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God’s Plan for Your Healthy Home

By Fulton W. Buntain

On board an aircraft that was about to crash were the pilot, a brilliant physicist, a priest, and a young boy. Just before the crash, the pilot announced to those in the cabin: "We have only three parachutes, and there are four of us. I have a family waiting at home who depends upon me, so I must survive." He then jumped from the airplane.

The physicist jumped to his feet and declared: "I’m a very intelligent man. I possess knowledge the world needs. I must survive." With that he grabbed a parachute and jumped.

The priest turned to the boy and said: "Son, I don’t have any family. I’ve lived a good life and everything is OK with me. You take the parachute; I’ll be fine."

The boy said: "Father, don’t say any more. We’re all right. The world’s smartest man just jumped out of the plane wearing my backpack!"

Intelligent people can behave in immature ways. The fact is: Intelligent people do not necessarily have strong and happy families.

We all desire to have a happy family or belong to a loving, secure, nurturing unit of some kind. In fact, the need to belong is one of the most basic human needs.

In the book Secrets of Strong Families (Little, Brown, 1985), six characteristics of strong and reasonably happy families were identified. Results were obtained from a 10-year study of over 3,000 families worldwide.

The basic theme is that happy couples were the ones who perceived their relationships as being happy. Parent and child relationships that excelled were perceived as satisfying. Another common denominator was that family members met each other’s needs in healthy ways.

Much of this world’s pain and turmoil emerges from unhappy home situations. People blame religion or politics for their unhappiness, but it often stems from relationship hassles or deficits that they cannot always control.

Why are some families marked by an inability to get along? Why can’t they find a common ground toward a peaceful satisfaction?

The apostle Paul diagnoses the source of illness in many of today’s families—doing what we want to do (see Romans 7:19,20). Our natural inclination is not to make the right choices that produce and nourish healthy homes. Our personal problem stems from a word that nourishes the tendency to do wrong: selfishness—an inborn trait.

Unless we are professional criminals, we do not educate our children to do wrong. We and our offspring possess the inherent tendency to do wrong. We do not teach our children to lie. Lying comes quite naturally. In fact, a type of lying develops in an infant. The child learns to cry and knows it will bring mother running, making the child a little deceiver while still in diapers.

The apostle Paul writes: "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24, NIV). We all have good intentions. We desire to have happy families and be thoughtful, kind people. Yet, we often do things we regret.

Paul found that turning to God was the only solution to his behavioral dilemma: "Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (verse 25). In the midst of his personal trials, he determined to be thankful. That response is not dissimilar to the commonalities discovered in the book The Secrets of a Strong Family. Let’s look at the six success factors of happy families.

1. A happy family consists of individuals who are committed to each other. Those who long for a warm association in a family unit must place the family unit ahead of personal needs and desires. The greatest desire is the determination to stay together and to live in peace. One couple said: "Each of us encourages the other to pursue his or her goals. But both of us would cut out any activity or goal that would threaten our existence as a couple." In a word, that’s unselfishness.

2. A strong sense of appreciation permeates happy relationships. How different that is from the belittlement and criticism that marks so many relationships today. The strong and happy family expresses appreciation for the big things and the little things. The words thank you play like music in the happy home.

3. Healthy family units are marked by good communication. Someone said: "Communication is the essence of relationship." Without communication, there is no relationship. Research shows the average couple spends only 17 minutes a week in conversation. There are 10,080 minutes in a week. What does that say about the state of relationships today?

After marriage, meaningful conversations often become less of a priority. Perhaps that is one of the reasons married couples complain of boredom or a sense of sameness in their lives.

4. Strong families cultivate time together. When 1,500 children were asked: "What do you think it takes to make a happy family?" their top answer was—"doing things together." Spending time with children speaks volumes to them about our love for them. Children need to know that they are not a burden. The best way for a parent to express that is to include them when scheduling activities.

5. A happy home has coping ability. Problems pull strong families together. Problems pull weak families apart. Research suggests that strong families pitch in and help each other when tough times come, which is very different from families who place blame when tragedy strikes.

6. Strong families exude a sense of spiritual wellness. Healthy people have a sense of God in their homes. The only prayer many people pray is the blessing over the evening meal. Unfortunately, in those types of homes no real sense of God is cultivated. Healthy families are made up of individuals who act with integrity and who know that someday they will stand before God and be held accountable.

God’s church welcomes those who have been selfish in their own lives and gives an invitation to them to live a healthier, more inclusive "others first" kind of life.

The first step toward reclaiming a healthier home is admitting your own personal selfishness and taking actions to change. You don’t just drift into a strong family. Like the Prodigal Son, we get fed up with the situations in our lives. We say, "I’m sick of living with the pigs. I want to be a success. I’m going home" (see Luke 15:11–32).

When the Prodigal Son, who had been driven by selfishness, returned to his father, he had a different attitude. Selfishness had been replaced with humility. The son was willing to serve instead of being served.

The father in the story rushed to meet his returning son. He longed for him. He missed him deeply. That’s a simplified story of God’s response to us when we seek forgiveness for our selfishness. When we come to God for forgiveness and healing of relationships, He runs to us. It’s the only time in the Bible that God is portrayed as being in a rush.

Today, too many people return to an empty home at night. Multitudes face a home without warmth and affection—relationships have soured, love has grown cold. It has been a story of too much, too little, and too late. Hopelessness has set in. One third of the children in America grow up in a fatherless family. Imagine the consequences of our broken homes in years to come. God wants nothing more than to mend each of us and build strong, healthy families. It’s time to return home. It’s time to rebuild.

The journey to a strong family begins with a single, unselfish step with thoughts of change and prayers for God’s strength. Can you begin that journey today?

Dr. Fulton W. Buntain is senior pastor of First Assembly of God Life Center, Tacoma, Washington.