This is the second of two articles about relationships and looks at the answers to these very important questions.
1. Trust God with your feelings. Recognise that when we don’t feel anything, you and I have a God who can be trusted to restore those feelings.
Psalm 62:8 says, ‘Trust God all the time. Tell Him all your problems because God is our protection’. The fact is, I can trust God. Hebrews 10:23 says, ‘We can trust God to do what He promised’. You see, the word ‘love’ is both a feeling and an action. There are times when the feeling is gone and all you have left is the action.
What do you do then? The only way then for the feeling to be restored is you need to act in love. If you continue to act in love, eventually the feelings will come back. Some of you may be thinking, ‘Isn’t that being hypocritical?’ No, it’s being human. The truth is, everyone’s feelings in their lives go up and down. There are times we need to act in love, counting on God to keep His promise and restore the feeling moment by moment.
There are lots of reasons why feelings die in a relationship. But one of the reasons is that we start to live with a lie. There comes a point in our relationships where we see a problem, but instead of dealing with it, we start to pretend it’s not there.
The longer you pretend that the problem isn’t there, the more you’re going to struggle with loss of feelings in a relationship. Refusing to talk about it, allows the feelings to drain out of your life. Well, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Are you going to be the one who stands up and says, ‘I'm going to break this silence. We do have a problem. Let’s start to work on it. Let’s get some help.’ And you’re thinking, ‘There’s going to be an argument if I say that’. Of course there will be. But when you stop the silence and begin to deal with the problem, then the feelings can begin to return.
Lamentations 5 says: ‘Turn us around and bring us back to You again. That is our only hope. Give us back the joys we used to have’. That’s a verse about our relationship with God. For some of us, that’s where we need to start. Ask Him to bring back the joys you used to have in your relationship with Him. Once you’ve done that, ask Him to bring back the joys you used to have in your relationship with other people. Trust God with your feelings. No one is better than God at turning things around.
2. Ask God for his direction. He’s the one who invented relationships – marriage, families and friendships, yet sometimes we fail to ask the world’s greatest expert for advice when we most need it. He’s willing to give it. James 1:6 says, ‘If you need wisdom, if you want to know what God wants you to do, ask Him and He will gladly tell you. He will not resent you for asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that you really expect Him to answer’. The first thing you do is ask Him.
Ask Him, ‘What’s the next step in our marriage?’ Ask Him, ‘How do we get through this problem?’ Ask Him, ‘What should I say to my kids?’ Ask Him, ‘How do we get over this hurdle in our friendship?’ Then it says, ‘He will gladly tell you.’
The question is, how? When you ask God for advice, how does He let you know what to do next? You hear it through His book, the Bible. The Bible is God’s manual of instructions for life. He wrote it to us to give us advice about relationships. Some of it is not easy to take, but it’s good advice.
Is God really interested in stuff like relationships and marriage? 1Corinthians 7:17 says: ‘But be sure in deciding these matters, that you’re living as God intended, marrying or not marrying in accordance with God’s direction and help, and accepting whatever situation that God has put you into.’ Of course He’s interested. The first place you look is in His word.
Seek advice from other mature Christians, other people who are committed to following God’s word. When it comes to relationships there’s never a shortage of advisors but I would look for people who have some good relationships, people with a good track record, people who are trying humbly to say, ‘God, what do You want me to do in a relationship?’
I know some who read this are thinking, ‘I'm not sure I made the right decision in the past’. And they begin to struggle with that.
The last part of that verse says, ‘... accept whatever situation God has put you into’. When you married the person you’re married to now, the moment you married, they became God’s person for you. You don’t have to worry about that any more. Build on that relationship and some of the good advice God gives us in His word.
3. Look to Jesus as your example. How many husbands reading this today got up at 4am to give mum a break with that newborn baby?
How many were awake when baby cried, but pretended they were asleep?
Why do we do that? It’s because at our core, we struggle with selfishness. All of us do. Let’s admit that. There’s no magic formula to make us unselfish overnight, but if unselfishness is one of the keys to better relationships, how do I become more unselfish?
There are two ways: (a) Give yourself a selfish reason for being unselfish. It works. You say to yourself, ‘If I don’t get up with that baby at 4am, she’s not going to talk to me for a week’. Give yourself a reason. Is there anything wrong with this? No. God does it for us all the time in the Bible. He says, ‘If you make this right choice to be holy I'm going to bring joy in your life’. He always gives us the positive benefits of making the right choices.
But that doesn’t go far enough. There’s always going to be times in our lives that even though we know the right choices, we can’t find the strength to make it. Where do you turn then? (b) Look to Jesus Christ as your example. He is the only truly unselfish person to ever walk this world. Jesus Christ came into this world not for His own sake but for our sake. Jesus Christ is the only one ever who didn’t say, ‘What’s in it for me?’ He came and gave Himself for us, to give us not only a better example but also a greater power. An example is one thing. But Jesus came to live in this world so that I could have a relationship with Him here and now, and on the basis of that relationship, I will have the power and strength to make at least one unselfish choice this next week - a choice which I might not have been able to make.
Ephesians 4:32, talks about this: ‘Be kind and loving to each other and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ’. How in the world are you going to find the power to forgive somebody who hurt you?
When I see how much Jesus has forgiven me, it gives me the strength to forgive somebody else. The Bible says in Philippians 2: ‘Don’t be selfish. Don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself’.
Where are you going to find the strength to do that?
The verse ends by saying: ‘Your attitude should be the kind that was shown by Jesus Christ who, though He was God, did not demand and cling to His rights as God’.
We’re not talking about being perfect. We’re all going to struggle with selfishness for the rest of our lives.
But we are talking about the power of one unselfish act. Do you realise, that just doing one thing unselfishly this next week, because of the example of Jesus Christ and the power He gives, can change everything in your family? One unselfish act. One unselfish word. It can change everything.
Where are you going to find the power to do that? Not in yourself. You find the power in your relationship with Jesus Christ.
In that relationship with Him you find the satisfaction and the joy that enables you to be unselfish in your relationship with others.
When I realise how much Christ has forgiven me, I get the strength to forgive others. When I see how patient He is with me to grow, how He waits for me to grow, I have the strength to be patient to wait for somebody else to grow. When I see how Jesus Christ is honest about my faults in a gentle way, I find the strength and the skill to be honest with somebody else in a gentle way. When I see the fact that Jesus Christ went to a cross and willingly sacrificed His life just because He loves us, I find the strength to sacrifice some of my time for somebody else.
Let me conclude with this final verse which sums up everything we’ve talked about. 1 John 3:18 says, “Let us stop just saying we love people. Let us really love them and show it by our actions.”
Enjoy the weekend.
Pastor Tevai Matapo