This is the third devotional in an 8-part series on Relationships.
Read the second devotional - "Relationships: Mercy in the Mess."
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 weren’t 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’re not to be taken lightly.
2. We all enter our relationships with unrealistic expectations:
Somehow, someway, we’re able to deceive ourselves into thinking that we’ll 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’re more righteous, and the other person more perfect, than they and we 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 we had finally found. Here’s where the Bible is so helpful. It’s very honest about the messiness and disappointment that everyone deals with in every relationship they have.
3. We all seek identity in 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’re not to be what makes life worth living for you.
When they’re in this place, you’ve given them too much power and you’re asking of them something that no flawed human being can ever pull off. On the other hand, when you’re getting your foundational sense of well-being from the Lord, you’re then able to step into the inevitable messiness of relationships this side of heaven, and be neither anxious nor self-protective.
4. Our relationships are more about our little kingdoms than 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're disappointed with a relationship at the very 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’s grace for them as well. The God who will take us where we didn’t plan to go in order to produce in us what we couldn’t 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.
Reflect on two or three significant relationships in your life. Evaluate the spiritual health of these relationships by asking yourself the following three questions:
- How might you be asking these relationships to fuel your personal identity? Why is this dangerous?
- How self-serving are you in these relationships? Where you can be more self-sacrificing?
- How can you make these relationships more about the Kingdom of God?