God knew I needed this series on relationships just as much as…or maybe even more than…my readers. This month I have experienced disruptions in relationships like I never have before. I have watched people deceive and manipulate. I have sat with friends as they cried in anger over sin committed against them. I have read through arguments as they explode in the public arena of Facebook, for all the social world to see. And I regret to admit that I have contributed to conflicts and spoken to people harshly and intentionally avoided relationships altogether. And if I am completely honest, when I think of dealing with people I recoil inside and resist the mistakes I might make or the conflict that may arise. So, as I wrap up my series on relationships…I believe a little hope and joy is in order so that we can keep from feeling overwhelmed and depressed about dealing with people. I know I could use a little.
So why are relationships actually worth it? What kind of joy can I find in these messy interactions? What can I learn from dealing with people?
1. Relationships remind me that I need God. Our earthly relationships are just a mere glimpse of what a true and enduring relationship looks like. A powerful bond between mortals is no match for the everlasting relationship that is created when we form a relationship with God. Our friendships on earth are faulty and unstable but this only serves as a reminder that our relationship with God is lasting and strong. Earthly connections will never complete us or bring us true joy…only our relationship with God can do that.
2. Relationships remind me that God loves me. In the garden, God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. While this applied directly to him receiving a mate, a helper….we can still see throughout scripture the need for social interaction and encouragement from our peers. God gave us the joy of relationships because He loves us and it is only because of the sin in the world that these relationships have become as disrupted as they are. But the love of God supersedes any amount of frustration to give us hope for change even when a relationship seems hopeless. God’s love endures in relationships even when we screw them up.
3. With relationships, I do not have to bear my burdens alone. How many times have you been through one of the most trying ordeals of your life only to say, “I am so thankful for my friend. I could not have made it through without her.”? I know for myself I would have been lost in a sea of depression over an inability to get pregnant….I would have destroyed myself with destructive eating and exercise habits….I would have never found Jesus…if it were not for my relationships. So as frustrating as life with other people can be…admit it, you need them! (And they need you too)
4. Through relationships, we experience God’s grace. Every time I mess I rely on the grace of the one I have sinned against. When I yell at my husband for not doing something that I never asked him to do…I trust that he will forgive me. When I get angry and annoyed at my kids and say something that I don’t mean…I rely on them to love me and look past my sin. Every time we seek forgiveness…every time we must admit we are wrong…we experience what grace looks like. We know we don’t deserve to be forgiven sometimes but we long for it nonetheless. And even when our earthly relationships are graceless, God always shows an everlasting, enduring grace to us when we sin against Him.
5. Relationships are better than what we deserve. I often have to remind myself when I get frustrated with our finances that even when I can’t go out to eat or buy a new pair of shoes, God has given me more than I deserve. Yet, I don’t think of relationships on those terms very often. But if relationships are a gift from God then even as ugly and frustrating as they can be, they are still much more than we deserve. So remember in the good times and the bad times of you relationships that God has given you a gift in giving you the people you have in your life…don’t waste that gift by being ungrateful.
6. Relationships bring variety and excitement to life. So many times I have thrown up my hands in frustration and exclaimed internally, “That’s it. I give up. I am done with everyone. I just want to run away…far away…and never come back. I just want to take care of myself and I don’t want to worry about anyone else.” But then when I come to my senses and things calm down a little bit I am able to say to myself, “Seriously? Do you know how boring that would be? You would lose your mind if you were by yourself for the rest of your life.” And it is true. Think about how bored you get when you are at home by yourself for a few hours with nothing to do. Even though your friends and family can make you crazy sometimes they bring you joy by bringing variety to your activity.
So…take time today to find joy in your relationships. Thank God for the people in your life and for all they mean to you. And ultimately thank God for your relationship with Him for this is the only relationship that can bring true joy.