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Relationships: Why Can They Be So Scary?

I received this in my inbox this morning and just had to share it.

Why are relationship struggles so disappointing? Why do the problems we have with other people affect us so powerfully? Why is relational disappointment one of the hardest disappointments for all of us to face? Let me suggest some reasons.

1. You were created to be a social being. You and I were never designed to live in isolation. We were not wired to be distant from and unaffected by the people around us. In fact, since we were created in God’s likeness, desire for and participation in community is a fundamental part of our humanity. The God who made us in his likeness not only does community, he is a community! To deny this aspect of your daily life would literally be to deny your humanity. There would be something dramatically wrong with you if you removed yourself completely from other people. What this means is that the hurts of relationships cut deep. In a real way they touch the essence of who God made you to be, and because of this they are not to be taken lightly.

2. We all tend to enter our relationships with unrealistic expectations. Somehow, someway, we are able to swindle ourselves into thinking that we will be able to avoid the difficulties that attend any relationship in this broken world. In the early days of a relationship we work to convince ourselves that we are more righteous, and the other person more perfect, than we and they actually are. This causes us to be shocked when an unexpected but inevitable difficulty gets in the way of the bliss that we had convinced ourselves that we had finally found. Here is where the Bible is so helpful. It is very honest about the messiness and disappointment that everyone deals with in every relationship they have.

3. We all tend to seek to get identity from our relationships. What does this mean? It means that we tend to look for fundamental personal meaning, purpose and sense of well-being from other people. In doing this, we turn people into our own personal messiahs, seeking to get from them what no other human being is ever able to deliver. That other person is not supposed to be the thing that gets you up in the morning. They are not to be what makes life worth living for you. When they are in this place, you have given them too much power and you are asking of them something that no flawed human being can ever pull off. On the other hand, when you are getting your foundational sense of well-being from the Lord, you are then able to step into the inevitable messiness of relationships this side of heaven, and be neither anxious nor self-protective.

4. We tend to be disappointed in our relationships because they were more about the purposes of our little kingdoms of self than they were about the kingdom of God. Without being aware of it, our relationships are often about what we want out of our lives rather than what God wants for our lives. So we have an “I love you and have a wonderful plan for your life,” approach to relationships with other people. Often we are disappointed with a relationship at the exact moment when God is producing through this relationship exactly what he wanted to produce. Our problem is that our agenda doesn’t agree with God’s!

So, there are reasons for our disappointments but there is grace for them as well. The God who will take us where we did not plan to go in order to produce in us what we could not achieve on our own, will also give us the grace to hang in there as he uses the messy disappointment of relationships to change and grow us and others.

Wednesday’s Word is a resource of Paul Tripp Ministries.

For more information about Paul Tripp Ministries, visit www.paultripp.com

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Holding Hands

My Mum passed away one year ago today.

She had been taken into hospital for what we all thought was a short stay – but her condition rapidly deteriorated and she passed away within 24 hours.

My Dad – himself in declining health – wanted to come to the hospital to see Mum and we weren’t sure if that would be good for him. He has 25% of his sight, very poor mobility and has some form of dementia. But, in the end, he came. Mum was sleeping, with an oxygen mask over her face which was making a lot of noise. Dad was sitting in a wheelchair by the bedside. His voice is very weak and it was clear they would not be able to talk to each other or hear one another. So he just held her hand. They must have sat like that for about half an hour, silently communicating their love as they had done for 63 years. Mum’s restlessness ceased. Dad was content. He left the hospital, knowing he had done what he had come to do – he had said goodbye. And Mum knew it. Shortly after that, she slipped away quietly.

The picture of them holding hands in those last few minutes of Mum’s life will be forever etched on my mind. I shared it after Mum died and posted it on Facebook. To my great surprise, a few weeks ago I received a package from a very good friend. It contained a beautiful picture of Mum and Dad, along with this picture of them holding hands, and the words of Steve Green’s song ‘Holding Hands’:

One day,  far away, you gently won my heart

And one night, by candlelight,

we made a vow to never part

And then it seemed just like a dream

When wide eyed, side by side

We faced the future holding hands.

Years fly, they hurry by, the simple times are gone

Bills due, a kid or two, a week can feel eight days long

By fading light, let’s kiss goodnight

And then we trace God’s daily grace

Thankful we’re still holding hands.

There’s a hope that won’t let go

There’s a truth we know

God is holding us

In His arms.

Thoughts stray far away to all that lies ahead

In frail days when strength fades

Will we still mean all that we said?

Our love’s secure, so rest assured

Come what may ’til that day

We’ll walk forever holding hands.

By God’s grace ’til that day

We’ll walk forever holding hands.

‘Let thanksgiving be the habit of your life’

‘Many women have told me that my husband’s advice, which I once quoted in a book, has been an eye-opener to them. He said that a wife, if she is very generous, may allow that her husband lives up to perhaps eighty percent of her expectations. There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life without reducing it by very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the eighty percent, and both of them will be happy. It’s a down-to-earth illustration of a principle: Accept, positively and actively, what is given. Let thanksgiving be the habit of your life.

Such acceptance is not possible without a deep and abiding belief in the sovereign love of God. Either he is in charge, or he is not. Either he loves us, or he does not. If he is in charge and loves us, then whatever is given is subject to his control and is meant ultimately for our joy.’

Elisabeth Elliot