Here in the South, we love fall football, tailgating, and rooting for our favorite college teams. In my home state, staunch school rivalries have been known to break up families between the months of September and December. Tongue in cheek, it’s called a “house divided,” and ribbing about wins and losses is just our way of affectionately teasing each other.
Sports aside, a house can be divided in other ways—unrelated to team colors and mascots. It may be spiritually divided. Spiritual clashes in families have split husbands and wives, parents and children, siblings, and extended family members. In Scripture, David and Absalom, Cain and Abel, and Abigail and Nabal come rushing to mind.
My Prayer List: A Snapshot of Families Divided
Take a look at my prayer list, and you’ll see a list of friends whose loved ones are entrenched in the muck of sin:
- A mom whose adult child denies biblical truth and has chosen an alternative lifestyle.
- A son who has cut off his family and refuses to work toward reconciliation.
- A wife whose husband has become secretive and no longer walks with the Lord.
- A daughter whose elderly parents show no appetite for spiritual things.
- A woman whose niece demands her right for sexual freedom and gender expression.
- A grandmother agonizing over her grandson trapped in the darkness of addiction.
This is just a sampling of the kind of heartache I encounter on a regular basis. Spiritual division can feel like hauling a 200-pound boulder with crippled, hunched shoulders and little hope of standing erect again. The weight of family brokenness causes many dark nights of angst and silent tears. When the people we love seem bound for destruction, it’s no wonder we feel hopeless to stop it. Which is why some women (myself included) desperately act, trying to fix the problem.
The Family Fixer
The sensation of being pinned in a corner can bring out the “family-fixer” hidden in all of us. Give her a hammer, nails, and a drill, throw in a roll of duct tape and a glue gun, and the family-fixer will attempt to repair, fasten, patch, rivet, measure, and mend. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to right what’s gone wrong. If the family-fixer doesn’t have the know-how, there’s always YouTube. The problem with this tendency is that no matter how strong our resolve, no matter how hard we try . . .
We don’t have the power to fix what only God can.
- Only God can use a hammer to create a heart of flesh.
- Only God can command dry bones to surge back to life.
- Only God can rescue Rahab’s family out of Jericho’s rubble.
- Only God can deliver Lot and his daughters from Sodom’s fiery destruction.
- Only God can put a prophet in the belly of a whale and spit him back out on dry land.
The Problem with a Fixer Mentality
Jesus had something to teach us about the fixer mentality. In Matthew 16:16, Peter confesses to his friend and teacher, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then, six verses later, when Jesus disclosed that His ministry would end in suffering and death, Peter thought he knew better:
Peter took [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (vv. 22–23)
Apparently Peter didn’t understand God’s providential plan to resurrect His Son (Matt. 16:21). Peter could only hear what sounded like a horrible mistake. The disciple only saw thunderous storm clouds threatening to eclipse the sun. Isn’t that the way it is with God’s providence? We cannot see what He sees. We do not know what He knows. If we did, our hearts would be at peace. (I learned that from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.)
The grave wasn’t the final word of Jesus’ story. God spoke the first word, and He will speak the last. He hasn’t spoken the final word over your story or that of your loved ones. Until we reach “the end,” it is good for us to set our minds on the things of God. When we truly believe our Father is sovereign, that Jesus our brother is interceding for our good, and that heaven is our true home, our hearts can rest, even while the dirge of family division rings in our ears.
In chapter 11 of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, Nancy writes,
You can trust that God is not only writing your story; He is also writing your child’s story. And because of this, you can resist the temptation to pick up the pen and take over. Specifically, you can resolve not to interfere in the way the Lord may be dealing with your son or daughter [or other family member] to bring him or her to repentance or to refine faith through hardship. You can wait patiently for the Lord to act in His time and His way. And you can demonstrate and declare (and remind yourself in the process!) that God is worthy of your worship and trust and that He is still good—even if your heart is breaking . . . even if the circumstances never change in your lifetime.” (147–148)
Sister, you can put down your power tools. Let God fix what only He can. While we wait, here’s what we can do through Christ:
- We can fight back in prayer.
- We can cleave to His unchanging promises.
- We can release our loved ones to His care.
- We can keep loving despite a cavernous gap.
- We can minister to other people in divided families.
When the final stroke of God’s pen hits the page, there’s no guarantee our story will end exactly as we would script it. Yet we have the assurance that the ending will be far more glorious than we could have imagined. When we arrive in heaven, the dirge of division will be forever forgotten, and we’ll sing of Christ’s worthiness with our new family members from every nation, tribe, and language without the slightest sigh of disappointment—a house united once and for all.
Reflect and Discuss
Robert and Nancy pray each night for a group of sixteen men who need to turn (or return) to their Father. Who’s on your prayer list?
Read how Joseph is reunited with his family in Genesis 45–46. How does their story give you hope?
While you’re waiting for God to bridge the spiritual divides in your family, what promises from Scripture remind you to lay down the power tools and allow God to fix what only He can? Let’s start a list of His “great and precious promises” in the comments.