This article is part of our new series on the family. In this series, our counselors examine various difficulties of family life and share ways to pursue healthier family dynamics.
A viral video in recent years captured the spontaneous tears of a teenage boy receiving a beautifully decorated birthday cake. Because this boy was adopted from Sierra Leone in Africa, birthdays had not previously been special occasions.
The power of this video was the heartfelt gratitude for what the moment represented: acceptance, love, and remembrance from family.
The hard reality is that many families don’t offer this same acceptance, love, and remembrance. They don’t take the time to remember each other on special days or even regular days.
As a counselor, I hear stories of heartache often, especially after major holidays. They can offer both greater time with family and disappointment.
For some, their family is the source of their deepest hurts. Others have the blessing of coming home to a family that is a great source of comfort and security.
On Thanksgiving, it feels spiritually healthy to be thankful, but this is not a blessing to be taken for granted. We must also remember that keeping a unified family is hard work. It can result in generations of blessings as your family influences both your blood relatives and others invited into your circle.
The truth is, no matter whether your family seems difficult or easy, having a healthy family is challenging. It is hard to respond to a hurtful family, and it is hard to maintain a healthy family for the long haul.
God tells us “In every circumstance, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you.” You were put in your family for a reason, and you can choose to be thankful, even if this season of family life is not what you had hoped.
Here are three reasons that we can choose thanks, even when it’s hard.
Because God gives hard things for our good.
Trusting that God put us in our family for our good is a hard truth to accept and understand for many.
As a counseling center, we know that many families are a source of great pain. We are also exposed to the beauty when God helps someone rise above it, and find their purpose. Two individuals can face virtually identical circumstances and respond very differently.
James 1:2 asks us to remember that we have a choice on how to respond to family pain – We can choose a path of bitterness and resentment – or we can remember that God is with us and His gifts are good.
Because God transforms hard things for our growth.
What good can possibly come from the painful experiences that we experience as a family? James 1:3-4 reminds us that all our trials have the potential to make us stronger and more mature.
Responding well to your family hardships makes you stronger and closer to God’s purpose for your life.
You might be tempted to ask the fearful question, “What happens if I choose love, and they just take advantage of it?” In God’s world, we don’t ever lose when we choose to love. God’s love always changes us for the better, even when others seemingly reject it.
Sometimes relationships and priorities do change, but choosing love over bitterness and resentment is the path that brings the greatest blessing to you and those around you.
Because God redeems hard things for eternal blessing.
In the verses following James 1:2-4, there is a contrast drawn between things that last and things that perish. James 1:12 says “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.”
James reminds his readers of the eternal blessing of responding rightly to trials.
The truth is that our eternal family is led by a good Father, who is full of grace, truth, and peace.
One day, there will be no more tears, and love will triumph over hate. Even when our earthly family disappoints us, we can take hope in the fact that our eternal family will be completely different. We will be able to trust our earthly family, and we will all be changed.
Understanding this can also transform how you respond to your earthly family. Many are led to join God’s eternal family by the example of someone different in their earthly family. As you respond well, you can be the difference that God uses to help others see His goodness.
No matter what comes into your mind first when you think of family, we can choose a heart of thanksgiving for the family that God has given us.
If your earthly family is a blessing, continue to work hard so that the blessing will be felt for generations to come.
If your earthly family is hard, remember that God used hard things for good purposes when we are willing to embrace them.