Do not hold against us the sins of past generations;
may your mercy come quickly to meet us,
for we are in desperate need. (Psalm 79:8)
While there may well be points of dispute in various areas, the Bible and modern science agree on one thing for sure. We inherit aspects of our being from our ancestors. Whether we call these things “iniquities” or “genetic markings,” the point of the matter is, our mothers and fathers and those who make up our biological family in the past shape who we are in the present and influence who we become in the future.
As I’ve sought treatment for mental illness, I’ve come to discover I share the affliction with various ancestors and relatives. I try to put this knowledge in perspective and not let it drag me into the terrible trap of genetic determinism. Yes, I have a serious mental illness like other family members. But no, my life doesn’t have to progress (or tragically end) as theirs did.
The prayer of this Psalmist is mine as I look back at my ancestry and look forward to the lives of my children. I pray the compassion of God would come speedily and lift me up when I am brought low reflecting on what has gone wrong in the past or what could go wrong in the future.
I pray the sin that has come to me from “the third and fourth generation” would be redeemed by Christ such that righteousness might reign in my children and my children’s children “for a thousand generations to come.” This may not mean their mental illness DNA is magically removed, but with better understanding, careful treatment, and intensive prayer, they would receive a degree of healing and recovery even beyond what I have experienced – without sinking into the dangerous depths or swinging to the deceptive highs that have marked my life.