Families in the Bible: Why there's still hope for your family | COTH Blog | Church on the Hill

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Families in the Bible: Why there's still hope for your family

May 25, 2023 | Cortney Whiting

6-8 minute read time
How many times have you scrolled through the social media posts of others to see their “Picture Perfect” families only to compare it to the reality of your real life? We often compare our worst moments to others' edited snapshots of bliss. We feel alone and isolated in our familial dysfunction. However, if we look to Scripture, we will realize that since the beginning, families have had issues. The book of Genesis is filled with stories of dysfunction. Throughout the book, families engage in jealousy, rage, lust, murder, deception, and more. Yet by the end of the book, God takes all of the sinfulness within the family and uses it for good. This first book of the Bible shows us how even in the most desperate and dysfunctional family situations, there is hope when God is in control.
 
God’s First Family
 
Dysfunction begins with God’s first family. After Adam and Eve are kicked out of the Garden of Eden, they have two sons, Cain and Abel. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s. Therefore, Cain killed Abel. God placed a mark on Cain and made him wander the earth as a result of his action.
 
Noah’s Family
 
When Noah was 601 years old, after he exited the ark, he drank an excess portion of wine and became drunk. Instead of respecting his father, his son Ham mocked his father’s nakedness. Because of his action, Noah cursed his son, destining his descendants to servanthood.
 
Abraham’s Family
 
Abraham and Sarah lie twice out of fear by trying to pass her off as his sister. Ironically, his son Issac later tried to pull the same stunt. Sarah, not trusting in God’s promise of a son to her and Abraham in her old age, gives her maid, Hagar to Abraham to “help” provide a son. When Hagar becomes pregnant and has a child, Sarah mistreats her and makes her leave. 
 
Lot’s Family
 
Lot tried to offer his daughter to a group of men to satisfy their sinful urges. 
 
Isaac's Family
 
Jacob, with his mother’s help, cheated his twin brother Esau out of his birthright. In return, Esau wanted to kill his brother, forcing him to flee. His uncle Laban then tricked him into marrying his older and uglier daughter before Jacob could marry the daughter he loved. Because Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, the sisters competed with each other to see who could have more children.
 
Jacob’s Family
 
Jacob had a favorite son, Joseph, to whom he gave a special coat. Joseph had dreams and bragged about them to his brothers. The special treatment made the brothers angry and jealous so they threw him in a pit and sold him as a slave and told their dad that he died.
Jacob’s first son, Reuben, had an inappropriate relationship with his father’s servant wife. Simeon and Levi massacred a group of people to avenge their sister’s brutal death. Judah suggested the selling of Joseph and tricking of his father. He later was tricked into conceiving a child with his daughter-in-law.
 
In looking at the dysfunction within the first book of the Old Testament, it is hard to feel positive about the direction of the family. Love, respect, peace do not appear to prevail. But it gives the reader a glimpse of what happens after sin comes into the world. 


Threads of Hope
 
Threaded throughout Genesis are also glimpses of hope. Adam and Eve had another son, named Seth. It was from Seth that his son Enosh began to call upon the name of the Lord. (Genesis 4:26). In spite of the family dysfunction, there is hope for the next generation.
 
While Noah cursed Ham’s descendants, it is through his son, Shem, that Abraham was born. God chose Abraham to create a chosen people for Himself. He establishes a covenant with Abraham, promising protection on his descendants and him as long as they are faithful. He also promised that all nations would be blessed through him. When Abraham showed cowardice and lied about Sarah, God provided a way where she would not become pregnant, protecting the covenant. Also, when God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac, the Lord provided another sacrifice at the last minute, proving his covenant faithfulness. 
 
After Jacob lives a life of trickery and deceit, he has an encounter with the Lord at Peniel. God changes his name. He then makes peace with Esau, destroys his family’s pagan idols, and builds an altar to the Lord. The nations are blessed through his son Joseph.
 
Even though Joseph’s brothers intended the worst for him, God used his circumstances for the good of all of Egypt. The Lord placed Joseph in a high position, granted him favor, and gave him wisdom to protect the land and his family from famine. When he encountered his brothers, his family was able to experience forgiveness and reconciliation (Genesis 45).The book ends with Jacob blessing his twelve sons. This shows how God will continue to bless and use Abraham’s descendants throughout the generations.
 
Hope for Our Family
 
As we have seen throughout the families in Genesis, glimpses of God’s redemption can be seen even in the thick of dysfunction. God’s ultimate plan of reconciliation came through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Ephesians 1:10). It is through Christ we are able to live at peace with one another. 
 
How to Have Hope in Times of Dysfunction
 
Remember that Reconciliation is Possible - When we are in the thick of family drama or dysfunction, it is often hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We think that we will never come out of our circumstance. However, God’s ultimate desire is reconciliation. While it might take time and work, it is possible. Ephesians 4:31-32 encourages us to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” If we put this verse into practice, we will begin to see a change in our family dynamics. 
 
Practice Living in Peace - Hebrews 12:14 tells us to make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. When our families are in turmoil, peace seems like a far fetched dream. There are hurt feelings and high emotions. Yet, we are to put all of our feelings aside and practice living in harmony with one another. We do this by looking out for the interests of others rather than our own wants. It is placing our own feelings aside for the purpose of peace.  Paul reminds us that in times of anxiety, we can come to God in prayer and His peace will guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:6-7).
 
Learn to Love Well - Jesus calls his followers to love above all else. He tells his disciples that this is the new command: that they love one another as he loved them (John 13:34-35). It is by their love for each other that the world will know they belong to Jesus. We learn to love well by studying the life of Christ and trying to imitate Him. He placed others before himself to the point of self-sacrifice. How often do we place our family’s wants and needs above our own?
 
Develop a Lifestyle of Forgiveness - When we live understanding the divine forgiveness we have received through Christ, we are able to reflect God’s forgiveness in our own lives. Colossians 3:13 states, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” While this is a difficult task, we are able to forgive with God’s help. Also, remembering that it is not our place to judge or condemn will help us maintain an attitude of humility and grace (Luke 6:37).
 
Continue to Pray for your Family - God hears and honors the prayers of His people. Countless times in Scripture, the Lord responds to the heartfelt pleas of His followers. When we do not know how else to help our family, we can kneel before the Lord and pray for them. Even when we do not know what to pray, the Spirit will fill in our wordless cry (Romans 8:26-27). When we hand our cares and most precious sorrows to the Lord, we trust Him to take control and work things for His glory. This will help us gain a new perspective on our situation and see it as a larger part of God’s purpose.
 
Life is not always about having the most well put together family. Even Jesus’ parents lost him when he was twelve. Flawed people will have flawed families. However, it is how we manage our dysfunction that helps the world see the hope we have in Christ. The book of Genesis gives us a glimpse of the forgiveness and reconciliation that is made possible fully through Christ. When we practice living in peace, loving one another, forgiving one another, and praying for one another, our imperfect families will begin to look more authentic and appealing to the world.
 
At Church on the Hill, we want to equip you with resources to make space for God. Visit our Be With God content hub for more resources like this one that will help you to grow in your relationship with God.

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