Recover or Repeat?

The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation. –Numbers 14:18

Through a torrent of tears, Kari shared with me that her dad was an alcoholic and her mom had emotional problems. Kari’s greatest fear was that she would follow in their footsteps. She described her marriage as stale and said that in moments of tension, her husband would tell her that she was just like her mother. His words tore into her soul and broke whatever confidence she had. She wanted to change, and the term transitional generation sounded so appealing. But how could she make it happen? Everything seemed so hard.

I wish I had a magic wand for the Kari’s of the world. If you want to be the transitional generation in your family, it will happen through God’s love and the conscious exertion of discipline in your life. You can choose either to recover from your family’s past or repeat it. If you want to recover, be prepared for a tough journey, with no shortcuts. Be encouraged, though, knowing that many have chosen to break the chain of dysfunction in their families and have been successful. Ultimately, we will all choose the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. I vote for the pain of discipline.

The Bible has good news and bad news about generational sin. Just as Moses descended Mount Sinai with the tablets containing the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:6-7), the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, (that’s the good news) by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation (that’s the bad news) (NKJV).

Basically what this is saying is that there is abundant grace, mercy, forgiveness, and newness of life for those who call upon the name of God, but there is also an inheritance of iniquity (sin) from our past family even to the third and fourth generation. This can definitely be discouraging, but the fact remains that we can make a decision to change the legacy from this time forward. There is no doubt in my mind that you can overcome negative family patterns and change the direction of your family system for generations to come. The challenge is to be sure you make an intentional break from your negative parental and generational patterns rather than to continue in them.

The Bible is clear: God offers healing not only for you but for your children as well. Regeneration so radically transforms the human soul that “the old is gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

1. How are you carrying on negative patterns passed on to you from parents and family?

2. What can you do today to make a break from these patterns?

2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 12:2

Help us reach the next generation of families

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Jim Burns

Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 20 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord, which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage, Closer, and Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; three sons-in-law, Steve and Matt, and Andy; and three grandchildren, James, Charlotte and Huxley.

  • About HomeWord

    HomeWord helps families succeed by creating Biblical resources that build strong marriages, confident parents, empowered kids and healthy leaders. Founded by Jim Burns, HomeWord seeks to advance the work of God in the world by educating, equipping, and encouraging parents and churches. Learn More »

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