For years I thought that if one member of a family had problems and their behavior was a far cry from what the family as a whole had advocated and tried hard to live, that the problem was limited to the person. If the person with the problems could be helped and changed then everything would be all right. Through many years of working with families who have a member that has gone far from God and right, the whole family is affected by the failure of the one.

Often it demonstrates itself in different family members doing things that they know aren’t right to some how protect the family. It may be the effort to portray to the world that everything is all right. If may be trying to limit what will happen with the one who is in trouble. Quite often it is the effort to keep them out of jail even though they are guilty of something that deserves jail time. It may be the failure to seek help for example from a drug abuse facility because of the shame it might bring on the family.

Families tend to adjust to what ever is going on in any members life and either try to rescue them continually or to act as though they are no longer in the family at all.

Something I’ve noticed in church and in business has helped me see this whole matter in a different light. I’ve noticed that in church if there is a member who is the constant critic of everything going on, if they leave or die there tends to be someone who will take their place and become that critic. Often it is someone who has never been of that nature before. But for some reason step into the role that has been played by the one now gone for years.

In days when I was running a business I noticed that if you fired the person in the company that was a problem, you tended to have someone else become the problem person. It didn’t seem that any amount of removing and replacing kept you from having those who were critical of everything you did and who would destroy the morale of the others in the company.

Because of that observation I began thinking about the family. If I were to ask you, “who is the black sheep in your family?” would you quickly come up with a name? Some families would declare that there is no black sheep in our family. If such is the case praise the Lord and be humble about it. The fact you haven’t faced any such problems in your family doesn’t mean that you won’t ever face them.

When a family is injured and has a member that seems to cause problems every time the family is together what is the family to do? First recognize that in God’s family you have often been the one that caused the problems.
Second show love and care for the one who seems wounded all the time. There may be many reasons for their behavior and they are still children of God and need our compassion What is too often the case is that in a family we are more compassionate toward those in another family that have the same kind of problems than we are in our own. Third, pray often for the whole family and especially for the one who is troubled that God will work in their life and bring about the change that is needed. They certainly can be the prodigal son that returned for full sonship. Fourth if the one in trouble needs professional help then get it. If they are addicted to drugs or something else it may well be the case that they won’t be able to break the habit without help. Swallow your pride and ask for help. Finally, no matter how many times they have ask for forgiveness and fallen right back into the same way of life, forgive this time as though it were the very first time it has ever occurred. Think about how many times God has forgiven you when you did the same things you said you would never do again.

Check the family dynamics and see if the problems have spread like an illness to the whole family. Then start changing things by changing your own life and thinking.

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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