God designed the family structure to be a husband, a wife and their children. But what about broken family structures? Can a blended family be blessed?
God is the original architect of the family structure. In Genesis 1:27-28 we read how God created humans as male and female, blessed them as a bonded couple and instructed them to reproduce. That moment patented the first physical family on earth and became the blueprint for the God-designed family structure.
Then man strayed from God.
After that, the family structure became distorted.
Deviations from God’s family blueprint have left us with innumerable family situations we now must learn to navigate.
Different family structures, different struggles
This article will address some of the more common family situations and shed light on how blended families can please God.
We sought the advice of several ministers who have counseled struggling families. Many family situations can be and have been improved though counseling. Seeking wise counsel is a biblical approach to addressing all types of matters (Proverbs 15:22).
The following are some of the common family situations the ministers we interviewed have encountered through the years:
Remarriage can occur after the death of a spouse or after a divorce. In today’s society, remarriage after divorce seems to be as common as first marriages.
Remarriage after divorce, aside from a few specific situations, is considered a sin in the Bible (Matthew 19:3-9). Scripture does show some specific situations where God allows for remarriage (see our online article “Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible”).
However, this article’s purpose isn’t to dive into each specific divorce-and-remarriage situation. It is provided as a way to highlight how a couple already remarried can please God and have a marriage and family that is blessed by God.
Of course, pleasing God begins with repentance. Repentance involves making changes to overcome sins. In situations of divorce, repentance of sins committed in a first marriage is a vital step.
Acts 3:19 instructs us to “repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” Therefore, the first step in developing a blended family that is blessed is going to God and seeking His guidance—and forgiveness when necessary—and committing the marriage and family to Him. Only then can a man and woman move forward in remarriage, confident of receiving God’s blessing.
It’s critical that a remarried husband and wife not compare their new spouse to their previous spouse. Doing so will lead to resentment, jealousy, feelings of inadequacy and unrealistic expectations. Whether good or bad, the experiences of a prior marriage should not be carried into a subsequent marriage.
A husband and wife are commanded to love and respect one another (Ephesians 5:22-33). They should view marriage as an indissoluble commitment sealed by God (Matthew 19:6). Anything before this commitment should become irrelevant.
True repentance from past mistakes, and a commitment to God and one another going forward, will create a marriage and family that can be blessed by God.
2. Stepparents and stepchildren
Remarriage, whether it follows divorce or the death of a spouse, often comes with the added element of the stepparent-stepchild relationship. This new dynamic can be a great blessing for a family, but it can also be difficult to navigate, even if both parents are firmly grounded in their faith and dedication to God.
There are many ways for Christians to handle this new family dynamic correctly. And there are just as many ways for stepparents and stepchildren to find themselves drowning in doubt, fear, anger, frustration and a sense of failure.
Here are factors stepparents and stepchildren should be aware of:
Instantly becoming a parent to a child comes with many things to consider.
One of the most important things is that the biological parent should take the lead when it comes to correction. When a stepparent takes a corrective role too soon, the relationships can suffer, sometimes in a devastating manner. After trust is built, both parents may take this disciplinary role.
In an attempt to build trust and gain favor with the child, a stepparent can sometimes try to be a friend or confidant, but this, too, can be detrimental to the proper family structure. This approach clouds the role of each parent and can diminish the role of the biological parent.
In contrast to merely trying to win favor with a stepchild, being consistent, reliable, honest and loving in word and actions is the godly way to earn the trust and respect of a stepchild. This approach is biblical and provides a proper example of godly parenting.
In line with being loving, the stepparent and the biological parent should not speak ill of the other biological parent. Disrespecting a child’s other parent will build a wall between parents and child. This is not a Christian approach to parenting, and it is contrary to God’s instruction to not provoke (other versions say exasperate, irritate, aggravate or embitter) our children, “lest they be discouraged” (Colossians 3:21).
Just as it can be taxing to be a stepparent, it can be difficult to be a stepchild. Parents (both biological and step) should strive to be tuned in to a child’s emotions in order to know whether or not the child feels comfortable talking about his or her feelings, especially those related to the new family structure. This is even more critical for older stepchildren. The window of opportunity to have a positive influence on an older stepchild can be closed way too quickly. A stepparent will need to be ready at any moment to seize an opportunity to connect with the stepchild.
And parents should never forget that children in blended families are likely going through more emotional turmoil than anyone else. Not only could they be suffering more, they also may not have the maturity to understand how to properly cope with the new situation. Patience and endurance are two key elements to maintaining a godly family structure. Although these two elements are important for any family situation, when it comes to stepparenting, patience and endurance are paramount.
Don’t give up on the child. Don’t give up on the spouse. Don’t give up on the family.
Reliance upon God and His strength is vitally important for building and maintaining a God-focused, blended family.
Being a stepchild comes with a wide array of emotions. The child may have lost one biological parent to death and be dealing with grief and loss. Or the child may still have and love both biological parents but feel torn between the two—perhaps caught in the fray.
Couple these emotions with the immaturity of youth, and it becomes easy to see why stepchildren can struggle much more than we realize, and why it’s common for stepchildren to express their fear, pain and uncertainty through lashing out, bad behavior, isolation and indifference.
In these and all cases, it’s the parents’ job to ensure stepchildren are given the love, guidance and, at times, correction they need to develop in a godly manner.
Stepchildren will also need to have honest, open, loving, respectful communication with their parents in order to effectively work though the surplus of emotions that come with being in a blended family.
God requires all children (biological and step) to show love, respect and honor to parents. God specifically instructs children to “honor your father and mother” (Ephesians 6:2). And God is pleased when children obey and bring joy to their parents (Colossians 3:20; Proverbs 15:20).
3. Abusive family members
Sadly, not all family members follow God’s instruction to love, cherish and support one another. Sometimes a family member can become hostile—even abusive—toward other family members. This problem can be even more evident within blended families, since there’s a heightened opportunity for contention between new siblings or between stepchildren and stepparents.
As with all things, it is important to go to God in prayer for protection, healing and wisdom for your family.
That said, there are times when a relationship can become toxic to the point of being unsafe. If a relationship has become abusive, unsafe or life-threatening, those involved should seek professional assistance and wise counsel immediately.
Parents should never subject themselves or their children to a situation that could cause harm—whether physical or emotional. Getting proper help in a bad situation is the right thing to do. As mentioned, seeking wise counsel is a biblical principle.
Blending families, the godly way
Scripture doesn’t record many cases of remarriage. However, there are biblical principles that, if applied, can make a subsequent marriage a success and a blessed union.
Above all, the key to a successful blended family is to commit the marriage and family to God and seek His strength, wisdom, patience, endurance and love, all of which are necessary.
A blended family can be blessed by God, as long as God’s instructions, guidance and commandments are the family’s foundation.
Sidebar: Some Considerations Before Remarriage
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are considering remarriage. Meditating upon and praying about these items can help you prepare for a godly marriage.
- Marriage counseling for couples and family counseling for those with children are important steps when considering remarriage.
- Divorce rates for a second marriage are higher than for a first marriage, so some counselors advise that a long dating period without sexual involvement is crucial for a successful marriage. Scripture defines sex outside of marriage as immoral (Hebrews 13:4).
- Strongly consider what you can improve upon in your remarriage, overcoming sins and avoiding mistakes.
- Make an exhaustive list of what you each expect from your future mate. Discuss these expectations, and if these needs cannot be fulfilled, stop dating.
- A remarriage often brings the need to blend finances and families. So carefully consider the financial implications and the impact children can have on the marriage.