Christmas is a time when families gather together to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Some of us take family gatherings for granted because our families live close anyway. We all get along well so we look forward to our traditional Christmas gatherings where we tell old stories, sing Christmas songs, and laugh well into the night as we create new memories for the next generation. However, it’s not that easy for everyone. Not all families get along well. Some families are spread out so far and wide that they barely know each other. There are lots of different reasons why some people feel stressed as they prepare for Christmas family gatherings. Family stress is the worst kind of stress, but Rachel Wojo from Dayspring is here to talk to us about finding peace in the face of family stress. She has some great ideas for overcoming the stress of family gatherings so that you can relax and enjoy the season of Jesus’ birth.
Finding Peace in the Face of Family Stress
by Rachel Wojo
Life is full of choices, isn’t it? One of the hardest choices for me personally is choosing my response in stressful situations. And the situations that seem the most difficult? Family matters. Ah yes, you know what I’m talking about? Aunt Susie and Uncle Billy enjoy a wonderful marriage, but all the sudden, on a holiday weekend when the entire family is finally together, they choose to argue and complain to one another loudly in front of everyone. The underlying tension that results is thick enough to cut. Or maybe all the children of the extended family are running around together when one of them suddenly takes a tumble and tears flow. One after another, toddlers melt down and preschoolers throw tantrums. Maybe your family doesn’t have these moments because long ago, two sisters decided they no longer would speak to each other. So rather than stemming from reactions within the family, stress results from having zero interaction with one another.
Regardless of your personal family circumstances, whether health problems, differences of opinion, or distressing issues, finding peace in the face of family stress is challenging. How can we discover harmony within our families in stressful times? Check out these practical and inspiring ideas!
1. Choose a light-hearted approach when possible.
When I was growing up, my parents often hosted missionaries and ministry workers of all kinds. There were no restaurants in our small town and folks had to eat somewhere. One day, the visiting missionary’s son spilled his entire glass of milk at our dinner table in a typical child-like fumble. His parents looked ready to crawl under the table, but with nine kids of his own, my dad just continued passing the potatoes. In a quiet voice, he said “That’s never happened here before.” Then he glanced up at the missionaries and everyone began to laugh. Whenever family bumps occur, a little laughter can go a long way.
2. Remember that time together is precious.
Learning to overlook oddities or parts of family relationships we don’t appreciate is much easier when we keep them in perspective. See your family often? Treasure the memories you are making. Family living all over the country? Enjoy those cramped moments of sleeping in odd spaces and eating in tight places. In the face of stress, embrace the time you have because time is not a commodity we can purchase.
3. Build in quiet moments during family time.
Regardless of the family size or family member ages, one simple way to enjoy a calm family conversation moment is to ask each person to say one thing they appreciate or admire about the person to their right. Moving a conversation around the table in this fashion brings a sweetness to spirits.
4. Recognize that the best peace comes from the Lord.
Psalm 147:13-14 ESV reminds us how the Lord provides:
For He strengthens the bars of your gates; He blesses your children within you. He makes peace in your borders; He fills you with the finest of the wheat.
Reading the above verse in the face of family stress or saying a short prayer asking for peace is a beautiful way to approach burdens or worries that threaten to steal the joy of family. When we choose to face the challenges with the thoughts above, a peaceful perspective results! Trusting the Lord to provide “impossible peace” results in incomprehensible peace. As Isaiah reminded his people:
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3ESV