Paul David Tripp, in his devotional New Morning Mercies, observes that, if we seek satisfaction in the things God gives us, we will be empty. Happiness will elude us. We expect creation to fulfill the longing that can only be met by the Creator. One of the blessings we are most tempted to turn to for satisfaction and happiness is our families. In many senses, this is natural. However, our security and happiness are too great a burden to place on family members – kids, spouses, parents, etc. This summer we are going to publish a series of posts that are designed to make our families more missional. Today, I want to mention several ways that unhealthy family priority can cause problems for our faith and God’s mission.
1. Remember, all family members are sinners and therefore cannot be our saviors.
Have you ever heard someone say, or perhaps you have said so yourself, “I just want someone who will make me happy.” This cannot happen in a person. By nature, all of us are wired to seek our happiness and protection. This means that in a relationship, there will be times your spouse, and more often your children, will not make you happy. They will hurt you and let you down. When we place our hope for joy in other sinners rather than the savior, we are setting ourselves up for trouble.
2. You are placing an unfair burden on others – one that you cannot bear for them.
When I make my wife (or my children or my parents) responsible for my happiness, I am being unfair to her. First, it is unfair because the is a role I am not able to fulfill for them. I am asking them to do what I am unable (and frequently, unwilling) to do. Second, I am expecting these family members to do something they were not created for. I am expecting them to be my God. Not only is this not fair, but it is also the pathway to hate. When I place all my hope on someone else, and they let me down, I will eventually begin to hate them. The relationships are intended to point us to our need for a savior. But when we idolize family relationships they become an inadequate, substitute savior
3. Finally, when we seek happiness and satisfaction our family relationships, our faith is paralyzed, and God’s mission suffers.
Consider Abraham’s experiences in Genesis 22. This is certainly a one time deal. It is not something we need to anticipate God asking us to do today. However, God does ask us to follow him and trust him with the well-being of our kids and marriage. God’s mission cannot be advanced if our priority is personal security or keeping our families stress free. As parents, God has entrusted us with the stewardship of our children. They are not ours to possess, but they are his to release. Most of us freely trust God with our eternal souls but struggle with trusting him to care for our children or our spouse.
Let’s take a biblical view of family. These relationships should fuel our faith in God, not be a substitute for seeking joy in Jesus alone.
Scott Hildreth is the director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies. He frequently speaks on issues of missions, spiritual formation, missiology, and theology. Scott also contributes to SEBTS faculty blog www.betweenthetimes.com