Developing Great Relationships




        Relationships are complex and difficult. They can be the cause of severe depression, terrible self-esteem, addictions, personality disorders, and voluntary isolation. But they can also be our greatest joy, satisfaction, purpose, and source of love.

Thomas Hughes said, “Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of God’s best gifts. It involves many things, but above all, the power of giving out of one’s self, and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another.”[1]

With computers and the Internet, jobs in cubicles and long work hours, and large, sprawling cities we have become a people who are becoming more and more isolated. More people live and die alone than ever before. People move to wherever their jobs take them and families can live thousands of miles apart. Our parents lived in houses with porches in the front so that they could see their neighbors. Now we build decks in the back so that no one will see us. One of the tragedies of today’s culture is a lack of genuine, committed friendships. The truth is that relationships take time and work and in a culture driven by the momentary and the immediate people can be left behind. Albert Camus, the existentialist and novelist, said, “I have no friends, only accomplices.”

In a society where only accomplishments are considered noteworthy, many strive for friendships that only serve their own goals and ambitions. Therefore oftentimes only the rich, the powerful, the popular and the influential are sought out. Those who have nothing to offer—the unpopular, the unattractive, the struggling—are easily discarded and ignored. We do not care if our heroes are brooding, amoral, or self-centered so long as they are on the top of their game. Friendships that are difficult or too slow in developing are inconvenient. We want our relationships to be like TV dinners—easy and satisfying.

Furthermore, many people stagger from attempted relationship to attempted relationship suffering from deepening anxiety and bitterness each time. They may ask questions such as “What is wrong with me?” or adversely, “What is the problem with everyone?” For these people relationships are not a delight but a struggle. Often the end result is a decision to simply give-up and exist in the predictable and safe cycle of work, dinner, isolated entertainment, and sleep. Time is something to kill rather than to fill.

But God wants us to develop intimate, trusting relationships; first with Himself and then with others. He wants us to experience all of the rich treasures that can come from close relationships. He tells us how we can do this through His commandments and principles, He shows us through His own example, He gives us real people that we can read about in the Bible, and He supplies the power to do it all through the Holy Spirit.

Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much increase comes by the strength of the ox.” This may seem like an odd verse for a study on relationships, but what it is saying is tremendously important. Consider the manger as being your life and the oxen as relationships. If you want a life that is clean and unencumbered then keep people out of it. Just like a manager without animals, your life will be quite tidy, but you will also be empty and you will not be what God created you for. When you bring people into your life you are going to have to clean up some messes, but much strength comes from having those people there.

God could have done just as well without any of us. He did not need to create us. But He did and for a while He walked among us in innocent and wonderful fellowship. But then we sinned in The Garden of Eden and therefore caused a great separation between God and us. God could have left us to forever struggle in loneliness and pain. Yet His desire for intimate relationships drove Him to be born of a virgin and become a man. But did He receive the adoration and gratitude that He deserved for such a glorious act? He was refused adequate quarters at birth, hunted as a newborn, anonymous throughout His childhood, vilified as a fraud, accused of being aligned with demons, rejected by His family and friends, denied, mocked, spit upon, and tried as a criminal. Was this enough to cause Him to give up on us? His response was to pay the highest cost by suffering on the cross the justice due to a thousand generations of sinful people. Then we killed His disciples and persecuted His church. So what did He do? He opened up His arms in forgiveness and asked each one to come to Him. By doing all of this He gave each one of us the possibility of having a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. But even here He allows us the choice of either accepting or rejecting that relationship and so He sets Himself up for even more rejection, ridicule, and disdain. The Bible is about a loving God who continually pursues a sinful and self-centered people so that He might embrace us as sons and daughters.

Throughout this book God will be our greatest example of right relationships and will be our greatest motivation for those relationships. We can see two examples of how important God thinks they are. First, God’s very being revolves around a relationship. He is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Before time even came into existence, before there was any universe or any people, there was one God but existing in such a way that He consisted of three beings all of whom could love, commune with, and be intimate with the others.

The second way that we see how God puts such a high premium on relationships is in the words that He uses. He refers to us as brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters. We are the bride of Christ. And what does He ask us to call Him? Is it King, Most Sovereign Creator, Most High and Holy One? He is all of these things, but what He asks us to call Him is “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6—“Abba” is Aramaic for father). Then ultimately, God has created Heaven so that we can enjoy each other forever.

The Bible is not a book of rules; it is a book about relationships. God desperately wants us to first have an intimate relationship with Him and then to have close, wonderful relationships with each other. The goal of this book is to teach us how to become that friend or spouse that God wants us to be, how to recover from heartbreak and hurt, and how to be wise in avoiding those relationships that will only end in hurt and frustration.

The more that we can become like God in character and in pursuit of right relationships the more we will find our lives satisfied, meaningful, and joyful.

That is all great but how do we learn how to initiate conversations? How can we learn how to be a great friend? And, ultimately, how can we develop relationships that will last and be as wonderful as we could ever hope for? We will never learn these skills from watching movies or TV, which for many is sadly their primary source of social intercourse. We will never become a “people-person” by allowing our fears to push us stumbling away from potential friends. And we will never develop deep relationships if we only seek out people who will frustrate us. This book hopes to answer many of these questions. It will try to file away any rough burrs of ours that other people are constantly catching themselves on. It will help us to avoid making regrettable mistakes. And it will guide us to a better understanding of God’s desires for our lives regarding other people and how they might affect us. This book is practical and very readable. It is not filled with anecdotes about how other people have lived their unusual lives but how you can live yours in the way that God intended for you.

Several concepts, thoughts, or Scriptures are slightly repeated in different sections of this book. That is because to discuss them only once in one section and exclude them from another would leave that other section incomplete and having references pointing all over makes for awkward reading.

Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: