Encouragement for those who have family problems
I got serious about my faith when I was still a teenager. I knew following Jesus meant a call to service, so I wasted no time finding ministry opportunities.
One of my first ministry experiences was doing Bible study in a reform school—an institution for juvenile criminal offenders. I was seventeen at the time, so a few of the students were actually older than I was (some of them had turned 18 after they started serving their sentence). As you can imagine, I heard some heartbreaking stories about their family environments.
The reform school would not be my last exposure to the “down-and-out” members of society. I worked as a foster care case manager after I graduated college. I did my best to help kids who had been removed from abusive home environments. My next job was in substance abuse counseling. Many of my clients had experienced abuse/neglect during their childhood.
By the time I was 25 years old, I had heard more horrific family stories than most will in a lifetime.
I still encounter those who are hurting from family problems. Sometimes this is caused by the OFW phenomenon. Sometimes the problem is an irresponsible or absentee parent. The pain is real, regardless of the specific details. Filipino students, like youth everywhere, suffer from broken homes and broken hearts.
After years of ministry, two things have become painfully obvious to me:
1. Many children do not grow up in stable families.
2. Family problems can have profound, negative effects on a child’s soul.
I would like to offer some encouragement for those who are hurting. I’m not trying to give you “five steps to mend your heart.” Instead, I’m simply offering some truths and principles that I believe to be helpful:
Remember God’s Love
It’s easy to forget God’s love when you are in pain. You might even question God’s love (or His very existence) or blame Him. This is normal—we all wonder why a good God would allow bad things to happen to us.
But keep this in mind—we don’t always see God’s love in our immediate environment. This is especially true if your family members make choices that hurt us.
Can you find proof of God’s love? Yes! There’s one place where you can see absolute proof: the cross. Consider what the Bible tells us about the death of Jesus:
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. –Romans 5:8
No matter what is happening in your family, remember that Jesus Christ died for you. He’s already expressed His love for you by making the ultimate sacrifice—His own life. Jesus Himself said this:
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. –John 15:13
Please don’t forget this truth. No matter who you are or what your family is like, Jesus Christ loved you enough to die for you.
Cry Out to your Heavenly Father
Jesus’ death allows us to be part of God’s family. He offers us a fresh, new, start—a spiritual birth:
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. –John 1:12-13
Placing your faith in Christ not only gives you a fresh start, but it also makes you one of God’s children. You can have a Heavenly Father that will never leave your or forsake you! In fact, He has a special place in His heart for those from broken homes:
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
This Father will also listen attentively to whatever is on your heart. I’m amazed when I read the Psalms—God’s children expressed hurt and anger as well as praise.
Find a Spiritual Family
We know Jesus loved his biological family, but he also emphasized another kind of family:
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” –Matthew 12:46-49
Jesus was not being disrespectful to his mother or brothers. He simply wanted his hearers to see the value of having a spiritual family.
Those who are in Christ are part of this spiritual family. It’s important to find other Christians who can support you and help you grow in Christ. God’s family can provide you with the love and guidance that may be missing at home.
Recognize your Vulnerabilities
You need to be aware of something: having a bad family life can make you more vulnerable to bad decisions—especially when it comes to relationships. Girls with absentee fathers, for example, often seek out male love/attention. This can be a recipe for disaster: she may fall for the first bolero (flatterer) that crosses her path. The end result is more heartbreak.
If you can simply be aware of this problem, you’ll be on your way to healing. Just keep it mind when considering relationship decisions. Don’t be afraid to ask for some extra advice/help from those who have your best interest at heart.
Break the Cycle
Sadly, family problems tend to pass down through generations. There’s a tendency to follow the patterns set in our own family of origin. Here’s the good news: you can choose to break the cycle!
God can change the way we think—a metamorphosis of the soul:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. –Romans 12:2
This isn’t easy, but it is possible through the transforming power of Christ. People like LJ Salceda are living proof. She’s not the only example–some of the students who came through our ministry decided to be “cycle breakers.” They made a decision not to repeat the sins of their family. I pray you will do the same.
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