Family gatherings are a big part of our culture and our life. We usually gather with our families at least four times a year, sometimes more.
When there is tension and strife between family members, family gatherings go from fun to exhausting and stressful.
I too have been there where I was dreading going to family gatherings. After we got married, gatherings were a highlight.
So much good food, laughter, and fun. Yet, the years brought along with them more in-laws, more dissension, and differences of opinions.
It’s hard when families start falling apart because of different beliefs and stubborn minds.
When there is strife and dissension in the family, it makes you wonder if family gatherings are really that important.
Do we have to go?
My husband and I both come from a long string of large families. Our parents grew up in households of 12 plus siblings, and while both of our immediate families aren’t that large, we still have a number of siblings.
I love large families. We have five children of our own, and I wouldn’t trade my large family for a small one.
However, one thing is for certain. The more people there are, the more different viewpoints and opinions there are.
Yet, even in small families strife and arguments can arise.
Why Are Family Gatherings So Stressful?
I believe a huge part of why we struggle so much with family gatherings is when we don’t feel accepted and loved for who we are.
Everyone wants to have a great relationship with their family, but a lack of acceptance is a huge part of why many struggles with family gatherings.
They would rather stay away from those that have the ability to hurt them the most.
Differing opinions will always be. Being able to speak the truth in love, and willing to give up our self-will is vital for a strong relationship.
If there is little acceptance for differing opinions, there is guaranteed to be strife in the family. God created us all differently, but the Bible also commands us to live peaceably with all men, as much as lies within us.
How to enjoy family gatherings again
It can be super tempting to stay home when you have a family gathering where they are expecting you. However, staying at home is what our flesh wants at that moment.
Facing a difficult day is never easy, but by the power of God, you can go and be a light for Him. Running away from our troubles is never the answer, and by trusting that God will give you the grace for the day.
His grace is sufficient for you. God will help you to curb your tongue, be swift to hear, and slow to speak.
Pray Before You Go
Ask God for help before you leave. You will probably have prayed a lot for the situation that you are in, but before you leave, get on your knees and pray fervently for the wisdom and strength that you will need for that gathering.
Jesus is your anchor during this difficult time too.
He gives you the strength for the time that you need it.
So many times when I have been dreading a get-together and I pray beforehand, the day turns out so totally different than I expected. There have been many times where I’ve been able to say to my husband, “that went much better than I expected.”
See Others The Way Christ Sees Them
Ask Jesus that you might see others the way He sees them. When we look at others and their faults through the lens of Christ, we have a much more compassionate and tender heart towards them.
That somebody who is causing you so much anguish? Jesus died for them too. Ask Jesus for help to love them the way He does.
Look For The Positive Things
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things.”
Think about these things. It can be incredibly easy to fall into negativity and condemnation for others when there is strife in the family.
Make a deliberate effort to look for the pure, the good, and the true. I promise you that if you will look hard enough, you will find something positive about the others.
It may be small, but keeping a positive and thankful heart will benefit you the most. The others might find you more of a joy to be around, but your heart will be the one that is full of the most joy.
Refuse To Argue
Proverbs 17:14 “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.”
Just don’t argue. There is no purpose in having to prove a point or convince others that they are wrong.
When we remain steadfast on our stance, instead of just refusing to continue the discussion that led to an argument, we try to play the role of the Holy Spirit.
It is not our job to convict others. It is when we are willing to let it go, that the Holy Spirit most often works.
Surrender that disagreement to Christ. Speak the truth in love, and then surrender it to God.
Don’t Talk About Controversial Subjects
Especially in today’s world, there are many controversial, worldly subjects where there can be a vast difference of opinions.
If someone wants to talk about subjects where you know you will disagree, tell them that that subject is not up for discussion. They are welcome to come over one day and discuss it with you, but at a family gathering, it is more important to keep the peace.
Recognize What You Have Control Over
You can’t choose your family. You can choose how much time you spend with them, but you have been given this family by God, and there is a purpose for that as well.
You can control your heart and mind (by the grace of God), but you cannot change the hearts and attitudes of others. You can’t change the circumstances, and the quicker you decide to do your battling on your knees, the better.
Surrender ALL your cares to God, and he will take care of you.
Realize Things Do Change Over Time
You might be walking through a difficult time with your family right now, and family gatherings among strife are no fun at all.
However, what are you willing to lose? If you give up on your family, what precious time and fellowship will you be missing out on?
Maybe God has placed you in your dysfunctional family for such a time as this. You have been called to bring good news, to bring good tidings, to proclaim peace and salvation to your family!
Awkward family gatherings, where no one knows what to talk about aren’t fun at all. Yet, giving up on attempting to build a relationship with your family is not the answer.
I want to encourage you today to seek peace in your family strife. Maybe you need to call a family meeting, and maybe you need to become more fervent in your prayer life.
Seek to do your part to be peaceable. Family is precious, and they are the ones that can encourage and help you along the way when everyone else forsakes you.
Don’t forsake your family. Even when you’re feeling uncomfortable at your family gatherings, and just want to go, remember that maybe you have been called for such a time as this.
God makes no mistakes, and you have been placed in your family for a reason.
Enjoy your family gatherings again by cultivating a heart of gratitude, fervent prayer, and seeing others the way Christ sees them.
There is hope and a purpose here too. While you might be tempted to avoid family gatherings altogether, you have an opportunity to be a light to them. Ask God for guidance, and surrender your will to His.
Be His hands and feet to your family.