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The Thriving Family

Each of us can picture a “typical” thriving family-just watch TV commercials or look at ads in a magazine for a variety of products, from cars to laundry detergent!  More than likely it’s a picture of a husband and wife, with two children, usually a boy and a girl- and they all seem to be frolicking in their driveway or at some bucolic park. Now there are plenty of families that seem to have it all together and have both a mom and dad, fitting the “traditional” family model. Praise God for that! But the typical family unit in America has been drastically changing over the years.

According to The Pew Research Center, two-parent households are on the decline in the United States, as divorce, remarriage, and cohabitation are on the rise. Families are smaller now, due in part to the growth of single-parent households. Not only are Americans having fewer children, but the circumstances surrounding parenthood have changed. While in the early 1960s babies typically arrived within a marriage, today four-in-ten births occur to women who are single or living with a non-marital partner.

There is no longer one dominant family form in the U.S. Parents today are raising their children against a backdrop of increasingly diverse and, for many, constantly evolving family forms. By contrast, in 1960 there was one dominant family form as 73% of all children were living in a family with two married parents in their first marriage. Today less than half (46%) are living in this type of family. The declining share of children living in what is often deemed a “traditional” family has been largely supplanted by the rising shares of children living with single or cohabiting parents. To this end, one of the posts featured in this “Thrive” series was authored by a once-single mom. 

As times have changed, the family has taken on new forms -but the question remains, in today’s culture, can families still thrive?

First, let’s start with these four statements that I believe to be true:

  1. There are thriving families out there- this is not a fantasy
  2. There is no magic bullet that causes families to thrive
  3. Thriving has nothing to do with material wealth- we all know of the dysfunction amidst  “wealthy” families
  4. Families of faith have a greater chance to thrive and prosper

If you’re a Christian, you have the truth of God’s Word to help navigate through every aspect of life at any stage. As the truth of God’s Word is applied to family life, you can rest assured that God has very specific instruction for your family to live by, and prosper as a result.

What does a thriving family look like? Here are five Scriptures and their takeaways, which you could apply to your family:

1) Matthew 7:24-27 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Takeaway – Thriving families are not impervious to pain and hardship.

From this passage, we see that the rain falls on both the obedient and the disobedient. “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10). For Christians, it is actually the hardships that God uses in our times of struggle that produce strength of character. In fact, this strength helps us to stay the course— to stand in the midst of struggle.

2) Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Takeaway- Thriving families forgive one another.

Let this verse, this command- ground your family especially during difficulties; when people’s fuses are short. It does mine. What a reminder to think of how much we were forgiven by our Heavenly Father— and how we are to extend that forgiveness to others (Matthew 6:12).

3) Mark 3:14 “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach”

Takeaway- Thriving families are intentional.

Jesus set the bar on being intentional. He did everything with purpose- even just hanging out with both His disciples and even those who did not believe. The point is this: thriving families do things on purpose and with purpose. For example, if you want to have a meaningful conversation with your son or daughter, set the stage. Go out for ice cream or a bike ride, or a ball game. This way conversation will not seem forced but will come more naturally. People are always touting quality time over quantity time. But it’s both. Quantity counts. This creates opportunities for communication, for challenging one another, for accountability and for fun!

4) James 5:12 “Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear-not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise, you will be condemned.”

Takeaway- Thriving families let their “Yes be Yes, and their No be no.”

Jesus even said, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). So why is it so difficult for us to simply say yes or no? Perhaps because we like the ambiguity of not having to follow through with what we say. Or maybe because it’s easier to put off a tough decision for a later time.

Just an aside… look for opportunities to say “yes” to your children. Yes says “I trust you.”

And remember parents, “no is no.” If you are firm on a decision, unless strong circumstances alter it, stay with your decision.

“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck” (Proverbs 1:8-9).

5) 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us,  and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”

Takeaway- Thriving families follow Jesus.

If you’re a Christian, know that Christ’s saving work of grace stabilizes believers and places them on a firm foundation in Him. How does he do that? Well, the full Trinity is at work here. Look at the verse again: “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”

Consider the action words in that statement: Establishes us. Anoints us. Seals us. Given us

What family, who has all three Persons of the Trinity working on their behalf- who is established, anointed, sealed and given the Holy Spirit wouldn’t thrive? I like that family’s chances.

So what steps will you take to put your family in a position to thrive? Start with one. Maybe it’s getting the right perspective on difficulties you’re facing? Or there’s an issue of forgiveness that must be resolved. Perhaps it’s starting to make purposeful plans with your kids that will give you both quality and quantity time?

And certainly, if you’ve been teetering on believing in Jesus, I think now is the time to decide. Will you trust Jesus with your life and your family? He will help you to be a better and more loving mom or dad than you would ever be on your own! 

-Pastor Joe Garofalo

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