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Very often, whether our relationships build us up and strengthen us, or cause us stress and emotional pain, depends on us. We see plenty of miserable people around us, and we can get discouraged if we follow the world’s guidelines to forming relationships. The key to success isn’t found in any self-help book, but in the Bible. Going back to the basics in this area helps us build strong, lasting friendships and marriages.
The chances of a successful relationship dramatically improve when we have a positive self-image and we like ourselves. People who like and respect themselves tend to attract others who are like-minded. The opposite is also true, and individuals who struggle in this area draw others with the same problems. This is why it’s so important to see ourselves as God sees us. “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness’” (Jeremiah 31:3, NIV).
When we remember how much God loves us, and continues to love us even when we make mistakes and disappoint ourselves, we can love ourselves despite our imperfections. His love is unconditional and constant, because that’s His nature. Understanding this to the point of internalizing it changes us, and we start radiating His love outward. “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God” (Ephesians 3:19, NLT). The knowledge that God completes us takes away the wrong mindset that we need another person to complete us.
Depending on another imperfect person to bring us fulfillment and happiness isn’t a good plan, because sooner or later we’re bound to be disappointed. Needy relationships built on this mindset rarely are happy, and they’re often marked with strife and conflict. Unrealistic expectations toward the other person leave us feeling empty when the pressure gets too great and they can’t deliver. Seeking advice from someone with a history of establishing godly relationships is a good strategy for avoiding this trap. “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22).
God’s kind of love isn’t an emotion, but a decision. Deciding to enter into a relationship based on trust and mutual respect, instead of feelings that change frequently, increases our chances of success. We must take off our rose-colored glasses and open our eyes to the truth that eventually people will make a mistake. We can forgive them the same way God has forgiven us. “Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others]” (1 Peter 4:8, AMPC).
Relationships built on godly principles are stronger than those built on selfish motives. They’re harder to maintain, because we have a natural tendency to think of ourselves first, but these kinds of relationships are the ones that endure. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT). Letting God guide us in our relationships guarantees success.
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