Posted by: mikenicholsblog | January 18, 2016

choose healing

Do you know anyone who has lived in a dysfunctional family? A better question is “do you know anyone who hasn’t been affected by dysfunction in their family tree?” I know that I have. Looking back at my heritage, there were many issues that created a measure of dysfunction on both sides of my family. While growing up, I never thought of the formal term (that is now a prominent word), but there were issues which today would be easily and readily classified as dysfunctional. How about your family? Do you believe some of the struggles you’ve had to overcome as an adult can be traced to the inconsistencies, weaknesses and patterns of your early years? We can all use the dysfunction in our past as an excuse, but the real point of my challenge is how do we gain God’s perspective?

Our next three articles will focus on Joseph’s family (Jacob was his father), the dysfunction of his youth, and the godly perspective that his life ultimately exhibited.

If you wanted to illustrate the definition of dysfunction, look no further than Jacob and his sons. They were awful. There were twelve sons, and it was quite obvious that Joseph was his father’s favorite. Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons because he had been born to him at an older age. That would have naturally created some sibling issues, but his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him. (Genesis 37:4) Joseph’s immaturity didn’t help the issue when he shared his dreams in a way that just aggravated the dysfunction.

Ultimately, the brothers were pasturing Jacob’s flocks, and Joseph was sent by his father to check on them. He was to bring back a report. When his brothers saw him, a plan was devised to kill Joseph. They would kill him, throw him in a cistern, then tell Jacob that a wild animal had eaten his son. Reuben came to his rescue by giving an alternate plan. Just throw him in the cistern, and let him die. Reuben’s goal was to come back and rescue Joseph and return him to Jacob.  The ruthless brothers eventually decided to not kill Joseph and pulled him from the cistern. Then they sold Joseph to Midianite traders for twenty pieces of silver. Talk about family dysfunction!

Reuben, the firstborn son, returned to rescue Joseph. He was absent during the sale of his brother, and upon finding out that Joseph was missing, tore his garments in grief. But I don’t think that it was grief over his poor little brother. It was self-serving. The New Living Translation Bible study notes give a good explanation of Reuben’s pain. “His first response, in effect was “What will happen to me?” rather than “What will happen to Joseph?” Reuben gives us a good picture of dysfunctional families in the 21st century. Often family issues are dominated by “my needs” instead of “your needs,” and, without a doubt, patterns of selfishness develop in families wrought with dysfunction.

Joseph’s brothers perpetrated their deceit by giving Jacob his son’s blood stained robe. But all of the evil propelled Joseph into an amazing life of God’s design. Today, you and I are part of families which have pain and dysfunction (at some level). We also have the opportunity to re-create family patterns by continually focusing on “your needs” and not “my needs.”  We can all find excuses to justify hurt and avoid being the family catalyst for healing … but is that the best option?  Reuben could have sought to be a healer, but he didn’t. Our family choices may not be as desperate as Reuben’s, but we will have choices … choose to be a healer!


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