(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 4)
Let’s face it: Some people have loving, caring and supportive families whereas some have families that have contributed and continue to contribute significantly, to their brokenness.
Keeping this in mind, I had the opportunity to witness a Wedding recently and it brought me to tears, not because of the awesomeness of any extravagance or how lovely the bride and groom looked (which they did!) but by the extent and authenticity of the love that flowed within the members of each of the families and across the two families.
This could not be faked. It was not a show. The love, respect, acceptance and appreciation that they had for each other was heartwarming, genuine and beautiful to see.
As far as I’m aware, the two families were Christian families and in my view, the love they had for all the members of that fold and which was on magnificent display was inspiring.
You could tell that each family member was appreciated, felt like they belonged, were loved, respected, treated with dignity, valued immensely and accepted. Although they were not perfect and I’m sure have had conflict situations, there was no sense of any bickering, jealousy, fighting, resentment, competition or strife, just plain love for all to see.
The Wedding speeches especially made me emotional because they did not seem scripted. They came from the heart. These were two families, that, although I am sure they were not perfect, sincerely loved and cherished each member and sincerely loved and accepted the new family members they were gaining by this marriage.
What a wonderful feeling to feel like you belong!
It is indeed lovely to see Christian families that sincerely love each other, as this mirrors the love that Christ has for his Church. God has commanded us to love each other and this is especially true of families. Yet, although there are many positive examples of families loving each other, as I mentioned earlier, there are sadly, some families where love is non-existent. In such families, instead of warmth, there is coldness. Instead of acceptance, there is rejection, animosity, insults and put downs. Instead of compassion and concern, there is indifference or criticism. In such families, often times, a person’s enemies are they of his own household, as Matthew 10:36 informs us will sometimes happen.
The fact is that sometimes, your family, the people who are supposed to make you feel safe, loved and accepted, could be your biggest disappointment. This may be true even of families that regularly attend Church and call themselves Christians. To the world they may appear to be a loving, normal family but in reality, they are cold, critical, insulting, harsh, unkind, unloving and dysfunctional.
To explain what some dysfunctional families may be like, let us look at Doreen’s family. (Doreen is a fictitious character created for the purpose of this Article.)
DOREEN’S DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY
Doreen Jefferson grew up in a religious family (The Jeffersons) that attended and still attend Church regularly. Each member of her family (including Doreen), has claimed to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and are active in the Church’s ministry work.
To outsiders like neighbours and those persons who attend their Church, the Jeffersons seem like a perfectly normal loving family and they certainly look the part on a Sunday morning. Yet Doreen knows better. Her family is nothing like what they pretend to be. They are good at giving the impression to onlookers that they are pious and that love flows in their family but this is all a show. The Jeffersons have mastered the art of putting on one face for the public but reverting to their true selves once they arrive home.
Doreen never really felt as if Jesus was truly Lord of her home, although her family members prayed, spent time studying their Bibles and even met religiously once a week for family devotions. For, unknown to outsiders and even other members of the Church where the Jeffersons attended, in addition to the cold, tense and often unhappy environment that pervaded her home, Doreen had for many years, been the object of emotional and psychological neglect and abuse, at the hands of her family. While this may not have been intentional on the part of some of her family members, Doreen realized that coldness, criticism, indifference, insults, failure to understand, a lack of appreciation, a failure to spend quality time with each other and to show genuine concern for each other was viewed by her family members as normal, when in fact it was abnormal.
This was not how normal families related to each other! Doreen prayed for many years from a child into her early adulthood, that this dysfunction would change but she was all grown up now (although still living at home) and she had begun to accept that her family may never learn what a loving family ought to look like.
This always puzzled Doreen. She knew that no family was perfect and all had their problems but how could a family that claimed to know God (who was love), not have love? Why was it so cold and emotionally neglectful? Why was it so hard to care? Why couldn’t they see that she was a real person, in need of love, affection, understanding, appreciation, concern, compassion, patience, mercy and acceptance? Why wouldn’t they take the time to get to know her and why did they shut her down every time she tried to make inroads to their hearts? Why were they content to just co-exist with each other, to converse here and there but not to truly demonstrate the love that Jesus expects families to demonstrate?
The emotional support that Doreen needed in life was rarely ever available by her family. She had grown used to going through her low moments by herself, as she knew by their actions, that although one family member showed occasional concern here and there, nobody really cared for her. In fact, often times, when in a fix or going through a rough patch in her life, the Jeffersons were quick to criticize Doreen, laugh at her plight or abandon her emotionally in those moments, where she need their love the most.
DOREEN’S EMOTIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL NEEDS
Like every human being, Doreen has always had emotional and psychological needs which are typically met in a family setting. These emotional and psychological needs are as follows:-
1. To feel CARED for
Doreen’s family has never really seemed to care about the pain she feels inside. Like other persons, she has had some serious turbulence in her life, many of which left her completely heartbroken and deeply grieved in spirit. Yet, through those storms, for the most part, Doreen’s family remained indifferent and only appeared to be concerned about how her problems would impact on its public image. For example, when Doreen had trouble finding work for many months, apart from one family member who would check in on her occasionally, despite how hard she tried, she never heard the words: “Don’t worry. God will come through for you. Lift up your head. Be encouraged. We are in this with you. You will come out of it” or any other encouraging words to that effect. Doreen’s family was instead highly critical, assumed that Doreen was just lazy and did not want to work and threw insults regularly, which left her feeling more discouraged, stuck and saddened.
Doreen’s family also don’t seem to care to know when she is afraid, when she is facing real danger, when she feels ill, confused or weak, sad or overwhelmed by life. They treat her as if those are her problems, not theirs and they don’t really want to be bothered with having to care about what she goes through on a daily basis or how she feels. It is almost as if she doesn’t exist and the complete lack of concern really hurts Doreen at times.
Doreen has noted throughout her life, that even when she draws the family’s attention to a real, hurtful area of conflict that exists between her and another family member in the hope that it will be fairly resolved, that family member, along with the others, tend to dismiss the issue or treat it as unimportant, as if Doreen’s feelings and hurt and pain did not matter. As a result, the issue remains and gets shoved under the carpet.
2. To feel UNDERSTOOD
Doreen has realized that she is a stranger in her own home. In fact, the people she meets at work and other places, know her better than her own family. This has always bothered her, from as early as her adolescence. Her family has been around her for her whole life and she has made attempts for them to get to really know who she is as a person but sadly, they’ve never been interested.
As much as it hurts, she has realized that they just don’t care to know what makes her tick and what kind of person she really is as they already hold a view (from since her childhood) that she is a horrible person (for no proper or justifiable reason) and they are not interested in seeing her in any other light. There is nothing that she can do, it seems, to change that perspective either. She has tried and tried and tried throughout the years but still gets branded with the same bad brush she got as a child, when she tried to point out some of the problems with the family.
As a result, the causes Doreen fights in life, she fights alone. The tears she has shed (and she has had cause to shed many), she shed alone. The dangers she faced (and she has been in really dangerous situations in her work and otherwise), she faced them alone. The things she loves and the people she often meets and blesses day by day, Doreen’s own family have not a clue. It makes her sad to think that she may go through all of life and that they may never know who she really was.
3. To feel APPRECIATED
No matter what Doreen does or how hard she works or the sacrifice she makes, her effort is generally not appreciated and is regarded as having fallen short of the Jefferson standard. She has always been made to feel that she was not good enough and would never be good enough, her family often eager to point out the achievements of other siblings and to conclude that she will never be on that level. No matter what Doreen did or did not do, she would often be accused of things and whenever she did good, this would either be undermined by the family or ignored. Doreen’s dad for example was always quick to criticize Doreen but never complimented her on anything: Not when she made right choices, not when she got her Degree, not when she cooked a tasty meal for the family or willingly redesigned and upgraded an area in the home or organised a surprise birthday party for her mum or made any other positive effort.
Doreen has never heard her family tell her that they are proud of her or that they appreciate her. In fact, she walks around the house feeling guilty for being alive, as her family treat her pretty much like she is not even human but a dog and a bother. Quite often, she is frowned at, grunted at, put down, insulted or ignored on many occasions when she tries to make conversation or to give her views on an issue. No matter what gifts Doreen gets her parents, it is met with either indifference, irritation or criticism, as if the recipients resent the fact that she got them presents. In fact, some family members get upset and are rude whenever Doreen suggests her desire to purchase something for that family member or to do a kind deed for him or her. This has been hard for Doreen, as she loves to give of her time, effort and resources. However, her family does not appreciate it and does not appreciate her and so, over the years, due to the endless rejection she received when she did a kind deed, she has reduced this practice.
In fact, whatever Doreen does, her family usually find fault with it, disapprove of it or state that she shouldn’t have done it, no matter how much effort Doreen put into it and the sacrifice she made to have it done. For example, there was that time that Doreen upgraded an area in the house and painted it herself. She worked tirelessly, passionately and excitedly (as she loves interior design and decorating) but only received endless criticism during the project from her family members. The same thing happened when she worked on transforming an area in the house into a self-contained room. Almost every decision was criticized and undermined but Doreen still continued with God’s strength and completed the project, making the space look like a five star hotel.
When Doreen’s family does show some appreciation, it is rare and very short-lived. They have short memories and are only quick to point out all the bad they have imagined about Doreen.
4. To feel EMPATHIZED WITH
When Doreen has had a very bad day at work or when she is going through some really adverse storms in life and feeling close to the end of her rope, instead of receiving compassion and words of comfort in her weariness and pain, she is afforded no sympathy whatsoever. For example, although Doreen has learned to keep most of her troubles to herself over the years (and there have been some pretty major upheavals), on one occasion, she mentioned to a family member, some of the trouble she was experiencing at work, where she was being abused and insulted by a group of people in high office, at the many meetings held. Most of this occurred because she insisted on holding fast to her integrity and not to side with what was wrong. Instead of receiving compassion from her family member at a moment when she was weary, hurting sorely and afraid of having to go back to that abusive workplace the next day, Doreen was asked sarcastically, why she always had these type of problems at work. She was also told coldly that others had it worse than her and she was accused of always complaining.
This was not at all true. The truth is Doreen has been through many trials throughout the years and kept most of it to herself, as she knew her family did not really care. In her life, she has regularly been there for other people, providing support, help and comfort where possible, so much so, that people often reached out to her first when they were in trouble or needed advice or help. However, in the few times that she has tried to share what she has been going through with family (because none of the people she has helped throughout the years are around) and in the hope that maybe, she would get some empathy, it was viewed as her always complaining.
Admittedly, when Doreen is down and out and hurting, her family has given financial support for which she is grateful. Her family has always been excellent at providing financial assistance for school, tertiary education and even when she has been in a tight financial spot. However, money does not buy love and the emotional and psychological support she has needed, has generally been non-existent.
No matter what hurt Doreen is going through, she has come to realize that she must bear it alone. Her family does not want to know about it and does not care about her hurt. Her heart could be bleeding and it is business as usual. If however, her family thinks that she has done something wrong, they hate on her seemingly for a lifetime, wanting little to do with her as possible, as if they never did anything wrong and never wronged her. They expect forgiveness but they give none and are fine with the bridges being burned in the relationship. To appease their guilt or for their own calculated purposes however, her family members may make a few appearances and show their faces here and there sparingly but generally, they are not interested in a real, close, loving, honest family relationship with her.
Lately, Doreen has observed that a family member who has been cold, insulting, abusive and indifferent to most of Doreen’s cares from childhood to date, has turned the table on Doreen and accused her of what she has been guilty of all her life. She has demonstrated that she has narcissistic tendencies, by projecting her character on to Doreen and accusing her of having no empathy, when in fact, it is that family member who has, throughout the years, ruthlessly demonstrated time and time again, that she has none.
This family member has caused Doreen to cry on many an occasion over the hurts she inflicted with her words and except for one occasion recently, which was shocking to Doreen, this family member never apologized for her wicked and abusive ways which started from childhood and continued into adulthood to date. It is this same family member that said not one word of encouragement to Doreen during her dry season of unemployment which lasted for months, as she desperately searched for work. Instead, she callously threw insults at her and badmouthed her behind her back. It is also the same family member who on another occasion, at a very low point in Doreen’s life, threw salt in her wounds, hoping to hurt her as much as possible, when she was down.
5. To feel RESPECTED AND AFFORDED HUMAN DIGNITY
Doreen feels really low in her family, as she is often disrespected and regarded as dirt. She is often tense when at home as her family members often bark at her, buff her, speak roughly to her and grunt at her when she tries to make conversation, cut across her rudely when she tries to express her opinion on a matter, so that she is forced to shut up and completely disregard what she has to say. She is so insignificant in her family’s scale of who matters, that there are times that she has spoken and her family has behaved as if she did not speak, sometimes even repeating exactly what she just said as an answer to a problem in a discussion, as if she did not just suggest the very same thing.
She was even told by one male family member and without cause, that she was an irritation to people. She was therefore made to feel that, while her family members were special, significant and entitled to be in this life, she had no right being here on earth and it was a pain just having her around. For, they were merely tolerating her existence and life would be so much better if they did not have to put up with her.
6. To feel VALUED, CHERISHED AND SIGNIFICANT
Doreen’s family has always treated her like if she had no value, that God had no purpose for her in life, that she was an utter failure and would always be that way and as if God’s redemptive power was beyond her grasp. They have treated her as if the Lord Jesus Christ died for everybody else but her and that other people are spiritual and special but that she was nothing and would always be nothing. Her family has completely discounted and dismissed the gifts and talents that God gave her (which are many) and has treated her as if she had no worthwhile contribution to make to God’s Kingdom.
Whenever Doreen excitedly tries to give a testimony of God’s goodness in her life because of something beautiful that he did in it (which he keeps doing) or claims that God used her or was using her in some way, her family dismisses her story, as if it doesn’t count. Doreen found this to be very discouraging, especially when her family members abandoned her Facebook page entirely, as if she was a stranger, while showing support to other family members, friends and the general public on their pages. In Doreen’s view, they consider the years of Doreen being in relationship with the Lord (although she has not always been faithful), as if she has no relationship with him whatsoever, that God does not consider her to be of any value and that she would be the last person that he would use to achieve any great purpose. Yet, they are so wrong.
Also, in the secular world, Doreen’s family dismisses her talents, her areas of professional expertise and what she is really good at and quite versed in, as if she knows nothing about those areas and they know more than her on every matter because she is a nobody.
Doreen has realised that her family has tried to suppress her all her life, deliberately withholding compliments from her on most occasions, whether it be in relation to a tasty meal she worked hard to cook or how nice she looked before an event. They have always bandied together to try to make her feel small or that another sibling is better than her in some area, thereby inviting and encouraging the wicked spirit of competition, in the hope that she will understand that her place is to be suppressed forever and to stay down. She is not allowed to shine and if she does, they move quickly to hide that shine. While they may not have been fully aware of what they were doing and why, Doreen has realized that the devil used them mightily to try to keep her down, to make her feel worthless and suppressed.
Her family has worked really hard throughout the years and consistently, to keep her down, by insulting her, making her the object of family ridicule and entertainment and on most occasions, downplaying all of her talents, abilities and strong points.
7. To feel SUPPORTED
Doreen has had to make some tough decisions in life, even walking away from jobs so as to not compromise her faith in Jesus Christ. When she makes these decisions, her family usually give no support or word of encouragement, to let her know that they are there for her and backing her. Instead, without even knowing all of the facts or all that she has been through, when the outcome doesn’t immediately look like what they think it should look like or they think that her unemployment disrupts the image they would like to project as a family that has it altogether, they are highly critical (sometimes to her face or by gossiping behind her back).
Doreen has realized that when she goes through the worst and reaches the lowest points in life (as she has on a few occasions), she goes through it alone because her family generally ignores her and her pain, which, although it is real, they behave as if it doesn’t even exist. Doreen has grown to expect zero support and encouragement from them and just turns all her burdens over to the Lord. This is the greatest positive that has come out of Doreen’s pain, as it has drawn her closer to the Lord. From childhood, she learned to cling to him dearly, as she knew that, unlike those around her, he truly cared about her and knew all about what she was going through.
WHEN FAMILIES DISAPPOINT
As said before, the fact is some people are blessed with loving, caring, kind and supportive family members. For others though, as we saw with Doreen, it’s a whole different tune. For, their emotional needs as a person are completely ignored and they are treated as if they do not even exist.
The examples provided of Doreen’s experience may seem unreal but the truth is some people go through exactly those experiences on a day to day basis or even worse with their families.
For such people, their need for love, support, commendation, some level of praise and encouragement are not met and absolutely no emotional support is given, no matter what they are going through. In such families, members are versed in the art of discouragement, suppression, belittlement, ridicule, criticism and rejection and dish these out in large doses.
People in such families realize that it is impossible to please their loved ones, as no matter what they do, how much they achieve or how much they try to live for the Lord (if they are Christians), they are constantly accused, berated and hear (whether audibly or otherwise) that they are not good enough. They are frowned on as failures and rarely complimented (if ever) or told that family members are proud of them.
They have grown used to never hearing the words ‘I love you’, although there was a time, when they were younger, that they yearned to hear it. From childhood, they have learned, after much rejection, that hugs are generally not welcome in the home and selfless acts of love are met for the most part with some kind of grumbling or resentment.
In such families, there may be a few good moments but generally, they are treated by family members as a nuisance, as if their existence is merely being tolerated but that they are not really wanted around or of any significance.
A home is a place to relax and to be one’s self without fear of rejection but home for such persons, sadly, feels like a prison. They are always tense as they never know what they will be accused of next or what harsh words of criticism they might receive. They spend most of their time in their rooms, for they know that they have been long dismissed and forgotten. They know, deep down, that they are not loved, for when one is loved, one knows it.
Nobody in the family really values them (no matter how hard they have tried to gain acceptance) or really wants them around. When they do good there is utter silence and it is quickly forgotten or not even acknowledged but when they have failed or it is perceived that they have failed, harsh words of criticism are quick to rule the roost. Even at times when they are not guilty, they find themselves at the centre of accusation, many times to support the skewed narrative of a popular family member, that is preoccupied with making himself or herself look good in the eyes of others.
The truth is, some of you, even in homes that appear to be ‘Christian’ homes to outsiders are made to feel like the scum of the earth by your family members and as if your very existence is a burden. They have resolved in their hearts to paint you black for life and there is nothing that you can do in their eyes, to change their minds or to redeem yourself in their skewed opinion. In fact, truth be told, a large part of your brokenness is due to the pain they have so callously inflicted on you for years and continue to inflict, treating you as if you are a nobody, hating on you with their words, ostracizing and writing you off as if you are not a family member and in their minds and in their pride, thinking to themselves that God either does not see their ongoing abuse, does not care about it because surely he too knows that you are a nobody and so is okay with how they treat you and that he will never requite it.
WORDS OF ADVICE WHEN SUFFERING EMOTIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL NEGLECT AND ABUSE
If you’re not careful, the fact that your family has withheld emotional support from you throughout your life and show no signs of changing, can break your heart, make you feel like scum, absolutely worthless and paralyze you when it comes to your purpose. It may also make you susceptible to the first man that shows you any kind of interest and that whispers sweet nothings into your ear (although he may not be right for you and not God’s will for your life), as you desire to be loved by somebody and you foolishly fancy yourself that he just might. On the other hand, you may find yourself asking yourself: If my own family could treat me this bad, if my own family doesn’t love me, who will?
Sometimes, you may even be tempted to think that maybe God thinks exactly the way they think about you, especially when things are going really badly in your life. However, this is not true. If you spend time in the Word, this will dispel the lies of the enemy. By the grace of God, you must not get bitter but press on, believing that you are, not how low your family tries or has tried to make you feel but who God has said you are.
No matter how badly your family has treated you or still continues to treat you, still be grateful for them and love them. Sometimes this love needs to be demonstrated in your continually forgiving them and praying for them, in the hope that they will change, no matter how many years they have been the way they have been.
I am convinced that God does not make mistakes. He didn’t make a mistake when he placed Joseph in the family he did and he didn’t make a mistake with you. Even where your family has withheld love and support from you therefore, remember that this is the family that God has allowed you to have. Give him thanks (the Bible states in everything give thanks), focus on the positives (there are bound to be some somewhere) and be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.
Remember as well, that no matter how dysfunctional your family may be, how much they may pretend to be normal to outsiders and how unloved and rejected you feel:
- God sincerely loves you;
- He has seen the truth of your situation and knows the extent of your pain;
- If you are his child because of Jesus’s righteous covering upon you, you are someone special in God’s eyes, you have beautiful worth and you are accepted in Him, the beloved;
- No matter what you lost out on in terms of emotional support, God’s love is enough to compensate;
- If you are a Christian, while you may feel hurt by the love that was withheld from you in your family, what you were deprived of did not set you back in life. For, you are complete in Jesus Christ. What he has to offer is much more and greater than what you did not get in your family and so despite your past, you can be excited about your future!
- God is still able to extract glory from your life and story, no matter how broken or worthless your family has made you feel. If you’d let him, he will heal you and he wants to take your broken pieces and use you for his Kingdom business, equally as much as he may have used that person who grew up in a very loving family. For, God doesn’t just showcase his glory in seemingly perfect family settings but also in people where what they came from, looks like ugly ashes. See, He is not a God that just uses those who have come from loving homes and have grown up into remarkable people. He also causes outcasts, the unloved and the rejected to radiantly shine, once they submit to His will as they move FORWARD.
It is important to remember as well, that, although people may not have seen it and if you tried to tell them, they’d probably think you made it all up, God has seen every wicked thing your family has done to you, how coldly they have treated you and that they have continued on without repenting of same. In his Word, he reminds his children that vengeance is his. He knows how to repay those that refuse to repent of their actions and how to mete out righteous judgment to the proud.
For example, in Isaiah 66:5, he said to his children who feared him and were seeking to obey his Word but yet they were hated by their brethren:
- “Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.”
You therefore need not to get angry, vengeful or bitter. If you are a bona fide child of God and part of His Royal family, keep praying for your earthly family members and trust that God will appear to your joy, in his own timing. He may take his time yes but he does come and unless your family repents of their wicked ways toward you, God will intervene to make them ashamed, even as he did so many years after Joseph had been sold into Egypt by his brothers.
Even where it is a parent, a step-parent or both your parents that have treated you wickedly, you are expected to continue to honour them, as God requires in his Word but he is able to intervene in such a situation as well. This is especially true where you have been treated badly because you have been seeking to obey God’s will and calling on your life, over and above how they think that your life should look.
Jesus expects your loyalty to Him to outweigh your loyalty to your parents. For, he placed you on earth, not to serve your parents but to serve Him. Therefore, if it means that to honour the Lord Jesus, you must turn your back on your parents’ will for your life (according to their view) and upset them in doing so and have them consider you to be wasting your life and have your siblings badmouth you in the worst possible way as a result, TRUST that Jesus has your back. It will no doubt be painful because you love your parents and want peace in the family but once the path that you are taking is God’s will for your life, He will support you. He will uphold you with the right hand of HIS righteousness. He will help you.
In the Bible, Jesus stated:
- “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
- “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” (Matthew 19:29)
- “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” (Psalm 27:10)
Psalm 10 also reminds us that nothing happens without God taking note, that those who work mischief and do wickedly (even in families), will not get away with it because God will requite it, unless they humble themselves in his sight and repent.
Most importantly, for those that are without earthly fathers or who have had earthly fathers but were no better than the fatherless because their dad failed to provide for them or provided for them but failed to be a good example to them, failed to show them love, respect and appreciation, failed to treat them with dignity and to teach them their value, failed to be protective of them and tender with them and kind to them, failed to take the time to communicate with them and understand the challenges they faced in life and to comfort them in their fears but instead abused them with words or otherwise, thought the very worst of them, spoke harshly to them and treated them like garbage, God himself will help them. He will fill that void and be a father to them.
Psalm 10:11-14 reads:
- “He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it. Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble. Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? He hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it. Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto thee; thou art the helper of the fatherless.”
Psalm 68:5 further describes God as “A father of the fatherless.”
DISPELLING SOME MYTHS
As I get ready to close, I know that some of you that may have grown up in families that were painfully dysfunctional and continue that way, may have been tempted to look at people that radiate God’s glory, people who are abiding wonderfully in Christ Jesus as adults and regarded as resounding success stories and to say, that being successful was easy for them because they were surrounded from childhood and still are surrounded, by family that loved and cherished them dearly.
Admittedly, some people’s backgrounds are highly conducive to them radiating success later on in their adult lives. For example, a woman who exhibits poise, finesse, intelligence, good mannerisms and a good, positive, graceful attitude, may have found it easy to do so, having grown up with a loving, supportive, understanding, encouraging, complimenting, appreciative and respectful dad, mom and siblings. Her environment from a baby up was built for success, it seems.
However, it should be remembered (and there are lots of examples of this), that there are some people who grew up in the same kind of environment with loving, Christian parents and siblings, yet, they still ended up as colossal failures in life. They still chose the part of failure. They still became addicted to alcohol or drugs or sex, still lied, still stole, still ended up aligning themselves with men that were ungodly, still ended up committing a crime or getting pregnant out of wedlock or running foolishly after money and not Christ or some other horrible sin.
When this happens with such people (as it has), you can’t help but look at their lives, the wonderful support system they have had (or ‘seemed’ to have had) in their upbringing and wonder what in the world happened, what went wrong and why they turned out that way.
Yet, this just reinforces the fact that the problem is not so much the environment that one grows up in but the problem is that ugly sin nature within us. One’s environment, while it may predispose some to being persons of godly spiritual character, does not guarantee the kind of outcome a person will have.
Yes some have responded positively to the outpouring of love and attention they received throughout their childhoods and into adult life but others have wilted, even in the face of such love and attention and still chose the wrong path. This reminds us that it is only Jesus Christ really that can make the difference in a life, in every instance.
My second point is this: It is important to remember that God extracts his glory from his children in different ways, through different stories, from different backgrounds and in different circumstances.
For example, for a couple getting married where they both received lots of love and appreciation from their families as children and that kept themselves pure for marriage and have been active in ministry and are (by human standards), kind and good people that impact lives daily, God may choose to get the glory from their story on their Wedding Day, showing the world that this is what love (not lust) looks like and that the best love stories exist when his children submit to his way and his will. He may also opt to showcase the awesome love that exists in and across the two families as he did in the Wedding I spoke about initially. Such a story is powerful and will truly cause the world to take note.
However, this does not mean that for a daughter of God who has come from a broken, dysfunctional, emotionally neglectful and abusive family, where she grew up having self-esteem issues and many hurts and even made mistakes in her early adult years searching for the love she did not receive at home, that, once she has repented and clings to her Lord for strength, healing and the love she never really got from her family, that he can’t extract glory from her life.
God can take such a woman, build her up IN HIM, heal her broken heart, bind up her wounds and present her radiantly, to a godly husband. For some such women, they know in retrospect, that it is only by the grace of God that their virginity was preserved intact until marriage, as they have not been 100% faithful to God and did align themselves with the wrong men. Yet, having repented of their disobedience, God can still choose to insert himself into their Wedding day (which through Him, he can make equally as glorious as the couple above) and through their story (which began with ashes), let it serve as a testament of His grace, His mercy, His love, His might and His power to save, redeem and restore.
It is easy to look at those who grew up in loving homes and are shining wonderfully for Christ, to say that had you had the same opportunity, you would have been as successful as they have been because love and support and encouragement makes being successful easy. You may have even harboured some resentment against God and at your life’s circumstances because you can’t understand why he didn’t give you as positive a start as others have had. After all, you’ve been loving all your life but your family has rejected your love and pretty much told you by their actions, to just stop doing and being all you longed to do and be.
However, if God were to only extract his glory from situations that seem easy, we and those looking on, would not get a greater appreciation for the extent of his saving power and grace.
God’s wisdom is infinite. What if God, in his wisdom, allowed you to be placed in that dysfunctional family of yours, to showcase his glory later on in life, when he causes you, the object of such brokenness, to be a beautiful spiritual success?
In Ezekiel 16:4-14, God told the children of Israel on how he had taken them from unwanted outcasts and transformed them magnificently:
- “And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. NONE eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast CAST OUT in the open field, to the LOATHING of thy person, in the day that thou wast born.
- And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, LIVE; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, LIVE.
- I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare. Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, THY TIME WAS THE TIME OF LOVE; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest MINE.
- Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers’ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God.”
Psalm 147: 2-3, 5 declares:
- “The Lord doeth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. He healeth the broken in heart and bindeth up their wounds….Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.”
In the Bible, we are also reminded that God took ESTHER, a woman who was orphaned as a child and made her Queen. He took RUTH, a woman with baggage and who came from a people with an ugly family background, people that were despised and scorned by the Israelites and he promoted her to be the wife of one of the most eligible, upstanding, godly and wealthy bachelors in Israel, Boaz.
He took JOSEPH, a man whose brothers hated him and hurt him and sold him off to strangers for money, to reveal His sovereign power and His ability to make those trodden down, to stand, when upheld by his right hand and magnificently.
In these imperfect situations, God was glorified and he is ready, willing and able to do the same in your life, if you’ll let go of the bitterness and let Him have His way in your life. He doesn’t want you to compare or complain. He doesn’t want you to stay stuck in your past and to dwell on all the hurt you went through. He wants you to forgive your family members and to find the courage through him, to keep forgiving them, if they are still continuing on unrepentantly with the emotional and psychological abuse, bad treatment, wrongful accusation, put downs and neglect. He wants you to believe on Him and to trust and obey. He wants you to look on his Son the Lord Jesus Christ, that great Physician that is able to heal you all of your wounds. He specializes in turning the most ugly ashes into beauty, in the lives of those that love and serve him.
No matter your family background therefore know this: You can be “…a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God”, if you will submit your life and your way in obedience, to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
(Written on 22nd October, 2018, expanded on in May and July 2020)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interesting, informative, edifying or beneficial, you may also be interested in reading the following under the ‘BIBLE-BELIEVING Daughters’ Page:
- Note 123 -‘God Calls Me Hephzibah’
- Note 125 ‘ – ‘When God Promises To Write-on A Write-off’
- Note 182 – ‘How It Feels To Be On The Wanted List’
- Note 194 – ‘David, Eliab And Goliath’
Additionally, under the ‘VIRTUOUS Daughters’ Page:
- Note 2 – ‘Woman, You have Worth’