The Hope In Messy Families

The Hope In Messy Families

by Dan Neighbors

The Thanksgiving holidays are upon us which means many of us are planning to get together with family. We’ll gather around the dinner table with our closest family and friends to enjoy a meal, conversation, and share out of the thankfulness of our heart. Some of us look forward to this time with family throughout the year, while others simply hope that they can get through it without too much family drama.

Drama. It’s real. With every family gathering, there is a tendency for it to rear it’s ugly head. Whether you have in-laws that don’t understand you, or your sister's boyfriend that nobody likes; the opportunity for drama to show up is high during the holidays. Why? Because maintaining good relationships is difficult. It takes work to listen, to care, to show compassion, to put aside differences, to forgive, or to give someone a second chance. None of us do this perfectly. We all make sinful choices, and have messy families as a result.

Messy families aren’t anything new. The bible is full of dysfunctional families. Take a look at Isaac’s family in Genesis 25-27.

— Isaac & Rebekah play favorites with Jacob & Esau, their twin boys, which ultimately ends up as an explosive and dangerous rivalry (Genesis 25).

— Jacob is a deceiver and master manipulator, and deceives his brother out of his birthright

— Esau lives only in the moment and sells his birthright for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25), saddens his parents by marrying a Canaanite woman (Genesis 26), and has a strong desire to kill his brother.

— Jacob’s Uncle Laban after 7 years of servitude deceives Jacob out of marrying his daughter Rachel and causes him to marry his daughter Leah instead.

If this isn’t a messy family, I don’t know what is. Can you imagine the family gatherings if they all decided to get together over the holidays? Talk about awkward tension. As we see later on in scripture, Jacob and Esau didn’t even bother getting together and spent most of their time apart hating each other. Relationships are hard, especially when we only care about ourselves (James 4:1-2).

We’d never want to be a part of this family drama, but the sad truth is that we all have dysfunctional families in one way or another. We are all sinners and bound to respond selfishly and make mistakes that hurt our relationships. The families recorded for us in the bible are no exception, but what we see in the story of Isaac’s family is what gives us hope. In spite of Isaac’s dysfunctional and messy family, God saw fit to bless the world. It is through Isaac’s son, Jacob — the manipulator and deceiver, that God fulfills his promises to Abraham and brings about the birth of the Savior! It is through a messy dysfunctional family that we see the hope of redemption, rescue, and forgiveness of our sins realized! Even in the midst of our sinful messy families, God can work.

As we learned in the Gospel Project this week, we are "unworthy to be recipients of God’s love, grace, and mercy. We too are unworthy to be used by God as a light in the midst of sin’s darkness. We fail to value spiritual blessings; we give ourselves over to chasing after fleshly things in sinful ways; and we operate from a worldly mind-set rather than a spiritual one. Yet the Scriptures tell us that God can still work His redemption in and through unworthy people like us.”

So as you head into Thanksgiving celebrations this week, you may already be dreading getting together with your family. Chances are someone will do something or say something that causes a little drama. It will probably happen because we’re all a mess. But instead of leaning into the drama and letting it overtake us, why don’t we stop and remember the hope that we have in Jesus. Remember that Jesus stepped down into our mess to provide us salvation. Remind yourself of the grace and mercy from Jesus’ work on the cross that has changed your life. Thank Him for the hope that he gives that our current messy situation isn’t the end. We have an eternal future with Him! Oh, and take some time to ask Him for the ability to show the same love, compassion, grace, and mercy the He has shown to you to your family throughout the holidays. Who knows? Maybe you shining the light of Christ this Thanksgiving Day would be used by God to do some great things to bring your family closer together!

As you consider the thoughts above, here are a few resources to help you worship & thank God during the holidays. As always, you can see our updated resources for each week on our Resource Page. We also sell (at cost) family resources to take home and accompany our studies through the gospel project like family devotionals and worship music. If you are interested in any of these, visit our Family Resource Center on Sunday in the EKIDZ Wing.

 Jacob & Esau Story [Gospel Project]

Pray the Word [David Platt]

Is He Worthy [Shane & Shane]

His Mercy Is More [Shane & Shane]

One Step At A Time [Sovereign Grace Kids Worship]

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