In my previous article, I touched on the subject of relationships—that we are made to have value in our relationships with each other. We have great value to God, and we can only fulfill our purpose on earth through rich communion with Him. He sent Jesus to make this possible, and He knew we’d need Jesus to have good relationships with each other.
God also works in our lives through other people. After the fall of humanity from paradise, He has used people to speak his messages and carry out his plan on earth. A well-known man used by God was Moses, chosen to lead the people of God out of slavery in Egypt. He can use us in other people’s lives, too. He says that, “if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).
What I hadn’t mentioned in the previous article was the challenges that we face to have relationships. The desires of our flesh cause us to act in ways that repel or alienate other people, even while we need to feel accepted, loved, and connected to others. Some of these challenges are:
Pride: Pride makes us do unloving things to people in favor of ourselves. We might believe and therefore talk and act as though we are better than someone. We might dismiss someone’s opinion on the basis of race, style, or profession. We might gossip about people and slander others to sound interesting and make ourselves look good. We are reluctant to share our thankfulness for others and show our appreciation—because maybe we don’t feel this way.
Selfishness: We want to do all the talking or all the listening, depending on our personality. We want to say exactly how we think and feel, instead of evaluating if our words will come across with kindness. We don’t make the time to listen to others. Our lives can be pretty stressful, and it’s good to talk about things, but sometimes it’s nice not to use friends as venting machines. We have a God who cares about us, and He loves it when we bring our concerns to Him first.
Natural dispositions that oppose good relationships: If you are anything like me, you are a homebody to a fault, and you enjoy a lot of “alone” time. But friends are a blessing. With God’s help, I recognize when I’m “using” my friends on an as-need basis and make a conscious effort to show that I value them. Maybe you’re the opposite of me and you overwhelm your friends with your need to always be around people, in essence, using your friends to avoid loneliness.
The good news is that when we accept Jesus, He makes his abode inside of us (John 14:23). He gives us strength to check our fleshly impulses, to convict us when we’ve hurt someone, to enable us to change, and to remind us to appreciate people and seek to be a blessing to them. He also teaches us to value ourselves.
What challenges have you experienced in trying to make friends and sustain healthy relationships?