Sins of the Fathers

Today's blogger is Jennifer Miller. Jennifer counsels biblically through her church and a local counseling center and feels a special calling to minister to women who are suffering from the trauma of a past abortion. 

“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7

This passage of scripture can be troubling because it seems to say that God will punish children for the things that their parents choose to do, but isn’t it simply the truth of the way things work in our fallen world? I am currently walking through the grief of losing my mother; my father passed away in 2006. They were not perfect, but I believe that they did the best that they could and I know that they loved me. Sifting through all their earthly possessions has been one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do; it has brought back many memories, good and bad.

I grew up in what modern psychologists would call a ‘dysfunctional family’. Both of my parents drank alcohol on a daily basis, starting when they got home from work and continuing until bedtime; they were ‘functional alcoholics’. It never occurred to me that other families might behave differently, because the environment that a person grows up in becomes her definition of normal, and this was mine. We attended church until I was about eleven years old, but I had no conception of who God is. Church was just a place we went once a week because that’s what people were supposed to do. When my much older brother disclosed that he was homosexual, my parents began a long slide into depression and isolation. The year was 1969 and the culture was very different. My parents chose to close themselves off from family and friends, and to cover up my brother’s life choices by lying to anyone who asked about him. I was required to do the same, thus setting up a very deep-seated stronghold of fear and shame in my life (“…visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children…”).

When I entered high school,  my own sinful choices began to take root in my heart. I remember quite deliberately deciding that I would stop being a ‘good girl’ and become a part of the ‘cool’ crowd, the would-be hippies who used drugs and drank. I was terrified that my friends would find out about my family, and I believed that this other crowd would not care even if they did. I can look back and see God’s protection very clearly, because I did some very foolish and dangerous things.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 16:25
Modern psychologists would probably say that I was coping with my feelings of shame, that I was numbing my pain, or self-medicating, with drugs and alcohol. Had I ever been taken to a therapist, I probably would have been given multiple DSM diagnoses, prescribed various psychotropic medications to control my symptoms, and all of my problems would have been blamed on my ‘family system’. There was a time when I resented my parents for not taking me to a counselor; now I see it as the hand of God working in my life, shielding me before I even knew Him.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20

I finally came to the end of myself in 1974 and Jesus met me where I was. From that point forward, God began to work in my life and, little by little, I began to trust Him. Today I marvel at the way that God has redeemed my life in spite of my past, and at the way He is working in the lives of my children and grandchildren. Although I continue to struggle and to make sinful choices, He is faithful. Fear, which is really unbelief, is still my greatest battle but now I know that the battle belongs to Him, not to me.

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10

I pray for faith to trust Him more, to believe Him more, and to more fully grasp the promises in His word. He pulled me out of a pit that was so deep and so dark that all I can do is fall on my knees and praise Him, offering back to Him the life that He redeemed to be used for His glory.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

About Jennifer: Together with my husband, I have three sons and three grandchildren. He owns a contacting/landscaping business and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor/Mental Health Service Provider in Tennessee. I currently work in a Family Practice medical office on the campus of our local university where I offer screening, brief intervention, and therapy for patients with substance abuse problems and as a PRN Crisis Responder for youth ages 17 and under with a nationally known organization. Although much of my work occurs in a secular setting, it is my heart’s desire to let Christ shine through me to touch the hearts of the hurting that He places in my path; I do not believe that any of them come to me by accident but instead through His sovereign will. In my spare time I enjoy my grandchildren, my dog, gardening, scrapbooking, and writing.

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