Have you ever pondered—even if just for a few seconds—could my family be dysfunctional? Cheer up, there are no perfect families. And, while your family may occasionally seem challenging to figure out, most likely its quite normal.
The Bible offers a glimpse into a family who experienced a significant level of dysfunction. Genesis 37-39 introduces us to Jacob’s family. Thirteen children mothered by four wives, all living under the same roof— a textbook stage for dysfunction.
Let’s zero in on one of those kids, Joseph. He was a bit of a dreamer. Some would say, he had visions of grandeur. As a teenager he informed his father and mother of a dream in which his entire family was bowing before him—any wonder why his stepbrothers were suspicious of him?
To add fuel to the fire, Jacob favoured him. Brueggemann says, it’s the story of one son having been loved too much, one father loving too much, and eleven brothers feeling loved too little (Brueggemann 1982:300).
Eventually his brothers staged an assault. They stripped him of the special coat his father made for him, and threw him in a holding pit. Shortly afterward they sold him into slavery. At the tender age of eighteen he finds himself serving as a slave to the powerful Egyptian ruler—Potiphar.
If you think that’s the ultimate pit of despair; it just keeps going downhill. He soon realized his family wasn’t the only dysfunctional family in the neighbourhood. His master’s wife was infatuated by him, and, when he refused to play along, she accused him of assaulting her. Joseph is hastily condemned and sent to prison.
Imagine the level of despair that must have filled his soul. Cut off from his father, betrayed by his brothers, convicted as a sexual predator, living among some of the most vicious and hardcore characters in all of Egypt.
"He had many reasons to doubt God would fulfill his promises, but he chose to remain faithful to God in every season."
Fast forward twenty-two years. There has been a severe famine in the region, so Joseph’s brothers have journeyed to Egypt to purchase grain. They are standing before the Vizier of Egypt, the man responsible for the welfare of the entire nation, the one to whom Potiphar has entrusted everything he owned. Unbeknownst to them, it’s Joseph, the brother they threw in a well and sold as a slave many years earlier.
Through a series of marvellous acts God freed him from prison, and strategically positioned him to the most influential position in Potiphar’s kingdom. Much-loved son, resented brother, betrayed slave, despairing prisoner, now clothed in royal garments, ruler of Egypt.
The path to the fulfillment of his dreams had taken Joseph on an agonizing journey. He had many reasons to doubt God would fulfill his promises, but he chose to remain faithful to God in every season. And, along the way he earned a portfolio of lessons which prepared him for greatness. “God was working in him, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (see Philippians 2:13 ESV).
God has not abandoned you. He hasn’t canceled the plans He designed for your life, you “are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that you should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV).
Your family of origin—spiritual or biological—may be dysfunctional, you may have gotten sidetracked, and you may feel like your world is crumbling around you. Wait patiently, stay faithful to God, the powerful redeeming hand of God will soon lead you into a place more wondrous than you ever imagined.
"From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him." (Isaiah 64:4 ESV).