In a world rife with family breakdown, you need tools. Tools for building a marriage. Tools for making relationships with your children work.
The Bible is an invaluable guide to a family that wants to do things right. It offers a wealth of instruction on how to govern our families—how parents should conduct themselves and how children should respond. It gives you a practical blueprint for how to build a happy home.
God wants your family to be happy. He wants you to have full joy—the abundant life—right now! (John 10:10). “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for [family] to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). He supplies the instructions on how to achieve that within our families. All we need do is follow them.
Building a happy family is a hugely important project, because the rewards extend well beyond the happiness we can experience in the short term. God created family life to teach us about life in His eternal Family! If we point our family and children to God the Father, it leads to life forevermore! (verse 3).
Here are some Bible-based qualities we can build in our families to make them truly happy.
Out of the 10,080 minutes in a week, the average American couple spends 17 in conversation. What goes on in your household when it comes to communication? Do you only hear fighting, bickering and arguing? Or maybe there is total silence—not a word spoken. Maybe all you can hear is the television blasting in the background.
Communication is vital to a happy home. To bring happiness to our household, we need to know what goes on in our family.
Mealtimes are a wonderful opportunity for communication, but it needs to extend beyond that. We need to communicate often and without fear.
Family should be an environment where children will come and talk to us simply because something is on their mind—a concern, an achievement, whatever it may be. Take the time to listen. Communication is a two-way process. We talk, but we need to listen with genuine interest to what each family member has to say.
A special way of communicating with family members is by instructing them. In Genesis, God holds the patriarch Abraham up as an example: “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment …” (Genesis 18:19). God commended Abraham for instructing his household—for communicating His way of life to his family. Proverbs 29:15 shows the need for parental direction and correction.
The Apostle Paul instructed Titus to teach the Church about family relationships (Titus 2:1-5). If this kind of instruction is lacking in an individual family, it will not be a happy home. God instructs us to help our children, to answer their questions and to take time to teach them about the benefits of God’s way of life.
Commitment means you’re in the family for the long haul. It means valuing each other above our own needs and desires. There is tremendous power in commitment. It holds a family together during difficult times, which every family experiences. A happy home needs security, even in times of testing and trial. Those trials pull strong families together but weak families apart.
When God instituted marriage, He instructed the man to cleave to his wife (Genesis 2:24). God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16; Luke 16:18). He intends marriage to be a lifetime commitment.
Proverbs 31 teaches that a happy home starts with a happy marriage. The virtuous woman of that chapter is motivated by a strong outgoing concern for her family.
In Romans 12:9-10, Paul wrote, “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor” (Revised Standard Version). Be committed to your family. Children need to know they’re not just individuals growing up, being instructed, disciplined and taught, but are part of something bigger—part of a family. A family is greater than the sum of its individuals.
3. Time Together
Take time to do things together as a family. Families grow close if they are involved in activities. Design your own family projects. Involve the whole family in day-to-day tasks, such as keeping up the yard, raking leaves, maintaining and keeping up the home, washing the cars, and planning family goals.
Plan time to be together, and plan time in both quality and quantity—because these things don’t just happen. You must give thought to ensure it happens.
Having a weekly routine can help. What about a weekly family walk, or a regular, scheduled family game night?
Someone once defined a weed as any plant in an unwanted place. The loveliest rosebush, in a location you don’t want it, is a weed. We mustn’t have any weeds in our families. Make sure each member knows he or she is wanted and has room to grow and develop individually.
See what God did with the family of mankind. After creating Adam, God brought the animals before him to name them (Genesis 2:18-19). God allowed him to administer rule in order to facilitate his growth and creativity. God wants each of us to develop our own personality.
Giving family members room to develop brings out their individual qualities and teaches them decision-making within their areas of responsibility. It teaches accountability. After giving instruction and establishing parameters on how something should be done, give family members space to act. If it doesn’t turn out right, then step in and teach why things didn’t work out. If you squash every opportunity, they will never develop. As more responsibility can be entrusted, more character can be developed as well.
All of us need appreciation. We need to learn to express and receive appreciation. When was the last time you told your wife what a wonderful meal she had cooked? When was the last time you thanked your husband for the hard work he does each day? When was the last time you showed appreciation to your son for putting away his shoes, or to your daughter for giving you a big hug?
Too often we focus on the negative and fail to see things that are praiseworthy. Our homes should not be an environment of negativity. Be aware of the danger of constant, hard criticism, of arguing and belittling. Talk positively about each other, both inside and outside of family settings. Don’t tear each other down.
Be equal in your attention. If you have more than one child, make sure there are no favorites. Give each child the attention he or she needs without having any “respect of persons.”
“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:2-4). Does this occur in your family? Does everyone notice things other family members do? Does everyone feel wanted?
6. Spiritual Well-Being
This point is most important. The Bible teaches that the ultimate path to happiness is obedience to God’s law. If your family is to be truly happy, it needs to be built around God’s law and truth.
Before ancient Israel inherited the Promised Land, Moses reminded the people of God’s statutes and judgments (Deuteronomy 4:1) and instructed them, “Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments …. Keep therefore and do them …. [T]each them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons” (verses 5-9). God likewise expects us to provide our children (and grandchildren) with religious instruction—because it leads to incredible blessings. God tells us to impart His knowledge to our children because it brings happiness, joy and pleasure to our families!
The Bible is clear on how to be happy: by obeying God. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17). “Happy the straight in their paths, who walk in the Laws of the Lord; Happy those … who seek with whole heart” (Psalm 119:1-2; Ferrar Fenton translation). To truly have a happy family, obey God!
“[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance …” (Galatians 5:22-23). How accurately does that describe your family? If it’s close, your family is on the right track. If not, there’s work to do.
Love is an essential part of any human being’s life. An unloved baby, one who receives no affection, is unlikely to develop into a healthy adult. He or she will suffer psychological, physical and spiritual scars. A child learns to love by being loved. Spiritually it is the same: “We love him [God], because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). John 3:16 explains this as well: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son ….”
That love must flow into our lives from God, and out through our actions toward God and other people, including our beloved family members.