As a professional therapist, I have always wondered how we reconcile generational dysfunction with living the Christian life. Maybe I’ve thought about this more than other people because I’ve spent three decades of my life counseling Christians who were steeped in dysfunctional mindsets and behaviors that were sabotaging their lives. And yes, all the while, coming to terms with my own generational issues.
Of course, this is linked to our sin nature and the battle that goes on inside of us. As Paul tells us in Romans 7:21-23 (NIV), “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.”
This sounds like quite a dilemma for Christians, doesn’t it? Many I counseled wanted to be kind, and yet their marriages were being destroyed by anger issues—behavioral patterns they had witnessed in a parent or grandparent.
Others struggled with irrational negative patterns of worry and fear that had a crippling effect on their lives. Although they had read the Bible’s teachings on peace and trust, they carried on the same thinking patterns that were familiar to them. Some would say, “We’re just a family of worry worts,” without fully understanding the impact of their statement.
And then, there is that age-old generational dysfunction of low self-esteem. The childhood tapes playing in their heads were louder than what God’s Word had to say about who they are in Christ. These messages became stronger and stronger as they were passed down to children from parents who struggled with their own self-image.
So what do we do? Are we truly “a wretched man” as Paul says in Romans 7:24 or is there help? Verse 25 goes onto say, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Paul then explains that we are not in the realm of the flesh, but in the realm of the Spirit if the Spirit of God lives in us. If we walk in the Spirit we will no longer be enslaved by the desires of the flesh. Freedom! Freedom from generational dysfunction comes through Christ!
We are admonished in Philippians 2:1 (KJV), “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” As a believer, you are now adopted into the family of God. So why not let go of the dysfunctions you inherited from your earthly family and become more and more like your Heavenly Father?