Big Brothers and Sisters
Am I my brother’s keeper? GENESIS 4:9
We were having dinner recently with four couples. As the evening progressed, one of them shared her struggle with a sister, who at the age of 45 is chronically ill and likely a hypochondriac. This prompted another friend to share how his brother was in an unhealthy, codependent relationship with his 90-year-old mother. Around the table it went—each of them with their own story to tell
about strain with an adult sibling.
As Barbara and I drove home, the thought struck me: The problem with families is that all of us come from one! They can indeed be stormy at times, defying predictability, routinely disruptive—a lot like Cain and Abel in Genesis 4.
Perhaps one of you is estranged from a brother or sister. Perhaps many months or even years have gone by since you’ve talked with or seen each other. Perhaps you have a sibling who still doesn’t have his or her life together and continues taking advantage of your parents. Perhaps no matter what you or anyone else does to help, he or she cannot walk a straight line, keep a job or stay out of trouble.
I believe wisdom offers us three principles in trying to deal with this:
1. Realize you’re not alone. Sibling difficulty was an issue in the very first family—something between Cain and Abel, as I recall—and it continues to stain most families today as they age and expand. What you’re dealing with is unfortunately more normal than abnormal.
2. Stop trying to change them. If you have a tendency to be the 9-1-1 rescue responder, resign from that role. Put your trust in a big God, and turn the job over to Him. He’s good at it.
3. Forgive them. Resist resentment. Stop punishing them. Give them the grace and mercy you have received from the Lord, and choose to love them, even if it must be from a safe distance.
Rather than recounting the troubles between you and your adult siblings (or your parents), take this time to discuss how you could apply these three principles to your situation.
Pray for them. Never stop praying for them. Really praying.