Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Relationships: Why Can They Be So Scary?

Why are relationship struggles so disappointing? Why do the problems we have with other people affect us so powerfully? Why is relational disappointment one of the hardest disappointments for all of us to face? Let me suggest some reasons.

1. You were created to be a social being. You and I were never designed to live in isolation. We were not wired to be distant from and unaffected by the people around us. In fact, since we were created in God's likeness, desire for and participation in community is a fundamental part of our humanity. The God who made us in his likeness not only does community, he is a community! To deny this aspect of your daily life would literally be to deny your humanity. There would be something dramatically wrong with you if you removed yourself completely from other people. What this means is that the hurts of relationships cut deep. In a real way they touch the essence of who God made you to be, and because of this they are not to be taken lightly.

2. We all tend to enter our relationships with unrealistic expectations. Somehow, someway, we are able to swindle ourselves into thinking that we will be able to avoid the difficulties that attend any relationship in this broken world. In the early days of a relationship we work to convince ourselves that we are more righteous, and the other person more perfect, than we and they actually are. This causes us to be shocked when an unexpected but inevitable difficulty gets in the way of the bliss that we had convinced ourselves that we had finally found. Here is where the Bible is so helpful. It is very honest about the messiness and disappointment that everyone deals with in every relationship they have.

3. We all tend to seek to get identity from our relationships. What does this mean? It means that we tend to look for fundamental personal meaning, purpose and sense of well-being from other people. In doing this, we turn people into our own personal messiahs, seeking to get from them what no other human being is ever able to deliver. That other person is not supposed to be the thing that gets you up in the morning. They are not to be what makes life worth living for you. When they are in this place, you have given them too much power and you are asking of them something that no flawed human being can ever pull off. On the other hand, when you are getting your foundational sense of well-being from the Lord, you are then able to step into the inevitable messiness of relationships this side of heaven, and be neither anxious nor self-protective.

4. Whe tend to be disappointed in our relationships because they were more about the purposes of our little kingdoms of self than they were about the kingdom of God. Without being aware of it, our relationships are often about what we want out of our lives rather than what God wants for our lives. So we have an "I love you and have a wonderful plan for your life," approach to relationships with other people. Often we are disappointed with a relationship at the exact moment when God is producing through this relationship exactly what he wanted to produce. Our problem is that our agenda doesn't agree with God's!

So, there are reasons for our disappointments but there is grace for them as well. The God who will take us where we did not plan to go in order to produce in us what we could not achieve on our own, will also give us the grace to hang in there as he uses the messy disappointment of relationships to change and grow us and others.


At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for all you do in serving the kingdom. I'm looking forward to reading your book on relationships.

At 10:22 PM, Blogger John McCracken said...

Hey Paul,

Welcome to the wide world of blogging! I just entered the fray myself recently. I'll put a link to you on my own blog. Your cohort Tim Lane will be preaching at our church next month. We're very excited about it. Hope you can make it down again sometime soon as well! We have very fond memories of your time with us a few years ago. I'll be eager to read your posts. If you could add an RSS reader to your blog, that would be very helpful to types like me who like to keep up with multiple blogs at once. (You can get a free one at

John McCracken

...and now from the department of shameless self-promotion, let me just add this:

At 10:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just received your Relationships book and I too am looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the practical encouragement through your blog!

At 11:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome to the blog world! Thanks for your great writing over the years.

At 9:52 AM, Blogger Jim said...

Found your blog today on Justin Taylor's site. Very excited to see your entry into blogdom (!?).


Jim P

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I am so excited that you now have a blog! I'm looking forward to checking back often! Your material has been so very helpful in my counseling work with women at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in D.C.

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