Family Tensions

Ad_2015_HF-Devo_emailJacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men… he put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. Genesis 33:1-4

In Like Dew Your Youth, Eugene Peterson writes: “A search of Scripture turns up one rather surprising truth: there are no exemplary families. Not a single family is portrayed in Scripture in such a way so as to evoke admiration in us. There are many family stories, there is considerable reference to family life, and there is sound counsel to guide the growth of families, but not a single model family for anyone to look up to in either awe or envy.”

It is obvious that human beings need some mighty delivering power to help us reconcile—all we need to do is look at our families. The infection of sin in the human race has resulted in alienation, enmity, and revenge, even within families. In the second generation, one man (Cain) murders his own brother (Abel) for nothing more than simple jealousy. And later in Genesis the grandsons of Abraham, Jacob, and Esau become mortal enemies. It began when the crafty Jacob maneuvered his way into getting the inheritance due his older brother. (And with the help of his mother!) Years later, after Jacob had lived hundreds of miles away but then decided to return to his homeland, he knew he would have to face the brother he had so terribly wronged.

A miracle happened somewhere out in the desert. Esau decided not to exact revenge, but to accept his brother back. Even before Esau received gifts from Jacob and the respect of bowing to the ground many times, Esau wanted the kinship more than retribution.

This is the miracle of forgiveness, as Jacob says to Esau “to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably” (Gen. 33:10). This moment was a “win” for reconciliation. It takes the knowledge of God for us to rise above family discord and bitterness. Sad to say, the subsequent generations of Jacob and Esau became enemies. Reconciliation requires ongoing commitment.

Mel Lawrenz

PONDER: Where in your family might forgiveness be the key to resolving enmity?


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Special Siblings Reconciled

Dottie grew up feeling estranged from her younger brother Buzz. As siblings, she recalls being inseparable. Then one day, right around the time when Buzz was just old enough to cross the street on his own, Dottie noticed a significant change in his behavior towards her. “He hated me,” she said.

No one specific event transpired to cause the relational divide; rather, their bond fractured under the stress of ever-surmounting jealousy that stemmed from parental favoritism. Dottie’s father chose her as his ally, and her mother chose Buzz.

Dottie always sought to be amiable with Buzz, but he flat-out rejected her. Sometime after becoming a Christian at the age of 36, Dottie wrote a letter to Buzz, expressing her heartfelt loss over their kinship and futile efforts to restore peace. “I’ve done all I can,” she shared. “The next move will be yours.”

Dottie heard nothing from Buzz until five months before he died. She received a phone call from his wife stating that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. The nearness of death prompted Buzz to reach out to his sister and receive the Lord, confessing with tears. After Buzz’s funeral, Jesus continued to weave a pattern of reconciliation throughout the family. Several children and extended relatives have since come to know Christ.

Carolyn Chapp

Comments welcome below.

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9 thoughts on “Family Tensions”

  1. This email comes at a critical time in my family. I; as the story above, have two children; they grew up as each other’s best friend: a girl and a boy. As the older sibling; the daughter, became of age at time of High School graduation, she became a Prodigal. Our son was devastated at the loss of his sister, his friend.
    She married; had a child, the relationship was unsafe for her child; my granddaughter. They returned home July 3, 2011 and remained till the end of Jan. this year; 2015, when she took residence with a man whose life was not conducive to our values. On 3 separate occasions; he provoke my husband, Son, and myself, challenging us to verbally or physically fight.
    In March our daughter telephoned; we would no longer have privilege of relationship with her 4 yr old, and requested us to emancipate her from our family.
    The holidays are approaching; my son is engaged, I long for restoration; have urgently and fervently prayed for God’s peace in the waiting; Strength of heart of the journey.
    Thank you for this series.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. Just this year, I thought I would lose my own mind over a similar situation(s). I was sitting in my bed, crying and praying, trying to read my Bible through the tears and depression and thoughts jumping all over the place, when I read the passage that said, “Be still and know that I am God…” in other words, turn it over to me and then…IN HIS TIME, BE CONTENT TO ACCPET WHAT HE CHOOSES TO DO!!!.It was the hardest thing that I had ever done in my life!! I turned the situations over to God, and asked Him to help me work with Him on me. And one day, things began to turn around and change for the better…including me. Hope this helps.

  2. Christine Buntrock

    Unfortunately Dottie’s story is a common one. Another theme that runs in families is a critical spirit. How many of us are guilty of this when our sibilings or our spouses do not measure up to our expectations? It grieves me that I have wasted even one minute in such a destructive activity.

  3. To find forgiveness in your family, the members have to admit they have wronged obe anothet. Maybe talk about the issue. Some issues in families happen due to a misunderstanding or thwy didn’t hear a side of the stiry. Then say I’m sorry and I love you no matter what. I don’t want to fight another day. I want to rekindle our family.

  4. This story is all too common. My brother and I are not exactly estranged, but we are not close. We are close in age, though. I was born in 1969 and he was born in 1972. I always had a feeling that my brother was loved more than I was. I logically believe this to be false, but I still have this feeling, so there is something there. I know that this is something that I need to take care of. What that something is, I do not know just yet. I do love my brother, his wife, and family. I believe the feeling is mutual. I just wish we were a bit closer. I fear that when my parents are gone, the family will be fractured forever.

  5. In not just reading the Bible, but studying those words for understanding, I have come to understand that the question is not about me vs. them. For even though we are “family” each person has the right to make their decisions and atone to God for their own soul’s Salvation. I am learning that it is not only necessary to teach Salvation, but also Sanctification…how to live for the Lord. Paul say’s that many people will choose to live in ignorance of God’s Word and Will. We must do for them what the scriptures tell us to do…tell them, fight for them, pray for them, forgive them and put them in God’s hands.

  6. Lord God, when this is all over and I’m facing you in eternity, you will strip me down to the very core of who I am, I pray that when you do, that all that is left to see will be your love and forgiveness. Lord, I understand that the only law I am meant to follow is love… nothing more…nothing less…
    Father, thank you for your love and forgiveness that is offered equally to all, without restrictions, and I realize if I want to be your disciple there cannot be any restrictions on my love toward others…
    Lord Jesus, your love and forgiveness are so easy to experience, you have never required me climb mountains, swim oceans or go on some great pilgrimage in order to obtain your love and forgiveness, and I pray Lord that I never require this of anyone else in my life…
    Spirit of God, I do understand that things in life are temporary and that your love and forgiveness are eternal, help me to keep this fact in mind so I can maintain reconciled relationships, as well as heal the broken ones…
    Love, the season of obedience is here…

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