Hope and Healing for Broken Families
About the Guest
Dennis and Barbara Rainey, along with Jeff Kemp, provide solid biblical answers to questions concerning broken family relationships. A few of the topics they cover include: preventing sibling conflicts between adult children, handling estranged family relationships, and how to rebuild a marriage after marital and spiritual dysfunction.
Dennis and Barbara Rainey, along with Jeff Kemp, provide solid biblical answers to questions concerning broken family relationships.
Bob: Sibling and family relationships can get messy. The holidays have a way of putting some of that messiness on display. Here's counsel from Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: To those of you who are estranged from family members, this would be a real litmus test for you: “Are you able to pray for them genuinely?—and ask God to bless them, and to reach out to them, and to intervene in their lives? Or does your bitterness, and your anger, and your hurt at how you have been estranged end up eating you from the inside out?”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, December 21st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How can we be agents of reconciliation in the midst of family relational messiness?
We’ll talk about that and other things today. Stay with us.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. We had an opportunity this year to do something—I don’t think we have ever done this before. We invited some of our Legacy Partners—folks who support this ministry regularly—to join us for a getaway in San Diego.
You and Barbara were there. MaryAnn and I were there. Ron Deal and his wife Nan / Jeff Kemp and his wife Stacy joined us. We got together with these supporters, and we had just a limited number of spots available. It was a good opportunity to spend some time talking about marriage and ministry, and what we are doing, and just affirm and appreciate the folks who make this ministry possible.
Dennis: Bob,I haveto tell you—those days were threefun-filled days, because we were meeting with people who were raving fans about doing marriage and family God’s way; and they listen to FamilyLife Today. I mean, it just was a great privilege to meet them, face to face, and say, “Thank you for standing with us as we’re on mission of taking the Bible, practically, and helping people apply it in their marriage and family.”
As we end the year here, I want to turn to you, as a listener. I would just like to challenge you: “Would you stand with us, here at the end of the year, and say, ‘You know what? I really agree with the power of radio to strengthen marriages and families, not only in our lives, but also the lives of my friends, and family members, and my community, and across the country. I’d like to be a stakeholder in that ministry / in that mission.’”
Bob, I have now been running into listeners—[one was] helping at a Chick-fil-A® restaurant—
—a young man / a single guy that I ran into the other day. He said, “I listen to you almost every day, Mr. Rainey.” I said: “Terrific! Way to go. You could really benefit from this.”
Then I ran into another guy at an airport. He overheard me talking and he said, “Are you Dennis Rainey?” I said, “I am.” He said, “I’m from Monett, Missouri.” [Laughter] Now, Monett is near where I grew up—Ozark, Missouri; okay? So I knew where that was. He said: “My wife and I listen every day to FamilyLife Today and we read your devotional, Moments with You. Thanks for doing what you’re doing.”
And then I ran into a pastor in San Francisco, who was a listener to FamilyLife Today. He was effusive in thanking us for standing for the family as God designed it—unashamedly, boldly, compassionately, kindly, but staying on mission and helping people where it matters most—in their marriages and families.
I would just come to you, as a listener today, and I’d say:
“You know what? It is yearend. You know that ministries like ours get 60 percent of our donations that we keep this broadcast on the air on this station—it’s that money that fuels it. If you believe in what we’re doing, we need you now—not tomorrow / not next year—we need you now to say: ‘I like your mission. I like what you guys are doing. And I want to stand with you as never before.’”
Bob: We recently had to make the decision to go off the air in a couple of cities—always a hard decision to make because you know there are folks who rely on this program each day to provide them with practical help and hope for their marriage and their family. But in a community, we’ve got to be good stewards of the resources that are available. If the funding is not there, we have to make the hard choice sometimes.
Dennis: And Bob, that is what a listener needs to know. This broadcast is here today because somebody, yesterday, paid for it.
They are keeping it on the station now so you can enjoy these broadcasts and benefit from them.
Bob: If you are able to help with a yearend donation, this is a great time to make your donation because of a matching gift that has been made available to us, here at yearend. Michelle Hill, our friend Michelle, is here to give us the update on the matching-gift opportunity. She is our designated Matching Gift Monitor here during the month of December. So explain to everybody how this works.
Michelle: Well, it’s pretty simple. When you give, other generous people add twice that amount, and your gift is tripled. But Bob, I have some pretty exciting news. We’ve just heard from some generous folks who have decided to add over half a million additional dollars to our match. Thanks to these folks, the match is now one point eight million dollars.
So what that means is that the gifts of hundreds of folks like Kathleen and Napoleon and Ben will continue to be tripled. So, thank you for whatever you can give, it will be tripled up to one point eight million dollars, oh and I almost forgot…right now we’re at just over eight hundred thousand dollars.
Bob: And it’s easy to make a donation. You can do that online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate; or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; the zip code is 72223. Michelle, thank you.
We were talking about being with friends of ours, back in San Diego, in the summertime. One of the things we had a chance to do was to spend a little time talking about relationships. It was a Q&A time with listeners who were there. We thought we would share some of those questions and how we answered them on today’s program. We’ll take you into the ballroom where there were about 40 couples gathered. We were talking about the challenges that all of us face in marriage and family relationships and looking at what the Bible has to say about these things.
[Recorded Q&A Time]
Bob: This side of the room, whose got a question over here?
Male Guest: My wife and I have just experienced so many people whose families or siblings—they don’t love each / they don’t get along. And a lot of them are Christian families and the siblings. My question is: “How can we help our children to maintain loving relationships with their siblings as they leave home and build families of their own?”
Dennis: That’s a great question.
Barbara: That is a great question.
Dennis: I think, first of all, you got to take sibling rivalry, as they grow up, and you have to teach them how to ask for forgiveness and how to forgive when they’re kids. Now, having said that, as you raise children through adolescence and into adulthood, you have to take your hands off of them and let them hammer out their own way.
Frankly, as parents, we would love to step in like we did when they were children or young people and help resolve; but they’re adults.
They’ve got to work it out. I think we’ve got to entrust our kids to Almighty God to let Him do His work in them. Let them work out their relationships. I don’t think, as parents of adults, we’ve got to walk around being disciplinarians. In fact, our kids need us to assume a different type of authority when we move into dealing with them as adult children.
How would you answer it?
Barbara: Well, I would just add that I think we, sometimes, as Christians, have expectations of perfection for our families. I think we have this image that’s probably not very realistic. Kind David had kids that didn’t get along real well either. I just think that we expect more of our kids than we should. Would I love it that all of our kids were best friends? Yes, I would love for my children to all be best friends; but they’re not.
It’s not because they don’t like each other. Part of it is because they are geographically spread out all over the country. But then, even if they did live near each other, they all have different values and they married different people.
I know, for myself, I have three brothers. We weren’t very close when we all first got married. We lived in different parts of the country too. We’re not super close now either, but we’re much more connected now that we’re older than we were when we were all in our 20s and 30s. I mean, we were all just trying to keep our heads above water with our kids; right? And now, our kids are in that boat. They’re trying to keep their heads above water and survive, because they all have children that are primarily 12 and under. It just takes a lot of time and effort.
Dennis: One of the things that has surprised us the most about a family is adult children. The adult children thing has forced us, as parents, to pray more.
As Barbara was talking about—really evaluate our own expectations of our kids. At points, go: “We’re a little naïve. Do you really think it’s going to be a Norman Rockwell painting with all the kids dutifully seated around the table all the way through adulthood?” They have to be their own people. We’re cheering them on as they do that, by the way. Our kids get along; but there are still issues that we, as parents, see. I don’t think we’ll ever stop seeing because we’re mom and dad.
Bob: I memorized, 20 years ago, a verse that has helped me a lot—it’s Romans 12:18. It says,” If possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” It’s a great verse because it says: “Here is the goal: Be at peace with all men.” It acknowledges that sometimes that’s not possible and sometimes that doesn’t depend on you. But if possible, as far as it depends on you, God wants you to be at peace with all men.
I’d probably just say something like that and say, “You feel like you’re pursuing that in this relationship?”
Then I’d keep my mouth shut pretty much beyond that. Parents are probably the wrong people to try to fix sibling issues. That needs to happen between siblings and that needs to happen with their extended friends. We can’t get in the middle of that one.
Dennis: I would double underline that. You really can’t set up a triangle—
Barbara: I agree.
Dennis: —where mom and dad are reengaging the kids, trying to fix it.
Barbara: It won’t work.
Dennis: That will not work.
Bob: Got a question on this side of room?
Female Guest: My question kind of piggybacks off that. Let’s go up a generation—to us being siblings and having estranged family members—and whether they are believers or not—how destructive that is in a family. Have you seen that resolved in any way? Can you speak to how that might work resolution between siblings that are estranged from one another?
Barbara: God’s not pleased when we’re estranged from one another.
I think all families have some of those, somewhere along the way. I have a great aunt. She and her brother haven’t spoken in 50 years, and that’s not anything that anybody can fix. That’s only fixable by those two people. Somebody—just like in a marriage—somebody has to say: “I want to fix this. I want to submit to God. I want to own my part. I want to deal with this,”—that the change can begin with us, as individuals.
My responsibility is to make sure that my relationship with my brothers is good and to do what I can to love them, and to represent Christ with them, and to trust that they will then want to do the same too.
Dennis: I wonder if we had gone and asked Joseph what he thought about his relationship with his siblings in the midst of him getting sold—what he would have said. And yet, we know what it says in the end, that God was at work.
What men intended for evil, God caused for good.
I think one of the ways—to those of you who are estranged from family members—this would be a real litmus test for you: “Are you able to pray for them genuinely?—and ask God to bless them, and to reach out to them, and to intervene in their lives? Or does your bitterness, and your anger, and your hurt at how you’ve been estranged end up eating you from the inside out?”
I think God loves the prayer of a helpless parent. He loves the prayer of a helpless sibling that has an adult-estranged relationship.
Bob: If you’re in a situation like that, one of the things you have to say is, “Am I a contributor to this?” I think of the end of Psalm 139, where the psalmist says, “Search me, know me, and try my thoughts.”
Then I also think of Mark 3. I’ve just pulled this up:
“A crowd was sitting around Jesus; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and brother are outside seeking you.’ And He answered them, ‘Who are My mother and My brothers?’ Looking about at those around Him, He said, ‘Here are My mother and brothers. For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and My sister and My mother.’” There’s some point at which that doesn’t mean we cut off people because they’re not spiritually akin with us, but it means there is a linkage that runs deeper than genetics and blood and that’s our relationship in Christ. Keep your eyes focused on Jesus and love the brothers and sisters that Jesus has given us in the body of Christ.
Dennis: Worldview is going to separate us. Somebody who’s come to faith in Christ and has switched the direction they are headed to becoming an ambassador for Christ, that’s going to cost us. I think Jesus said that:
“No one can be My disciple unless he hate mother and father.” There’s going to be enmity there. I’d be interested. How many here would say they are in some kind of relationship with an adult sibling where things aren’t quite right? Hold your hand up. Just know you’re not alone—about a third of our audience / fourth.
Jeff: On that question, we had a fundraising dinner one year at the organization I ran in the Northwest. Steve Largent, the Hall of Fame football player, and teammate, and friend of Stacy’s and mine was the speaker. He told the story I never heard before. I knew that his dad had divorced his mom—he talked about that—when he was a little boy—and then he talked about the pain, and the hurt in his life, and then growing up without his dad, and then going to pro football.
The first time his dad ever contacted him was at a playoff game when his dad called and said, “Hey, can I get some tickets?” Imagine the hurt for all those years which had basically driven Steve to become a hard-working, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps successful athlete.
The bitterness of unforgiveness had rested inside this cool Christian man for a long time—it was one of his weak spots. Steve realized that he had enough of God’s grace and had received enough of God’s love that the initiation of the healing had to come from him—not just his prayer that his daddy would come back and apologize for what he had done.
Steve finally let go of expectation and bitterness toward his dad. He thought: “What I have done that hasn’t been the best?—what’s the / even if it’s a teeny weenie log?—what’s the log in my eye?” Steve actually went to his dad, set up a trip, had a meal with him—and said: “Dad, I’d like for you to forgive me. I want to apologize for not being the best son I could be. I’ve not always had the best attitude about you.” He didn’t say one word about everything else. His dad softened/apologized. They rebuilt a relationship, and they ended their life with some of the camaraderie and family unity that they wanted.
It might be with a sibling or it might be with a parent. You may not get the results, but you will be set free: (a) from the unforgiveness and bitterness and (b) by apologizing for whatever part you can take, you have a lot better chance of starting the healing in a situation like that.
Bob: Question over here.
Male Guest: What advice can you give to couples, such as us, that have been married for many years but are just now basically having to renew our marriage? What can I do to pursue—not only pursue—but lead my wife spiritually?
Dennis: I would say rejoice that you’re asking the question.
Barbara: That’s a great start.
Dennis: Think of how many years you didn’t ask it—so good for you! I’d do a couple of things. I’d find a mentor of a husband, who has loved his life well. I’d ask him if, for 12 months, he would meet with you once a month and coach you in how to nourish, cherish, love, understand,—
Different Male Guest: Are you available? [Laughter]
Dennis: I’m pretty full up on mentoring right now, but here’s the thing—you never outgrow your need to be coached.
Then, I‘ll tell you what I would encourage you to do—this is going to sound counterintuitive. Get together a group of guys to study the Bible and you lead it. I can just tell you—sometimes a need like this drives us to go scratch an itch that other people are also in need of scratching. I’d say step out and find half a dozen guys—and I don’t know—get Stepping Up® and maybe go through it with the application that we’re going to be talking about all the way through here—how we can step up as the spiritual lovers, and leaders, and servants of our wives and our family. Then see what you come up with at the end of ten weeks.
Bob: I’m pulling up a verse here.
This is from the prophet Joel [2:25, 26], where God says to the nation of Israel: “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.”
God restores the years that the locusts have eaten—that’s the promise of Scripture. Humble yourself; be contrite; start the process. God says: “I can restore this. I can give back and rebuild, and you won’t go hungry again.” It takes time for those years to be restored, because it took time for those years to wither. Be patient. On a day when it feels like it was a step back, just stay after it.
Dennis: God takes wounds, and He turns them into holy scars. Glad you’re asking the question.
Bob: Somebody on this side—right here.
Female Guest: We’re all in this room as Legacy Partners with FamilyLife. I was just wondering, as a group who loves this ministry and is committed to it, where do you see it in five/ten years?
Bob: Was that a plant? Did he tell you, “Here, ask this question”? [Laughter]
Dennis: That’s a great transition to what I’m about to share with you.
Bob: It is a great transition. Should we just break camp and let you—
Dennis: You tell me. It’s a great question. Thank you. [Laughter]
Bob: And we’re interrupting the question and answer here. We’ve been listening to questions and answers from a group of Legacy Partners. And the reason we’re breaking in here and not letting you answer is because it took you about half an hour for you to answer her question after she asked it. We don’t have half an hour left. So can you summarize it?
Dennis: Probably not! [Laughter] But I can say we want to be the number one trainer and equipper of marriages and families in the world, with the biblical blueprints. We do that through our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways.
We do that through our resources / our tools: The Art Of Marriage®, Stepping Up and a new series you’re working on, Bob, that will be available in the spring of 2018.
Bob: You’re writing a book on parenting, and we’re doing a video series on parenting along with that.
Dennis: We’re committed to helping you, the listener, be successful in life’s most important commitments. FamilyLife Today wants to be your voice for the family. What we want to do here, every day on FamilyLife Today, is to bring you the leading experts from the Scriptures around the top issues you’re facing in your marriage, your family/extended family, and in life and help you be successful the way God defined it. You know, that’s what we do here, every day on FamilyLife Today, 260 days a year. Bob, you know we stand for God’s definition of marriage and family. We want to equip people to do marriage and family God’s way, not the world’s way.
And finally, we want to help you and others be equipped to reach out in your neighborhoods, your community, and make a difference in marriages and families where you live.
Bob: So five years from today—those same goals—you just see them expanding to more and more people.
Dennis: I do—millions of volunteers, not only here in America, but around the world. We are in 109 countries around the world. We are anchoring all of this, Bob, in the gospel that Jesus Christ is the One who died for our sins, defeated death, rose from the dead on the third day, and can offer people forgiveness and eternal life as a result of trusting Him. That is a message worthy of this ministry.
Bob: And that’s what we’re asking our listeners to invest in here, at the end of the year.
Dennis: That’s right, Bob. And to this point—throughout the fall, we’re about 2,000 donors down from where we need to be right now. That’s a significant number of donors.
So if you can give $30, $50, $100, $1,000—your gift will be tripled. You’re going to triple the impact on marriages and families all across the country through FamilyLife Today. Your partnership in this ministry makes a difference in marriages and families.
Bob: You’re saying there are friends, who have stood with us in past years, whom we’ve not heard from so far this year.
Dennis: That’s exactly right.
Bob: And whether you’re a first-time donor to FamilyLife, or someone who has donated but it’s been awhile, this is a perfect time for you to make a yearend contribution in support of this ministry. We talked earlier about the matching gift that is in place. Your donation is effectively tripled when you make it today. You can make a donation, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. That’s 1-800-358-6329. You can also donate by mail. Our address is FamilyLifeToday at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk to a husband and wife who spent six months apart. In fact, I think it is safe to say that this husband and wife were farther apart than any husband and wife have ever been in history. We’ll explain what we mean tomorrow. I hope you can be with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis: Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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