The Better Story: Hope for Broken Families

I got another email from him recently. He wanted to tell me they were on vacation and how beautiful it was. How he wished I could be there, that he’s always thinking of me. “You do know that, don’t you?” I sigh and nod, yes I know it. But I delete it all the same. It’s not that I’m hard-hearted or angry with him anymore, it’s simply healthier to have him on the fringes of my life right now.

“He,” by the way, is my biological father.

Once upon a time, I was the unplanned baby of an unhealthy relationship. Upon my entrance into the world, hard and heavy decisions were made, ending in single motherhood for my mom and a vacancy in the dad-sized spot in my life. All praise to Jesus, our story didn’t end there, though. Today, we have a long history of being pursued and loved by both the man I now call Dad and our very good God.

Broken families are the sad norm for today. Some of us come from wholly broken homes. Some are products of broken marriages, others are families grafted into families, and still others are completely uprooted and planted elsewhere. Rather than being a close-knit community, family has become a confusing tangle of relationships that we can’t straighten out. Though opening our hands and hearts to the orphans and fatherless of the world (biologically or otherwise) can be a reflection of God’s extravagant love, anyone living or parenting in this kind of broken situation knows the gravity of sin’s effects.

This isn’t what God intended for family. But we have to remember that what God begins, he also finishes.[1] And this story of family? It’s not over yet.

Made for Glory, Broken for Equality

In the beginning, God created both a physical kingdom and a physical man and woman to care for and extend it. “Be fruitful and multiply,” he told them, “fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen.1:28). So the picture of family was painted, and it was good.

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God’s enemy was a crafty one, though. He slithered in and pulled out his own little paintbrush “...God knows that when you eat of that [forbidden fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). The persons of the first family sat up and considered. Wait, we’re part of a picture someone else had painted? We aren’t equal to the master painter? Suddenly, it wasn’t enough that they were each loved and seen and known anymore. With the bite of the fruit, the bond of family was pushed, stretched, and broken as each person within fought to make a name and a place for themselves. Sure, family was still fruitfully expanding, but it looked more like an advance of self-seekers than God’s well defined and orderly kingdom of love.  

Now New But Not Yet Whole

No marred painting will satisfy a master artist. He’ll either trash it or make something new from it. God chose the latter by sending Jesus. As this God-man literally stepped into the picture, his life, death, and resurrection re-made and re-beautified everything. The community of family was no exception. Rather than being a biological work of art, it became a mosaic of the family of God. And with that, the work of expanding the kingdom became no longer centered around fruitfulness of the womb, but the fruitfulness of “born again” hearts.[3] One of these days, this diverse family will be complete. God’s kingdom will take over, our job of fruitfully advancing will be done, and we’ll finally celebrate together in the greatest family reunion ever.

This is the now-but-not-yet reality we live in. We are now new in Christ, but not yet whole and complete. We have a new family—the Church—but still face the reality of sin-stained relatives. So, facing the “not yet” part of things, what do we do with all these gaping wounds and stiff scars of the still-broken family? How do we handle these confusing family roots that can’t be untangled?

The genealogy of Jesus comforts us with a family tree every bit as messy.[4] Jesus came to his own, yet they inflicted mortal wounds and scars. He rose to become our High Priest who sympathizes with weakness because he experienced and understands our brokenness. We remember Jesus, and then day by day, moment by moment, we “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in times of need” (Heb. 4:16).

For experienced believers, this won’t be a revolutionarily new approach, but it’s still what we’re to do. Why? Because this drawing near to and finding comfort in Jesus in the middle of our ragged realities is when he stamps eternity on our eyes. It’s when he’s doing the re-making and the re-beautifying of his family for that pending family reunion.

During a moment of despair last year, something that author, Jonathan Rogers, wrote struck a chord with me. I don’t remember how he said it exactly, but the gist of it was that in a world where many partially true narratives are being told, we need to remember and tell the better and more truthful one. This is a vital tool for us. While our personal circumstances may vary, the better story of family does not. Because Jesus came to seek and save his own who were lost, we live with hope. Because we know and have access to the One who redeems brokenness for the praise of his glory, joy can reign in even the most shattered of hearts. When we start to despair over the endless challenges of family relationships, let’s remember and find joy in the better story—the one that doesn’t end with deleted emails, but in the feast of God’s fully restored family.

  1. Phil. 1:6

  2. The community of the trinity, bound in love and binding us John 15:10, 26-27

  3. Jesus lays out the concept of being born again by the Spirit in John 3:1-21, and the command to expand the kingdom can be seen in the Great Commission of Matthew 28

  4. Matt. 1:1-17


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Carissa is a wife and homeschooling mother whose days are spent in learning through marriage, motherhood, home-keeping, and the company of her favorite writers (both alive and dead). Passionate about fulfilling the great commission through the literacy and telling of “the better story,” she tries to find ways to creatively do this everywhere and all the time. You can find her on Instagram and her blog.