September 27, 2018

Breaking Through Relationship Barriers Without Breaking Up

I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much. Mother Teresa

Yesterday, we talked about the essential of forgiveness in our relationships. If we are to love completely, we must learn to forgive fully.  To maintain healthy relationships, there will always be obstacles we will face.  Three of the most common threats are misunderstandings, selfishness and mistakes whether intentional or not. If we were counting the days before we left this earth, we would be looking for ways to build bridges, to bring healing, and to enjoy our most important relationships.  No one wants to leave this earth with unfinished business.  We want to leave our loved ones having experienced the fullest extent of our love.

To really love the people in our lives, we must overcome the relational obstacles that threaten them.  None of us truly wants to give up on the people we love.  So, how do we overcome these obstacles?  How can we learn to work through the mistakes and push beyond our self-interests instead of walking away from them?

The Bible reveals practical strategies that can keep our relationships growing even through the difficult times.  The first is found in Romans 15:7. 

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

Think about how God accepts you for a minute.  That’s huge, isn’t it?  He accepts us – warts and all.  He knows all the dirt; yet, He loves us more than anyone possibly could.  His love is unconditional!  He accepts us just as we are.  Love understands the difference between acceptance and approval.

One of our greatest problems in relationships is that we’re always trying to change the people we’re relating to.  To accept others means that we stop trying to change them and we start trying to understand them.  Easier said than done, right?  Absolutely.  But, in over thirty years of marriage, I’ve learned a valuable secret:  acceptance means to stop trying to change my spouse and to start cherishing them.  I really haven’t accepted someone if I’m still focused on changing them.  Cherishing people simply means to value them enough to seek to understand them.  To be honest, it’s not natural for me to totally accept the people in my life.  My selfish inclination is to try to change the people I interact with and attempt to make them more like me.  It’s supernatural to accept the people in my life just the way they are, work on my own faults and character flaws, and trust God to deal with other people.  As He gives us the power to accept one another, we begin to learn how to really connect.

Another strategy the Bible offers to keep our relationships healthy is loving actions.  Galatians 6:10 says, 

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

How much more practical can you get?  The essentials of strong relationships are those small loving actions, all the seemingly insignificant things that mean so much to someone else.  When you are inconsistent, telling others how important they are but never following through with loving actions, then the relationships will falter.  The clarity and security your loving actions bring to the people around you can’t be underestimated.

One of the greatest loving actions we can offer to others is forgiveness.  Proverbs says that,

“Hate stirs up trouble, but love forgives all offenses.” (10:12 TEV)

The best relationships are built on forgiveness, because all relationships involve imperfect people who make mistakes. Six powerful words keep you connected:  I’m sorry.  Will you forgive me?

Obstacles – misunderstanding, selfishness, and mistakes – are part of every relationship, but we can overcome them and grow closer to the ones we love if we’re willing to practice acceptance, loving actions, and ongoing forgiveness.  This kind of behavior requires God’s supernatural love infusing us, helping us push beyond our natural inclinations and expectations.  He’s always willing and available to help us love others as He loves us.

Personal Challenge:

  1. Diagnose and write down what you think each important relationship in your life needs in order to be healthier.  It may be as simple as spending more time together, discussing a glaring yet unspoken issue, or sending someone a text or e-mail to say you’re thinking about them.
  2. How do you communicate your commitment to those you love?  Do you tend to tell more than you show or show more than you tell?  Psychologists say that most of us tend to favor one method over the other – we say how we feel but may not show it as much, or we show it consistently and assume our actions speak for us.  Determine which style you favor and practice the other today with those you love most. Ask yourself which style communicates your commitment to those you love the best.  Is their love language more audio or visual?