KAMIAH — The term “dysfunctional family” is commonly used to describe various problems, conflicts, and misbehavior within families. In Jake’s family it was brought on by the fact that he favored his son, Joe, over his other sons. He heaped love, gifts and attention on him that made his brothers angry. They felt less accepted and important. Their anger grew to hatred and when the opportunity presented itself, they conspired to murder Joe and make their father believe that a wild animal had killed him. Although they were totally callous toward their brother, they later decided that selling their brother as a slave to foreign traders was a better (and more profitable) solution.
The story has all the ingredients of a soap opera, doesn’t it? Favoritism, anger, hatred, revenge, and a murder plot. But this story is not taken from today’s TV lineup; no, it is straight from the pages of the Bible. (Genesis 37)
Why would the Creator of the universe allow embarrassing stories like this one to be included in His sacred Word?
I, for one, am happy that this kind of stuff is not left out. It shows me the incredible patience and compassion God has with us. It also shows how He is able to redirect our troublesome, sinful choices in ways that still accomplish his overarching story.
In Joe’s case, the one who was almost murdered by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused by his new employer, thrown into prison to be forgotten forever, eventually became the source of deliverance for the very brothers who had tried to kill him. Now Joe’s brothers had to fear for their lives because their crimes had come to light. Their now famous and powerful brother surprised them though by his kindness and forgiveness. The fractured family relationship was mended, because Joe was able to recognize the hand of God at work in his life despite the hardships and injustice he suffered.
It is easy to find flaws and to categorize families and relationships as dysfunctional. Really, it is probably safe to say there is no such thing as a non-dysfunctional family. It is just a matter of degree. Maybe you and I haven’t thought about murder, but our heart can be filled with anger and hatred because of the things we have suffered.
As Joe’s story shows, God does not gloss over wrongs, but if we yield to Him, we receive His unconditional love. We also receive His forgiveness, when we rethink our thinking and repent of our own sins. He will soothe our pain, heal our wounds, and turn our story that looked like a train wreck into one that highlights His creative, restorative power.
Volkhard Graf is a pastor with Youth With A Mission in Kamiah.