Two Essential Truths for a Fulfilling Life, Part 2

I have found that many of the relationship problems I face relate in some way to incorrect or incomplete communication. I do not say what I need to say, or when I say what I am thinking I say it unkindly. When someone else speaks to me I do not hear them clearly or I assume what they mean rather than truly understanding them.

Communication is key. As John Mayer says, “Say what you need to say.”

So why do we fall short in this area so often? If we know what the problem is, why can’t we fix it?

The Core of the Matter

Ever since Adam and Eve sinned the first time we have been born flawed. We are sinners, without hope on our own. As God says in Isaiah 53:6, “We have turned—every one—to his own way.”

We mean well. When we see a problem we dig in to fix it. We read books, talk to counselors, journal, change what we say, talk more and listen harder.

Sometimes we see improvement. If we do it is usually short lived; then we return to a version of who we were all along.

We cannot make these kinds of changes on our own. We need Gospel, good news, that only Christ can give us, but we still try to “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.” We are Americans. We are self-made people, or so we think.

True Change

If we cannot effectively change ourselves, how do we change?

  1. Accept Christ’s solution. Christ suffered, died and rose to break the sin-curse. The sinless Son of God died for our sin and rose to break the power of sin. You must first surrender your life to him in order to break the chokehold of sin.
  2. Accept Christ’s love. You need to realize that God loves you just as you are, in all your faults and sin. You do not need to change to be loved.
  3. Accept responsibility. Confess to God and to whomever else has been affected your failure and struggle to communicate or listen well. Own your part of the problem.
  4. Accept help. Ask God to change you, then read the books, visit the counselor, journal, and have someone keep you accountable. The difference is that you realize God has to change you at your core in order for the change to be permanent. You are doing what you know to do, but God is doing the heart work to make your work stick.
  5. Rinse and repeat.

You are still a flawed human being and you will make mistakes, so you will have to do this process repeatedly. You will sin again because you are not perfect, but you can know you are loved and that God is working in you and that God will ultimately make you perfect when he returns.

We, as believers, have hope. We can truly learn to “Say what we need to say,” with God’s help.

Are you still trying to change yourself, or have you asked Christ to change your heart?

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Fearless Living

At the beginning of Advent we sing carols of petition and preparation such as O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.  These carols echo Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah’s coming in Isaiah 7:14 where the Lord says, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Taken by Spencer Jarvis at the Orsett Showground, Essex.

Taken by Spencer Jarvis at the Orsett Showground, Essex.

In Luke 1 Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, also prophesies of the coming of the Messiah:  “The rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel turns this prophecy into a prayer: “Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.”

Just before those words in Luke 1, however, Zechariah says, ”The Lord . . has raised up a horn of salvation . . to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”

Jesus came not only to rescue us but also to enable us to serve God without fear.

Do you struggle with fear?

I have often given in to fear.

At my core I love to please people.  In relationships my default setting is to do what I need to do to make certain everything is ok.  In reality this default setting can become one of fear.

If I am feeling insecure I become fearful of what others think of me.  I make assumptions about what people are thinking.  Then I adjust my behavior to suit what I think they might be thinking.

Sound confusing?  That’s because it is.  Fear complicates life and obscures reality.

Christ came to give the gift of a simple life without fear, just one of his many gifts to us.

Where in your life do you tend to act in fear?  How can you rely more on God in that area of your life?