Statistics can be terrifying.
If a boy’s dad was abusive or unfaithful to his wife, the chances are overwhelmingly higher that he will grow up to be an abuser or to cheat on his wife.
If a woman isn’t nurtured by her mom and was raised by an addict, she is far more likely to be equally cold to her own children and become the kind of mom she despised when she was a child herself.
This is why some people who had such dysfunctional families of origin say they will never get married (since it was so awful for their parents) or, if they get married, they will never have kids (since it was so awful for them as children growing up in a house like that).
The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah offers tremendous hope, telling God’s people that just because they came from a dysfunctional home doesn’t mean they have to build one. “In those days, they shall no longer say, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’” (31:29)
Jeremiah foresees a new possibility for God’s people: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people…” (29:31-34, selected)
Under the new covenant—the covenant under which Christians now live—we have a new empowerment, a new presence of God (the Holy Spirit) to guide us and empower us and lift us above the hurts of our youth.
Abused son: you don’t have to hit your children or your wife. God will give you grace through the forgiveness of Christ and power through the Holy Spirit, to love your family like you were never loved by your earthly father.
Neglected daughter: you don’t have to inflict the same apathy on your kids that pummeled your youth; God will give you, through the mercy of His Son and the presence of His Counselor, a compelling love for your husband and children that no waters on earth can quench.
To give yourself fully to God and His healing is to rise above your youth and live a new life in a new land with a new love and thus create a new family. You don’t have to be the fifth generation alcoholic. You don’t have to be the third generation in a row to get a divorce. You can be the start of a new legacy, with life lived under a new covenant.
This is a glorious promise. It gives hope, and cheer, and encouragement. Because of Christ, and only because of Christ, dysfunction is a choice, not an inherited determination. The closer you get to Christ, the farther away you get from your past dysfunction.
Singles from dysfunctional families: you can get married with hope if you bring Christ with you.
Married people from dysfunctional families: you can remake your marriage without the dysfunction if you invite Christ back in to be the center of your home.
Don’t react against your past; respond to the present work of God in your heart. Be done—irrevocably done—with the perverted principles and passions and twisted loyalties that you grew up with, and embrace the pure, unpolluted, never failing love of God. Your current family will thank you, and though they may never admit it, your dysfunctional family of origin will envy you.