Relationships: A Necessary Nuisance or a Joyful Journey–Part 3

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Umm…I’m pretty sure it was your turn to take out the trash. Now the truck has already gone through and we have that huge pile of boxes sitting in the can.  You are always bailing on your responsibilities.  Why can’t you just get it together!?!

Yeah, and YOU are always blaming me for stuff that’s not my fault.  You turned my alarm off and I didn’t get up in time to take the trash out.  You are so inconsiderate of what I have going on…just because you are lazy and sleep til noon doesn’t mean I have to too.

We have all encountered conflict with a spouse, a friend, a co-worker or a family member. A problem arises and two sinful people are left to fight it out.  Whether you seek it out or you run from it…conflict is an inevitable part of relationships.  How do you deal with conflict without losing a relationship?

1. Face the conflict head-on…but not hard-headed. If you have frustration with a person, it does no good to constantly avoid talking about it because in your mind you are talking about it to yourself a million times over, gathering fuel for when you explode…whether it is internal (through overwhelming anxiety or bitterness) or external (a catastrophic tsunami of complaints and petty irritations finally voiced in a painful and destructive manner).  Pray over the frustration and lovingly address it with the heart of one who genuinely wants to see the relationship repaired. It is selfish to avoid conflict.  Resisting a discussion because you don’t want someone to be mad at you is saying, “My relationship with you is not as important as my own fears and feelings so I am going to allow it to deteriorate while I avoid talking to you about my frustrations” On the other hand, it is also selfish to attack someone.  Though you must face a conflict, you should not address it as if your opinion is the only one that matters, shouting and belittling until you back the other person in the corner.  Then you are ultimately saying, “My opinion matters more than my relationship with you.  I am going to yell at you until you see my side and then leave you behind to clean up your own mess.”

2. Realize that conflict is actually a way to make us more like Christ…and make our relationships stronger. Facing conflict with a true desire to change yourself and not the other person will help you discover where you have room to grow on the path of sanctification.  God uses conflict to point out our sinful habits and to draw us back to Him.  For example, I continually picked fights with my husband about the quality of our home.  The bathroom wasn’t the way I liked it.  The drawer kept falling off in the kitchen.  God used these fights to point out to me that I had built up a pretty large pile of discontent and through repentance and turning from my HGTV watching I was able to gradually shovel out that ungrateful attitude so that I could truly enjoy the wonderful home that God had given me.  And along the way my husband and I began to understand each other more…we talked through concerns and passions in order to dissect the problem. And because we dealt with the issues that were bothering us we were able to clear the air of anger and bitterness so that only love was left.

3. View conflict as if it is your fault…because it probably is. James 4:1-3 says “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” So according to these verses, the reason that we fight is that we have our own selfish desires in mind.  We are concentrated so much on meeting our needs that we fail to see the other person at all.  We cannot change how another person is acting or feeling, we can only change ourselves. So I should search my own heart, deal with my own selfish desires, repent of my own sin and take the initiative to start the journey back to peace. A relationship is too fragile to leave it up to someone else and if it is that important to you, you will step up and take responsibility for it.

4. And finally, don’t be afraid to get a referee…find a pastor, a mutual friend or another unbiased, godly person to step in and see the situation with a much clearer perspective.  Often we can get so wrapped up in the situation that we miss something obvious or we are so concerned about winning that we are unwilling to give in at all even if we might suspect we are wrong.  Having a third party helps you to get advice and gain perspective and may help to create a  better plan for  discovering an agreed upon solution.

Conflict doesn’t have to be the end of a valuable relationship if we unselfishly take responsibility for our side of the disagreement. And if we use a fight not as a change to win but as a chance to grow we will not only have healthy thriving relationships but we will become sanctified along the way.

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Relationships: A Necessary Nuisance or a Joyful Journey? Part 2

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Relationships are a gift from God to help encourage and uplift us…and also to challenge and sanctify us.  Last week I talked about how relationships became different when sin entered the world.  Relationships are messed up because we are sinful people interacting with other sinful people.  Our relationships on earth are difficult because our relationship with God is damaged.  But hope is found in our relationship with Christ….he is our mediator and repairs our relationship with God and thus makes it possible to have somewhat civilized relationships here on earth.  But as long as sin is present, there will still be difficulties that we must work through. 

Issue #2: Communication. One huge problem that we face in relationships is the way that we talk to each other. Communication happens over the span of many incounters.  It really isn’t that often that one thing we say has such a lasting impact on a person.  It is the little discussions, responses to small things, and the conversations we have about every day events that shape a relationship.  We don’t think much about what we say to our kids as we make dinner or how we respond to our friends when we see them in class or how we talk to our parents over dinner …it is just life as always and we probably aren’t as concerned about it as we should be.  We don’t really spend the time we need to on the most important aspect of relationships because we feel these moments are so miniscule and insignificant.  It is this mistake that can cause a relationship to deteriorate.

God has called us at all times to guard our tongues.  Our words (all of them) have power to encourage and build up…they have the capability of  giving someone hope.  And they are ultimately to be used to bring glory to God. But so often we find ourselves tearing others down and causing them to feel defeated and frustrated with the words we say.  And we often disobey and dishonor God with the way we speak.  So how am I supposed to redeem my communication to be helpful to others and to glorify God?

First I must realize that communication is not about me.  If I truly want to accomplish the will of God with my words I will not seek to bring pleasure to myself through what I say but I will seek to love God and love others in every word that I utter.  That means I cannot cut people down and criticize others to make myself feel better.  It means I should never gossip to gain social status and I should never nag my husband to get what I think I deserve. Truly seeking to do God’s will and loving others as God commands us to do, means that I do not use my speach to build myself up but I use it to humbly and patiently love and serve God and others.

Second I must realize that my words don’t belong to me anyway.  The ability to speak at all was given to me by my Creator and it exists to bring glory to Him.  “Everything we will ever say belongs to him and should be used for his purposes” Every word that I speak is an amazing gift from God.  When I use those words to belittle or be maliscious to people then I choose to take that precious gift and use it ungratefully and againts its intended purpose. 

Thirdly, I must focus on the problem of communication as a heart issue and not a behavior issue.  Luke 6:45 says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks”.  So as I seek to have better communication with those around me, I cannnot change the words that are coming out of my mouth just by sheer will power.  I must first change what I am putting into my heart, so that when it does overflow it is spilling good things.  If I am allowing bitterness to fester, I must thoughtfully address it.  If I am listening to ungodly talk, I must avoid it.  I need to stop humoring friends who gossip and stop building up sinful thoughts about a relative because eventually everything I put into my heart, every thought I allow myself to dwell on….will spill out in my words. 

I pray this week that God will search my heart and show me where my communication is lacking.  I pray God will help me to understand that communication is not just about me.  I desire for God to give me a better appreciation of words and their power.  And I pray God will guide me as I seek to clear my heart of any ill thoughts and fill it full of love and kindness and patience and joy so that all those things spill out in what I say to others.

 

Relationships: A Necessary Nuisance or a Joyful Journey? Part 1

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Relationships are at the center of life.  Our lives revolved around social media and our phones are constantly buzzing with texts.  We are surrounded by people in school and at work and in our families. But for so many people, relationships are just a necessary nuisance. To some, relationships are an unpleasant  but inevitable part of life and time is spent simply trying to tolerate others.   So how can we deal with people without totally losing our minds? But more importantly, how can we actually have meaningful and joy filled relationships in spite of frustration and difficulty?

The Bible gives us much insight in dealing with relationships.  Over the next few weeks I want to look at some scripture that will uncover some issues we often face with relationships and how the Bible instructs us to deal with those. 

Issue #1: Sin entered the world and changed relationships forever

We must first look at how sin effected our relationship with God. It is in understanding the vertical relationship we have with our Father that we can truly begin to unravel the problems we have in our horizontal relationships. Mans first relationship with God was flawless.  Love was felt by both, communication was open, and no one had done anything to offend the other.  Man and God walked together and enjoyed spending time with each other.  But when Man chose to b the break through the one boundary God had set for him, he destroyed the most precious relationship that had ever existed.  And from that moment on, when sin entered the world, relationships were changed forever.

Sin effected our relationship with each other as well. After God had made Eve in Genesis 2 as Adam’s counterpart and helper both man and woman were naked before each other and were not ashamed.  They had absolutely nothing to hide from anyone.  They had no guilt, they had no shame.  Their relationship, as well, was perfect.  Then, together, they disobeyed their heavenly father and the bonds of all relationships were broken.  Adam and Eve were suddenly ashamed before God and each other.  From that moment on, there were conflicts and frustration.  Sin entered the world and with it, brought relationship issues that we will have to face while we live on this earth.

But the good news is that “the Bible assumes that relationships on this side of eternity will be messy”…it gives us guidance and encouragement as we embark on this relational journey.  But as we attempt to figure out these frustrating encounters we must keep in mind…God didn’t leave things the way they ended in the garden.  God sent His Son to die for us so that we wouldn’t have to live in shame and conflict with each other forever.  He died so that we could be free from the horrible bonds of sin.  And though all we do is continually betray and disobey Him, God continues to seek a relationship with us.  So, why should we try when it comes to relationships? Because God did and still does.

**Quote and ideas taken from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp**