When you think about your family growing up, did it function in a way that wasn’t very healthy? Perhaps there was minimal relational connection, a lack of love, a lack of communication, little affirmation, failure to respect one another, no boundaries, or a lack of nurturing encouragement.
These are all symptoms of a dysfunctional family.
If you can identify with any of these, you’re certainly not alone. Dysfunctional families are very common, and today, more families with dysfunctional extremes are on the rise.
Here’s what we’ve learned about dysfunctional families over the years:
Dysfunctional families, if left to their own devices, produce dysfunctional children.
I think back to my father losing his father when he was thirteen. I think of him going into the Marines at sixteen. Later, he became an alcoholic as a way to cope with his pain. I think of my mother’s background and the alcoholism in her family, and the alcoholism in my wife’s family, and how their dysfunction was passed on.
But even if you didn’t come from a family like mine, every single one of us living on this planet belongs to a dysfunctional family.
Confused? Let me explain.
Our dysfunction wasn’t just passed down one generation ago. It wasn’t two or even five generations ago. Our dysfunction goes all the way back to our original parents when there was a dysfunction – sin – that created death, disobedience, and the wrath of God.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 5:12: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man,” Adam, “and death through sin, this death came to all men because all sinned.”
When our first parents sinned and rebelled against God, they were separated from Him and disconnected from a relationship. Without Christ, we still experience this disconnection with God and with each other.
All of us, at one time were “dead in our transgressions and sins.” And all of us at one time gratified “the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” (Ephesians 1:1-3)
Over the years, I’ve also learned that dysfunctional families require an intervention to break the cycle of destruction.
The good news for all of us is that Jesus’ intervention broke the cycle of dysfunction and destruction!
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)
When God made us alive in Christ – literally, He intervened! We were dead spiritually. We were separated from God forever and ever and ever, and we deserved it. But He intervened.
His motive? His great love.
Therefore, we can take hope that He wants to use all things – including the dysfunctional homes we grew up in – “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
To explore this topic more in-depth, take a look at the series, “Unstuck.”
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip