Breaking Generational Chains

“For I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Deuteronomy 5:9–10, esv).

If we’re going to change, we have to think differently, and if we’re going to think differently, we have to talk about the strongholds of family dysfunction. This is the stuff that affects “children to the third and fourth generation” in families. Deuteronomy 24:16 tells us there are no consequences for generational sin, but Deuteronomy 5:9 gives us the hard news that there are inherited inclinations. In other words, you’re not responsible for your ancestors’ sins, but you may be strongly affected by them. Because of how your father or mother or grandparents struggled—because of sin in your family’s past—you have temptations, susceptibilities, vulnerabilities, chains: strongholds.

But there’s good news! “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). God’s power is more than sufficient to crush generational strongholds. And we’re not facing this challenge alone.

But if we’re going to think differently and see these chains broken, we must be aware of generational patterns. Patterns of thinking formed over a long period of time produce inner chaos, first in a family member who came before you; now in you. Maybe you’ve been thinking certain ways for so long that you hardly realize you’re doing it. It’s the way your parents and their parents thought. We need to see those chains broken.

In Deuteronomy 5, we find the grace and answer we need: “but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Do those words summarize your deepest longings? I want to follow God; I want to honor Him; I love Him. Then there’s real hope for you.

You need to prayerfully allow a new thinking pattern to replace the old.

What are some of your strongholds or chains? Maybe in your family there are crutches passed from parent to child. Substance abuse, materialism, gluttony, lust, and selfishness are just a few of the patterns that visit generation after generation and become chains. Then there are conflict resolution and bad decision strongholds that pass from parent to child until they seem like unbreakable patterns. But they are not indestructible. Those who love God and keep His commandments can expect to see Him move powerfully to shatter those chains.

Start today. Pray and think about the patterns of generational sin in your family. Ask God for awareness. Journal about your family, looking for recurring patterns. Talk to your parents if they’re still living, and respectfully ask them about these things. Realize they may long for freedom too! First and foremost, let God renew your mind by His Word and His Spirit. In order for things to change, you will have to think differently.


  • What are the first things that come to mind when you think of any strongholds in your family?
  • What one area of dysfunction in your life do you need to surrender to God’s ways rather than your own?

Father, I recognize that there are sinful patterns in my life that have been part of my family for generations. I ask in the name of Jesus Christ that You would destroy these strongholds! I understand that I can’t do it on my own. Thank You that I have a Savior who is risen from the dead and living in me now by His Spirit, and thank You that His power is available to me. I trust You for Your strength and victory in my life and in the generations to come after me. I pray these things in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.