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By Barb Kugle
Special to The PREVIEW
All families are dysfunctional to some degree or another. Some more so than others, while some seem nearly perfect.
I’ve met families that, frankly, make me envious. They make me wish I could go back 40 years and start all over with mine. But the truth is those “perfect” families are flawed too, because they are made up of flawed individuals.
While studying the exodus of the fledgling nation of Israel from Egypt, I saw some basic characteristics about the dysfunction in God’s family that might be compared to today’s families. A bigger picture is beginning to emerge from the study. I can see how God might have a specific plan and purpose for my family, and maybe yours too.
Every family has its differences, its rivalries, as well as external, and sometimes tragic, difficulties beyond our control. Sometimes we think the adversity we experience in our own family is unique to ours, and that others can’t relate. But that’s just not so. They all share a common thread. As a result of the Exodus study, I’m beginning to see how God might use my family’s periods of adversity to shape us into an image that more perfectly resembles the family He desires.
Four thousand years ago, God took some pretty extraordinary measures to get His family out of Egypt. Israel lived there for 400 years and, not surprisingly, assimilated the culture and began to worship the Egyptian gods. It was going to take God forty years to get Egypt out of His people.
Before leading them out of Egypt, they would have to endure some harsh conditions or they wouldn’t be willing to leave. And then, He led them through 40 years of extreme training before making good on His promise to take them into the Promised Land.
As I work my way through this study, I’m beginning to see that God might use adversity in today’s family for some of the same reasons. He must, remove any and all “idol worship,” teach us how to have compassion for one another, and prove us faithful to Him.
What are the idols that families worship today? How about our addiction to electronics? I’m a news junkie and when I went home for a week last month, I had to go without TV and instant access to the Internet. I was lost. The iPhone, electronic tablets and social media have become our closest companions. Gadgets and what-not aren’t our only idols.
Sometimes idol worship rears its ugly heads in the attitude of our hearts. Pride. We are more concerned about self preservation than family preservation. Unforgiveness. We are more concerned about the splinter in someone else’s eye than the plank in our own. Selfishness. We are more concerned about our wants than the needs of others. If we say we are not guilty of any of these, then we are deceived. (Romans 3:10-12, 23) Dare I say a trek through a desolate wilderness might bring us all back to reality?
Israel complained bitterly because they missed the comforts of Egypt. Yes, they were oppressed there, but they had plenty of fresh produce and meat to eat. They had shelter made from mud bricks instead of tents, and soft beds made of straw instead of the hard desert floor. The Egyptian government provided all their needs and they didn’t need God. Sound familiar? But, in the wilderness, they learned to be dependent on God. Not only so, but they learned that they desperately needed each other. They would have to learn compassion for one another by God’s example. These lessons were no picnic for God either. Or, for that matter, Moses. But they were His treasured people.
My family is God’s treasure, my treasure. Just as God promised to bless all nations through Israel, I believe God will bless my family and each of us individually to be a witness and a testimony to other families. But just like Israel in the wilderness, we must learn to hear God’s voice. We must learn to obey Him and love one another as we love ourselves. That, of course, is humanly impossible without God. God must be the center of every family before He can bless us. But don’t be surprised if you have to endure more hard knocks before you can learn this lesson.
If your family is suffering adversity, He may be testing you to see what is in your heart. Will you humble yourself, cast out your idols, and trust Him? Will you follow Him? Will I?
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