Family Pain

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain (Psalm 127:1a, esv).

There’s no pain like family pain. “Unless the Lord builds the house,” the house will be built in vain and filled with pain.

Family life is delightful and dynamic if prioritized, but difficult and draining if neglected. If life is not working at home, it’s not working period—no matter how “successful” we may be in other places. And if our families are the biggest target of pain in our hearts, our children are the bull’s-eye.

This is true today, and it was true in Bible times. Take David and his rebellious son, Absalom, whose life unfolds like a sordid soap opera. Absalom murdered his half-brother as retribution for raping his sister, Tamar. Estranged from his father, Absalom led a coup, turning David’s most trusted advisors against him and chasing him from the throne and out of Jerusalem.

David waited in exile while the shattered remains of his army were out fighting his own son. He didn’t care about the battle, the victory, or his throne. What the king desperately wanted to know was whether Absalom was safe—the very son trying to overthrow him, the son who would kill him if he had a chance!

When David learned Absalom was dead, he cried, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son” (2 Samuel 18:33)! The enemy was his own flesh and blood. Those we love most are also those to whom we are most vulnerable.

The Bible makes no effort to sanitize the pain families can experience. In fact, Scripture is rife with examples of dysfunction: the family of Noah, the man of faith; of Eli, the Lord’s priest; of Hosea, God’s chosen prophet. The stories parallel our own lives and confirm there is no pain like family pain. Even Christian homes are crippled by divorce, absent parents, abuse, and financial distress.

So is all hope lost? Hope begins by identifying our problems as sin. Until we are willing to call the issues in our home what they really are—my sin, my neglect, my avoidance of the issues, my refusal to live according to Scripture—we are closed to the grace of God for transformation. If we call an indiscretion what God calls iniquity, we forfeit His grace.

The good news? God can transform your family. Family pain can be healed if you are willing to acknowledge its source and deal with it His way.

Only God can change our families. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1a). Unless you are linked in partnership with God, all your efforts to transform your family will fall short. But if you are partnering with Him, your best days are ahead.


  • Reflect on a time in your life when you experienced deep family pain. What did you feel during the low points? What seeds of hope helped you endure?
  • Talk to God about the seemingly insurmountable problems in your family now. What would you love to see Him heal or resurrect?

Lord, thank You for the hope found in You alone. I need Your hope to sustain me. My family isn’t all it should be, and it’s causing heartache and pain. I acknowledge the root problem is sin, and I confess my own sinfulness. [Be specific.] Please cleanse me of my sin and make me right first with You, then with my family. Please heal us. I lay my problems before You and plead for Your help. Build our house, that my labor will not be in vain. I ask this in the name of Jesus, the cornerstone of my life and my home, amen.