Reconcile – to restore to friendship, peace, harmony
b : settle or resolve / to make consistent / to cause to submit to or accept something unpleasant
The upcoming Holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, which are traditionally marked by memories from days gone by and present periods of “Family Togetherness” are sheer joy for some and at the same time, these Holidays can be the epitome of difficulty for others.
Without exception, the period of time that begins around the “Turkey Cutting” and ends with “sleighbells ring-ting-tingling” is my busiest counseling season of the year. The reasons for this onslaught vary. Sometimes it’s due to the fact that personal loss has been suffered and the family of the deceased is facing the reality of spending their first Holiday Season without a loved one. Another occasional reason for the need of Pastoral counseling during the Holidays is simple economics. A constant prayer request during this season is that God would provide the means for travel, gifts, etc. There are plenty of other reasons that we see a rise in the need for Pastoral counseling during this season, but I wont bore you with all of those. Instead, I’ll cut to the chase and inform you as to what the number one motive for scheduling a Holiday counseling session with the Pastor is…..
Problems in the family.
Hurt, betrayal, bitterness and the subsequent topping off all of that hurt/betrayal/bitterness with having to see other families happily gather together with seemingly none of these issues often leads to one of the greatest periods of depression they experience all year.
In fact, the Holidays carry with them the very real possibility of stirring up deep pain and anguish each year as they remind many of troubling days in our past. These memories (or sometimes, lack of them) are heart wrenching and often carry dangerous ramifications. Clinically speaking, the rate of suicide and diagnosed depression hits its dark peak each year during….you guessed it….the Holiday Season.
Without going into great detail, some of the most oft heard statements I hear in counseling session around this season are heartbreaking things like….
“I’m skipping out on our family stuff this year. Just hurts too much”
“The thing I hate most is how everyone just smiles and acts like it’s O.K. around the dinner table. They know it’s not.”
AND the statement I hear most often? – “I’ve decided not to have anything to do with them until they apologize to me. They should be calling me. They need to take the first step…at the very least meet me half-way and we’ll work from there.”
Needless to say, each of these statements reveals some real contention within a family.The reality of the situation is ALL people are imperfect, ALL families are imperfect so if you’re reading this blog post you’ve probably dealt with (or are dealing with) at least a measure of these emotions right now. No family is exempt from trouble…not even the one that seems as if it could serve as the model for this years Hallmark Card.
So the question is, how do we as followers of Jesus Christ handle family strife during the Holidays? Allow me to share a couple of things I share with those I’m counseling….
*As Christians, we are to confront our issues head on. In love, in grace, in a Spirit of restoration….but we confront them. The tendency we have as human beings is to simply bottle things up, put on a pretty smile and earn an Emmy through our theatrical skill set. After all, just give it time because “time heals all wounds”….I say bull. Wounds, if not cared for, fester. Eventually they infect and poison the whole body. Believer are called to deal with issues in a Biblical manner.
I think that Matthew Chapter 18 serves as a great guideline for dealing with family trouble in a Biblical manner.
“If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established” (15-16) – Jesus
I fully realize the context here is dealing with a believing brother or sister who has caused offense but I do find that the principle is applicable to every earthly relationship we have as Jesus exhorts us to love our brother and sisters because this is how an unbelieving world will know that we belong to Him. How much more so should we practice this principle in our relationships with those who don’t know Him?
Suppressing hurt never leads to healing. We must Biblically, boldly and courageously confront our family issues and trust the Lord to do the rest if we desire unity within our families.
*As Christians, We Practice Forgiveness. This is generally where the “rubber meets the road” in the context of the resolution of family strife. Forgiveness is hard. Forgiveness is humbling…..but make no mistake, forgiveness is essential in the life of a believer and in the restoration of the troubled family.
The model of forgiveness we have is none other than the forgiveness that Jesus provided in our relationship with Him. His forgiveness was full, free and final. In other words, His forgiveness carried no caveats, there we no “if’s” or “buts” and wouldn’t be revoked. Ours is to be the same.
You may say, “Pastor, I get all of that but this seems to be an ongoing issue”. Again, Matthew 18….
“Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”… “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven” (21-22)
*As Christians, We Practice Grace. As previously mentioned in this post, people aren’t perfect. That includes our families. That includes you and I. Romans 3:23 states that “ALL have sinned” and that word ALL means just what it seems to. What we must keep in mind as believers is that even in our sin, in our imperfections, Gods grace was poured upon us. Not because we merited it and not because we earned it…but because Grace is an aspect of Who He Is and if I am in Christ then Christ is in me and if Christ is in me the possibility of me showing and sharing grace is there as well. We must practice grace if we desire unity with our families.
Finally – As Christians, It’s On Us To Try.
Again, I hear often, “Well, if they would…if he would…if she would just (insert need here), this could work out”
As plain and simple as I can be, the first step of reconciliation is on us. That may be a bitter pill to swallow but it’s true nonetheless. We saw that in the Matthew 18 text as it was the offended who Jesus said is to “go to a brother” not the offender. We even see this truth modeled in the plan of salvation. Man had offended God with his sinfulness. God didn’t sit back and wait for man to take the first step in reconciliation. No, He sent His Son. He initiated our redemption. This serves the model for our earthly relationships. We take the first step. We initiate.
I’ve always loved what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 12:18
“If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone”
Now I’m a simple fella and really strive to look at all things scriptural in the simplest of manners. What I see Paul saying is this, “It’s not easy to have peace with everyone but It’s on you to try”.
Point is, if someone in our family has caused offense, it’s not their responsibility to try to make things right, it’s mine. I’m to do my part.
That being said, those words “IF POSSIBLE” loom large. That tells us that there may be cases in which it’s simply not a possibility to ease contention but as a believer that can’t be because on me. Believers must be careful not to use those words “If possible” as a cop-out for not obeying Gods Word when it’s difficult to do so. I’m to do everything I can to remedy the situation and then and only then if things still don’t work out, it’s on them. Again, I initiate. It’s on me to try.
So, this Holiday Season do you need to Biblically confront a situation or a someone that has offended you within your family? Do you need to put into practice what God has offered you in His act of grace and forgiveness? Do you need to pick up the phone and take the first step toward healing? I realize how difficult all of this may seem and agree that what we are talking about is impossible…if we try to do these things in our own strength. Good new is, as a believer, you don’t have too. HE is our strength and our song. Rely upon Him and watch Him work!
I’m praying you do and will have a great Holiday Season with your family.
Soli Deo Gloria! – Pastor Kyle