Summary: A very encouraging article on how to overcome a difficult start. You can overcome a difficult childhood or a dysfunctional family.
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Introduction: There is a saying that goes ‘A good start is half done.’ We all expect life to be smooth all the time. However, life does not unfold as we expect and many times we suffer from a difficult start.
Maybe you had a bad childhood, you struggled with your parent’s separation or divorce. Maybe you had very irresponsible parents and you are suffering the consequences of that. Maybe some of us have started something but we are finding difficulty moving forward. Maybe some of you wanted started off well and all of a sudden there is a break. A question people generally ask is, “Can I recover a bad start in my life? Or can I overcome a break up?”
I want you to take a journey with me starting today tracing the ups and downs of a man who was born to a very difficult, dysfunctional family. He had a tough start and had many breaks in-between, but came out as one of the most successful people in the Bible. His name is Joseph.
Joseph’s father, Jacob, though generally godly, embraced polygamy that was common in the day, which opened the door to jealousy, insecurity and almost constant conflict among his wives. As a result, Joseph had three stepmothers, ten step-brothers, one brother, and a step sister, all living together. Can you imagine the trauma of living in such a home?
There were three deaths in the family in Joseph’s childhood. First, Deborah, the nurse of Joseph’s grandmother, Rebekah died and was buried under an oak tree at Bethel. Second, Joseph’s own mother Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin. This loss brought home the fragility of life.
The third blow to the family came shortly after this when Isaac, Joseph’s grandpa, died and was buried where Abraham, Sarah, and Rebekah had been buried.
Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zipah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Jacob loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.
There was tension in this home. But as it usually is in dysfunctional families, this little picture here is just the tip of the iceberg. Joseph’s brothers took turns being brutal, conniving, and openly immoral.
However, there were some significant spiritual markers in Joseph’s life growing up. Genesis 32 reports the time when Jacob returning from his father-in-law’s house, heard about Esau coming to take revenge on him with 400 soldiers. Jacob hastily divided his family and flocks and sent them on ahead. It must have been a scary time for Joseph, who was only a young boy. Dad was staying behind alone at the Jabbok River.
The next morning, Joseph saw his father limp into the camp. “Daddy, what’s wrong? Why are you limping, daddy?” he must have asked. And he heard of how his father wrestled with the angel of the Lord all night, and how when he finally submitted to God, he was blessed and got a new name from the Lord. Joseph’s father had been touched by the Lord Himself, and was changed for the remainder of his life. Joseph understood the lesson from his own father’s experience – God is real! He blesses those who realize their own brokenness and guilt and long for God more than anything else. Imagine the imprint this made on this young man!
Genesis 35 tells of another spiritual marker when Joseph was 13 years old. His father took the whole family to Bethel, where they came to the place where Jacob had his first personal encounter with God. Years before, running for his life from Esau, Jacob laid down and slept on the ground, where he dreamed about a great ladder which came down from heaven and touched earth, with angels ascending and descending. God was letting Jacob know that God was in control of his life.
Joseph heard his father speak of the covenant relationship that began then between God and himself. Then his dad called them to enter that covenant themselves. I believe Joseph and brothers gave their lives over to God with fresh surrender.
Though Joseph’s current family was a dysfunctional mess, the legacy of those who had gone before him was unmistakable. Joseph stood in the long shadow of the godly. These difficult moments combined with the lessons Joseph picked up in his early years, helped him break the cycle of a dysfunctional home, a bad start and become one of the heroes of the faith.