It’s human nature to seek formulas that guarantee a desired outcome. We all want a happy home and healthy family relationships, so we look for practical ways to make it happen.
Advice abounds on this topic. There are countless lists and steps to follow that promise a peaceful home environment or meaningful and harmonious connection in our families. The nature and amount of the information is overwhelming.
God gave us everything we need to know in His Word. We tend to overthink what He’s kept so simple. Let’s take a look at what the Bible tells us about creating a happy home and building strong family relationships.
What the Bible Teaches About Family Relationships
Jesus is our prime example for everything – even how to live in our homes with our families.
Philippians 2: 3- 8 tells us:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
This passage tells us that Jesus, even though He was God, humbled Himself and became a servant. He served us by taking on a human body, living on this broken earth and experiencing life with us – the way we experience it. He died in our place so that we could live and enjoy a relationship with Him for eternity.
He’s all about relationships.
What does His example mean for us?
If we’re going to live like Jesus – if we’re going to be His disciples – we must live lives of selflessness. Living for our own desires is not the means to effectively following Christ.
Having a heart of humility, a heart to serve, requires sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed His life. Few of us will ever be called to literally give our lives for someone else, but all of us are called to give up our own will daily.
Putting the interests of others before our own is a practice we will never master. We’re given countless opportunities daily. Everything from deciding what to cook for dinner to what time you wake up or go to sleep is impacted by either your own interests, or the interests of others.
So the first simple key to a happy home and healthy family relationships is… humility.
4 Practical Tips for a Happy Home & Healthy Family Relationships
What does it look like, practically, to put the interests of others before our own? How do we live in a way that shows the people we live with that we’re more concerned with what’s best for them than for what we want?
Here are some practical tips that have worked well in our home. These are not Gospel-truth. They’re just my own experience.
1. Show People They Matter More Than Whatever You’re Doing
People in your home should feel that relationships are more important to you than a to-do list or a schedule or things.
One way I do this is by greeting people at the door whenever they come and go. Both entering and exiting our home solicits a face-to-face interaction. Sometimes that means I have to stop what I’m doing and endure interruption for a few minutes.
It seems like a small thing, but hundreds of these greetings added up over time begins to send the message that you are loved, cared for, and important.
Another simple way is by looking them in the eye when you’re having a conversation. Put down the phone and show them they have your full attention.
When your husband or your kids want to talk – I mean, really talk – take advantage of that opportunity to build meaningful connection. Drop everything and really listen. This is so, so, so important especially as your children enter the teen years (and beyond). That willingness to talk deeply isn’t always there, so prioritize it when it happens.
Be attentive and available. Leave margin in your schedule so you have the capacity to serve.
2. The Golden Rule
Treat others how you want to be treated. It sounds simple, but we often mistakenly assume we know what the other person wants. Ask them what they’d like to do, where they’d like to go, what they want to eat.
I remember making extravagant plans when my kids were little in an effort to make meaningful memories with them. I’d exhaust myself trying to orchestrate a whole day of enjoyment. Then we’d come home and their highlight would be a story on the couch under our family’s favorite blanket with a snack of apples and cinnamon.
So much stress, money, and energy can be saved by simply learning what truly matters most to each member of your family.
3. Let Go of the Ideal and Stick with What Works
Sometimes we have to let go of our idyllic expectations. Our vision of the perfect scenario rarely happens.
It has always been our ideal to eat supper together as a family. But in our current season of life, that doesn’t work. I had to let go of that ideal and figure out what works. We now plan a “charcuterie board” meal each week when everyone gets their work schedules. It prioritizes family time in a way that works even though it’s not our ideal.
4. Respond, Don’t React
Think of the most recent conflict or relational difficulty in your home. What caused it?
If you dig deep, right to the very root, you will come to the same conclusion every time. James 4:1 tells us it’s selfishness.
If the cause of conflict = selfishness,
Then the key to harmony = humility or selflessness.
We cannot control the hearts of those we care for and live with. But we are responsible for how we respond to them.
A humble heart does not react, it responds.
A humble heart tries first to understand the need of the other person before fighting to get its own way or to be understood.
Take a deep breath.
Pause, then respond.
Sometimes, it’s best to give everyone space for a few minutes – maybe even a few hours. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I know we need to address this, but I’m not ready right now. Let’s come back to this tomorrow.”
You Can Do All the Things & Still Get it Wrong
All of these practical ideas I’m giving you right now can be helpful. But we have to be careful about falling into a legalistic mindset.
It’s human nature to want an if/then guarantee. If I do this, then this will happen.
If I do this, my kids will grow up to walk with the Lord.
If I say this, my husband will always respond in a positive way.
If I do this, our home will always be peaceful.
Some of us like lists. We like looking at all the checkboxes and enjoy a sense of satisfaction as we mark each task we successfully complete. We feel successful and productive, capable.
The trouble is, we can actually check all the theoretical boxes on the list of things to do for the perfect home and still fall short.
My Mommy Temper-Tantrum
This is the perfect place to tell you about one of my worst mothering moments of all time.
When all my kids were preschoolers, I was worn out from the constant demands, the sleeplessness, the exhaustion from the everyday grind. I believed that if I could just spend a few minutes alone with the Lord each morning, I’d be a better wife and mom and our home would naturally be more peaceful.
It seemed worthy goal, a justified priority.
My toddler son had ruined my attempts to have this sacred solitude for months, waking up earlier and earlier each day.
That shameful morning, he had innocently crept out of his bedroom at 5:00 AM, so sweet and smiley, as always.
But I completely lost my patience. In seconds, I found myself in a full-fledged mommy temper tantrum. Roughly, I marched my son back to his room and harshly commanded him to stay there until I told him it was time to get up.
Back in my chair, I took a deep breath, calmed my emotions, and determined to focus on my top priority – the most important moments of my day. This is the passage of Scripture my eyes landed on:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love… if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind… It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful… (1 Corinthians 13:1-5, ESV).”
I could not have been more convicted or more convinced I’d heard the voice of God if He had been sitting at my table in bodily form.
I realized: “If I diligently study the Bible every morning, but do not love my children, I am nothing.“
Checking all the right things off my “Good Mommy To-Do List” was not enough.
The Heart Behind a Truly Happy Home
All throughout Scripture – from Genesis through Revelation, God clearly states that He’s not concerned with our outward appearance. What matters to Him is the heart. What motivates our actions is more important to Him than the actions themselves.
Our motivation for having a peaceful and loving home must go beyond image. If we’re striving for the idyllic “Focus on the Family” life because we believe that’s what will make us “good Christians”, we’ve missed something.
God doesn’t have a list of achievements He’s looking for from us. He has no illusions of our perfection. He knows we’re imperfect, weak people living in a world of sin, surrounded by brokenness and chaos.
So what does He want from us? He wants real relationship. He wants our hearts.
It’s similar to our relationship with our children. We could parent in such a way that they became compliant robots, always doing what they’re told. But someday, they grow up and make their own decisions. If we haven’t cultivated a good relationship with them, what motivation is there to obey?
We want the hearts of our children to desire to obey because they love us, not simply out of self-preservation. We want them to do the right thing out of love for others, too, not just because they’ve been told what to do.
And so it is with us and the Lord. He desires for us to live lives motivated by love for Him and love for others. It’s our church’s motto – “Loving Jesus, Loving Others.”
So the second simple key to a happy home and healthy family relationships is… love.
How to Love Your Family Well
God’s Word on the topic of how to create a happy home and how to encourage healthy family relationships is His grace to us. It’s not a list of rules. It’s not a bunch of unattainable scenarios we can’t seem to contrive.
It’s simple. Not easy, but simple.
The kind of humility and love I’m talking about is completely opposite of our nature. It’s impossible without supernatural help. It can only be accomplished through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
We need spiritual fuel to live lives that are in keeping with God’s Word. We need to consume spiritual nourishment – the Bread of Life. As we grow in our relationship with Christ, understanding more of His love for us, we’re enabled to love others more.
It is receiving the love of God that equips us to love others.
1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.”
We overthink it. He kept it simple.
If we want to be faithful followers of Him, we just have to love. John 13:35 says, “By this they will know that you are My disciples – if you love one another.”
When we read about who Jesus is in God’s Word, we are humbled by His humility and His extravagant love for us. That’s where we must begin.
So how do we cultivate a happy home and healthy relationships in our families?
We look to Jesus.
We read His Word and spend time at His feet.
We fill ourselves up with Him, abide in Him, and allow His Spirit to transform us from the inside out, empowering us to love Him first and, in turn, to love others well.
Humility and love, fueled by a relationship with Jesus.