Throughout history God has used the family as a platform to display His glory to all generations.
Every member of the family has a unique role in portraying the heart of God. Joshua, an appointed leader of the Israelites, also understood the importance of family.
Regardless of his busy schedule Joshua didn’t neglect his responsibilities to his family ensuring that they were anchored in the Lord: “But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24: 15 NLT.
Here’s an incredible story of a family. Despite its brokenness, God used this family for His glory.
She was the 25th child born into a family of Dissenters – Christians who separated from the Church of England in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Though brilliant, she had very little in the way of education. Though strong-willed, she lived in a male-dominated age.
She married Samuel, an older man, and bore him 19 children. Nine of them died!
Her house burned down, her barn fell down, her health failed, and she was constantly poor.
Samuel was a clergyman, and began pastoring a little English town called Epworth in 1697, where he remained as pastor for 40 years.
The family suffered incredible hardships, some of which are detailed here:
Samuel’s salary was so small and he was so incapable of managing it that he was thrown into debtor’s prison and she had to look after herself.
They argued about her working as a Bible teacher, because her lessons drew more listeners than his sermons
She gave birth to a daughter during the general election of 1705. The nurse, exhausted by the election celebrations, slept so heavily the next morning she rolled on the baby and suffocated her.
Her brother, having promised her a sizeable gift, disappeared mysteriously and was never heard from again.
On July 21, 1731, an accident involving stampeding horses left Samuel injured and he was never well from that day onwards.
She was Susanna Wesley, and that church house in Epworth was destined to become the most celebrated in English history. From it came two of the greatest evangelists and hymn writers of all time, John and Charles Wesley.
Families are an incredible gift. No matter our current status, whether we are married, single, divorced or widowed, we all came from some form of family. Some of today’s kids might have come from a test-tube dad, or a donated egg-mum, but hey, they are still family.
Families provide us the core ingredients that make us who we are, that shape us into who we are as humans, and in many ways, how we operate as humans.
Here are just a few examples.
Family provide us with identity. We may not answer the question ‘who are you’ as the Hebrews did: “I am the son of…, who was the son of…, but we still know who we are. We have a name! And no matter how odd the surname (John Longbottom, Christine Baboonian, Ying Yang Wang, Tigger Wegwermer; Lola Olamola, Bill Ng – all names from a website called Crazy Surnames), we hang onto it. Why? because it is our name - it links us to our foundations. We need to know who we are.
Family provide us a sense of belonging. One of the emotional and psychological challenges for any child-to-adult journey is the sense of belonging. Children who have a sense of abandonment in early life always struggle in primary relationships. We need to know we belong to someone and that we are not alone.
Family also provide us with love. This may not always be well expressed, or filtered through anger or shame, but we are loved. Love provides us with our sense of worth and value: we know we are worthwhile. People who have no sense of worth are the ones who hurt themselves in life, or hurt others.
Family give us with a sense of anchoring. We need to be anchored in life, especially when the storm seasons hit! When we don’t feel anchored, we feel easily threatened, anxious and afraid - and are more inclined to seek anchors from somewhere. Sometimes these anchors are not the best and they can include alcohol, drugs, casual relationships, gambling or anything that suggests it might provide us with what we’re missing. But we will always come away feeling empty and hurt. Family teaches us how to live with others, how to socialise, to get along, to deal with our emotions, to know consequences, to handle disappointments as well as victories.
Family provide us with a sense of safety. We have a home to go to, a network to belong to, a place to lick our wounds and find revival and refreshment, so that we are ready to start again. We know comfort, we know peace, we know what it is to feel safe and settled.
Family is a gift. We don’t earn family, we can never buy it, and we don’t deserve family. We just get it!
The challenge for us is...how do we unwrap it?
How do we treasure it?
And then, how do we share it?
Pr Eric Toleafoa
Seventh-day Adventist Church