Are you thankful for your family? Even when they’re imperfect?
If we’re honest, families provide a mixed bag of blessings, negative memories, and curses. How are we supposed to be thankful for those who caused deep hurt in our lives?
I believe it’s possible to be deeply thankful for all the blessings of our families while remaining honest about the painful memories and even the ongoing hurt caused by our families.
The blessing of our family
Mothers have a God-given instinct to nurture their children. Most of our mothers will fight like a mother bear to protect her children from harm, even when it comes at the hands of someone who should love us.
Families shape us. Our parents feed us, nurture us, provide for us, and make us who we are.
If you have a stable family, give thanks to the Lord. While there’s no perfect family, it’s a blessing to have loving parents. If your siblings love the Lord and show mutual concern for each other, you are blessed indeed.
Unpretty family Christmas cards
The truth is our pretty family Christmas cards often hide painful stories, but we can find ways to give thanks even then.
I have a friend who recently rescued her nieces from her sister-in-law because of emotional abandonment, sexual abuse, and the inability to provide care. It’s heartbreaking and not uncommon.
How do we reconcile Jesus’ command to give thanks in all circumstances with the pain and heartache caused by those closest to us?
My great grandfather stole his son’s life savings while my grandfather served in the army. If that happened to you, wouldn’t you feel bitter?
Give thanks in every circumstance? How do I give thanks when someone steals from me? Especially someone who should love me?
The Gospel shows us the way
The answer lies in the gospel. Not only do we deserve judgment from God, so does our family. It shouldn’t surprise us to see sin, sorrow, and abuse, even in our own families. Maybe especially in our families! After all, we see our family members up close when they drop their guard.
But I’ll be honest, it still surprises me and I’ll bet it surprises you. After all, we tend to believe our families are perfect.
After his death, another friend of mine learned her father cheated on his wives for over thirty years. She discovered she could forgive him, learn from his errant ways, and still be grateful for the positive ways he impacted her life.
That’s a wonderful Gospel response. We desire forgiveness from God, so wouldn’t we want that for those we love? Of course, it’s harder to give when you’ve been hurt.
Corrie Ten Boom tells the story of forgiving the German guard who tortured her while in a concentration camp. She recalls,
“I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”Corrie Ten Boom
How much more do we need to extend forgiveness to those in our families who wounded us or even continue to hurt us?
When we see the sin and pain caused by our families, or frankly that we’ve caused in our families, the first place to return thanks is to God. He saved us from every way we’ve caused damage in our families and he will eventually heal us from every wound, sometimes not til heaven. From that place of forgiveness, we can forgive our families again and again.
God’s command to love our family
God tells us to honor our father and mother (Ex. 20). This is the only commandment with a promise attached to it. We will live long if we honor our parents. Notice that it doesn’t promise that our parents will treat us well.
Honoring our parents includes showing them gratitude for what they did and providing for them in their old age (1 Tim. 5:8).
Our spiritual family
When the crowd told Jesus his family wanted to see him, he asked, “‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”
When God adopted us, he gave us a new family. This new family is our eternal family. It’s not a rejection of our earthly family, though they may reject us. Instead, it reminds us that God adopted us and we are forever his children.
Our heavenly family gives us the ultimate reason to be thankful. May God teach us to be thankful for our entire family, good, bad, and ugly.
Write a thank you card to a family member and express a few things you are grateful for about them. Perhaps things they’ve done for you that you’ve previously taken for granted.
Father, I thank you for adopting me into your family, welcoming me as your son, and placing me into the earthly family I have. The longer I live the more warts and imperfections I can see. Just as you love me and forgive me, teach me to love and forgive my family. Thank you for using my parents, siblings, wife, children, and extended family to make me who I am. Bless each one of them with your supernatural love today. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.