Earlier in the summer the churches in Hook conducted a one question survey asking ‘What hurts you the most?’ Over 500 people filled in one of our question cards and these were combined with the responses from a total of 59 churches across North Hampshire giving a total of almost 12,000 replies. There was remarkable correlation between our local results and the combined results with 20% of people in both cases saying that negative emotions are their biggest hurt. If we look more deeply into the causes of these negative emotions, we discover that family is the biggest.
As a pastor I find that when I talk to people, family life is again and again one of the hardest areas of life to handle. This is nothing new! Read through the bible and it quickly becomes clear that family life is messy.
Adam and Eve knew the pain of family strife as their eldest son, Cain, killed his brother Abel. Things got no better as you follow through the family tree so that by the time we get to Jacob (Joseph’s father) we find him to be a rather nasty piece of work. He deceives is own father and cheats his brother Esau. Fleeing home he then goes on to manipulate, and is manipulated by his uncle Laban. Jacob is set up for trouble by marrying two sisters who themselves manipulate and cheat. He fathers 12 sons and a number of daughters through his two wives and their maidservants. Unsurprisingly the brothers don’t get on well and end up selling Joseph into slavery and present his bloodstained multicolour dream coat to Jacob who is convinced that Joseph is dead.
All that is in the first book of the bible and there are numerous other stories that I could tell you about dysfunctional family life if we were to go on through the rest of the pages of scripture. That is pretty dismal, so is there any hope for family life to be gleaned from the bible?
By the time Jacob’s family has grown into the nation of Israel which escaped from Egypt God gives them laws to govern society including this: ‘He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.’ Deuteronomy 10:18 (NIV) There then follow several laws designed to protect and provide for widows and orphans.
If you are living with family pain, simply knowing that God wants society to have safeguards for the weak and vulnerable when family life breaks down is not enough. However, the bible shows us that God is more involved than that. In Psalms we read: ‘The LORD is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’ Psalm 34:18 (NIV) and ‘He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds’ Psalm 147:3 (NIV).
These words show us that God longs to bring healing to those with damaged emotions. Jesus himself declared that this was his mission right at the start of his ministry. If you would like to discover how Jesus can do this today, then we would love to begin a journey of discovery with you.