Tuesday, October 6, 2015


He had only the best intentions when he went behind his daughter's back regarding his grandchildren. But his son-in-law didn't take too kindly to his interference. Now he isn't welcome in their home. For the time being his daughter still answers his phone calls. He apologizes every time, but she says they can't trust him. He's walking on egg shells -- afraid he'll say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, look the wrong way, and the separation will become permanent, and he'll never see his grandchildren again.

He asked if I had any ideas. I gave some advice on how to slowly rebuild their trust. I told him to be careful what he said and how he acted the next time they spoke. Then he asked if I thought there was a chance the estrangement wouldn't end. From my experience I had to tell him there are times it doesn't. His face was downcast when he muttered, "I feel so helpless. There's nothing I can do."

I tried to help him step back and look at the bigger picture. I reminded him God is at work, trying to bring them back together. And even if his worst fears are realized, even if they never reconnect in this life, he can take comfort that God will bring perfect reconciliation between believers when life is over and we are together in heaven. With all barriers removed, we will live in perfect harmony and joy forever. I reminded him too that God is bringing people into their lives to bring them to faith.

Then he floored me: "I don't believe in God and all those things you are talking about. God had nothing to do with this. It was my fault, and I have to fix it." The pain and anguish in his voice really cut through me.

All I could do was say a quick, silent prayer; then I witnessed to him. I told him God is in the reconciliation business. That's why He sent His Son -- when we were estranged from Him by our sins, Jesus Christ came to save us, to restore our relationship with God our Father. Jesus even took our guilt and sin on Himself and suffered in our place to turn away God's wrath from all we do to offend Him.

But Jesus wasn't only reconciling us to God. He was reconciling us to each other. I reminded him that God would keep working on his daughter and son-in-law's heart. I encouraged him to pray and read the Bible.

He didn't seem to be feeling any better when we parted, which made me wonder, and pray, what more could I have said? What more should I have said?

Saying or doing something that can't be undone can have some major consequences in this world. Even with honorable intentions, things backfire -- sometimes with both barrels.

Have you been on either side of a family estrangement? What advice would you give if your friend was this father? How about if your friend was his daughter or son-in-law?

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