Thursday, May 17, 2012

David: Lessons for Dysfunctional Families Today

Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 1 Corinthians 10:11-12
God never makes a mistake.  He didn’t make one when he revealed that David -- spiritual giant that he was -- had family problems.  The story of David’s family shows that God has a far greater understanding of and concern for our most intimate family relationships than we realize.  Like David, we may be growing spiritually and close to God, yet still struggle in our interpersonal relationships.  The solution isn’t to confess, submit or rededicate.  It is to understand and work through the negative affects our pasts have had on us.  From the family of David there are some characteristics of dysfunctional families that we can look at and apply to our families today.

·      Instead of facing problems, dysfunctional family members cover them up and instead manipulate situations.  David tried to manipulate circumstances by passing the blame for his sin to Uriah, and when that didn’t work having him murdered.  Parents today manipulate in many ways: “I guess your father and I will just have to spend this Thanksgiving alone....”  Guilt, shame or reward are used to manipulate.  Love and acceptance is given or withdrawn as a tool to control the behavior of others. This is definitely wrong!

·      Psychosomatic illnesses are common in dysfunctional families.  Amnon so desired sex with his step-sister that he became physically ill.  Some say 80% of all illnesses today have their roots emotional stress and strain.  For example, a child with asthma in a high-stress family will generally have more frequent asthma attacks than a child from a more nurturing family.

·      Pain is avoided or denied in dysfunctional families.  David took the route of denial in his affair with Bathsheba.  He didn’t face the pain of the death of the baby he and Bathsheba lost.  Even though a father will sometimes abuse his children, a wife won’t do anything because the children seem to be doing fine so she says what is happening must not be that bad.
·      Relational boundaries are broken in dysfunctional families.  Amnon felt nothing wrong with having sex with his step-sister.  Absalom usurped his father’s role and tried to solve the family problems.  When the roles of each in the family aren’t clearly defined and followed along traditional lines something is wrong.  When emotional and physical boundaries aren’t set and privacy respected, then again something is wrong.

·      Emotional reaction instead of healthy response characterized dysfunctional families.  David was furious when he heard about Amnon raping Tamar -- but didn’t do anything.  Various happenings in his family bothered and upset him, but he never took corrective action.

·      Trying to change another’s behavior instead of directly communicating with them is common in dysfunctional families.  Absalom wanted to solve the family’s problem by having a big get-together where everyone could have a good time with each other.  Today, too, fathers often give gifts or things to family members instead of sitting down and talking heart-to-heart.

·      Stopping talking to a family member is one of the wrong ways dysfunctional families handle conflict.  Absalom wouldn’t speak to Amnon.  David cut off all contact with Absalom for several years.  Tamar cut herself off from the outside world. Many people still do that today.

What’s The Solution?
There is no quick and easy solution to this.  These things are learned over time, and must be unlearned over time as well.  The truth really will set you free (John 8:32), don’t fear it!  With God’s help and a willingness to work these things through no matter the price there can and will be gradual freedom.

Scripture to Claim:
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Psalms 51:6

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