The Bible is full of hurting people and hurting families, many of whom we would now call dysfunctional, and yet most of these people were simply trying to get by the best way they knew possible. One example of this that I have always found intriguing is the story of Abraham and Sarah.
Abraham and Sarah had no children. In their culture this was an intensely severe issue. Without children, Abraham could not pass on his possessions, which meant that unless he gave them to someone else, all of the people Abraham provided for would suddenly be homeless and destitute if Abraham died. However, there is another layer of anxiety found in this story. God had promised them a son, and so far no son had come.
In the book of Genesis there is a moment where this anxiety reaches a climax. Sarah, frustrated by the fact that she was barren, suggested to Abraham that he marry her servant and bear a child through her. To us, this might seem ludicrous or even wrong. Sarah is suggesting to her husband that he take a second wife and bear a child through her. Where is Sarah’s faith? Where is Abraham’s faith? How can these two characters, these two Biblical heroes, act so dysfunctional?
If we read ahead in the story to when the once servant girl has a son, she begins treating Sarah as a second rate woman. Sarah, as the primary wife, confronts Abraham and accuses him of creating the problem. He then responds that the “slave-girl” is Sarah’s problem and that she needs to take care of it. By the time all is said and done, the servant girl is kicked out of the family, with her baby son, and almost dies in the dessert. Things quickly went from bad to worse.
Now even though this seems truly wrong to us, in their own culture, Sarah and Abraham were trying to do the right thing. If Abraham had a son through Sarah’s servant, the child would still be Abraham and Sarah’s. Technically, as far as they knew, God’s promise would be fulfilled. Abraham and Sarah were only doing what they thought was right in a difficult situation. There was nothing illegal or culturally unacceptable about their behavior. And yet, their decision had drastic and long lasting consequences. Eventually, after Sarah had a son of her own, Isaac, she persuaded Abraham to send away his second wife and her son, Ishmael. The next time Abraham’s two sons would meet would be at his funeral. This was truly a family of bruised and hurting people, and understandably so.
The Christian Counseling Center believes this world is still full of bruised and hurting people, people who are doing the best they can with what they have but are given very little support as they go about their lives. The Christian Counseling Center feels called to provide that support, to bring healing and love to people and families. It is their ministry to strengthen families and use the gifts God has given them to accomplish this task.
Sadly the Bible does not answer “what if” questions. We will never know what might have happened if someone had been there to support and help Abraham and Sarah in their time of trial. Maybe the rift that occurred in Abraham and Sarah’s family might not have happened. Maybe Ishmael and Isaac would have grown up together and been the closest of brothers. We cannot change the past, but we can serve in the present, and who knows what futures might take shape? The Christian Counseling Center hopes to participate in creating more hopeful futures for struggling families today.

By Benjamin Gensic, Pulpit Minister for the Farmington Church of Christ

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