Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How Dysfunctional Families Form

O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah. But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him. Psalms 4:2-3
King David is probably one of the best loved people in the bible.  He was well liked and popular with everyone, even God.  He was a skilled musician, a poet, a might warrior and best of all he was “a man after God’s own heart.”  Yet all wasn’t perfect in his life.  Where David failed most grievously, however, was with his own family.   

Seeds of failure were sown much earlier in his family history.  David’s father, Jesse, didn’t consider David equal to the older brothers (I Samuel 16:4-11).  They never learned to treat their younger brother with respect.  He didn’t grow up with a good example of how to be a godly father and man.  Although he developed a good, mature intimacy with God, it doesn’t seem he ever accomplished this in his family relationships.  His life is characterized by a lack of emotional intimacy with others.

When David and Bathsheba’s baby died (II Sam 12:16-18), David never allowed his feelings of grief to surface, he stuffed his pain down and tried to ignore it (II Sam 12:21-23).  How would his grown children feel when they learned about the adultery and murder?  However they felt, there was no open ground for communication.  They had to follow David’s example and bury their feelings.  David dealt with the sin between himself and God, but never between himself and his family.

Family dysfunction often begins with an inability to handle emotions and tends to become more extreme as time passes.  Amnon, David’s oldest son, was sexually attracted to his step-sister, Tamar (II Sam 13:1-2).  He manipulated his father so he could get in a position to rape his sister.  As could be expected, Tamar was devastated (13:18-19).  Her brother Absalom saw her and suspected what had happened (13:20a).  Why hadn’t he done something to head it off?  Because in David’s family problems were buried, emotions ignored, and everyone had to pretend everything was all right.  In fact, that’s how Absalom responded to Tamar’s desolation.  Instead of giving her reassurance that justice would be done, he told her, in effect, to not take this seriously because it is a family matter and we must not make a big thing out of it (13:20b).  When David heard about what happened he was furious (13:21) but he didn’t take any action to right things or even comfort Tamar.  Everyone had to pretend it never happened.
On the surface everything seems smooth, but underneath a storm is raging.  David is furious, Tamar’s life is ruined, Amnon hates Tamar, and Absalom hates Amnon.  As in dysfunctional families, these feelings do not lessen as time passes but grow stronger.  After two years of denial Absalom moves to end the stalemate.  He approaches David about getting the whole family together but David balks at the suggestion.  For some strange reason he allowed Absalom to invite Amnon over, although he knew of the problem between them (13:23-27).  Direct communication is difficult in dysfunctional families.  Change only occurs in crisis situations.  This was David’s last chance to resolve this issue in a mature, peaceful way, but he again avoids the whole issue.  Thus Absalom, who has lost trust in and respect for his father, takes the issue into his own hands and kills Amnon (13:28-29). 

What a sad story.  And yet, in many ways it is played out in family after family as secrets and emotions are buried.  Before we leave this story today it is important to remember something...God still used David and his family in spite of themselves.  That’s the wonder of our God. 

Scripture to Claim:
'If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me...then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land. Leviticus 26:40;42

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