In the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians 13:13 it says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Nothing’s more important in all the world. The greatest experiences, the greatest thrills, the greatest joys that have come into your life have come over relationships and over love. That’s the up side. Then there’s the down side, the lows that are expressed in Galatians 5:15. It says there, “If you go on hurting each other and tearing each other apart, be careful or you will completely destroy each other.”
Relationships would be easy if we were perfect and we never went through struggles. But our lives are filled with struggles when it comes to relationships. What do you do when things aren’t going great?
What do you do when you’re faced with frustration and you just don’t know where to turn next? What do you do when you’re overwhelmed by hurt or anger in a relationship? What do you do when you’re filled with apathy and you just don’t care anymore? What do you do when you’re confronted by confusion or you’re struggling with selfishness?
Fortunately, God, in His word the Bible, gives us great advice for real world relationships - the real struggles, the real life of relationships. Here are some practical ideas today from God’s word how to get through the tough days in a relationship, when everything seems to be falling apart. What do you do when it’s not all working perfectly?
First, thank God for your differences: One of the greatest source of frustrations that we face in relationships is that God made us to be different. Would you agree that parents and teenagers sometimes think differently? Would you agree that men and women, husbands and wives sometimes think differently? This difference is at times the cause of great delight, but at other times it’s the cause of some terrible hurts.
The truth is, God made us to be different and He did it on purpose. Genesis 1:27 at the very beginning of the Bible says, “So God created man in His own image. In the image of God. He created him male and female He created them.” He made us purposefully to be different – husbands and wives – not just physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. We think differently. We work differently. We shop differently. We even watch television differently.
We are made to be different. But in spite of all the evidence that we’re so different, we still get frustrated by the differences. We hit the wall and we say to ourselves, “Why can’t she see it exactly the way I do?”
Well, it’s because God made her to be different.
“He is so stubborn! Why can’t he see it my way?” For the same reason, because God made him to be different.
In fact, He made men and women to be different in a marriage, not to frustrate us, but to complete us. Do you realise that sometimes it takes both of you to figure out your relationship and come up with the whole truth?
One of the greatest moral choices you’ll ever make is to thank God for our differences. That’s one of the things that make relationships work.
The book of Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another then just as Christ accepted you in order to bring praise to God.”
When I accept you as different, when you accept me as different and we enjoy those differences, the Bible says, it brings praise to God. Why? Because He made us to be different. But how about those times when it’s not the differences that’s causing the frustration but the difficulties? It’s the fault of the other person. What do you do then?
Second, you go to God with your disappointments: Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”
Sometimes that’s what love does – make allowances for somebody else’s faults. Notice it does not say, “make excuses for somebody else’s faults.”
Making allowance for somebody else’s fault does not mean you’re saying, it’s ok for you to stay in that sin, or that problem. It means you recognize that it takes time and patience for us to grow. When you’re disappointed in a relationship what do you do? You go to God with your disappointments.
Sometimes those disappointments are over the fact that none of us are perfect. Just remember, that person you married or that child that you had or that friendship you had, that person is not perfect.
Sometimes though, the fault is nobody’s fault. At times, it’s the world we live in that disappoints us. Often times when it comes to relationships, we get this perfect image of how a relationship should work.
We think we’re going to have a perfect wedding, a perfect honeymoon, come back to a perfect house, and we’re going to raise perfect kids, and they’re going to go off to their perfect lives, and we’re going to quietly take our perfect retirement. There’s no such thing. Life is not perfect. Yet we grow up sometimes with this idealised image of this perfect romance. In fact, we’re inundated by images of what a perfect relationship is like. It may be good entertainment, but that’s not real. That’s not how life works.
Sometimes we grow up with these images and we’re disappointed that something that never was going to happen, does not happen. What do you do with the disappointments in your relationships?
You go to God with your disappointments. The starting point is recognising that He can meet needs that no-one else can meet. One of the reasons we are vastly disappointed in a relationship is we expect people to meet needs in our life that only God can meet.
You expect a person to be perfect?
Only God is perfect! He’s the only one that can meet that need in your life. Don’t expect any person to be what no person could be, you’ll be disappointed. Go to God.
You expect that a person will always be there for you, but only God can always be there. He’s the only one who’s everywhere all the time. Sometimes we’re disappointed because we’re asking too much. We’re asking people to do things they can never do. You’re asking a person to never fail you? Stop dreaming! Only God will never fail.
When you learn to bring your situations before God and begin to allow God to meet the needs that only He can meet in your life, then you begin to reduce the disappointments with the other relationships of life.
When you face the disappointments, a choice hits you. You’re either going to bail out or stick it out. When you said, “I do,” or you had that new baby or you started that friendship, all you thought about was the promise that was in that relationship. But right now some of you are face to face with the disappointment that’s a part of that relationship. What are you going to do now?
1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance.” That’s real life. You face real disappointments. Where are you going to find the strength to not give up? Where are you going to find the power to endure through every circumstance? You go to God in prayer with your disappointments. You let Him meet needs that only He can meet in your life. And you let Him give you the strength and the power to love in a way you’ve never loved before.
Maybe, for some of you, life did not turn out at all like you expected. Go to God with those disappointments. Watch Him give you the strength only He can give, a strength that you don’t have in yourself right now to not give up. Watch Him do something in the midst of the disappointments.
(To be continued next week).
Pastor Tevai Matapo