Family is one of the primary building blocks of society. It is the vehicle through which human life originates. We are born into a family and sometimes remain with it through the transfer of traditions, language, and values. Others among us grow up in family groups formed by institutions or through formal or informal adoptions where we gather norms for life, guided by those connections.
They vary and have different structures, with responsibilities and roles that morph with culture and situation. As each one differs, so do its unique strengths and issues. Family is the foundation that gives rise to all other societal institutions because, with all of its nuance and idiosyncrasy, it populates the world.
The Bible contains stories of family problems and issues perpetuated amongst God’s sons and daughters, many of which rival outrageous reality television or complicated soap opera plots. One such family line is that of King David, ancestral to the human bloodline of our King of Kings, Jesus Christ. Snapshots from David’s family history recount rejection, loneliness, lust, grief, pride, rape, murder, and betrayal.
It also braids into his family, accounts of love, worship, rejoicing, resilience, friendship, redemption, and legacy. No family is perfect, and Biblical dramas reveal the following truth: the same loving God who worked through family issues then is the same at work through ours today.
This article explores some of the issues that David encountered in his family of origin as well as the family where he became patriarch. We will gather lessons that Scripture teaches about the role and importance of family matters, highlighting areas where relationship brings healing, both with our Heavenly Father and our kingdom family.
Accounts from First Samuel spotlight a shepherd boy named David. As the youngest in his family, he was hardly considered when Israel’s judge and prophet Samuel inquired of Jesse to anoint one of his sons to be the future king. Barely an afterthought, David’s family’s disdain, and rejection of him persisted amongst his siblings. His older brother chided him at the Philistine battleground where David had brought lunch to refresh his brothers in battle.Yet, in true kingly fashion, he ended up beheading and feeding the remains of the giant Goliath to the birds. Unbeknownst to all, David’s courage and prowess had been tested in the wilderness and messy meadows as the shepherd of his father’s sheep, where he had slain massive, carnivorous beasts, representing both natural and spiritual victory.
David’s example reveals that we can have public success and praise, yet still wrestle with private pain and unhealthy relational patterns. Cycles of dysfunction from David’s birth family’s rejection repeated in the family he married into, scoring his soul with deep anguish.
A celebratory chant contrasted David and Saul, his royal predecessor who killed thousands, compared with David’s slaying of tens of thousands. That may have ignited envy and scorn amongst Saul and their supporters. King Saul, his father-in-law, attempted to kill David multiple times, yet David remained in that toxic connection for years.
Redemption for the rejected.
Although David did not extricate himself from the reach of the sharp point of Saul’s spear and sabotage, God used unlikely relationships and encounters to teach the value of remaining connected with our true Heavenly Father in all circumstances. In the protracted abyss of attack, between being anointed king in youth and assuming the throne almost two decades later, David sang the psalms to God both to lament and worship.
He freely expressed what we might associate with depression, anxiety, stress, unresolved anger, unhealthy boundaries, and complicated grief. Yet, his truth-telling poems of worship, praise, and soul vexation also magnified God’s sovereignty, holiness, justice, love, and mercy amid the human complexity of spirit.
David’s psalms and stories uncover this premise: we rarely know the latent strength we possess until it is proven in secret and later displayed on public stages. We can participate in healing the soul of our families by pouring out in intimate, honest prayer with God. Here, the Lord transforms us, and those in covenant with us. Through Him, we can witness the miracle of reconciliation and restoration, despite problematic family issues.
Finding family: a soul brotherhood.
Ironically, God gifted David with Jonathan, Saul’s son, a friend and true brother, whose character was marked by loyalty and integrity, unlike his natural family. This soul-knit connection reveals that God sometimes employs people outside of our bloodline to be kin when it serves His greater purpose (1 Samuel 18). Jesus recognized the kingdom value of such connections, defining family as those who do the Father’s will (Matthew 12:46-50).
Christ’s death and resurrection bring us into the family of God, which fills gaps and meets needs where often our physical family cannot. We don’t have to bear the shame of fostering connections outside of our natural and adoptive families because God often uses creative and uncommon ways to accomplish His ends.
God sets the solitary in families. – Psalm 68:6a
Both God’s family and ours have faults, flaws, and failures that require forgiveness and forging in the fire. He uses family connections and their inherent issues to fortify us for His greater works. Problems may emerge in our family groups even though we belong to the Body of Christ. Yet, our Father uses the crucible of relationship, whether by bloodline or the blood of Jesus, to purify and temper us, aligning our hearts and actions with His.
David’s unmet need for belonging and affirmation played out in his approach to how he managed or avoided family issues. Some of these unresolved issues followed him into situations where he anesthetized childhood and life pain with haste, sin, and avoidance.
These unhealthy patterns resurfaced in his life, revealing tensions between him and his sons, exposing volatile relationships between camps of his children and perceived allies, and conflict surrounding his wives and concubines.
No matter how jagged the edge, we must trust God to empower us to deal with past and present pain, interrupting dysfunctional cycles that perpetuate brokenness.
Whether your childhood is a distant or recent memory, failure to address the family issues and relevant traumas from your family history serves to cement you in your vulnerable past. Like David’s family line, this affects siblings, spouses, and children, passing on to future generations the imprisonment of family problems.
The consequences of your action or inertia concerning family issues can impact your individual and family destiny. For example, David did not address the undercurrents of turmoil in his household, much like his family of origin. He had the power and influence to hold his sons accountable for injustice, treason, and violation, but for all his brazenness in war, he cowered from confronting family issues with his children.
In God’s hands: identity and destiny.
While two realities of regret and triumph may thread the tapestry of David’s story, none of the family issues that peppered David’s experiences eclipsed God’s view of David. Through the darkest elements, David’s relationship with God reflected the uncompromising love, acceptance, and validation absent from his connections with his father, Jesse, and his father-in-law, Saul.
David’s behavior, whether valiant or vile, did not change his identity, and he prayed for God to continue regarding him as the apple of His eye. David was the only one named a “man after God’s own heart.” In short, God’s destiny for David and his true identity outweighed David’s past experiences and present behaviors.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. – Psalm 17:8
After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ – Acts 13:22
Encouragement for new steps.
This is encouragement for us, too. While we have many areas for growth and change, individually and within the scope of our family issues, we have a new identity. We are born of God, once we accept the perfect sacrifice of our Brother Jesus, who offered His life to remit our sins.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. – 1 John 5:1
The Blood of Jesus is greater than the worst of what we have done or what has been done to us in the narrative of our family history. His relentless love draws us to align our actions with our true identity as beloved sons and daughters, bearing the mark of our Father.
Rewrite your story.
Family counseling may be important to consider as you and your family learn to live and love in harmony, despite the history and challenging issues that have ushered you to this point.
The blessing and benefit of counseling is a safe environment where your family can work through the challenges of your shared experience. Individual counseling can also provide a healing opportunity for you to examine the ways in which you have been formed by your family and the cycles you’d like to break.
Furthermore, therapy furnishes a place where you incorporate and practice new skills for life: how to communicate and resolve conflict, enact forgiveness, and discover individual and familial strengths. Reach out to us to connect with a counselor to support you with rewriting the future of your family’s story, beginning today.
“Family Photo”, Courtesy of Rajiv Perera, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Family Photo”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Father and Sons”, Courtesy of Joice Kelly, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Big Family”, Courtesy of Tyler Nix, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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