A few weeks ago I picked up a book called Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane. First of all: READ IT. Just do it. It has been such an immense form of encouragement for me as Jesus continues to sanctify me and uncover the deep roots of selfishness in my life. Secondly, it is a brilliant book about the brokenness and sinfulness in every and any relationship. It does a beautiful job of showing that every relationship has it’s moments or seasons of difficulty, but that difficulty within relationship is a part of the world in which we live. But it goes beyond just identifying the brokenness (because let’s be honest, we don’t need a ton of help identifying the brokenness), and points to the great redemption of relationships that can be had and should be fought for even this side of eternity.
Originally, my plan was to write some brilliant expose of what I’ve read so far in this book, but that definitely didn’t happen. The reality is that the excerpt from the book below is in fact the exact form of encouragement and teaching that I needed this week. All too often I try to handle things in my own strength, I try to talk, read, journal, and process my way through something. But literally just today Jesus convicted my heart so deeply of the fact that when I am facing something challenging, relying on Him and actually praying through a situation is usually the last of my go-to ideas. He also gently reminded me today that selflessness, serving and choosing others before myself, is always the right choice. Always. And that is REALLY REALLY REALLY hard sometimes. Like really. But He also reminded me today that it is literally only through the power of the Holy Spirit that I am able to choose humility and selflessness, and to remember that and rely on it.
So other that being super honest with you about where I am at, and hopefully convincing you that you need to read this book, I really just wanted to encourage you with this (long) quote. I can’t say it better, and I don’t want to say it better. Be comforted that if you are struggling in any kind of relationship right now, you are absolutely NOT the only one, but also that if you are a follower of Jesus He has given you what you need, through His Spirit, to persevere through, or step out of your selfishness, to receive or give grace, and to fight another day. Because as Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane say (oh, and Jesus too I’m pretty sure) relationships are a mess totally worth making.
“The hardship of relationships is not just that they can be difficult. The hardship includes what God calls us to be and do in the middle of the difficulty. God calls each of us to be humble, patient, kind, persevering, and forgiving. God calls us to speak with grace and to act in love, even when the relationship lacks grace and we have not be treated with love.
Because of this, your relationships will talk you beyond the boundaries of your normal strength. They will take you beyond the range of your natural abilities and beyond the borders of your natural and acquired wisdom. Relationships will push you beyond the limits of your ability to love , serve, and forgive. They will push you beyond YOU. At times they will beat at the borders of your faith. At times they will exhaust you. In certain situations, your relationships will leave you disappointed and discouraged. They will require what you do not seem to have, but that is exactly as God intended it. That is precisely why He placed these demanding relationships in the middle of the process of sanctification, where God progressively molds us into the likeness of Jesus. When you give up on yourself, you begin to rely on Him. When you are willing to abandon your own little dreams, you begin to get excited about His plan. When you way has blown up in your face again, you are ready to see the wisdom of God’s way.
Our relationships are not simply designed to make us interdependent with one another. They are intended to drive us to to Him in humble personal dependency. At some point, every relationship brings you to the end of yourself, and with God there is no healthier place to be. When I am willing to confess how weak I am, I am most ready to reach out for the grace that can only be found in Christ. He was willing to follow His Father’s plan and become weak so that in our moments of weakness, we could receive His strength. This difficulty-strength-weakness dynamic is why we need so much encouragement in our relationships. We get blindsided by the difficulty, discouraged by our weakness, and end up losing sight of what we’ve been given in Christ.”