How often have you wanted to avoid a holiday family gathering? Our families often include people who can rub us the wrong way—especially during holidays like Christmas and New Year’s.

Maybe they use family gatherings as an opportunity to insult or belittle. Possibly they intrude in personal matters uninvited. They might not be a Christian—or at least don’t act like one—and use inappropriate language or behavior which makes you squirm inside. Whatever the hurtful habits, a family member can often cause an uncomfortable atmosphere during a special holiday gathering. The question is… what do you do about it?

The Lord Jesus has called us to walk in love toward others. In fact, in Mark 12:31, He said that is the second greatest commandment. Yet, perhaps, even though you set out to love others and show them patience, you end up cringing inside… and at best, faking a smile while you put up with their behavior. But in the end, the experience leaves you in personal turmoil after you’ve said goodbye.

How can we possibly respond the way God wants us to, while so many negative emotions are boiling beneath the surface?

The Bible is a treasure trove of practical advice about how we can deal with difficult family members, using wisdom and love. If you’re facing a challenging family get-together this holiday season, try these four tried-and-true tips from the Word of God.

  1. Don’t Swallow the Bait

 Remember the scripture? “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25

Start out with the determination not to swallow the bait. An offense, which can lead to unforgiveness, is a favorite tool of the enemy to get you out of alignment with God’s Word. It’s also one of the greatest hindrances to your healing and blessing.

Let’s look at something Jesus said. Immediately after giving instructions about faith, Jesus emphasized the importance of forgiveness. Notice the words in the verse above: “whenever you are praying.” He’s making it clear we are not to wait to forgive. As soon as someone offends you, forgive immediately, so that your prayers won’t be hindered. And your access to the Holy Spirit isn’t stifled.

  1. Don’t react. Keep Silent.

Satan loves to drop a hand grenade that will get us out of the spirit and into the flesh.

Let’s look at Proverbs 17:27. It says, “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.”

This isn’t easy for most. So often, when someone speaks or acts out of line, we feel the need to put them back in line. It can be tempting to put someone in their place. Yet, many times the Holy Spirit directs us to keep silent. In many cases, the perfect thing to say is, nothing at all. Keep yourself from speaking out of anger or hurt. Let your words be cautious and kind. In other words… don’t react, only respond in agreement with God’s Word. Stop and think—before you speak.

  1. Pray in the Spirit.

One of the most powerful advantages we have as Christians is the Holy Spirit. In Romans 8:26 it says, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

Not sure what to say or do in the face of a difficult person? It’s no problem for the Holy Spirit! He’s ready and willing to help us any time we need Him. Be prayed up before you enter the gathering. Put on your spiritual armor and don’t go unprepared. Ask the Holy Spirit to guard your heart, mind and tongue.

Praying in the Spirit is the best way we can pray beyond what we know. When we pray and activate the Holy Spirit within us, He begins to teach us and enlighten us on how to respond to people, beyond our own flesh. This is key to conducting ourselves in a godly way.

And lastly,

  1. Ask God for Wisdom

James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

We all need the wisdom of God on a daily basis, that’s for sure. And He’s told us He will give us all that we need. Before and during your holiday gathering this year, pray for discernment about what you should say, if anything. Remember, sometimes saying less is best. At other times, loving and gentle assertiveness—spoken in love—will create more and lastly peace. Ask God to show you His will. Then, trust Him to guide you.

With the Lord’s help, you can prepare for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year—even when you are face to face with difficult family members. Don’t let Satan rob you of these special family times. If you love the Lord… you are a light that your loved ones need in their midst. And remember, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

So develop a new skill-set. Practice these tried-and-true tips from the Bible, and let God’s love shine through you this holiday season! People everywhere need His presence and His presence should be wherever you are. And of course, keep in mind, that with God nothing is impossible.

Dale and Paula Black

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