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?

Is God Enough for You?

When life hits us hard we question everything, including ourselves.

  • Why did you let this happen, God?
  • If you are good, why am I going through so much pain?
  • Why didn’t I get out when I could?
  • Why did I say that?

What we are really asking, though, is this:

God, are you enough for me?

When your marriage gets difficult, when your work situation takes an unexpected turn, or when your children disrespect you, is God enough for you?  When a friend speaks badly about you behind your back, or when someone takes advantage of you, is God enough for you?

Much of my life I unwittingly placed my value in what others thought of me.  When they spoke or thought poorly of me, I was devastated.  When they questioned my integrity, I was crushed.

I was feeling beat up because I was viewing myself through the eyes of others rather than through the eyes of God.

I still find myself slipping into that same trap from time to time, but when I am able to see myself as God sees me, I have strong, enduring peace.

God knows you and me more intimately than any one person will ever be able to know us. He made us.  Psalm 139:13 says God knits us together in our mother’s womb.

He knows why you are hurting better than you do, and he knows how to heal you better than any self-help book or counselor.  (Counselors are invaluable, by the way; I am not knocking them.  You need a counselor who is a believer, though, for you to really find healing.)

God is enough for me and for you, and he will always be enough.

Where in your life do you need to remember that God is enough for you?

The Holy Trinity of Relationships

We have all heard about the theology of the Trinity in evangelical Christianity.  Whether or not you support this foundational belief is not the focus of this blog.

Did you know, though, that there is another trinity in life?  I call it the holy trinity of relationships.

Humans, by nature, were made for connection.  The statement, “No man is an island,” is foundational in many ways, one being the fact that every person needs relationship in order to thrive.

Before we talk about the trinity, the three relationships you need to have in your life, let me say this.  Without a meaningful, grace-based relationship with God these other three will be insufficient.  While interpersonal relationships are critical, a relationship with God is absolutely essential.

I am talking about this subject not because I have a psychology degree (the LAST thing I want) or because I am a counselor or because I have my life figured out.  I have discovered these relationships are necessary for me to lead a fulfilled and overcoming life.  Throughout my divorce and difficult times in life one or more of these relationships sustained and encouraged me.

The Holy Trinity of Relationships

Close Friends

Everyone needs two or three close, intimate, know-everything-about-you friends.  I am talking about friends who support you through thick and thin, who listen more than they talk, who cry and mourn with you, and who celebrate as loudly as you do when something beautiful happens.  Close friends have to be truly selfless people.  The trick is that you have to be truly selfless in order to attract those kinds of people to yourself.

Throughout my separation and divorce one friend of mine (you know who you are) met with me for lunch every Thursday and just listened.  He had been a pastor for many years and had a lot of experience encouraging people, but he simply listened and spoke only when needed.  He even picked up the tab often because he knew I was short on money.  I am eternally grateful to this man who continues to be one of my closest friends even though we are a thousand miles apart.

Mentors

A mentor is someone familiar with your walk of life and who is about 10 years older than you.  They have been down the road you are walking and can speak wisdom into areas of life you are still discovering for yourself.

Around 10 years ago God brought a mentor into my life.  This man is about 10 years older than me and has been in worship ministry for many years.  He also has a doctorate in composition and understands personal struggle.  Throughout my ministry life and throughout my separation and divorce we have talked and collaborated and encouraged each other, and he has guided me in many decisions.  I am so grateful for him.

Mentors and close friends are hard to find, but most people agree that you need them.  The next relationship, however, can be much easier to find; this relationship requires a lot of humility, however.

Counselors

Many of us could benefit greatly from some time with a godly, encouraging, but strong counselor who can speak into areas of life we do not understand.  Seeing a counselor requires you to admit you need someone, however, and you have to invest financially.

Warning: Once you decide to see a counselor, you need to be willing to open every closet and corner of yourself for your time to be truly worthwhile.  Some see a counselor but hold back certain pieces of information.  In that case you might as well take your cash and light it on fire.  The counselor will only be able to provide moderately helpful information if you withhold a part of yourself from him.

I will admit that I have been reluctant to see a counselor at times.  I can say unequivocally, though, that my relationship with my counselor is possibly the most influential relationship I have had in my life aside from my family.  He has given me encouragement and challenge, grace and firmness, truth and compassion as I have needed it, and I am eternally grateful to him.

Every one of us needs to have close friends and mentors, and most of us would benefit from having a counselor as well.  I know I have.

What relationship are you missing in your life?  What are you going to do about it?