Growing Up in a Broken Family

by Rizza Villanueva - July 24, 2023

Family problems can make life seem out of control. How do we hold on to God’s promises and our faith when our family seems to be falling apart?

Have you ever experienced a sensation you might describe as an elephant sitting on your chest, and you were afraid it might crush you? That’s exactly how I felt as I cried myself to sleep, praying to God for an end to all the fights. Even as a child, I understood the importance of prayer. 

Growing up was far from easy. I still vividly recall the sounds of my parents’ heated arguments. I remember my father’s cruel words, curses and physical assaults on my mother, even while she was pregnant with my younger sibling. Although I was young, I understood what was happening.

Fast-forward to the day when my parents finally called it quits. I was initially devastated that my father had left. It was challenging to accept that he was no longer around. He no longer visited us, and sadly, my younger brother never had the chance to experience having a father figure. 

Years later, however, I finally understood what had happened was for the best. I recognized the pain he would have caused if he had stayed around. I knew his departure brought peace and allowed my mother to focus solely on caring for us. 

How does family upbringing influence our lives as Christians?

Jesus Christ was born into a physical family. By obeying His parents in the flesh, He exemplified the importance of honoring and receiving guidance from them. In the loving and nurturing environment of His family here on earth, Jesus grew in wisdom and favor with God and men (Luke 2:52). 

But not everyone is blessed with that kind of family. 

Our upbringing significantly impacts our behavior, lifestyle choices and beliefs. Parents, family members and friends shape our perspectives and reactions to life’s challenges. Their influence can lead us either to perpetuate problematic patterns or to work, think and live differently. While our upbringing does not predetermine our entire life path, it undeniably leaves an imprint.

But, with God’s help, we can grow. 

Brokenness in the Bible

Sin has a way of breaking up families. Still, we can find comfort in the faithfulness of God, who is entirely trustworthy and who promises to comfort us during our most challenging times (Psalm 119:50). As we stumble through life, attempting to mend the shattered fragments, we discover that God truly can heal our brokenness.

When we examine the families depicted in the Bible, we see many were also flawed, and some individuals were emotionally wounded as a result. However, God worked with certain individuals amid their turmoil and often restored what had become broken.  

The second part of the book of Genesis describes the story of Joseph. He had 11 brothers, but he stood out as their father’s favorite. Joseph was also blessed by God, and given dreams that assured him of his future leadership over his family. However, his brothers resented Joseph’s preferential treatment and dreams (Genesis 37:3-8). 

This lack of empathy caused a deep rift between Joseph and his brothers. They initially planned to kill Joseph, but ended up selling him to traders who took him to Egypt. Joseph ended up in the service of Potiphar and, eventually, of Pharaoh (Genesis 37:36; 41:39-41). 

In the end, Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery and was happy to see them again. He noticed their change in attitude, as they showed concern for their father, took good care of their youngest brother, Benjamin, and expressed remorse for their past actions. 

When Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, they feared his revenge. But Joseph forgave them and invited the whole family to live with him in Egypt. As a result, all of them relocated to Egypt and were reunited as one family. 

How does God transform our brokenness?

The Bible shows God’s ability to work through broken and dysfunctional families. He can accomplish something magnificent and fulfilling even when we think we are in a hopeless situation (Romans 8:28). 

Sometimes we wonder why things happen to us, and we struggle to understand why we go through difficult situations. After all, don’t we all truly desire a complete and happy family?

But every problem we face holds a purpose in God’s plan. Our circumstances can serve as opportunities for personal growth and transformation and can bear witness that God is in control. 

However, it is essential that we have a genuine relationship with God in order for Him to use our painful situations for His honor and glory. It requires unwavering faith, honesty and a committed heart. Our connection with God and our response to challenges will determine whether He can work through them to bring about His purpose. 

Psalm 34:18 offers this encouragement: “The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” Brokenness requires spiritual healing that only God can provide. This healing is how God lovingly transforms us to become more like Him. 

How can we find comfort in God amid our brokenness?

We can find solace in knowing we are not alone on this journey. No one is more suited to help us than the One who created us and sacrificed Himself for our sake. 

Here are ways we can seek comfort and strength from God:

  • Rest. Taking time for rest and spiritual rejuvenation is essential when life becomes overwhelming. It’s comforting to know that God invites us to pause and unload our burdens onto Him (Matthew 11:28-30).
  • Surrender. We can’t prevent all the brokenness in our lives or fix it on our own. By surrendering to God, we can find help amid the brokenness. Remember God’s mercy. Ask for it in prayer and follow His teachings (Romans 12:1). 
  • Repent. Though some of our problems have been caused by others, we all have personal sins that contribute to our own brokenness. It’s important to acknowledge our sins and ask God for forgiveness. Biblical repentance involves a genuine transformation of our thoughts and attitudes, recognizing the sorrow caused by our sins and deliberately choosing to turn away from them (Mark 1:15).
  • Trust. Trust is having deep belief and confidence in God’s power and ability. Trust means knowing God can bring beauty and change even through challenging circumstances. When we trust in God, we will take steps forward, knowing His guidance makes anything possible. Trust allows us to overcome fear and uncertainty and to embrace the blessings of relying on God’s strength and love (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

Regardless of our past experiences, God can strengthen us to move on from our past and have a future. We can use those experiences to practice living God’s way even under complex and challenging circumstances (James 1:12).

And when the time comes for us to build our own family, we can apply the lessons we’ve learned. We can make a conscious effort to avoid repeating the mistakes of our parents. When we make God the center of our lives, He can heal our brokenness and position us for success.

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