Healing Family Tension

By Marjorie F. Eddington

Categories: Family, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau, Relationships


How do we heal family tension?

Response (staff answer):

We see each family member as though we are seeing the face of God. We learn this from the story of Jacob and Esau (Gen 25-35). It’s fraught with tension, strife, deception, murder plots—all those elements that make up movies, as well as elements that can destroy a family. But it ends happily, harmoniously, with blessings.

There’s a promise there. If Jacob can find harmony, healing, resolution, transformation, so can we. Now, we don’t know what form that will take. Nor can we outline God’s work in our lives. But we can pray as Jacob prayed and expect a blessing.

His prayer was not an easy one. He wrestled with an angel in the form of a man, and that wrestling threw his hip or the hollow of his thigh out of joint (Gen 32:25). It must have been painful. What painful thoughts, experiences, viewpoints did Jacob have to release from his own thoughts? Was he still carrying around guilt or shame for deceiving his dad and tricking his brother? Did Jacob have a negative view of himself? Did he see Esau as vengeful and believe that he was a man of brute instinct and force? Had he come home only to endanger his entire family and their servants and livestock (and we’re talking about a lot of people and livestock)? Had he heard God’s voice correctly? Was God going to protect his family and him? Was he simply dealing with overwhelming fear?

Now, what about us? What beliefs, viewpoints, and thoughts that create tension do we need to release? What stories are we telling about ourselves and our family members that have become our reality, our experience? Sometimes it can be hard to release entrenched views. We may end up struggling, like Jacob struggled, to change our views, to overcome fears as we work for family harmony. We can really only work on ourselves. It may appear easier to fix someone else out there, but striving to change others is a waste of effort and time. It doesn’t seem like Jacob even tried. In fact, he prayed to God with the assumption that Esau was planning on hurting him.

Despite the obstacles, the fear, the pain, Jacob refused to give up. At one point, the man with whom he was wrestling said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” Jacob responded, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Gen 32:26 NLT). Jacob knew he needed a blessing. Was it a new view of himself, his brother, and the entire situation that he needed? Was it dominion over fear? Jacob was willing to pray persistently until he received inspiration and blessing.

The man blessed him with a new name, Israel: “for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Gen 32:28 KJV). That new name signified a new nature for Jacob, a character transformed into one that could be, and indeed was, the father of the Israelites, the children of Israel. It was as though he was starting completely fresh. He got a do-over with his brother.

The blessing came as Jacob was able to see God “face to face” (Gen 32:30). Jacob saw God’s nature more clearly. Who is this God who takes care of us? Certainly not a God who play favorites (something which plagued Jacob throughout his entire life: his parents played favorites and so did he with Joseph). God’s very nature is love. Was it this concept of unconditional love that Jacob saw face to face and transformed his entire life view—his view of himself and his brother? It was a new, heavenly view.

When they met amicably, Jacob told Esau, “I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me” (Gen 33:10 NKJV).

  1. Jacob saw God’s nature.
  2. He saw his brother’s Godlike nature.
  3. Then he saw his brother seeing him pleasantly, in a Godlike way.

The circle is complete, and it started with seeing God’s face, seeing God’s likeness—we are made in the likeness of God (Gen 1:26). Jacob and Esau embraced. Jacob gave gifts, asking to find favor in Esau’s eyes. The battle was over. Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us that they became best buddies, but harmony was indeed restored.

So how would our family dynamics change if every time we saw, thought of, spoke to, or interacted with each family member, we saw God’s face, thought of God’s image, spoke to God’s likeness, interacted with God’s child? And that includes ourselves. Our viewpoints would be heavenly and clear. Our thoughts would be full of happiness, love, and inspiration. Our words would be soft, gentle, and helpful. Our interactions would be characterized by empathy, respect, mercy, kindness. That would change a lot!

So let’s make the commitment to have a heavenly, divine, God face-to-face view of each and every family member. And let’s make this commitment regardless of how inharmonious the situation looks, how awful people are acting, how upsetting things seem to be. It’s a challenge, that’s for sure. But if we truly desire the end of family tension and the reign of family harmony, we want to do this, don’t we? We will become better people in the process. Our natures will be changed, purified, elevated.

It may take some wrestling. But it’s worth the wrestle. The angel is here, waiting to bless us all.