When family relationships are estranged and acrimonious, the festive season may not be worth looking forward to.
To top it off, if all of these are coming from a Christian household, it can be suffocating to put up a facade in public.
“We are strangers living under the same roof”
“I’m tired of trying to make things better”
“I might be better off on my own”
Perhaps your experience of family is similar — you may be struggling with what goes on behind closed doors. The atmosphere at home is tense, and nobody relates respectfully with one another.
What hope is there to honour our father and mother (Ephesians 6:2-3) when our relationships are associated with much hurt and heartache?
Growing up, I often wondered why God purposed for babies to be birthed in the context of family (Proverbs 17:6).
The incongruence that I witnessed in my earthly family led to years of disillusionment and resentment towards the notion of God’s design and intent for family life.
If God intended for earthly parents to introduce unconditional, relentless and sacrificial love towards me, my experience paled in comparison.
But while I contended with what is happening in the natural, I also learnt to taste and savour the goodness of our Heavenly Father. Here’s what I have learnt over the years.
SIGNIFICANCE: KNOW WHO YOU ARE
We are wired for relationships with an innate desire to love and be loved.
Yet, at some point we may have felt unwanted or unloved by our family through their words or actions. After being disappointed repeatedly, we may have developed distrust towards others or perceive that care from anyone comes with an agenda.
Ever heard this being said? “We can’t give something that we do not have.”
We can draw strength from our Father who models sacrificial love.
It is humbling to acknowledge that my parents and family members (myself included) are finite beings, and it is unrealistic to expect them to be stellar in their capacity to love at all times.
The good news for us is that we are grafted into God’s family and we are His sons and daughters (Romans 8:14-17)! Our Father in Heaven is an infinite source of unconditional love, and He desires to lavish us with perfect love that never fails.
In the moments when we feel emotionally bruised and beaten up by our family, we can speak life into our situation by praying a Bible verse that affirms our identity as children of God.
The Holy Spirit can help us repay evil with blessing (1 Peter 3:8-12), where a gentle answer turns away wrath instead of further stirring up anger (Proverbs 15:1).
We can draw strength from our Father who models sacrificial love, so that we may honour our family sacrificially (1 John 4:19-21).
SECURITY: HOLD FAST TO WHAT’S UNCHANGING
Living amid frequent friction makes for unstable family life. Sometimes it can feel like we are walking on eggshells when handling fragile family relationships, making us wonder: “Does anyone even care about how I feel?”
When we try to carry the weight of these burdens on our own, it prevents us from experiencing the compassion that God has for you and me (1 Peter 5:7).
We are not solely responsible for how things turn out in our family. Neither are we in full control of the dynamics in fractured relationships.
Instead of holding tightly to what is beyond us, let us hold on to the hope that promises to be an anchor for our soul; firm and secure to withstand the changing winds and unpredictable storms of life (Hebrews 6:19).
And in the moments when we feel that we are being flung and tossed around, let us not walk alone and seek support from a trusted friend and/or our spiritual family (Galatians 6:2). With wise counsel, we can gain new perspectives and acknowledge God’s mighty hand that will rescue us.
In the presence of an unchanging God, we can be still and honour our family with an unwavering heart even when change is constant.
SANCTIFICATION: WE’RE WORKS IN PROGRESS
Despite the promise of new life in Him, Jesus gave a sobering forewarning to His disciples that there will be ongoing struggles in their time on earth (John 16:33). As such, it is of no surprise that we simultaneously contend with joy and sorrow, hurt and hope in our families.
In the moments when our parents’ imperfections and shortcomings are glaring, may we be reminded that we are all work in progress.
Looking beyond our earthly lives, let us fix our eyes on a sovereign God who uses the trials we experience to help us grow in His likeness (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
God has a redemptive plan for our family, starting with you and me.
Over time, it dawned on me that His heart is to redeem us from our brokenness and restore the family by being among us (Psalm 68:5-6). After all, God did look at His creation and say that it was very good (Genesis 1:31)!
We can choose to honour our father and mother when our significance and sense of security is rooted in the gospel.
When we submit ourselves to God’s grand story, we can look beyond our earthly circumstances and recognise that we share in Christ’ death and resurrection when we are sanctified daily (Philippians 3:8-11).
Let us be set free by asking God to reveal any hurtful memory that is hindering us from honouring them. By releasing it at the foot of the Cross, we posture ourselves for Jesus to mend our broken hearts.
In our families, we will have heartache. But take heart! For Christ has overcome the grave and God has a redemptive plan for our family, starting with you and me.
We can honour our earthly parents to honour our Father in Heaven because He has breathed new life into us, touched our hearts with His healing hands and is walking with us daily till we see Him face to face.
- Are there any hurtful memories that are preventing you from honouring your parents? Release it to God and ask Him to mend your broken heart and give you a fresh perspective.
- What does it mean to find significance and security in your identity as a child of God?
- How can you be a channel of God’s redemptive love in your family?