By Richard Platt
Unless you live in complete isolation, you have seen a broken home. On Wednesday, we looked at the first broken family: Adam and Eve’s. But what about now? Can we overcome the brokenness of our homes in the present age? Hasn’t God promised that Christian families can overcome their brokenness?
In recent decades, Christian television has spread what many call the “prosperity gospel,” the misguided belief that if we have enough faith, God will heal our diseases and provide us with great financial blessings. Of course, most people reading this article scoff at the thought that faith can yield such benefits.
But don’t laugh too hard. We have our own prosperity gospel for our families. We simply replace having enough faith with having enough obedience.
“We believe that we can lift our families out of their brokenness if we conform to God’s commands.
ORDINARILY DOESN’T MEAN NECESSARILY
You’ve probably encountered this outlook at one time or another. Teachers and pastors tell wives that they will enjoy wonderful relationships with their husbands and children if they will become “an excellent wife” (Proverbs 31:10). After all, Proverbs 31:28 says, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” At men’s conferences, fathers recommit themselves for the sake of their children because “the righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!” (Proverbs 20:7).
In much the same way, young parents are led to believe that the eternal destinies of their children depend on strict and consistent training. You know the verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Passages like these have been taken to indicate that Christian families experience blessings and loss from God, quid pro quo. We believe that God promises a wonderful family life to those who obey his commands.
Now, we need to be clear here. The proverbs commend certain paths to family members because they reflect the ways God ordinarily distributes his blessings. But ordinarily does not mean necessarily. Excellent wives have good reason to expect honor from their husbands and children. Fathers with integrity often enjoy seeing God’s blessings on their children. Parents who train their children in the fear of the Lord follow the path that frequently brings children to saving faith.
But excellent wives, faithful husbands, and conscientious parents often endure terrible hardship in their homes because proverbs are not promises.They are adages that direct us toward general principles that must be applied carefully in a fallen world where life is always somewhat out of kilter. As the books of Job and Ecclesiastesillustrate so vividly, we misconstrue the Word of God when we treat proverbs as if they were divine promises.
WHAT HOPE IS THERE?
If all of this is true, what hope is there? To understand the hope that the Scriptures offer us, we have to come to grips with some good news and bad news. The good news is that you cannot be bad enough to ensure God’s condemnation of your family. You might have been the most unfaithful spouse and the worst parent in human history, but you cannot be wicked enough to put your family beyond the possibility of redemption. The bad news, however, is that you cannot be good enough to ensure God’s blessings on your family. You might be the best spouse and parent that has ever walked on the planet, but you cannot be righteous enough to protect your family from terrible trials and suffering. The future of your family, for good or ill, is in the hands of God.
Without a doubt, we should look to Scripture for guidance in our homes. It addresses the familial responsibilities of men (Eph. 5:25–33; 6:4; Col. 3:19, 21; 1 Peter 3:1–6), women (Eph. 5:22–24; Col. 3:18; 1 Peter 3:7), and children (Eph. 6:1–3; Col. 3:20). It also offers family stories that provide rather obvious guidance. For instance, the relationship of Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 2–4) is as positive an example as David’s adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11) is negative. We should do our very best to follow all the teachings of Scripture. But we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that the future depends on us.
The same is true in modern life. We all know parents who raise their children to be followers of Christ, but their children reject the Christian faith. At the same time, many of us know parents who came to faith late in life. Despite the fact that they had trained their children to mock everything holy, their adult children soon trusted Christ as well. We all know innocent victims of divorce who suffer their entire lives with the pain of loneliness and guilty parties who repent and find peace with God and happiness in another marriage. These scenarios may not make much sense to us, but they demonstrate one thing very clearly: the future of our families depends on God, not you or me.
THE END OF THE MATTER
What’s the bottom line? Do your best to be the kind of spouse, parent, or child God wants you to be, but never take your eyes off of the One who actually holds your family’s future. If things are going well in your home right now, don’t be fooled into thinking that somehow you have made it that way. Look again: your home is broken beneath the surface and able to disintegrate in a moment. So, give God the thanks he deserves and earnestly pray for his continuing mercy in the future. But if things are not going well in your home, don’t give up on the hope of redemption. God delights in showing his amazing saving power through people who have nothing left. Whatever the condition of your family may be, turn to the One who holds the future in his hands and ask him to honor himself through your broken home.
The Bible talks a lot about broken homes and we should, too. Rejoice when your family enjoys God’s blessing. Be sympathetic when you become aware of brokenness in other families. There will be times when you will face brokenness in your own family.
But you have a God who is also your heavenly Father, and he loves you as a member of his family. God promises no easy fixes or simple solutions. There are no steps to follow that will guarantee healing and restoration. But your heavenly Father can and does heal families. He can turn mourning into dancing, and he can create praise out of despair. He can bind the wounds of the brokenhearted and set free those imprisoned in darkness.
God can restore families and use the tragedies that so deeply hurt us now to move us forward in the purposes for which he created us.
So call out to him as your Father, and pray for his mercy on you and your home. Trust in his love for you and never give up. Our Father sent his only Son to die and rise again to forgive our sins and heal our shame. He is our hope in all the brokenness we face in our lives.
Read part 1 of this post here. This post is adapted from Ligonier Ministries.