, please share them in the comments section.
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