Grace for Families in the New Year
By: Sarah Phillips
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. - Genesis 2:24 NIV
Part of my job includes receiving letters from readers about family issues. Something that struck me this past year was how many Christian families suffer - truly suffer. Some struggle from financial woes, others from the behavior of rebellious teenagers, and some from painful relational problems within their marriages.
While I can't offer quick fixes in this small devotional entry, I want to reflect on some scriptures here that will hopefully offer you some encouragement if you are among those facing a difficult family situation.
"The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." - Genesis 3:7-12.
First, if you're facing a broken situation or relationship, remember you're not alone. With the fall of man came the fall of family life. We can see this in Adam's dysfunctional words as he blames God and Eve for his own sinful decision to eat the forbidden fruit.
You may compare your family to others and feel like a failure - like everyone else has this family thing figured out. But truthfully, we are all sinners who marry sinners and give birth to sinners. While this truth doesn't excuse a person's hurtful, sinful behavior (God himself is grieved by such behavior), it helps ground me a little more in reality when I find myself playing the comparison game or building up unrealistic expectations of others.
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord." - Ephesians 5:8
Second, we're not doomed to this sinful state forever. Becoming Christian doesn't necessarily make family life easier, but it does make healing possible. It is through the sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ that not only can we be transformed as individuals, but our relationships can also be transformed, successfully reflecting the Trinitarian love of God to each other and the world. This is God's desire for every Christian family, not just a privileged few. For as many disheartening letters as I receive from distraught spouses and parents, I receive encouraging letters and articles from those who have found true transformation and healing in Christ. If you are a believer, know that you have profound spiritual support to overcome your family trials.
"Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." - Ephesians 5:8-11
Third, transformation requires humility, help and work on our part. This may seem like I am stating the obvious, but sometimes it's helpful to me when a loved one reminds me of basic truths. Just as we didn't instantly become perfect upon our acceptance of Christ, neither will our families. Each day we have choices - choices to choose Christ and accept his grace or to turn our backs. Occasionally we have breakthroughs - giant leaps forward in sanctity - but most of the Christian life consists of small, everyday decisions to seek God and live in his truth.
Sometimes we need help from fellow believers to live successfully as children of the light - even Christ, who needed no help, graciously received help from Simon in carrying his cross (Matthew 27:32). I encourage you to plug into a local support group or check out some of the resources at the end of this devotional if your family is hitting particularly dark days.
"My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." - Matthew 26:42
Fourth, God grieves with us. He doesn't rejoice in our pain or sit back and watch indifferently. Whatever trial you're facing, he is there, wanting the very best outcome even if sometimes we don't feel his presence or understand why things are going the direction they are going. When I find myself questioning God's loving presence, I reflect on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane where he accepted the painful cup of sacrifice out of profound love for you and me.
"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." - John 10:10
Fifth, while being Christian means embracing our crosses, it doesn't mean we'll never know joy or peace in our lives or families. There is hope. My prayer for you is that you will have renewed strength, happiness, and faith within your families in the new year.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Sometimes it's easy to get overwhelmed by our situations, and we forget to remember the positive. List at least one good trait in each family member and reflect on these positives during your quiet time.
The Power of Rewriting Your Story -- Dr. David Hawkins
The Characters of Christmas is a podcast created to help you take a fresh look at the Christmas story by getting to know the minor characters that played a part in Jesus’ birth. It is the companion to Dan Darling's book "The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught Up in the Story of Jesus."