Is My Family Too Messy?
Do you think that your family is a bit messy and chaotic?
Do you have siblings who won’t even speak with each other?
Well, you are not alone. All families can be dysfunctional and messy at times. But God has shown us how to work through family quarrels using one of the most “messy” families of all time.
Imagine being a teenager in a blended family with multiple wives and more brothers than you can count on your fingers. Sounds challenging, right? Now imagine all your brothers hating you enough to throw you into a pit and then sell you to the first traders who happened by. Feeling hurt and alone would hardly describe your pain and loss. This frightening situation is precisely what happened to Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob (Genesis 37:3).
Jacob may have wrestled well with God, but he caused an epic family problem by making Joseph, and only Joseph, a unique long-sleeved coat that we know as the coat of many colors. He might as well have given Joseph a tee-shirt that proclaimed “Dad Loves Me Best” on it.
First and foremost, we can and should head off family dysfunction before it starts. In particular, parents and grandparents should show their love without favoritism. Yes, we can and should do our best to make each child feel special, but not in a way that makes the other children feel insecure about their place in our hearts or engenders jealousy. As the story of Joseph shows, jealousy leads to anger and even hatred. And with all of the wisdom of a typical teenager, Joseph fanned these flames by telling his brothers that he dreamed they would all bow down to him.
To make a long story short, Joseph was resold as an enslaved person in Egypt, falsely accused of rape, and thrown into Pharaoh’s prison. From a worldly point of view, things looked pretty bleak for Joseph. But God’s love for Joseph and his faith in God remained steadfast. Through a series of events and dreams orchestrated by God, Joseph was released from prison and rose to power under Pharaoh.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Joseph’s family was on the verge of starvation from a prolonged famine, and Jacob sent his brothers to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph recognized his brothers when they came to buy grain, but they did not recognize him. So, Joseph decided to test them, and ultimately when it was clear that they had repented from the evil they did to him (Genesis 42:21), Joseph revealed himself with tears of love for his brothers and father. Joseph gave them land in Egypt, and God saved them from famine.
Joseph could reconcile with his brothers as he wisely discerned that the hand of God was at work. Even though his brothers meant evil toward him, God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20). Ultimately, the families of these brothers grew to become the 12 tribes of Israel — and a great nation.
So, what can we learn from this saga to help us overcome dysfunction or messiness if it occurs in our family?
1️⃣ No matter how bad things look, we should remember to trust in God’s providence, His steadfast love for us, and His ability to transform lives.
2️⃣ Even if a family member has wronged or hurt you, give time for God to work on them — and you too.
3️⃣ Maintain love in your heart like God does for us sinners. Be ready to forgive, embrace, and help family members rather than treat them as you think they treated others.
In this series on family, we have studied a variety of family challenges, many of which had tragic consequences. There is no perfect family except for the family of God. Thankfully, He invites us to become His children through repentance and faith in Jesus. In the meantime, here on Earth, we need to help our families avoid dysfunction, clean up the mess, restore loving relations when things go wrong, and follow Jesus all our days.
Importantly, we have learned that the key to family success is listening to and trusting God, our Creator and Savior. Lives can be destroyed, and families are torn apart when we don’t trust God, such as when Adam and Eve believed the serpent’s words and Cain killed Abel in anger — but trusting God can bring loving families together. And trusting God can restore and save the lives of families, as we saw through the epic story of Joseph. Trusting God is the best thing you can do for your family.