By Sonny Westbrook, Director of Ministries
All of God’s ways are perfect. One of His ways for life on planet Earth was to create the family unit.
As we see in the Scriptures, the original family by His design consisted of a man named Adam with his wife named Eve. Prior to creating Eve, He declared that it is not good for man to be alone. And then He undertook to create the first woman and, as it were, He performed the first marriage ceremony. We see all this revealed in Genesis, chapters 1 and 2.
Further, God planned that the man and the woman would be given a role in releasing God’s reproductive powers and would be enabled by Him to “be fruitful and multiply and to fill the earth.” So by Genesis 4, we see the beginnings of this as we are introduced to the first of Adam and Eve’s offspring, two sons named Cain and Abel. This was all by God’s design and made possible by His coactive involvement in creating the human family.
We then see that in all His dealings with the people of the Old Testament, He brought forth generation after generation of families for them, and He worked through families. We see that Noah had a family. Abraham had a family. Jacob had a family. David had a family. We see the genealogies in the Scripture that God faithfully records, especially showing the line through families from which the Messiah, Jesus, would be born.
God’s unfolding story is embedded in the story of these families. By the time we get to Abraham, God promises that because of Abraham’s faith and obedience, all the families of the earth would be blessed.
Roles designed by God
Further, woven into the tapestry of Scriptures are regular and recurring instructions for those who occupy the various fundamental roles in their family. There are instructions to the husband/father role, the wife/mother role, the role of the children. One of the most notable examples is the book of Proverbs, which has abundant references to these roles and how they are to be fulfilled.
As we come to the New Testament, we find consistency with what is in the Old Testament. God again outlines specific instructions to family members. Once again, He gives direction to the husbands and fathers, to the wives and mothers, and to the children (Ephesians 6:1-4, Colossians 3:18-21, etc.).
So what we can take away from this very brief overview? We can see that the family unit is a very foundational part of God’s design for us as human beings. It’s not good for us to be alone, so He brings us into this world in the context of a human family unit. And then He gives us clear direction as to how we are to handle ourselves in the context of that family unit.
Knowing God through family
Now what did God intend for us to get from our families of origin? It was God’s design that every human being would be nurtured in His truth and in His ways within the context of a loving family relationship. Each child born into a family would experience God’s protective love in a safe, growth-producing context of a loving relationship with his/her father and mother, and with siblings as well.
The family would be the place where a healthy identity would be nurtured. Each child would be taught from an early age that each one of us is a unique creation of the one true and living God. Read Psalm 139, where the most powerful reference to this is found. Each child would be taught to see all of life as a stewardship of all the good gifts God bestows on us.
The family would also be the place where love back to God and reverence for and worship of God Himself would be instilled, as parents would “ bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). An excerpt from Deuteronomy also expresses this instruction clearly and forcefully:
“Hear, O Israel; the LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk about them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:4-7).
Consequences of family breakdown
So, what happens when families lose touch with God’s design and purpose for them?
When husband/fathers and wife/mothers are disconnected from God Himself and from His wonderful designs for family and for life in general, all kinds of chaos is unleashed into the experience of life for those born into such families.
One of the most heart-rending parts of the work we do here at the Union Gospel Mission is to hear the stories of how the families of origin for many of our residents were a nightmare of abuse and neglect. The place that was designed by God to be the place where human beings from generation to generation would be nurtured in His love and His ways has become for so many a place of hurt and pain, of fear and insecurity, of anger and bitterness, of deep inner woundedness.
One of the trainings we have offered here at the UGM for our staff is built on the ACE study conducted almost 20 years ago. ACE stands for “Adverse Childhood Experiences.” Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control conducted the largest study of its kind, with more than 17,000 participants. The purpose of the study was to see how stressful and traumatic childhood experiences influence later physical and emotional health.
The study observed 10 types of adverse childhood experiences: emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, emotional neglect, physical neglect, domestic violence against the mother, mental illness of a family member, substance abuse in the home, parental separation through divorce, imprisonment of a household member.
It was found that ACEs affect over 60% of people in our nation today, resulting in social, mental, physical, and spiritual damage.
Compared to someone with an ACE score (total number of ACEs experienced) of 0, adults with an ACE score of 4 or more were found to be:
- 4 times more likely to suffer depression
- 11 times more likely to become alcoholics
- 16 times more likely to inject street drugs
- 19 times more likely to attempt suicide
The study revealed that “when children are exposed to abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction, they are prone to experience social, emotional, or cognitive impairment. They respond by choosing risky behaviors like drugs, smoking, alcohol, promiscuity, which result in disease, disability, or social problems, which often leads to an early death.”
The hope of the Gospel
Here within the UGM, we are so grateful for the healing power of our Lord Jesus Christ. We provide the safe and healing environment needed by so many who have suffered childhood trauma. Christ provides a whole new personal and family identity.
We share the good news that God wants to be their faithful, loving heavenly Father and to make them a part of His forever family. We explain that through the new birth they can become a part of the family of God and experience the love and support they missed in their family of origin. Through Christ, and in the Body of Christ, they can find the father love they never had, the love of a mother, and of siblings, that will last for time and for eternity.
We also provide training to moms and dads in principles of godly parenting, so the cycles of abuse and neglect can be broken. It is wonderful to see how the love and power of Jesus can free individuals who have suffered so long from the wounds they experienced in their childhood.
Thank you for partnering with us in this: sharing God’s way forward to wholeness for individuals who have suffered childhood traumas. They can overcome them by a whole new set of family relationships made available through the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ. All praise and glory be given to Him!
Good family relationships are a major reason for gratitude. How many more can you think of? Use our simple worksheet to get your gratitude juices flowing.