Keys for Strengthening Any Relationship
When I first became single after nearly 20 years of marriage, I resolved to never marry again unless I found the right kind of guy. After nearly 9 years of dating, I had reached a point of no longer really caring if I found him or not. After all, I was happy with my life, running hard after God and surrounded by close, meaningful relationships. Why rock the apple cart? I should’ve known better. God always rocks the apple cart!
I love my new hubby, no doubt about it. He brings such sweet joy to my life. Yet the question I am most often asked is, “Is it hard?” Well, yay! Of course it’s hard. We’re blending souls with diverse points of view and life experiences, both with strong opinions and passionate positions. Add the 7 kids we share between us and the relational drama we both go through from our pasts, and yes—it gets tricky sometimes. But would I change it?
No. Not on your life. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not deeply grateful and humbled by this man, his heart, and his determination to honor God through our relationship. I am a lucky gal! But you don’t have to be blending a brood like we are to realize relationships can be tricky. Single, married and everything in between, there are a few key ingredients I fight to hold to as I grow in my relationships.
A lot. Seeking to understand before trying to be understood. Remembering that what you think they’re saying or feeling is often far from what they think they’re saying or feeling. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Paul puts it this way in Ephesians 4:29:
“Let no harmful language come from your mouth, only good words that are helpful in meeting the need, words that will benefit those who hear them” (CJB).
Are you challenged yet? I am! I’ve learned important gems of grace that remind me to say things like, “what I think I hear you saying is,” or “do you mean _____?” Whether it’s your mom questioning your judgement again, a friend who seriously stomped on your feelings, or a workmate who just verbally slapped you up side of the head, learning to hold loosely to personal opinions until you fully understand someone else’s perspective is a gift of grace that blesses you both.
Yes, I can win the battle. But in doing so, I may lose the overall war for someone’s heart and mind. For the connection God calls us to cultivate with both the lost and the saved. In today’s world of strong opinions harshly stated, it’s important to remember that I don’t always have to be heard. I don’t always have to take over because something comes easier for me. Letting someone learn their own lessons versus trying to “fix” allows them to cultivate character. These are gifts we give to our loved ones.
Do I really need to have my way? Does my point really need to be heard? Do I really care about half of the stuff I can choose to be irritated by? And even if I do deeply care, am I willing to value someone’s soul and worth before the Lord even more than my thoughts? Am I willing to not just take second position, but last? This doesn't mean stuffing my emotions away, but rather valuing someone else's enough to humbly choose words, actions and expressions that honor them.
Jesus says, “Be free from pride-filled opinions, for they will only harm your cherished unity. Don’t allow self-promotion to hide in your hearts, but in authentic humility put others first and view others as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3, TPT). Being willing to put others before yourself is the hallmark of a disciple of Jesus. It matters to practically learn how to walk this one out in your relationships. Which sorta leads to the last lesson.
Godly Love Matters.
Especially in my home. And even with my enemies. Even with those that would try to harm me or those I love. God calls me to love all. When someone is willing to throw another under the proverbial bus for ungodly purposes, how will I choose to respond? What if they do it to the kids? My husband? My best friend? Or me? What if it’s the boss I don’t really like and I benefit by remaining quiet?
Yeah. God’s version of love is way different than mine. I use several scriptures to keep this important truth in front of me (see below for more), but this one always drives the importance of love home for me: “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t snap back at those who say unkind things about you. Instead, pray for God’s help for them, for we are to be kind to others, and God will bless us for it” (1 Peter 3:9, TLB).
It’s not my place to judge, though I may make judgements. It’s not my place to retaliate, though I may certainly put healthy boundaries in place. I am to pray over the broken, not berate them or place myself above. And I am to bless the brokenness in those I love, even when it comes toward me in the form of hurtful words or thoughtless actions. After all, who am I kidding? I will need that same grace-filled blessing, too. But even if I don’t ever receive it, I am still called to love like Jesus.
Is it all worth it? Absolutely. Because with each and every day I find opportunities for gratitude and joy. I experience peace that passes understanding. My thoughts are predominately filled with what is good, noble and true. My circumstances no longer have power over me. I find good-hearted people of peace are consistently drawn in my direction. And my relationships shine because of the wisdom of God.
Jesus puts it best. “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). Yes, it’s definitely worth it.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT God’s words are much more powerful than mine, so my challenge this week is to simply reflect on the following scriptures and think about how they might be lived out in your relationships. I’d love to hear your thoughts so either post here or post on our Facebook page.
“Never return evil for evil or insult for insult (scolding, tongue-lashing, berating), but on the contrary blessing [praying for their welfare, happiness, and protection, and truly pitying and loving them]. For know that to this you have been called, that you may yourselves inherit a blessing [from God—that you may obtain a blessing as heirs, bringing welfare and happiness and protection]” (1 Peter 3:9, AMPC).
“Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it.’ Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good” (Romans 12:18-21, MSG).
“Beloved children, our love can’t be an abstract theory we only talk about, but a way of life demonstrated through our loving deeds” (1 John 3:18, TPT).
PRAYER Papa, I am so humbled by how selfless your love is for me. You died for me at my lowest, ugliest moments, not my best. You declared me as worthy even when I was anything but. Praise You Papa! May I love with the same selfless, radical love You always shower on me. May my response to those around me be so remarkably different that they can’t help but wonder, and wonder would lead them to a life-long, hand-in-hand relationship with You. I need Your supernatural power to mold me into someone who consistently speaks blessing into others’ lives, even the ones that are hardest for me to love. Thank You that was is impossible for me is always possible with You. You are the Lord of Yes and Amen. Praise You Papa! Praise You. Amen.
To learn more about author & motivational speaker Barb Lownsbury or to have her speak at your next event, CLICK HERE.
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