My mother. She uses words like a chimp uses a paintbrush.
It is not enough for my
mother to be correct; she must be perfectly
correct. My father could start telling a story about how they went over to my
aunt’s house and found out that one of our relatives just went into the hospital
for life-saving surgery. This is a serious story about a serious person having
something serious done to them. So my father will start, “We went over to my
sister’s house and while we eating lasagna…” “ZITI, it was ziti,” my mother
would forcefully interject. Now if the story was about how much my father liked
the meal and wanted me to investigate the recipe then I could see why the exact
entrée was important. But it wasn’t. My father was just setting the table (so
to speak) for what the main, and serious, point was. Now such exactness is
important if you are intercepting Hitler’s messages and you get the name of the
country wrong. “Hitler isn’t going to invade Portland,
you fool, he’s going to invade Poland.
Tell the convoy on their way to Maine
to turn around now.” But we’re talking about a cheesy pasta dish; they’re
basically the same thing anyway.
This perfect correctness
isn’t only restricted to my mother apparently. In fact, it isn’t even
restricted to the female gender. I was driving with a married couple and I
asked the wife how far she works from where we were currently at. She answered
“ten minutes” at which the husband jumped in to set the record straight. “It is
13 minutes,” with a large emphasis on the “13.” I didn’t really care; a granularity
of ten minutes would have been more than sufficient. “ten minutes,” “twenty
minutes,” “thirty minutes” are all perfectly acceptable answers. That she was
off by three minutes would only have mattered if I was planning on running the
But back to my mother. This
correctness does not merely apply to others’ stories. Sometimes she’ll lose a
detail on one of her own tales and then hack at it like she’s trying to clear
briars with a machete. “We were going to a garage sale on Oak Street. No, wait a minute. Maybe it Larch Street. Was
it Larch? I can’t remember. It could have been Oak. But I think that we turned
onto Oak but then we went onto another street where the garage sale was.” I
would interject, “Let’s just say it was Larch. And so what did you find?”
Turning to my father she would ask, “Was it Oak or Larch, I can’t remember?”
“Oh for crying out loud,” he would say with growing frustration, “just tell the
story.” Before the story was even half over, we would all be twitchy. “It was
the really large yellow house on the left. No, no, I got that mixed up. I think
it was the blue house with the four kids running around.” Long… thoughtful…
pause. “No, it was the yellow house. Now I remember because they had a rocking
chair half-way up the driveway.” Sometime between when my jaw slightly trembled
and I resigned myself to this eternity it was definitely concluded that it was
the blue house. Eventually we would
discover that the hard-hitting denoumai of the entire story was that she got a
package of six cloth napkins for a dollar.
relationship will fail or disappoint us at some time in some way. That failure
may be catastrophic or it may merely be a disappointment. But it will come. And
the closer that we get to someone the more likely that we will experience one
of those failures. That is one reason why some people do not want to get close
to other people. It may not be because they are snobs or unfriendly. It may
simply be because they do not want to be hurt.
So when we do
experience one of these failures or disappointments there are several questions
that we need to ask ourselves.
How am I going to react to this?
Am I going to be vengeful? Or am I going to be
Am I going to become depressed? Or am I going to
look to God for my encouragement?
Am I going to become angry and bitter? Or am I
going to forgive, if necessary, and move on with my life?
Is my whole self-image or self-esteem going to
fall to the ground crushed? Or am I going to be confident in how God still sees
Is the friendship worth fighting for?
Should I make any effort at all to try and patch
things up? Or is time to let go and move on?
Will I turn inward and isolate myself or will I draw
nearer to God and let Him work with me?
Does a failed relationship mean that you should,
therefore, pull away from all relationships? Or does it mean that you should
draw nearer to the one relationship that will never fail? And of course this is
How will this affect my relationships with others?
Will I drive others crazy with my constant
whining? Or will I seek out others so that I can learn from them?
Will I take out my frustrations on someone else?
Or will I deal with my frustrations in a mature, correct manner?
Will I still seek to minister to others even in
my own time of need?
The choice of
which road you will take when a relationship fails is always up to you. God
will be faithful to give you the strength to do what is right.
this section we are going to examine two situations in which a relationship has
produced pain and hurt. In the first situation a schism has developed between
two people because some conflict arose. In this case the solution is to try and
resolve the conflict.
the second situation two people have broken apart in a way that seems irretrievable.
This could be between friends, between a boyfriend and a girlfriend, or between
a husband and a wife. Conflict resolution has been tried and failed and now
both parties have gone their separate ways. The result is usually a lot of pain
and discouragement. In this section we are going to see how to possibly heal
from that break.
There is only one verse in
the Bible where God outright calls a Christian a liar: 1 John 4:20. “If someone
says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does
not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
individuals or between groups of people can tear a church or lives apart.
Sometimes the conflict may start out like the explosion of a bomb. But other
times it may start out as a small crack or disagreement in the relationship
that is left to fester. And because sin will never go away on its own this
disagreement will grow and push the combatants further and further apart. Then
the unwillingness by either person to humbly and graciously resolve the
conflict can become greater than the original conflict itself. Tribes or clans
in parts of the world have been in conflict for centuries without even knowing
why the hostility started in the first place. We can oftentimes see in the news
how one group, yet again, slaughtered members of the other group. In the same
way some people can go decades without talking to each other and not even have
a clear recollect as to why it started. All that they are able to tell you is
that it was the other person’s fault but they cannot remember why.
Our lives have two
directions: vertical and horizontal. The vertical is our relationship with God
and the horizontal is our relationship with other people. We are a unity. We
cannot take one aspect of our lives and put it over here and not think that it
will not affect the other parts of our lives. We cannot separate the vertical
from the horizontal.
says, “And He said to him, ‘“YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR
HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.” This is the great and
foremost commandment. The second is like it, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS
YOURSELF.” On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’”
These are the two
foremost commands. Think of them as two pedestals side-by-side on which we are
standing with one foot on each. The one pedestal is our love for God. The other
pedestal is our love for our neighbor. If one of these pedestals crumbles, we
will fall off of the other. We may wave our arms in circles trying to stand on
one leg but eventually we will tire and fall off.
spend great portions of their spiritual lives tottering and doing all that they
can to keep from falling onto their faces and they do not know why. They may
read their Bibles every day and serve in church and pray with enviable
fervency. They may seek God for everything, but still they struggle and they
cannot understand why. Maybe the answer is because, although they truly do love
God, they are not talking to that one Christian in church. Or they have a big
problem with a family member and are always at odds with that person. Or maybe
they are rude to their neighbor or to a co-worker. Maybe there is someone that
they just do not like. And so they are trying to stand on only one pedestal.
We should resolve
conflicts because it will affect our entire spiritual life and eventually even
our love for God will suffer.
Referring again to
1 John 4:20, if you hate your brother, God does not merely say that you will
not be fully blessed or that you will have more struggles—He says that you are
a liar. Why would you be a liar? It is because each person is made in the image
of God and is a small reflection of who and what God is. How can we reject a
person without rejecting that part of him or her that reflects God?
Also, God is love
and He loves each person, Christian or not, with a tremendous and sacrificial
love. On this basis God is able to command us to love all people. Matthew
5:43-47 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR,
and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those
who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in
heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain
on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what
reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet
your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles
do the same?” In John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My
commandments.” So God commands us to love our neighbors but then also says that
if we love God we will keep His commandments. So if we do not love someone but
instead have rejected or reviled someone then how can we say that love God when
we do not even do what He says?
conflicts because pretending to love God while rejecting another person is
lying and deception.
5:14-15 says, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement,
‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ But if you bite and devour one
another, take care lest you be consumed by one another.” The phrase “bite and
devour” has the sense of wild animals attacking one another. There is no
conscience to the harshness of the attack so long as the other person is
beaten. The result is that you will both be consumed or annihilated. This
destruction may be emotionally, psychologically, spiritually or all of these.
resolve conflicts because if we do not then we have the potential of destroying
5:19-21 lists the deeds of the flesh. These are thoughts or actions that result
from our fallen, sinful nature and are against the desires of God. Those who
practice these deeds will not please God and will not be able to practice the
character of God. Of the fifteen deeds listed eight are related to our attitude
towards other people. These are “enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of
anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying.” All of these will either
potentially cause a broken relationship or is the result of one.
resolve conflicts because they will prevent us from developing the character of
John 13:35 Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if
you have love for one another.” It is the nature of the world to be suspicious
of other people. So when anyone makes a personnel sacrifice for someone it is
thought to be heroic. Non-Christians can shrug off devotion and theology. They
can dismiss reason and apologetics. But they are confounded by lasting,
committed love for each other. Anyone can act pious. Anyone can learn some
logical arguments. But it is only a genuine person who can consistently
sacrifice for others.
when we are at work or school or in our neighborhood and we gossip or slander
or envy, this allows them to think, “she’s just like the rest of us.” God wants
us to stand out. He wants us to be different. He wants us to be heroic every
day. Then people will know that we are different, they will know that we are
resolve conflicts because they will destroy our testimony to non-Christians and
they will sink Christians into the same muck as everyone else.
the Sermon on the Mount Jesus preaches, “But I say to you that everyone who is
angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say
to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever
shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. If
therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember
that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before
the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come
and present your offering.”
resolve conflicts because it will suffocate our worship and because God
Corinthians 20-21, 26 says, “But now there are many members, but one body. And
the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to
the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’… And if one member suffers, all the members
suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
This entire chapter talks about how a church is like a human body and how each
member of the church is like a different part of the body. Some people may be
eyes whereas others may be feet. When a real human body develops a condition
where parts of the body such as the immune system attack other parts of the
body then a serious crisis occurs that may cripple the person or may even
result in death. In the church when one member degrades or attacks another
member then the entire church will suffer. This is true even when the conflict
is not directly known or seen by others. This is because conflicts go beyond
the interaction between the two combatants and will affect the entire character
and attitudes of both.
resolve conflicts because it will hinder the effectiveness of the church.
In 1 John 1:6 we
read, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness,
we lie and do not practice the truth.”
You may say, “I
know that I don’t get along with this person, but my times in the Word have
never been better, my prayer life is great, and the rest of my fellowship is
good.” Guess what? God says that you are deceiving yourself.
Why is this? Many
say the reason is because we cannot say that we are walking with God when we
resent someone made in His image. That is valid, but I think that it goes
deeper than that. It goes to the very heart of who we think that God is.
1 John 4:19 says,
“We love, because He first loved us.” There is a cause and effect in operation
in this verse. We can even have the slightest sliver of love in our hearts only
because God first loved us. Love does not flow naturally from the laws of
physics or biology. It can only come from the character of God. This is true
for Christians as well as for non-Christians.
But what is the
opposite of this verse? Is it, “We do not love because God does not love us?”
No! Think of John 3:16. The indisputable fact is that God always has and always
will love us. God’s love for us can never be removed from the equation. His
love for each and every one of us is eternal, unconditional, sacrificial,
overflowing, and any other transcendentally wonderful word that you can think
of. So the realistic opposite of this verse cannot change the notion of His
first loving us.
So what is the
opposite of 1 John 4:19? It would have to be, “We do not love because we do not
believe that God loves us.” We will only practice godly character that we first
see in God.
If you do not see God as being merciful to you
then you will not show mercy to others.
If you do not see God as being gentle and
sensitive to you then you will not be gentle and sensitive to others.
If you do not see God as being faithful to you
then you will not be faithful to others.
If you do not see God as being concerned about
time then you will be very often late to appointments.
We can apply this to any
character quality that we can think of. The more that we see who and what God
is, the more that we will be broken by our own sin and the more we will be like
Him. Proverbs 29:19 explains, “A slave will not be instructed by words alone;
for thou he understands there will be no response.” We are that slave. God
never tells us to do something that He has not already done Himself nor does He
ever ask us to be something that is not already an intricate part of His own
character. So when God gives us a command or a precept it has already been done
by Himself. Another way of phrasing this verse might be, “A slave who only
hears words and does see corresponding character will not be obedient.”
22:27 says, “With the pure Thou dost show Thyself pure, and with the perverted
Thou dost show Thyself astute.” Some versions translate “astute” as “twisted.”
God is never twisted but we can make Him that way in our minds. Sometimes we
twist God to make Him to match our sin and sometimes our sin results from our
wrong concept of God. Either way, how we live our lives and the attitudes that
we have are a reflection of how we view God.
if we resent or dislike someone then that grinds against the true character of
God and reveals a misperception of how we think about the character of God. The
closer that we get to understanding the perfection of God and His light the
more broken that we must be. But we can let our sins hide in the eclipses that
we perceive in His character. This is why holding resentment towards another
person is such a terrible sin to God. It degrades someone made in His image and
it disparages His character.
O, to dwell there
With the saints
that we love
That will be
But to dwell here
With the saints
that we know
Now that’s a
means more than that our enmity is put away, but that now we are on the same
side. The root idea in the Greek is a change of attitude or relationship.
Whereas before we were on opposite sides, now, by mutual agreement, we are on
the same side. A derivative of one of the Greek words is used in the New
Testament in the restoring of a withered hand or a blind person being given
sight. It is not merely that the disease is removed, but that the ravaged body
is made healthy.
means being willing to restore a friendship that had become a war. It means
replacing the accusations and criticisms with support and encouragement. It
means taking two people who were pulling in opposite directions and getting
them to pull together. This takes grace.
does not necessarily mean that you must both agree on every detail. It is
acceptable to allow both of you to maintain differing views on some small
issues. In that case you can say, “We obviously aren’t in agreement on what was
said at that time. So why don’t we just chalk that one up to different
recollections and leave it at that? It’s what you thought was said versus what
I thought was said and since it wasn’t recorded there isn’t any point in
beating this to death.”
does not necessarily mean that you must now be best friends and take your
vacations together. There is an issue of trust, which may or may not have to be
rebuilt. If I invite someone over to my house and he steals silverware out of
my kitchen there may be a need for reconciliation. If that is successful I may
invite him over again. But once again, he steals my silverware. This may lead
to, yet another, round of reconciliation. After things are resolved I may
invite him over to my house but you can be sure that I will be careful to see
that he stays out of the kitchen. We may be reconciled but that does not mean
that I trust him.
Trust is earned
and is developed out of situations where the person proves himself to be
reliable, faithful and responsible. I can be friends with someone and yet be
fully cognizant of their weaknesses and limitations. This does not make the
friendship any less significant. It just means that I can enjoy this person’s
company while appreciating their strengthens and understanding their
Talk to that
person. Call them up. The best way is to talk to them in person. That way you
can both respond immediately to what the other person is saying and not
speculate over the nuance or implication of something as might happen in a
letter or in an email. But if you simply cannot bring yourself to address the
person directly then a short letter or email may be the way to go. However, if
you do go this route then, if possible, keep it brief and leave the details to
be discussed in person.
When you are
going to talk to that person plan at least the beginning of what you want to
say. This may only mean the first few sentences but you want to be careful not
to start off on the wrong foot.
Talk to the
person one-on-one. Do not bring your supporters with you and do not do this in
front of others even if they know the whole story. This is the principle for
any of these kind of confrontations as instructed in Matthew 18:15.
first, only confess that which you did wrong if, in fact, you did do anything
wrong. You can save reproving him until your wrongs are addressed. You do not
want to give the impression that you are at this meeting only to impeach him.
Rarely is a conflict 100% one person’s fault. Most of the time it is closer to
60/40 at worst. So do not sit there ready to pounce, “I guess I did this wrong,
BUT YOU DID ALL OF THESE THINGS WRONG!” Do not blame-shift. This probably
cannot be said too many times but even if what they did wrong was more than
what you did wrong; you still need to confess whatever wrong that you might
have done. However, do not confess sins that do not exist on your part simply
to appease the other person or to appear to be humble. To falsely shift blame
in either direction is wrong.
feelings from your point-of-view. Do not say, “What you said was really offensive.”
Rather say, “I was really hurt by what you said.” They may be able to argue
that what they said was not offensive, but they cannot argue that it did not
hurt you. They may claim that it should not have hurt you but that is a
different issue and still cannot deny that you were hurt. Whether or not you
are overly sensitive can be discussed but in a mature manner.
If it is the
other person who is confessing then let them finish. It is important for a
person to fully confess their sin. If you jump in and tell them that you
forgive them or that everything is OK they will probably feel unsatisfied.
Confession is rehabilitative.
Do not try to
bulldoze them. You are secure in God. God knows where you have been wronged. It
is not usually necessary to dump years worth of wrongs all at once without
giving either of you a chance to chance your breaths. Once you have done your
part, let God work on them.
Understand both sides, especially the other person’s
Listen first to
what the other person is saying. James 1:19 says, “This you know, my beloved
brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”
We always want to present our case first, thoroughly, and irrefutably. And when
we are finished all that we want the other person to say is, “Wow, I guess that
I really blew it. Can you ever forgive me?” But the Bible says that we should
listen first, ponder (Proverbs 15:28a, “The heart of the righteous ponders how
to answer”), and then speak.
verse is Proverbs 18:2, “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in
revealing his own mind.” Do you quickly jump in to defend yourself before even
waiting to hear the person out? Do you blank out their words while you prepare
your counterattack in your mind? Realize that rarely is everything that a
person says completely wrong nor is everything that you say completely right.
Do not cherish your rights or desires or expectations more than you cherish
outlines why we have conflicts. “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts
among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You
lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot
obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask
and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend
it on your pleasures.” You can follow this passage through from verse one,
which asks why we have conflicts to verse two that tells us that we crave
something that we are having trouble getting and then finally to verse three,
which gives the root cause. We have conflicts because we are selfish and
focused only on ourselves. We are not getting something from God because our
motive is to take and horde and not to share.
When we get into
a conflict we should ask ourselves, “Are we having this argument because I am
wanting or expecting something that I’m not getting and that is making me mad?”
Ask yourself questions such as:
“Am I upset because I am demanding respect that
I haven’t earned?”
“Am I mad because the schedule or plans didn’t
go the way that I wanted?”
“Am I blowing this way out of proportion because
I was inconvenienced?”
We may not be the
one who is causing the brunt of the problem but we should always examine
14:15, “For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking
according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.”
Substitute for “food” the phrase “your reputation,” or “your rights”, or “your
desires.” Do you see what God is comparing here? Do you see what God is putting
on the balances here?
Your reputation vs. “for whom Christ died.”
Your rights vs. “for whom Christ died.”
Your desires vs. “for whom Christ died.”
When you hurt
someone in this way do you see the enormous weightiness that you are placing on
yourself? Do you see how much more important you are making yourself to be over
God? In your arrogance you may consider yourself to be more important than this
other person but the comparison is not between you and that person. God says
that the comparison is between you and God. Once you realize that, all of your
insolence and haughtiness should crash to the ground.
Something that may help
you to understand the other person is to realize that many times when someone
says or does something that hurts you they are doing it out of their own fear
and their own vulnerability. People who seem to have very little say in how
their own lives are going (because of severe health or financial problems for
example) may overly try to control other people. This may be because they are
trying to minimize even more pain in their lives. Or people who become stone
cold when relationships get close might have been badly betrayed when they did
become vulnerable to someone. These reasons, of course, do not make their
actions right, but it may give you some insight into their motivations and you
may not so much see a malicious, cruel person as much as someone who is weak
Do not vilify that person
This topic is
discussed elsewhere in more detail but it is important to mention it again. It
is too easy to make the other person out to be so much worse or evil than they
really are just to justify you own bad attitude. You start replaying everything
bad that they ever said or did and, in doing so, mound heap upon heap of blame
upon them. You may even “un-forgive” things that you had previously forgiven.
The result is that someone who did a few wrong things is now being turned into
the anti-Christ as far as you are concerned.
Be realistic with
your evaluation of that person. If you have a bad attitude then repent of it.
Do you really think that your phony justification will fool God? Do not play
yourself entirely as the poor, misunderstood victim who is always getting
stepped on and abused and the other person as a mean-spirited villain who
spends all day scheming on how to “get” you.
Who initiates when sin is involved?
“confess your sins to one another…” If you have sinned against that person then
you should go and confess your sin to him or her. This should probably only
include sins that were noticeable or affected that person. This means that you
do not need to confess every bad thought that you had to that person. The
confession of those thoughts is between you and God.
tells us, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who
confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” Concealing your sins will
cause you to not prosper on two levels. On the first level you may think that
you are concealing your sins from others but you cannot conceal them from
yourself. Therefore, your guilt will haunt you and to appease this guilt you
may begin to justify your sin and usually the best way to do that is to further
vilify the other person. Then your attitude spirals down into even more anger
and blame. On the second level you can never hide your sin from God and God
will not prosper someone who is in willful, continuous sin.
So if you have
sinned then you must go and confess that sin to the other person because the
person that will most benefit is yourself.
But suppose the
other person has sinned against you. Should you wait until they come to you?
Matthew 5:23-24 says that you should stop whatever you are doing and go to that
person and be reconciled. How do you do this? Do you go pointing a finger and
making accusations knowing that you have got one over on him? Galatians 6:1
says, “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are
spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to
yourself, lest you too be tempted.” This verse in Galatians gives us three
instructions when approaching that person.
We should be spiritual. That means that our motive must
be right. We must not go in anger or judgment. We must not go with the attitude
that we are going to prove that we are right and they are wrong. Instead, we
must go with an attitude of restoration. That word “restore” is used elsewhere
in the New Testament of mending fishing nets. The Greek word outside of the
Bible is also used when a physician fixes broken bones. Both of these images
carry the idea of purposeful and delicate work and that a hurried or
insensitive fix may only make matters worse. So we are to go to that person
with an attitude of mending or fixing what is wrong or broken in their lives by
that sin. Some people say that the word “spiritual” is only referring to those
who are mature Christians, but then this would restrict this verse only to
those who have been Christians for a while. So if someone who is a young
Christian sees someone sinning then they should not approach that person but
should either ignore the situation or get someone else to do the deed. I do not
agree with this. I believe that this verse is not referring so much to the
overall character and experience of the person going as much as it is
addressing their attitude.
There must be a spirit of gentleness. Go in humility.
This precludes any pointing of the finger or harsh accusations. It means not
bringing up any of this person’s past failures unless it is absolutely
necessary. This prohibits belittling the person (“This proves that you’ll never
amount to anything!”) or making sweeping statements (“I always knew that your
heart was wrong.”). It means being willing to take the time to explain the sin
and give a clear example rather than just hitting him with it like a hammer.
We must guard over our own thoughts and motives
especially while discussing the sin with this person. They might not be very
receptive to what we are saying and may be defensive or attacking. Even then we
must be careful not to become frustrated or angry. Sin is always lurking at the
door. Be slow to anger. Proverbs 12:16 warns, “A fool’s wrath is known at
once.” Do not make everything into a major issue.
In any kind of
situation like this what is important is not determining who has the greater
percentage of sin or who has committed the worse sin, but to address any sin
whether on my part or on his. The accusation of “Well, he sinned first” or “Her
sin was much worse than mine” is not the issue. Even if I sinned 1% and he
sinned 99%, I still need to confess my sin and then approach him regarding his
Pray for that person and for the situation.
Job was taken to
task by his three friends. He was falsely accused of many things and in his
time of great pain he found himself defending himself rather than receiving
comfort. Then in Job 42:7-8 God reproved these three men and told them to make
amends for their false impression of God. But then verse ten is curious. For
all that God vindicated Job in the previous verses, it was only when Job prayed
for his friends that God restored his fortunes.
To pray well for
that other person is important. It demonstrates that our heart has forsaken any
idea of revenge or vindication and is now more interested in seeing the person
healed, if necessary, or mended. It means that we no longer want to triumph
over the person as much as to see them become more like Jesus Christ. This
attitude in ourselves honors and pleases God.
To put aside bad
thoughts and attitudes towards that person is good, but that is not enough. God
also wants us to wish well for that person. Then that is when God will truly
If the situation is not resolved on the spot then pray
with that person for a humble resolution.
When it appears
that you have both hit a roadblock then stop where you are at in the
discussion. Everything does not need to be resolved or agreed upon at that
time. Points of contention can be left to be mulled over by each of you and,
hopefully, the Holy Spirit will be allowed to change the mind of whomever might
be stubborn or wrong.
Don’t quit on that person. God did not quit on you.
It says in
Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which
no one will see the Lord.” That word “pursue” is “used in classical Greek for
an animal pursuing its prey, as a hound dog on the trail of a fox—pursuing all
A similar verse
is Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with
all men.” In both of these verses is the similar idea of us making every
possible effort to obtain peace even if that person does not, at first, seem
willing to cooperate.
pursues, and removes every obstacle in His effort to be reconciled to us. 2
Samuel 14:14 tells us of God’s planning, “For we shall surely die and are like
water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not
take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one may not be cast out
from him.” Ephesians 2:17 tells us of God’s pursuing, “AND HE CAME AND PREACHED
PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR.” So if that
person is important enough to God for Him to pursue peace then he or she is
certainly important enough to you for you to pursue peace.
Then in Acts
16:31 in response to the question “What must I do to be saved” is “Believe in
the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved.” This shows how easy it is to be saved;
all that you have to do is believe. You do not have to go anywhere. You do not
have to go on a quest to find God. He is right there waiting outside of the
door. So do not make yourself difficult to find when that person wants to make
peace with you. Do not force them to leave numerous messages on your answering
machine. Be available when that person is ready to humble himself.
Now, of course,
there is a time when it is obvious that trying to reconcile with that person is
like running your head into a brick wall and so it is time to stop. Even God
does not pursue us forever. Sometimes it may be necessary to stop for a while
and give the person a little breathing room and try slowly to work things out.
However, there are other times when it is just best to stop all together and
let God deal with him. But in either case you should be able to say that you
had tried your best to work things out.
It is crucial
that we be reconciled to each other. All too often the church has more
conflicts and people disliking each other than most workplaces and
neighborhoods. This should not be. Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice so
that we might be reconciled to Him and then brought us into His family, the
church. This is a family where we call each other brothers and sisters and as
it says in Colossians 2:2 we should be “knit together in love.” Yet the reality
all too often is that we bite each other and gossip about others and are glad
when someone that we do not care for does poorly. Instead of welcoming others
we form cliques. Instead of supporting and encouraging others we only look out
for ourselves. Instead of creating a fortress of protection against the world
we toss the wounded and different out over the wall.
We hold grudges
and turn our face from other Christians because we do not realize how much this
is hurting ourselves, how much it is hurting the church, and how much it is
grieving God. Can we say with Paul “Who is weak without my being weak? Who is
led into sin without my intense concern?” (2 Corinthians 11:29). Or do we say,
“Whoever is weak do not let him slow me down. Whoever is in sin simply proves
just how much better of a Christian I am than they are.”
As always, our
most perfect example of how to resolve a conflict is God. From Genesis 1:1 to
Revelation 22:21 the Bible is all about God reconciling us to Himself. He is
In the first half
of Isaiah chapter one God tells the people how much they have sinned. Then in
verse 18 He says, “’Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the LORD,
‘Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they
are red like crimson, they will be like wool.’” When we have sinned against God
He tells us to 1) come together, 2) talk together, 3) reason together, and 4)
when we do all of that we will be cleansed and our relationship will be restored.
From verse four: “Even though you have acted corruptly, let’s talk.” From verse
four again: “Even though you have despised Me, let’s talk.” From verse five:
“Even though you have rebelled against Me, let’s talk.” All throughout God is
saying, “Look, no matter how bad you are, no matter what you have thought about
Me, and no matter how badly you have treated Me; let’s talk.”
You may say, “But this person is a real jerk.”
“Though your sins are as scarlet, come now, and let us reason together.”
You may say, “But this person said some awful
things to me.” “Though your sins are as scarlet, come now, and let us reason
You may say, “But he hurt me very deeply. You
don’t know how awful it was.” “Though your sins are as scarlet, come now, and
let us reason together.”
God is the God of
In Genesis 31 we
read the story where Jacob had worked for 20 years for Laban and in exchange
married his two daughters and was given much livestock. However, Laban had
cheated him and in verse two we see that Laban was growing hostile towards
Jacob. So Jacob was told by God to leave and go back to his land. So he left
but without telling Laban. However, one of his wives, Rachael, stole Laban’s
household idols. This was a significant act because Laban might have felt that
his divine protection had been taken and also it was thought that whoever
possessed the household idols had a strong claim to the right of the
inheritance. So when
Laban found out that his idols were stolen and that Jacob had fled he pursued
them and caught up with them a week later. Laban was probably predisposed to
treating Jacob harshly so God had to warn Laban to deal rightly with Jacob
(verse 24). So with the fear of God in his heart it is interesting to note how
Laban approached Jacob in verses 26-30. He confronts Jacob head-on and presents
his case. Laban tells Jacob what he had done wrong, why it was wrong, how he
had been hurt, and then gave Jacob a chance to respond. Jacob’s response was
typical for why many people do the things that they do—“I was afraid.” So many
times people do what they do not because they are malicious or evil but because
they are afraid. Once we can understand this we will not be as likely to
quickly condemn and despise before talking to them.
then essentially answered that if Laban can prove his case then Jacob would
ensure that all that was done wrong would be made right. Jacob did not just
jump out and defend himself nor did he ignore Laban’s contentions and attack
him in return. Jacob took what Laban said seriously and dealt with it. When
Laban failed to prove his accusations Jacob then presented his case.
they both had to realize that each had done wrong and so they made an agreement
that 1) God would be their witness and arbitrator and 2) that neither would
harm the other. This second part applied today might mean that we will not
gossip about or malign the other person, we will not bring up this incident
again to attack the other person, or that we will ignore or treat the other
final result was a sense of peace for both men. Jacob had a feast and Laban
kissed his family. In the same way one of the final results of our resolution
of conflicts should be a sense of peace and rejoicing. This is good for the
relationship, it is good for the other person, and it is good for our own
emotional and spiritual frame of mind.
There is one more
example of the effects of conflict resolution that we should look at. Paul and
Barnabas had spent a lot of time together evangelizing and ministering to the
churches. They were in Antioch
when we read starting in Acts 15:36, “And after some days Paul said to
Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we
proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’ And Barnabas was
desirous of taking John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept
insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in
Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose such a sharp
disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with
him and sailed away to Cyprus.
But Paul chose Silas and departed, being committed by the brethren to the grace
of the Lord.”
When Paul and his
companions were in Perga Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. Mark was Barnabas’ cousin and
apparently had rejoined the group. Barnabas wanted to give Mark another chance
whereas Paul thought that he had shown himself to be unfaithful. This was a
case of whether to put individuals first or to put the project or mission
first. Barnabas leaned towards the first whereas Paul chose the second. The
result was a “sharp disagreement.” The Greek word for this comes from the idea
of sharpening a blade.
It has the sense of irritation
and is a strong word. As a result of this quarrel over Mark, Paul and Barnabas
split ways. Here were two close companions who broke up over a third person.
But Paul was not
one to hold grudges. We do not see the actual reconciliation but we can see the
results of it. In 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul says, “Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark
and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.” Paul who once had
a big disagreement because he did not want Mark tagging along now desires his
company. He saw Mark as vitality useful.
Then in 1 Peter
5:13 Paul refers to Mark as “my son, Mark.” This is a term of deep affection.
If Paul had been
stubborn he would have lost Mark’s service and companionship forever. Instead,
God was glorified and the Gospel was furthered. How much might any of us lose
because we are stubborn and easily toss old friends aside?
God can heal
pain. He can restore broken relationships. God is the God of new beginnings. He
can replace sharp disagreements with deep affection. The question is never
whether God will give us the strength or grace to do; it is whether we will be
humble enough to take it.
You are being kind if you:
friend’s need and can provide a timely fulfillment
Are quick with
a complimentary or encouraging word
Can overlook a
deformity or disfigurement and treat a person with the value that God sees in
compassion for animals
outcast, shunned, or ignored in your conversations and activities
Know how to
accept gifts gracefully in a way that makes the giver feel good
(“Can you please pass the salt”) rather than demands (“Give me the salt”)
others without expecting or getting anything in return
You’re in the midst of a great dating situation
and you think that everything is going really well and that maybe “this is the
one” when the other person tells you that he does not think that it is working
out and that you should not see each other any more.
You are left sick with sorrow. You
feel like a 20-foot boa constrictor snake is wrapped around your chest. Three
seconds does not go by during the day when you are not thinking about the
situation and every time that you do you feel weak.
You are married and those little disagreements
gradually turn into long, intense arguments. Criticism is frequent and personal
and what was once the love of your life has become “sleeping with the enemy.”
You are angry. You are angry with
that person—“How could they treat me like that?” You are possibly angry with
God—“Couldn’t You have worked this out?” And you are angry with yourself—“How
could I have been so stupid to marry a jerk like that?”
You are good friends with someone for quite a
while and you have both shared a lot of intimate feelings and thoughts. But now
the other person seems to be drifting away. She is calling you up less and
finding more excuses not to get together. Eventually you find out that she has
made a new “best friend” whom she is spending all of this time with.
You are left feeling that you
cannot trust anyone anymore. From now on you are going to make other people
initiate the friendship because you want to guarantee that they are truly
interested in you and not just returning attention that you are first showing
Most, if not all
of us, have gone through situations like these or, at least, something similar.
And we have felt as though our emotions, our opinions, and our dignity were
thrown to the floor and violently rubbed into the dirt by someone’s shoe. Or
that they have been tightly twisted like a wet rag until all of the moisture
has been wrung out of them and now they are left dry and deformed. So what do
we do? Where do we go from here?
Earlier in this
book we saw how God created us to have relationships. We saw how every aspect
of what we are all point to fulfilling this need and goal. So why was looking
at that important? What does that have to do with healing a broken relationship
in my own life? It is because we must understand that who and what we are created
as centers around that pivotal point of relationships. And so when a
relationship fails it affects all of what we are. Our emotions may run out of
control. Our thoughts may become obsessed. Our physical being may become weak.
Our dignity either becomes tattered or must be vigorously defended. Our
spiritual life may be severely challenged with doubts of God’s love or doubts
of God Himself. And how we deal with this may either strengthen us or ruin our
lives for years.
But to some,
asking how “we” may deal with this may beg the question. After all, God is
loving and God is sovereign, so why should “we” have to get involved at all?
Why does not God just handle it? Why does not God take away the pain and
anguish? He knows how weak and confused we are right now. Why did God even
allow this to happen in the first place?
The answer to
these questions is no simple task and the true answers will vary for each
individual person. We can get a general answer but to do that we have to go
back to the first few chapters of Genesis. In there God created a perfect world
where all was in harmony and there was no sin. God had a choice. The world
could either stay that way forever or it could fall. This choice was not out of
God’s hands. God is not the author of sin but He did allow sin to enter the
world and the result was The Fall of Adam and Eve. This occurred because God
permitted two things: 1) that we might have free choice and 2) that there might
be an opportunity for us to choose sin. He did the second by planting the Tree
of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and allowing it to be accessible. The result
was that we took the opportunity and sin entered the universe. The relationship
with God was severed. We now, on our own, could never approach God again nor
could we have even the faintest of relationships with Him. We were lost. We
were corrupted. Even God Himself had no quick and simple solution. We seemed to
be doomed. But that did not mean that God had no solution at all.
That solution was
for God to incarnate as a man, live without sin among us, and then be crucified
on a cross to pay for the sins of all of mankind. God knew before Creation that
this would be the only solution to the problem of sin’s separation of Himself
and man and yet He still allowed the choice of sin. This decision meant the
alienation of all mankind and the potential of guilt, loneliness, fear, pain,
meaninglessness, chaos, and horror for all people who would ever live. It also
guaranteed the greatest anguish possible for God Himself when He had to become
the sins of all people and suffer the infinite wrath of a holy and just Father.
So, again, why is
this important and what does this have to do with healing broken relationships?
It is because the choice of sinning was better than the non-choice of forced
perfection. It is because the possibility of redemption is greater than the
state of a painless creation. It is because the triumph of good over evil is
better than the absence of evil all together. So what does this mean to us? It
means that God, in a wonderful wisdom that surpasses any of our comprehension,
has deemed it better for us to experience sin, pain, and suffering followed by
the triumph of grace than to lead a carefree, painless life without grace,
without mercy, and without redemption. So in a way that we might never
understand this side of Heaven, that torturous breakup that crushes us with
self-doubt and sinks us into a quicksand of misery may be better for us than
having no problem relationships at all. God is not in the business of making
the Christian life carefree; He is in the business of making the Christian more
like Himself. He does not promise to remove the mountains as we skip through
life on a cobbled path; instead He has promised to give us the strength to
climb over those mountains as we encounter them throughout our lives.
That does not
mean that God caused the breakup. It does not mean that He enjoys seeing you in
anguish. And it certainly does not mean that you should go around destroying
relationships just so that you can experience grace and redemption. But what it
does mean is that this breakup can be used in your life to make you more like
the person that God wants you to be.
are going to look at some right attitudes that we need in order to be healed
and some wrong attitudes that will keep the blood trickling from the wound.
Finally we will see that we have hope. Though it may seem otherwise at the time
God never abandoned us; He never left us twisting; our cries never echoed
unheard in the darkness.
key comes back to us. What do we really want? God will give us the strength to
do what is right and He will heal us but He will not heal us against our will.
Now that may sound strange. Why would anyone not want to be healed? Why would
someone want to stay in a state of turmoil and agony? There can actually be a
number of reasons.
Victimization. Sometimes a person enjoys
playing the victim. Since they may feel that they never do anything spectacular
enough to draw fame to themselves then maybe people will center on them because
they have sank so low. People notice extremes. The average, mundane life does
not distinguish itself from others. But a life either of prominence and glory
or of pain and oppression does draw onlookers. Most people cannot achieve the
first so only by the second can they occasionally stand out. It is an attitude
of preferring to writhe in agony surrounded by a crowd than to melt away in
Needing to feel something. Occasionally
someone welcomes the negative emotions. Feeling bad is oftentimes better then
feeling numb. Of course, they would prefer feeling well but that might take too
much work. It is easier to sink than to climb. That leads to the next possible
reason for not wanting to be healed.
Unmotivated. Some people do not want to
make to effort to feel better. Sin is almost always easier than righteousness.
If that were not true then we would certainly sin less. But to do what is right
we have to battle against our three biggest adversaries: the lust of the flesh
and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16). We must
choose to do what is right. We will never drift into obedience. Hosea 6:3a
says, “So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD.” Choosing to do what
is right is like rowing a boat upstream, if we do not press forward then we
will drift backwards.
There are a
number of reasons as to why someone would not want to make an effort to be
better. They might feel defeated and so do not believe that they will ever
triumph in anything and so why bother? They might feel abandoned by God and by
others and so feel too puny and alone to tackle such a large problem. But, of
course, all of this is wrong. There are no defeated people in the Kingdom of God. 2 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But thanks
be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through
us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” There are three
things to notice in this verse. 1) The triumph comes from God. Of course we
must participate and cooperate but we do not have to manufacture it on our own.
2) It is God who leads us. We do not have to first venture out into dark waters
alone while God urges us from behind. 3) He always
leads us. This is when we are doing well and when we are struggling
tremendously. Our triumphs do not have to be rare and isolated; they can be
Revenge. Sometimes a person does not
want to let the other person off of the hook that quickly or easily. She may
want him to see how badly she has been hurt. Or she may want to exact some kind
of revenge. Or she wants to shake her fist at God a few more times. By starting
the process of healing she may realize that forgiveness and mercy may be part
of that process and she does not really want to forgive right now since it will
quench any desires of revenge.
Depression. Of course a person in this
situation may simply be depressed. She may be morose and unable to do anything
other than struggle through each of the day’s activities. Trying to do
something new and different may be too much to handle.
the first step to healing is an easy one. That is acknowledging that there is a
problem. The pain, the heartbreak, and the confusion are usually too obvious to
deny. But sometimes the second step can prove to be a difficult one and that is
being willing to want to make an effort to be healed. You must be willing to
realize that this healing may take a long time and it may require a lot of
effort. You may not have been responsible for the breakup but you are responsible
for how you response to it. It may require forgiving where forgiveness needs to
be given and repenting where repentance needs to be done. Sometimes these last
two may prove to be a formidable barrier. But, if the willingness to do what is
right does not exist in the beginning of the process, it may become stronger as
time goes on. This is not like a NASCAR race where everything must be in place
and ready to go at the very beginning. God gives us the leeway to grow and
change. Oftentimes it is not where we are at but where we are going that
matters the most.
John 5:6 Jesus addresses a sick man, “When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew
that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, ‘Do you
wish to get well?’” This may seem rather obvious—of course he wanted to get
well. But that is the same question that Jesus asks us when we have been
shattered by a broken relationship, “Do you wish to get well?”
God will give the grace needed to heal is not in dispute. We can easily see in
Scripture many places where God has promised healing.
Psalm 147:3, “He heals the
brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” The Hebrew word “binds” is the same
word used to bind or wrap a turban around your head. In the same sense God meticulously
wraps up our emotional wounds and protects them and heals them.
Isaiah 57:15, “For thus says the high
and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and
holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive
the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” God is not
confounded by the depth of our sorrow. He is not rendered ineffective because
our pain is great. Our tragedies do not perplex Him. It is because God is great
that we can be healed.
Isaiah 61:1-4, “The Spirit of the Lord
GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the
afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to
captives, and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD,
and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those
who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness
instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So
they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He
may be glorified. Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up
the former devastations, and they will repair the ruined cities, the
desolations of many generations.” This verse on healing begins with the
Trinity. It speaks of “The Spirit of the Lord GOD” who would be the Holy
Spirit, “the LORD” who is the Father, and “me” who is Jesus Christ. We know the
last one to be true because in Luke 4:18 Jesus reads this passage in reference
to Himself. So we see that healing involves the entire Trinity; it commands the
entire attention, grace, and power of all of God Himself.
came not to gather the strong, the influential, or the ambitious. He was anointed
to come to the afflicted. The word “anointed” in the Hebrew is not the word
normally used with the anointing of kings, priests, and prophets but is a word
that means “to pour over; …to overflow with… seems also to imply a penetrating
God heals He does not merely treat the symptoms but He overflows our wound with
grace and He penetrates right to the deepest part of the hurt.
“brokenhearted” has the idea of a ship in a storm that is being battered to
pieces. God lovingly takes those shattered pieces, puts them back together, and
wraps them until we are whole again.
captive is someone who has been forcibly removed from the comfort of their
surroundings and brought into a hostile environment. A broken relationship can
be like that. We were in a comfortable situation when suddenly it has been
destroyed and we are now being yanked every which way by our emotions. We now
cannot sleep, we cannot eat, we feel sick, our mind is confused, and we are
reeling. God can free us from the horror of that and return us to normalcy. We
can be comfortable again even though that person is now gone. The doors of our
depression or anger are open and we can be free to enjoy life.
will comfort, sympathize, and console those who mourn. This word “mourn” “is
used of the loud wailing customary in the East at the time of burial and for
thirty days after, during which they abstained from the ordinary occupations
and comforts of life.”.
In death, when all seems ripped away and we feel that life will never be the
same God is there.
word “garland” (or beauty in some translations) and the word “ashes” in the
Hebrew differ only by one letter. The concept that God may be conveying here by
choosing these particular words is that the part of our life which may seem
burnt and destroyed and flying away with even the slightest wind may be turned
into something full of splendor and beauty without needing a great deal of
change. Hope may not require years of counseling or a great cutting away of who
we are. It may only need a small change of attitude or perspective or a fuller
understanding of who God is. Healing does not have to be radical; sometimes
even the subtlest change can make a world of difference.
can give us gladness and joy instead of sorrow. He does not just give us praise
but He covers us with praise instead of being weak and fainting. And He will
strengthen us like oaks or terebinths with deep roots so that we will be better
able to withstand and cope with any further trials.
where our lives were ruined and devastated, when we felt desolate, God will
rebuild our lives and raise us up and we will be more splendid than before. And
then God will be glorified because it will be clear that the work was
accomplished by Him.
course we can look at scripture after scripture of how God can heal us when we
are brokenhearted, but when we are in the midst of such a trial sometimes that
healing looks very far away. These verses are nice but I am hurting, I am in
pain, I am sick with sorrow. Are they nothing more than nice platitudes or can
they really make a difference where I am at now? The answer is that God’s
promises are always backed by God’s grace and power and with a resounding “yes”
they can make a big difference in your life. We are going to look at how in the
is crucial is not God’s willingness to heal but our willingness to cooperate
and allow that healing to occur. A physical trauma can wound us brutally and it
may take a long time to even partially recover. But soon after the initial
impact the body will start to heal itself and, unless there is an infection, it
will generally continue to improve until as close to a full restoration is
completed. A traumatic emotional event can also cut us deeply. But soon after
the initial shock the mind and spirit will start to heal themselves in order to
bring about as complete a healing as possible. But all too often we can use a
psychological hammer to continue to beat ourselves well beyond the initial
trauma. This will not only prevent us from beginning the process of healing but
may, in fact, deepen the hurt even more.
how we react to a broken relationship is crucial. We are first going to look at
what a broken relationship can do to us and some of the improper ways that we
loss of a relationship can devastate us. Our emotions can make us feel as
though someone is digging through our insides with a garden tool. What are some
of the emotions or attitudes that we can have after a breakup?
Rejection. This is nearly universal.
Even if we are the one who initiated the breakup we can still have a sense of
rejection. We can easily question ourselves—“Is there something wrong with me?”
A profound sense of rejection can sink us lower than we ever thought possible.
Someone who has a
strong self-image will not necessary struggle quite as badly as someone who has
experienced frequent rejection and has an unhealthy self-image. A common
symptom of rejection may be anger or depression.
we are suffering with rejection we should, as in all things, look first to God.
2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot
deny Himself.” We must find comfort in knowing that God does not accept us
because of what we do (“who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling,
not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which
was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”—2 Timothy 1:9) or because of
how we look (“Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature,
because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the
outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”—1 Samuel 16:7) or because
of what we have (“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for
power is perfected in weakness.’”—2 Corinthians 12:9) but because of His grace
alone. Just as we cannot do anything to win God’s grace there is nothing that
we can do to lose it also. Deuteronomy 31:6 reassures us, “Be strong and
courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the
one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
can read in the Scriptures how many of God’s people failed, and some
astonishingly, and yet how God stayed faithful.
we are convinced of God’s faithfulness to us regardless of how other people
treat us, this will help greatly in overcoming a deep sense of rejection.
to close friends or spiritual leaders who know you can also benefit you
greatly. Oftentimes your sense of rejection has developed because of an
exaggerated evaluation of what really happened. Another person may be able to
give you a proper perspective.
Feeling unlovable. We can start by
feeling unlovable to that one person. Then it expands to feeling unlovable to
all people. And finally we cannot believe that even God can love us. We feel
that we are not good enough for anyone.
We can become
obsessed with comparing ourselves to everyone else and consistently finding
ourselves deficient. We are almost trying to feel inferior. One person, who was
older and never married, would sit in meetings at work and count what
percentage of people were married to those who were not. Since most older
people either are or have been married this was only further proof to him that
he was far below average in desirability.
Once again we
need to look to God. God tells us in Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an
everlasting love.” In Ephesians 2:4 we can read, “But God, being rich in mercy,
because of His great love with which He loved us.” And perhaps one of the
greatest verses proving God’s love for us—Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His
own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Of course we may
be convinced of God’s love for us but still be depressed thinking that nobody
else could ever love us. Then we must realize that the deepest attractiveness
that a person can have is a cheerful, loving, and godly spirit. This is what 1
Peter 3:3-4 is all about—“And let not your adornment be merely
external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;
but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of
a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” The most beautiful
person will be the one who radiates the love of God. And since this is true it
is also true that you can grow more attractive each and every day of your life
no matter how old you become as you are changed more and more into the
character of Jesus Christ.
Loss of trust. You have probably shared
many intimate and personal feelings and stories with that other person. You may
feel that he stole away from you valuable months, maybe even years, when you
could have been with the one who was really meant for you. Now you have to
start all over again. But at this point you are even wondering if it is worth
it. You may think, “I’ll never trust anyone ever again.” And this loss of trust
only deepens the more it happens. This first time that a relationship falls apart
you may excuse it away by thinking that he was just a jerk. But after this has
happened a number of times you can easily think that maybe everyone is like
this. However, this is not true.
everyone will let you down at some point or another. Only God can claim that He
will never disappoint us (Romans 10:11). This is because only God will love us
with a pure and unconditional love. Only God knows every desire of our heart.
And only God knows what is the best for us. But God does work through people
and if we want to experience all of God’s blessings then we will have to have
close, working relationships with other people. You will have to learn to
expect that people will fail you at times just as you have disappointed other
people at times also. But even still, many people have good hearts and only
want to do the best for you.
may have to start slowly but you can learn to trust people again. But you must
be careful not to expect a perfect record from everyone at every time or else
you will give up completely. Allow others to fail just as you expect others to
let you fail.
Loss of God’s leading and direction. You
may have believed that you knew God’s will for your life concerning this
person. You may have felt that it just seemed “right.” Now you do not know what
to think about God’s plans for your life. You may begin to doubt if you ever
correctly recognized God’s will in anything.
of the Bible’s greatest heroes misunderstood God’s will. When Jesus was being
betrayed by Judas, Peter attacked the crowd with his sword not recognizing
Jesus’ many previous references to His necessary death. Abraham was told to
leave his home in Ur of the Chaldeans and go to
the land of Canaan. He did, but then he kept going
and wound up in Egypt
for a while.
your confidence in knowing God’s leading in your life has been shaken then go
back to the basics and study how God leads people. Maybe you have been over
emphasizing signs. Maybe you were taking every little thing that went
positively and used that as a sign from God that this was His will. What you
may not have realized is that you were filtering and coloring those signs
through your own wishes. I knew one woman who thought that she and this other
guy were destined for each other because he said hello to her at a party. When
she found out a few weeks later that he was engaged to someone else she was
you were over emphasizing your emotions. Just because you felt good around him
does not mean that it was God’s will for marriage. A sense of “But we seemed
made for each other” does not mean that it was a match made in Heaven.
one evening you blindly opened up your Bible, pointed your finger to a verse
and then used it to somehow confirm that “this is the one.” Believe me, God’s
will is usually not that easily determined.
are many ways that you can interrupt or spin God’s will to match what you want.
However, this does not mean that you have completely lost all ability to hear
God’s voice. What it may simply mean is that you got overly caught up in just
this one situation.
you want to regain your confidence in knowing God’s will? Then spent a lot of
time each day in prayer, in reading and studying God’s word, in worship, and in
meditating. Also, do not neglect going to church, from serving, and from
fellowshipping with others. These are the things that will bring God close to
Feeling of having been taken advantage of.
You gave your time, your emotions, your hopes, and possibly even your love to
this person and now he has jettisoned you. And what do you have to show for it?
Most of the time you feel that you are left empty handed and wondering why you
are such a giving person. But in most relationships both sides have given to
the other. In this breakup both sides have lost something; you are not the only
one. But during and through the relationship both of you have gained something
also. It is futile to try and determine who gave the most or who lost the most.
The relationship is over. It is time to learn what you can from it and move on.
some cases you may have given far more to the relationship. Maybe you were
dumped for someone else and now he is enjoying someone else’s company and you
are alone. Even then, if you try and get your pound of flesh from him it will
only result in your own destruction. Do what is right, obey God, and He will
bless you. The issue is not what he is doing but what you are doing. In John 21
Peter became overly concerned about what another one of the disciples was
doing. He asked, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus’ rebuke in verse 21
was, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow
Me!” In the same way after a broken relationship we may ask, “Lord, look how
much I gave and I wound up empty and hurt and he is doing well. What are you
going to do about it?” I believe that Jesus’ response would be the same, “If I
allow him to be blessed , what is that to you? You follow Me!”
Denial. There are two major ways that
you can be in denial. One is to deny that the break up ever occurred. You may
insist in your mind that he really did not mean it; that he was crazed at the
time and will shortly regain his senses. This is dangerous because it prevents
you from dealing honestly with the situation and moving on. I knew one person
who, after being told that there was no interest, still hung on for years
thinking that God will miraculously change his heart. She believed that God
told her (supposedly) that this was His choice for her. She reasoned,
therefore, that God would do whatever was necessary to bring him around to his
destiny. First of all, we must be careful when it comes to God speaking to us
regarding our destiny with another person. Can we be absolutely positive that
it was not God speaking to us but simply our own wishes and desires? Secondly,
even if this was God’s choice the Bible nowhere states that God will force
someone to become interested in another person.
one person has ended a relationship then it is reasonable to wait for a short
time to see if maybe he did make a mistake. Maybe he had some undue pressure on
him from his job or school and felt a bit overwhelmed at the time and so made a
foolish and rash decision. Or maybe he got a sudden case of cold feet but then
quickly overcame it. Or maybe someone gave him some false information about you
that he acted too quickly on but then discovered that it was wrong information.
There can be a number of reasons as to why someone may break up with you but
then realize his folly and want to restore the relationship. But this waiting
period should be short. How long that waiting period should last may depend on
how long you were together and how prone he is to this sort of behavior. But it
should not go on for months. At some point you need to realize that it is indeed
over and you need to heal.
second major point of denial is to deny the pain. As a Christian, especially,
you may think that it is more spiritual to simply “Praise God” for His perfect
will in delivering you out of a potentially bad situation and cheerfully move
on. There is nothing unspiritual about feeling hurt and pain. Anguish in not
necessarily wrong. Sorrow is not necessarily a punishment from God. The first
step to healing is to be able to say “I hurt.”
Desperation. We have just been given the
boot and now our self-esteem is in the dumps. A sense of desperation may be
especially acute if the other person has already started dating or is marrying
someone else. We may then think that the quickest way to recovery is to get
someone else to fill that spot. This is rarely a good idea. We first need to
heal and put away any wrong attitudes from that broken relationship. If you
think that your “ex” was poison and you have not forgiven him then you will
bring that poison into your next relationship.
will also lead to making foolish mistakes. You want or “need” someone quickly
and so you will lower your standards just to broaden the selection process. And
so you will settle for a non-Christian (“he does go to church!”), or you
propose to someone that you hardly know, or you become a “wolf” and hit on
practically any woman that you meet. You have become less interested in meeting
the right person as in just meeting someone at all no matter what the cost.
is important here to step back and take a deep breath. Get yourself together
first and then you will be ready to make wise decisions. If you are still
reeling from that previous relationship then a new one will most likely only
add to the chaos. You are not yet who you really are; you are still someone who
is in pain and might be confused as to how to handle the next relationship. It
is better to wait and to be able to present the best person that you can be to
any of these above attitudes, if you are struggling deeply with them and they
are profoundly affecting your life then you should seek Christian counseling.
This is especially true if you have been wrestling with them for a long time.
Why might you
feel anger over a broken relationship? It might be because you feel that you
have just been treated wrongly and that you deserve to be treated better than
that. It might be because you feel that you have invested a lot of time and
emotion into that relationship and now it appears that it was all a waste of
time. It might be because you have had your hopes and dreams shattered into
millions of shards of glass. And
sometimes it might be because it helps you to avoid self-examination.
So now you are
angry. But anger must have an outlet and probably that other person is out of
your life or is not around enough to absorb all of your scorching rays. So your
anger starts hitting other members of your family or friends or people at
church or at work.
How might this
anger be manifested?
You do not take anything that is said or done in
a good way; everything is quickly analyzed to be an attack on you. An innocent
remark that a few months ago would have been overlooked now conjures up the
thought, “What is that supposed to mean?”
You take less time to consider a response to
someone; you’re more likely to snap back. This may manifest itself in explosive
Unrealistic expectations may be applied to
people as to how they should act around you or what they should say. There is a
sense of demand or obligation. And if these expectations are not met then you
become highly critical of that person, which may manifest itself through facial
expressions or gestures or unseemly words.
You may find yourself being more aggressive and
And you may be more frustrated. Catching a red
light can always be annoying; now it is a catastrophe possibly invoking many
curses. The slightest annoyance produces a gnashing of teeth or a clenching of
the jaw. And if anything does not go perfectly well then its proof that the
whole world is against you.
happened to you (as you see it) and now you are taking it out on everyone else.
That one relationship has adversely affected all of your other relationships.
is, of course, a righteous anger that is aimed at sin. This anger is generally
short-lived. The anger that we are dealing with here exists more because
someone has hurt us rather than because some terrible sin has occurred. In
their hurting us they may have sinned but this is not really why we are angry
and we need to be careful not to deceive ourselves by justifying our anger
because there might have been some sin involved. The truth is that we are mad
because a key relationship has been severed.
The Bible clearly
speaks about this wrong kind of anger. Notice what it says the solution is.
Psalm 37:8, “Cease from anger, and forsake
wrath; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing.”
Ecclesiastes 7:9, “Do not be eager in your heart
to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools.”
Colossians 3:8, “But now you also, put them all
aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”
The Biblical injunction is
clear. Simply stop being angry. Learn to hold your tongue. And when your thoughts
are becoming critical towards another person learn to ask yourself, “What am I
doing? I’ve got to stop this.”
The anger that we are
talking about is one that was created by a broken relationship and is not one
that may have be built up by years of ongoing trauma or is caused by alcohol or
Notice how anger is
equated to a fire in the Bible. In Proverbs 15:18 anger is synonymous with
being “hot-tempered.” In Proverbs 29:8 it is similar to setting a city aflame.
Anger may start off smoldering like coals but if left unchecked it will destroy
a person like a fire.
There are two
ways that we can inappropriately apply blame.
One is vilify the
other person by placing all of the blame for the broken relationship on them.
In your mind, everything that went wrong was because they blew it.
He was the one who was critical.
She was the one was nasty.
He was the one who was unwilling to resolve the
It was not your
You were the one who was insensitively thrown
You were the one who only did what was right but
was taken advantage of.
You tried everything that you could to salvage
the relationship. You were simply the victim.
Why do we blame the other
One reason is
because, in our insecurities and arrogance, we do not want to admit that the
mistake was ours; that we caused a big part of the problem. We all want to be
accepted and loved. We all want to be well thought of. But how can that happen
if we are full of faults?
might be a resistance to accepting responsibility. To say, “Yes, I was wrong at
this part” means the need to change there and possibly to ask for forgiveness.
The first may be difficult because when someone is brokenhearted the last thing
that they want to do is think about changing some aspect of their lives. All
that they might be concerned about right now is survival. But to see wrong in
something that you have done does not mean that you must immediately sit down
and draw up a project and a schedule for how to implement this change. God
understands that you first may need to heal.
As for asking for
forgiveness; that is never easy and can be quite grating especially if the
other person was the aggressor and initiator of the split. But we must seek
forgiveness not so much for the sake of the other person but for our own
Cancer Society that says that the five deadliest words in the English language
are “Maybe it will go away.” This is because if you have a terrible disease and
are complacent about it then it will most likely grow and become worse. Then
you, and everyone around you, will suffer even more.
Well, the five
most deadly words in Christianity might be, “It is not my fault.” Why? If you
are not a Christian then this will prevent you from coming to God. Salvation
requires an admittance of sin. If you think that you have no sin then you will
not think that you need a Savior. If you are a Christian, then this will hinder
your fellowship with God.
You may also
think that since you feel badly that someone must be to blame and since it
should not be you then it must be the other person. But sometimes there really
is not anyone to blame. Sometimes the best course to take in breaking up a
relationship will require unavoidable hurt and will not be the fault of either
party. Just because your heart has been broken does not mean that the other
person sinned against you.
Sometimes it is
true that one person is more to blame than the other. One person may have had a
hidden problem with anger or with alcohol or gambling. That situation will
require forgiveness and healing. But most of the time it is closer to something
like 60/40. Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first
to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.” That
applies when you are listening to others and when you are listening to
If you think that broken relationships are always
the other person’s fault then you will 1) become a mistrusting and critical
person. That is because you will sharpen your eye to watch for the bad
in others. And 2) you will rarely change for the better because you will rarely
see the wrong in your own life.
Perhaps the most obvious
Biblical case of inappropriately applying blame is seen in Genesis 3 after Adam
and Eve committed the first sin by taking the forbidden fruit from the tree of
the knowledge of good and evil. In Genesis 3:12 we read, “And the man said,
‘The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I
ate.’” The first person that Adam blamed was Eve. The first words out of his
mouth were “The woman.” Then the second person that Adam blamed was God. He
said, “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me” implying that God should have
known better. There was a third person present but Adam does not even mention
him. That is because it was himself.
relationships break up often, but not always, the order of blame is 1) the
other person, 2) God, and finally 3) ourselves.
Then in verse 13
we read, “Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’
And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” So Eve blamed the
only other creature left; the serpent.
set the record straight by acknowledging that the man, the woman and also the
serpent were to blame.
The second way to
inappropriately apply blame is to blame yourself for everything. This attitude
can be just as deadly as placing all of the blame on the other person. Some
people rather than lashing out at everyone else will instead beat and condemn
themselves. This can produce or amplify a feeling of self-loathing. It is often
accompanied with the thought of, “I can’t do anything right.”
self-guilt will only deter the healing process because you will focus all of
your attention on what a louse you are instead of seeking the grace and
forgiveness of God.
It also makes
change more difficult because instead of only one or two areas of fault that
need to be changed there is the person’s entire character. This would be such a
daunting task that a feeling of defeat would be more prevalent than a
determination to initiate a process to change.
it would be highly unlikely for one person to be wholly to blame. A much more
successful course of action would be to truthfully determine what it is that
you did wrong and then to set a course of action to learn from it and to
change. If you are having difficulty determining this then have a friend or
counselor who is familiar with the situation help you to correctly pinpoint
what, if any, you did wrong.
God may have broken up
that relationship because He knew to what disaster it was headed towards. But
maybe God did not have anything to do with the breakup. God is not to blame for
everything. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work
together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to
His purpose.” Notice that the verse does not stop after “And we know that God
causes all things.” If tent caterpillars eat the leaves off of a tree we do not
say, “God sent those caterpillars to kill that tree.” Instead we say that
caterpillars ate the leaves. Many things happen because God has set in motion a
universe governed by natural and supernatural laws. Unfortunately, sin has
perverted many of the effects of those laws and so bad can occur with the good.
It will only
serve you best to think rightly about what happened that caused the breakup.
If you wrongly blame the other person then that
will only lead to anger and bitterness.
If you wrongly blame God then you know little of
His love and concern.
If you wrongly blame yourself then you will feel
helpless because you cannot change that which does not exist.
But if you rightly blame the other person then
you can forgive.
If you rightly blame God then you can rest in
His wisdom for the situation.
And if you rightly blame yourself then you can
change that which exists and become more like Christ.
You need work on being a better
friend if you:
Find most if
not all of your friendships ending quickly.
other people are privileged to have you as their friend.
friends solely on what you can get with no consideration for what you can give.
one of your friends to another one of your friends.
Think of all
of the negative characteristics and actions of your friends when you are away
Are bored and
distracted whenever you are around your friends.
of excuses for not being able to help out a friend.
secrets of a friend to others.
friends to always do what you want to do or you get mad.
belittle, or verbally or physically abuse or annoy those whom you are with.
your friends only when it is convenient for you.
everyone else should pay your way.
This is slightly
similar to the previous point.
order to hold a grudge you have to believe that the other person did something
wrong otherwise you might seem petty and stupid even to yourself. So you try to
force sin into the other person’s actions and motives when, in fact, there was
no real sin involved. All of this just makes you seem more the victim and they
to be more the villain.
are prone to doing this then heed seriously Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call
evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for
darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” God does not
take lightly those who fabricate sin in other people’s lives.
Why would you
want to do this? One reason might be because they hurt you and so you want them
to feel the same pain.
There are many
things that you can do to try and hurt the other person. We will take a quick
look at three of these ways but there are many others. However, keep in mind
that these are not listed here to give you ideas to try out.
Spreading vicious rumors. You might go
to the pastor or staff at church and tell them bad things about the person.
These will usually be something that is a character flaw but which you have
exaggerated to seem more insidious than it really is. The question is, if these
things were so bad then why did not you go to the staff with them when the
relationship was going well? The obvious reason is because now you are just
being malicious and hurtful.
Or you might tell
too many people about what he did to you and how insensitive he was and so on
and so forth. You are hoping that other people will take your side and turn
against him. In your mind, if he so callously pushed you aside then he deserves
to lose all of his friends. Then he will see how he likes it.
Exodus 23:1 says,
“You shall not bear a false report; do not
join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.” Notice that
this verse speaks not only about not spreading a false report but not even
listening to one. Also, even a report that is partially true but which has been
exaggerated is still a false report.
Destroying his belongings or sabotage.
You may still have some of his belongings. The right thing to do is to return
them possibly using a third party if necessary. The wrong thing to do would be
to destroy some of those belongings and dump them on his front porch or to
throw them away.
You may also want
to damage his car or his house or something else that he values. This is wrong.
Even if he was completely to blame for the breakup and was horrifically
insensitive in how he did it, it is still incumbent upon you to be gracious and
do what is right. Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome
evil with good.” That evil that you need to overcome is not only the evil that
he might have done but also the evil in your own heart and mind that you want
Wishing him to suffer harm. When you
hear that something bad happens to him then you are glad and feel that it is
God rightly punishing him for how he treated you. But if something good happens
to him then it only increases your bitterness or proves to you even more so
that life is unfair. This vengeance is not one of action but of attitude.
However, that attitude can destroy you. It forces you to obsessively watch the
other person’s every move and then to overanalyze the results. This person
should not be your enemy but either way Proverbs 24:17 applies, “Do not rejoice
when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.”
Violence. You may become so angry that
you feel that the only justice to the situation is violence. This violence
might be physical, verbal, or emotional. Whatever the case, this is always a terrible
thing to do. If you feel that you must attack the other person in any way then
you must see a counselor as soon as possible. If you proceed with the violence
then you will find yourself face-to-face with the wrath of God and possibly
even the police.
Stalking. This may involve actually
following that person around. Or it may be calling up many times using
different phones and always hanging up when he answers. Or calling at all hours
of the night. Or leaving threatening, anonymous notes all over. There are many
ways that you can stalk a person. They are all wrong. If you have these urges
then you need to tell someone who will hold you accountable and you need to
This one can be
the most tricky because people do break up and then get back together again and
then everything works out great. But there are also times when one hangs on to
hope that does not exist and spends months, if not years, wishing for a reunion
that will never come. In the meantime other opportunities are lost and much
despair and heartache is maintained rather than released. Proverbs 13:12a
describes this condition with the usual Biblical vigor, “Hope deferred makes
the heart sick”
How do you know
when to let go of hope? Unfortunately that will vary greatly depending on the
circumstances and the people involved and so no one can give a definite
checklist. However there are some general principles that we can consider.
One principle that might help is to seek the
advice of others to see what they think or from someone who knows the other
person. Of course people can easily misread a situation or another person’s
heart and motives and so you must always be careful.
Consider that even if you did get back together
would the relationship be so damaged that it would take a lot of mending to
even bring it back to the way that it was before and is it worth that much
Are you holding on because you think that the
two of you are perfect for each other or because you do not think that anyone
else would ever want you? If the latter then that is a wrong reason.
Determine if your hope is even reasonable. If
she married someone else or moved away and is not maintaining contact then I
would strongly suggest moving on.
If moving on to other opportunities does not
destroy the potential of the two of you getting back together then why not see
how you match up with others? Locking your eyes on only one person may mean not
seeing other opportunities that may be even better. Just because you have
always fished at one pond, by trying out a different lake does not mean that
you cannot come back to the original pond.
But realize that
even if you do move on that does not mean that you are necessarily putting to
death any chance of getting back together again. What it does mean is that you
are opening up yourself to other relationships including that one.
This is very
common and is often invoked because of one of four possible motives.
One is that you do not want to deal with the person
because often that is too painful. This can certainly be legitimate to a
degree. Talking to that person or even seeing that person can bring back
yearnings that stab at your heart.
The second is that you want the other person to know
how much you are hurt. You want them to see how much their decision affected
you and how miserable you are now because of it.
The third is because you want to hurt the other person
in return by treating him like a dog. You feel that he kicked you out of the
way and now you want to return the sentiment, so to speak.
The fourth is that you want to show him that you do not
need him after all and that you can easily eliminate him from your life.
Though the first
reason does have some merit since there is nothing saintly in self-torture,
even here you should be careful in going too far. Though you do not have to
hold conversations with him there is no need to be unfriendly.
But for the last
three reasons I would say that these are probably sin and should not even be
entertained for a moment.
If your hope is
to win that person back then acting like a jerk certainly will not accomplish
that and if you have truly moved on then there is no reason to demonstrate your
You had a
relationship that you thought was going somewhere but now it is over and you
feel ripped up. And now you are going to make sure that everyone knows just how
badly you feel and how rotten he is for making you feel that way. So you tell
your story and you get a few sympathetic ears, but the response is not as
extreme as you had hoped.
No one fell on your shoulders and wept bitterly
for your anguish.
No one spit venom every time his name was
mentioned and then viciously ground it into the floor shrieking invectives.
No one sat on the edge of their chairs and after
every sentence threw their hands up into the air and screamed “I can’t believe
this! Go on!”
So you had to
juice it up a bit. You became more and more the innocent victim who was left
practically for dead while he sneered and cackled and seemed to almost revel in
your pain. But you must not play with the facts simply to suit your own
purpose. You need to realize that it could be possible that you simply overly
analyzed or misread some circumstances.
That he went out with you more than once did not
mean that he led you on.
That he sent you some cutesy notes was not
necessarily his way of telling you that he was head-over-heals in love with
That he held your hand or maybe even kissed you
was not a promise of eternal fidelity.
you must exaggerate the situation then that should show you how much you are
making a molehill into a mountain. This is not to be glib about your emotions
because emotions are always valid. But what you are probably doing is enflaming
those emotions by these acts of exaggeration. If you deal with reality then
you, by the grace of God, will find a solution to it. But if you deal with
exaggerations and fantasies then it is no surprise that you are not getting
over this any sooner because God will not necessarily give you the grace to
heal yourself from your own self inflicted wounds.
C.S. Lewis in his
book “The Four Loves” said this:
Even if it were
granted that insurances against heartbreak were our highest wisdom, does God
Himself offer them? Apparently not. Christ comes at last to say “Why hast thou
There is no safe
investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart
will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of
keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.
Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all
entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But
in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be
broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative
to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place
outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and
perturbations of love is Hell.
You may wish to
guard your heart against hurt but in doing so you will also block it from joy.
It is far better to have your heart broken a thousand times from love than to
callous it once, forever. The problem with trying to guard your heart from
feeling hurt is that you will keep it from feeling at all.
says, “And a woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and had endured
much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was
not helped at all, but rather had grown worse.” Here was a woman who had a
terrible condition. She tried many times for a solution but instead had
“endured much.” Those two words have the meaning in the Greek of suffering
pain. The treatment for an enduring hemorrhage as described in the Talmud was
quite painful. So she had pain not only from the condition but from its
treatment also. Yet, she persisted. It also says that she had spent all that
she had. This condition cost her everything and so she had no more money to try
anything else. Seemingly, she was defeated and without hope for a cure.
But then we read
verses 27-29, “after hearing about Jesus, came up in the crowd behind Him, and
touched His cloak. For she thought, ‘If I just touch His garments, I shall get
well.’ And immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her
body that she was healed of her affliction.” In God she found a cure.
This story is not
about relationships but the principles can be applied. A person may be
unmarried and desperately wanting a family. She may try everything and only
comes away with hurt and anguish every time. She may finally come to the end of
her rope where all of her emotions are spent and she loses all hope. But even
then, God can come through. God does not need robust emotions to work. He does
not need our money to accomplish His purposes. He is not discouraged by our
failures for a cure. He can accomplish great things even when we have nothing
left. But what He does desire is for us to try. That woman would never have
been cured if she had given up and simply watched Jesus walk by.
What this story
is not saying is that we must come to the end of our rope before God will step
in. It is not saying that we should disregard physicians for health problems
nor should we ignore counselors for emotional problems. Nor is it saying that,
ultimately, God will always come through and give us exactly what we want.
This is a story
of endurance and hope. It is a story that tells us not to give up because we
eventually might be blessed with what we desire.
Many times I have
heard people say, “Once you stop trying then God will give you a spouse.” I
believe that this is not Biblical. God does not reward sloth nor does He reward
a lack of effort.
Let us take a
look at Exodus 14:10-17.
10 And as Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were
marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel
cried out to the LORD.
11 Then they said to Moses, "Is it because
there were no graves in Egypt
that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with
us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?
12 "Is this not the word that we spoke to
you in Egypt,
saying, 'Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'? For it would have
been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness."
Here was the
situation where God had miraculously delivered Israel from the oppressive hand of
the Egyptians and brought them out of there. But then Pharaoh got his chariots
together and pursued them to the edge of the Red Sea.
The people were frightened so what did they do? Did they quote promises of
God’s protection and love? Did they pray? Did they ask Moses for counsel? No,
they accused God of playing games with them. Suddenly God was the cause of all
of their problems and their conclusion was that their lives would have been
better if God was not in the picture.
Have you ever
been like that? Did you ever think with disgust, “Why is God doing this to me?”
Then you have been like that. After feeling particularly spiritual and then
having things go wrong did you ever say, “I’ve tried to be really good and I’ve
done everything that I think that I should and this is the reward that I get?”
Then you have been like that.
What was Moses’
response to this? It is important that we see what happens here.
13 But Moses said to the people, "Do not
fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for
you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them
14 "The LORD will fight for you while you
Moses told the
people to step back and let God take over the situation. It sounds like our
“Let go and let God.” This is how we all want it to happen. We just want to be
able to step aside and let God solve the problem completely. Is not this our
usual expectation of God when we are in a crisis or a difficult time? “OK God,
I’m stuck here. Now it’s your turn. You saw that I’ve done my best and it
didn’t solve the problem so now you’re going to have to fix it. I’ll just stay
out of your way.”
But read verse 15
and look at God’s response to this.
15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you
crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.”
God is saying
here, “Don’t think that it’s going to be as easy as you stepping aside and
expecting Me to do all of the work. You’ve got a part to play here also. I do
not want you to step aside; I want you to go forward.”
What was forward
in this case? It was the Red Sea. God does not
want us to “Let go and let God.” God wants us to “Move forward and let God.”
All too often nothing is improving because we have only done one or two things,
if even that, to solve the situation and when that does not solve everything
then we want to throw it all into God’s hands and if God does not come through
then it is His fault.
16 “And as for you, lift up your staff and
stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall
go through the midst of the sea on dry land.
17 “And as for Me, behold, I will harden the
hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be
honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his
Do you notice
what is going on here? God is assigning everyone a role. The Israelites had to
move forward. Moses had to lift up his staff. And God had to work on the hearts
of the Egyptians. God will be patient and God will be merciful but God will not
honor quitting or laziness. Sometimes when we are blaming God it is because we
have not done what we are supposed to and are expecting God to do practically
“God, I’ve lost my job and I’ve been unemployed
for quite a while. Have you lost Your touch?”
“God, my health hasn’t been the greatest lately
and I’m not getting any better. Don’t You care?”
“God, this relationship fell apart and I’m
suffering. Why aren’t You making me feel better?”
If we know God we
will know what He promises and what He does not. We will know what God expects
us to do and what He will take care of Himself. The more that we know God the
more we will be convinced that God has good plans for us. Our response then
will be to trust Him even more.
often the culmination of many of these previous attitudes. It is broader and
more encompassing than any one of the above conditions. It is also deeper and
more destructive. Your anger has become quicker. Your blame is more absolute.
It can lead to many additional wrong attitudes such as:
You are never wrong or sinful. You will always
have an excuse for your behavior. If someone says that you are angry you will
claim that you are just tired. If someone points specific things that are wrong
you will claim that they just do not understand what you are going through. And
if someone does actually catch you in the wrong and you are without excuse then
you brush it aside claiming that you have too much to think about right now.
You can develop paranoia. You think that
everyone is just looking to stick it to you and that includes God. Every little
thing in life that does not work out perfectly well is simply another example
of how God wants to oppress you; even if those things are common, everyday
occurrences that happened to you frequently in the past.
You become overly critical. The pastor now seems
to be full of himself. Or church is now doing everything wrong. The worship
songs are too slow or too fast or too predictable. Complaining about other
people has become your favorite pastime. Your job is a mess, your family is
annoying, and on and on. And the deeper that the bitterness becomes the more
biting our criticisms will be.
You begin losing friends and family. Either they
start staying away from you or you refuse to deal with them anymore. The latter
could be spurred by something simple such as they said or did something that
was not the utmost to your liking and so that somehow proved that they do not
really care about you anymore. What you are doing is making everything that
people say or do to be a test of their loyalty and utmost sensitivity to your
situation. And if they fail, even if what they did was perfectly reasonable,
then away with them. To you, they are no longer caring and worthy.
says, “See to it that no one comes short of
the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and
by it many be defiled.” This verse harks back to Deuteronomy 29:18. What flows
from the root flows into the entire plant. So if the root is spewing poison
then the entire plant from its fruit to its leaves will be poisonous. Many sins
can be shallow, but bitterness always runs deep. Bitterness will always affect
everything that we do.
There is only one power that can wash deep enough
to get even to the roots and that is grace. Light can shine on the surface of
the plant but it cannot get to the roots. Grace is similar to water. It
can not only wash the surface but it can also run deep into the soil to the
roots. But as long as water hits something that does not have a hollow in it
the water will keep going. Water will never gather in an object that is already
full or already full of itself. Grace is the same way. Psalm 81:10 says, “Open
your mouth wide and I will fill it.” Grace will never force its way in. We must
open ourselves up to it and receive it. God does not want our lives to be empty
but He does want us to get rid of those things that fill up the hollows that
grace should fill. Those things may be sins such as lust or jealously or any of
the deeds of the flesh as described in Galatians 5:19-21. Or they may be things
that may not necessarily be bad in themselves but which done to excess can
deplete our time and our focus. They might be excessive television watching, an
obsession with sports, or giving your life to your job.
To overcome bitterness
we first need to recognize it and realize how much harm it is doing to us and
to those around us. Then we need to pray to God for the grace and power to
repent and do what is right. In some cases that may require some apologies or
restoration to others. It may be a hard process but God’s grace is sufficient.
we have lost a key relationship usually we have a huge hole in our lives. This
emptiness will probably encompass areas such as our social life, our emotions,
our psychological well being, our thoughts, our plans, and our spiritual life.
Because of the way that we were created we find it difficult to exist with such
large gaps. Matthew 12:43-45 is interesting. It reads, “Now when the unclean
spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and
does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’;
and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it
goes, and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and
they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than
the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.” This
passage is dealing with removing an unclean spirit or a sinful habit from our
lives and not replacing it with something positive. But the main principle that
Jesus was teaching here also applies to relationships. Notice the key word in
verse 44—“unoccupied.” When we expel or lose something important in our lives
there is a gap and that gap will be filled with something. If we are not
careful then something worse will fill in as in the example that Jesus taught.
And this is true for relationships.
Sometimes when we
lose someone special we are unable to cope properly with the loss and we fill
that hole with something wrong. This may be alcohol, drugs, cigarettes,
pornography, sexual promiscuity, or perhaps something like frequently going to
bars, binge or constant eating, extravagant shopping, or watching mind-numbing
television. These activities may help us to forget our pain for a time but
ultimately they will strangle our lives like ever tightening cords. And the
longer we maintain this behavior the harder it will be to break.
If you are
already caught in the vise of one of these additions then you need to become
involved in Christian counseling and in a support group. Gaining control over
any of these sins is beyond the scope of this book. However, it is necessary
for you to realize ahead of time that this is one of the potential pitfalls of
a broken relationship and so to recognize it before you fall into it. If you
know that you are prone to any of these then try and do your best to remove the
temptation. If you are tempted to drinking then remove all alcohol. If you are
tempted by pornography on the Internet then give your keyboard to someone to
keep for a while. Learn to take walks or call up friends until the temptation
God wants to fill
that hole with something wonderful that you probably have never had before; do
not obstruct His goodness with the trash of the world.
you are anything like me then when something like this happens you will replay
every event, every word, and every possible course of action until you are
almost crazy. Unfortunately, as time goes on, many of these memories will
distort more and more to our favor whether that is to make him look more like a
louse or you to be more the victim. What was once innocent, playful talk is now
seen as mixed signals. The time when he was a few minutes late now appears to
be an indication of severe disrespect.
is a benefit to pondering what happened in order to see possible warning signs,
consider words or actions from you that were wrong, or better ways to have
cushioned the ending. It is good to evaluate the situation. But this exercise
is for us to learn and grow rather than to attribute greater blame.
can easily find yourself picking at every little thing that he said. All of a
sudden you are discovering lies upon lies on his part. Maybe this is true in
which case you should now be more sensitive to what is being said in the next
situation rather than being blinded by charm. But if it is not true and you are
simply trying to valid what a dirtball he is then you need to stop.
may have a thought such as, “He started holding my hand on the second date.
Obviously, he was never interested and he was only leading me on.” Maybe you
should not put a negative and horrific spin on everything that he said and did
and consider what may even be the more obvious truth. In this case maybe he was
sincerely interested by the second date but as time progressed he felt more
uncomfortable with how he viewed the relationship and so felt the need to break
it off. So his holding your hand on the second date was not some malicious
setup but rather an overly eager show of sincere interest.
the situation over and over again will only lead to either deeper anger or an
extended pity-party. You can try and destroy him in your mind but what you will
ultimately do is only destroy yourself.
3:13 says, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but
one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies
ahead.” We will never become better while we are stuck in the past. We will
never grow and become more like Christ if we are obsessed with what is over and
done with rather than what lies ahead. We will never heal while we pick at the
similar problem is trying to determine who hurts the most. This is futile. It
serves no purpose. Even if you are able to determine that you are suffering
worse than he is then this will probably only further deepen your anger and
bitterness. But if you somehow conclude that he is taking it worse than you are
then what useful purpose is that? More than likely you will think, “Good, he
deserves to suffer.” Besides, the truth is that you cannot get into someone
else’s head. There can be ten different and valid reasons for why something was
said so how can you determine which one was the correct one anyway? Besides,
more than likely you will choose the one that best suits what you want to think
anyway. Expending thought and energy on this will only delay your healing.
So here we looked
at some possible improper responses to a broken relationship. These are things
that can easily send our spiritual, emotional, and psychological lives into a
tailspin. These responses differ in many ways but in them all we can see one
common thread and that is that God is no longer being sought and trusted and
that the person’s emotions are allowed to be the master of their lives. If we
let them, our emotions can rise and fall with the fury of a storm on the sea
while we are just a small ship being yanked to and fro with no control going
wherever we are taken to. Or they can be like water in a basin that can be used
and controlled by us.
But we must
realize that if we do respond in any of these wrong ways it is not because we
were forced to. Sin is never thrust upon us as an irresistible force. We are
never allowed to say, “Of course I was bitter, wouldn’t you be?” These
attitudes need to be quickly recognized and quickly dealt with. Any one of them
are destructive and as long as we maintain any of them the healing from that
broken relationship will only be delayed.
as improper behavior and attitudes will delay healing so right behavior and
attitudes will quicken healing. Listed below are some of the proper responses
that will open us up to God’s grace and healing.
This is perhaps
the key point. As we have previously discussed, we were created for
relationships and when one relationship has hurt you badly you do not want it
to happen again. So you have a tendency to withdraw from other relationships so
as not to be hurt by them also. But ultimately, this is the worst thing that
you can do.
John the Baptist and Jesus were close relatives they grew up together and were
probably best friends. Herod put John into prison because he did not like
John’s accusations of Herod’s adultery. Then on Herod’s birthday (the only
birthday party mentioned in the Bible) John was beheaded. We can see this event
in Matthew 14:10-14, “And he [Herod] sent and had John beheaded in the prison.
And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl; and she brought it
to her mother. And his disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and
they went and reported to Jesus. Now when Jesus heard it, He withdrew from
there in a boat, to a lonely place by Himself; and when the multitudes heard of
this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. And when He went ashore, He
saw a great multitude, and felt compassion for them, and healed their sick.”
suffered the loss of a close relationship He went off by Himself. And when you
suffer the loss of a close relationship God does not expect you to simply shrug
it off and go on with your life. You are allowed to grieve privately. There is
nothing unspiritual about being alone with your emotions. Even spiritual giants
when they get the boot do not think, “I just got dumped. Well, praise God. Now
that leaves me more time to serve. What ministry should I join next?” No, they
But notice that
Jesus did not stay alone for very long. I am sure that He was still hurting
when He came back. He would have had shallow emotions indeed if it only took
Him a few hours to completely get over the death of His friend. That time alone
did not solve everything. But He did come back even though He was still hurting
and we can see in verse 14 that when He came back He saw a great multitude that
had followed Him. People were probably yelling, “Jesus, Jesus, over here. Come
help me.” Now if this was one of us what would we have done? We probably would
have said something like, “Oh come on! Do you have to follow me everywhere?
Look, my best friend just had his head cut off. Can’t you people just leave me
alone for once?” Then we would probably have used the opportunity to tell them
just how bad things were going for us.
But look at
Jesus’ response. He “felt compassion for them, and healed their sick.” This is
the heart of God. He put aside His burdens, His grieves, His problems and He
ministered to others. His heart was instantly filled with compassion for them.
And He healed them. Probably most in the crowd were not having as bad of a day
as He was. But He did not weigh His day versus their day. He did not weigh His
problems versus their problems. He did not think of how annoying they can be.
Instead, He emptied Himself for their sakes.
not saying that when you lose a relationship that you should never talk about
it. But what it is saying is that at some point after you have grieved alone
that you need to come back to life and be with other people. This is a key to
getting over a destroyed relationship. You may need more than one day, but the
criteria for coming back is not that you are completely over it. You should
come back even when you are still hurting. You must not isolate yourself for
too long; you should help others and let others help you.
in his article “The Age of Indifference” in Psychology
I know of no more
potent killer than isolation. There is no more destructive influence on
physical and mental health than the isolation of you from me and of us from
them. It has been shown to be a central agent in the etiology of depression,
paranoia, schizophrenia, rape, suicide, mass murder, and a wide variety of
says, “He who separates himself seeks his own desire, He quarrels against all
sound wisdom.” To separate yourself from others for too long is unhealthy. If
we translated the first half of this verse as the Hebrew implies we could
write, “He who breaks away from people seeks to possess and enjoy only
himself.” The more that you isolate yourself the more you will become
self-focused and the less likely you will enjoy the blessings of God and of other
Yes, it is good
to be alone; to gather your thoughts and your emotions, but that should not go
on for days and weeks and months. You need to come back and return to others.
The best way to heal from a broken relationship is not to remove other relationships
but to draw strength from those that you do have including God’s.
is essential to a complete and peaceful healing. Without prayer we will feel
left alone. We will tend to think that God is out to get us because we have
severed ourselves from His loving and reassuring fellowship. We will be
struggling to overcome something terrible in our own strength and cunning. Any
of these will lead to anxiety.
all times we should pray but especially when we are in a crisis. Philippians
4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” This verse contains
all four New Testament Greek words for prayer. So what God is saying is that
when we are feeling anxious we should pray, pray, pray, and pray. This is God’s
we pray we will be comforted by God’s presence. We will be given power to save
us from our thoughts and emotions. We will deepen our faith to trust in God’s
love and concern.
breaking up with someone causes you to harbor ill feelings towards that person.
As was discussed earlier, you can have feelings of bitterness, anger, revenge,
hatred, maliciousness, and so on. These wrong feelings may eat you up even
worse than the initial emotions that you felt when you first broke up. If you
do not learn to master your thoughts then your thoughts will become the master
that holds the leash and then they will drag you and pull you and twist you in
whatever direction they choose. Uncontrolled thoughts will be like a herd of
deer in your vegetable garden; they will destroy everything. Or as Song of
Songs 2:15 puts it, “Catch the foxes for us, The little foxes that are ruining
the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom.” Our emotions can be like
those little foxes.
the crucial verse in the Bible on controlling our thought life is 2 Corinthians
10:5, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against
the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience
of Christ.” What is perhaps the best way to control ill thoughts towards
another person? Whenever you start to have those thoughts then pray good things
for him or her. Eventually learn to pray good things for that person even when
it is not initiated by some bad thought.
good to realize that you do not even have to be completely wholehearted about
your prayer. That is the best, of course, but God does not ask for wholehearted
obedience only. He is willing to settle for even mere obedience. But is this
Biblical? Is there anywhere in the Bible where God says that He accepts
obedience even if it is accompanied by wrong motives? Philippians 1:15-18
reads, “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but
some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am
appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of
selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress
in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or
in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will
rejoice.” So even though these people were preaching the Gospel with wrong
motives Paul still rejoiced because Christ was being proclaimed. Too many
people say that they are not going to do something until their heart is right
or because their motives are not right. Well, you know what? Do it anyway and
the right motives will follow.
says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding
have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.” What does
this verse say? Sometimes the understanding will come after the obedience is
done. If you cannot pray good things for that person from a right heart; then
do it anyway.
When you are sick
you go to a doctor and you generally take whatever pill or injection he gives
to you trusting that he knows what he is doing and this will help cure you.
Most people do not first examine every medical journal and dictionary about the
cure before taking it. Most people trust that the doctor knows what is best for
When your car is
broke you bring it to a mechanic trusting that he will know what to do to fix
it. Most people do not first break out a complex automobile book and study in
detail how that entire broken system works before bringing their car in. Most
people will trust that the mechanic will know what is best for their car.
By the same
token, when God tells you what is best to do in some circumstance you should
just do what He says trusting that He knows what is best for you. It is not
necessary for you to first study every line in the Bible on the subject and
then to get your heart and motives all lined up properly. So when you are
struggling with your attitude towards someone then pray for him. This will do
wonders for your attitude and will be much more pleasing to God then what you
might otherwise be thinking about them.
If you have been
treated wrong or sinned against then you must forgive that person. But the
first word of the previous sentence is crucial in this step. Just because
someone hurt you this does not mean that you were treated wrongly. Also, just
because they did not end the relationship in the manner that you might have
preferred this still does not mean that the way that they did do it was wrong.
Why is that “if”
so important? Because too many people who are hurt in relationships carry
around a chip on their shoulders because they feel that they have been treated
so badly and that the other person was terribly cruel in what they did. So they
grow bitter and angry. People tell them that they need to forgive the other
person and get over it, but they cannot seem to be able to forgive the other person
and close that whole relationship for good. Why is that? It could be one of two
reasons. 1) Maybe they just do not want to forgive the person. Maybe they
prefer being mad and bitter. Maybe they really do not want to go on with life
or consider other possibilities. 2) Maybe the other person did not really sin
against them and so there is no need for forgiveness. This is the point that is
being made and this is key.
If another person
has not sinned against you then you will not be able to forgive that person.
Why? Because true forgiveness is an impossible task on our own. We need God’s
grace to forgive. But if the other person has not sinned then there is no need
to forgive and so God will not give you the grace to forgive when it is not
called for. God does not dispense phony grace. He does not give us grace for
situations that only exist in our own minds and not in reality. In this case
God will not give us the grace to forgive, but He will give us the grace to
alter our thinking from being the misused and sinned against victim to someone
who was simply hurt.
How can we tell
if we have been truly sinned against? Try to step back from the situation
yourself and examine what really happened. If you think that you were sinned
against then be able to clearly define that sin and provide Scripture to back
up your contention. If that fails then go to someone who is spiritually mature
and objective and tell him the situation as neutrally and factually as you can
and see what he says.
But if we were,
in fact, sinned against we do need to forgive the other person even if they do
not admit to that sin. Why should we do that? Because if we do not forgive then
we will carry that situation and all of its baggage into every future
relationship of ours. And if you are unable to forgive the person from a
previous relationship then you are not ready for another relationship. This is
because you will bring that person into every new relationship and he or she
will taint that new relationship.
We can be
tenacious creatures. How many of us have kept a houseplant in a container long
after it had withered and turned brown? We even keep watering it and hoping. Or
we keep those leftovers in the freezer thinking that some day we will get to
them. God knows that we are like this so He said in Ecclesiastes 3:6-7, “A time
to keep, and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart, and a time to sew
There are times
to plant and times to uproot what is planted. There are times to wait and times
to move on. But at some point when nothing is happening, it is time to move on
and see what else may lie along your path. When you are just sitting on the
side of the road you will only see what passes you by. But when you are walking
down that road you will see much more.
Knowing when to
hold on to a severed relationship and knowing when to let go is the difficulty.
But as was stated earlier, letting go does not necessarily mean that the
previous relationship cannot be restored. But what it does mean is that you are
open to whatever doors may open now before you. You may be running your head
into a brick wall with that one relationship when, just a few feet away, God
has a door already opened for you.
In all of your
own relationships you feel that you have the right to choose what relationships
to maintain and how deep to go with them. In fact, you would probably resist
any attempt by someone to force more intimacy into their friendship with you
than you would want. Well, other people have that same right also.
If he dumped you
because he did not think that the situation would work out then, even if he was
wrong in that evaluation, it was still his right to make that decision. You are
not the master over everything that touches your life. Other people have
legitimate parts to say and control and you must allow them that right just as
they should allow you that same right.
Why is this
important? Because too often the cry is heard, “How could he do this to me?” as
though you were the only one allowed to make any decisions. But if the shoe had
been on the other foot and someone said to you “How could do that to her?” you
would have replied that you did not think that it was going anywhere and so you
felt that it was best to end it there rather than to drag it out. You would
have felt that to be a very legitimate and understandable response. After all,
why try to patch a boat that is sinking? But what you allow yourself you must
allow for others.
This is important
because we sometimes need to see the arrogance behind the attitude of “It’s all
right for me to dump him but it’s not all right for me to be the one that is
dumped.” This kind of attitude will prevent grace from healing.
emotions can be like a precious and delicate tea set. When we first meet
someone we may give them one of our smaller pieces. If he treats it with care
then we might give him another more important piece and as he is tender and
careful with the pieces that we have given to him then we will give him our
more fragile and important pieces. But if he takes the pieces that we have
given to him and he smashes them to the floor then we will be shocked and hurt
as they are destroyed.
time we may be able to repair the broken pieces. But the next person that we
meet we will be more hesitate to share our more delicate pieces. In time we
might have shared all of the same pieces that we did previously but it probably
took longer to get to that point and we might have been more suspicious. But if
this person also smashes our set to the floor then we will again be sick and
devastated and have to start the process of repair.
time that this happens we will become slower and more untrusting of each person
that we meet and wants to share our emotions. This is understandable but we
must be careful that we do not lock them away in a dark and hidden cupboard
where no one will ever find them again.
horror of broken pieces is not greater than the joy of sharing with someone who
cares. Finding all of the broken pieces of porcelain and gluing them together
in the right places is not easy. And putting our lives back together after a
critical breakup is not easy. But it can be done.
14:22-27 tells the story of how, after feeding five thousand people, Jesus made
the disciples get into a boat and go across the Sea of
Galilee to the other side. While part way across the winds picked
up and the boat was battered by fierce waves. The disciples thought that they
were going to perish as they struggled for hours to control the boat. Finally
somewhere between 3:00 and 6:00 AM Jesus came walking on the water. The
disciples thought that it was a ghost, a sign of impending death, and cried
out. All seemed lost. But it was Jesus and He said to them, “Take courage, it
is I; do not be afraid.”
the disciples were in their own environment, they were fishermen, when a crisis
hit. The waves were beyond their ability to handle and after a long and
terrible struggle they felt that the end was imminent. But then on the very
waves that were crushing them walked Jesus Christ. And in our lives, Jesus
Christ will often come to us on the very trials that are tearing us apart. When
all seems hopeless and we seem overwhelmed Jesus Christ is faithful.
you want to know how to forget what is in your past? Philippines 3:13 says, “Brethren, I
do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do:
forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead” Do you
want to forget what lies behind? Then reach forward to what lies ahead. When
catastrophe hits, you should analyze it to a degree to see what might have
caused it, to see if there was any sin involved on your part or on another’s
part, and to try and understand what you are able to. But this does not mean
beating it to death for months or years. It does not mean trying to dig every
last piece of meat out of every dried bone. It means understanding what you can
and then learning from it.
heal properly we must rely on God. We must believe that God cares, that He has
the power to heal, and that He will heal. Therapists and counselors can
definitely help but only if they point to God. The Song of Solomon 8:5a says,
“Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?” When we
are heartbroken we are in a wilderness; our lives are dry, without direction,
and empty. The only way to come out of that wilderness is by leaning the
greatest support that we can ever have—our beloved Jesus Christ.
relationship can change your life in several directions. It could make you
bitter and untrusting or it can change your life so that it becomes more like
Jesus Christ’s. You alone are responsible for the outcome. Other people may
push you towards one result or the other but only you can decide the final
response. No one can make you sin.
neither neatly packaged nor is it easy, but it is always possible. Philippians
4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
You are gentle if you:
Can answer a
harsh comment with a gracious response
Are able to
discuss a sensitive area with someone and not hurt their feelings
Can point out
people’s sins or shortcomings and generally have the reproof accepted