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Hope for the Dysfunctional Family

Hope for the Dysfunctional Family

I am going to start this post by asking you a potentially uncomfortable and embarrassing question: Do you come from a dysfunctional family? I do. I come from a family that has dealt with tragic deaths, drug & alcohol abuse, scandals and cover ups.

But hey, I am no better. My wife and I have an acquaintance we attended college with who is a Facebook friend. She is perpetually perky: everything she posts on Facebook is unicorns and fairies and sugarplums. She has the perfect life and family! She posts pictures of the perfectly manicured cakes she bakes—every single one of them! Do you know someone like that? Someone who lives in a fantasyland bubble? I admit my wife and I snicker when we read her syrupy posts. But God has a way of straightening us out! Last fall we brought our kids to our college homecoming. For the most part, everything went OK for an out of town trip with a four year old and infant. However, in the late afternoon the kids started getting tired, hungry and cranky. We were visiting the majestic college chapel, full of stained glass windows and a place where many young students dedicated their lives to Jesus Christ and to the Christian ministry. Time was getting short, so my wife gave me “the look” (meaning code red, time to leave now!!!). My wife turned to our son Landon and said “honey, it’s time to go home.” He responded by whacking her in the head with a handful of balloons and screaming repeatedly “I don’t like you anymore!” That exact moment, our perpetually perky friend and her happy family walked into the chapel and just stared at us as the fracas unfolded. I quickly picked up our four year old, slung him over my shoulder and charged out the door with my tail between my legs!

I have been telling these stories to our church because we are currently doing a message series called “The Dysfunctional Family.” We are looking at the life and family of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham and one of the Patriarchs of the nation of Israel. His story is described in Genesis chapters 25—50. Starting with his grandfather Abraham, his story is plagued with rampant favoritism, fighting, avoiding, stealing, deception, betrayal, jealousy, resentment, rage, and violence. And I thought my family was messed up! Jacob’s family makes my family look like a bunch of amateurs when it comes to dysfunction!

This journey through Jacob’s life and story is teaching us that all families are dysfunctional, all families are broken. It started with Adam and Eve and continues to the present. No one is immune. I have come to realize that when we study the Bible, it is like looking in a mirror: it reveals to us who we truly are.

Yet we don’t have to despair. The good news is that God uses dysfunctional families to accomplish his plan. Matthew 1 tells us that Jacob was the father of Judah who was the ancestor of King David who was the ancestor of Jesus Christ. Out of Jacob’s dysfunction and brokenness would come the One who would bring healing and wholeness to our world. The One who will one day make all wrongs right. This theme is consistently displayed throughout the whole Bible. Later on, when Jacob’s sons perpetuated the cycle of pain by betraying each other, one of them would say to his brothers “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish…the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20). Romans 8:28 sums it up this way “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.”

Your family may be broken and hurting but in Jesus Christ there is hope.

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Pastor Paul Hoffman