Running the Race: Difficult Relationships

What I’d like to do in the next few weeks is work through some examples using the four steps to transformation based on Romans 12:1-2. Here’s our first example:

Joan and Mark have a struggling marriage. Their biggest problem is and has always been communication. Joan wants more of it, and Mark wants less. Today was another fruitless discussion. Joan accused Mark of not loving her, and Mark accused Joan of always expecting him to be perfect. Joan walked away feeling angry and hurt.

Step One: Renew your mind.

Can you picture how you would would feel if you were Joan?  In situations like this women often jump to the wrong conclusion. We think our husbands don’t love us (because if they loved us they would communicate) when in reality they just have relationship weaknesses.

We also have relationship weaknesses. Men get accused of lack of communication. Women get accused of never being satisfied. That doesn’t mean they don’t love each other.

It’s more than likely that Mark does love Joan, but just has a problem with communication. Maybe he feels insecure communicating because he’s afraid he won’t live up to Joan’s expectations. Or maybe he just doesn’t want to communicate. Maybe he wants the easy life.

There’s also a chance that Joan is expecting too much from him. At any rate, if Joan wants to get rid of her anger and hurt and be transformed by her trial, she’ll have to make the effort to see the situation through biblical eyes. This will be hard because she’s probably been inundated with cultural messages about relationships throughout her life.

Cultural viewpoint

These messages would have focused on Joan’s rights and her husband’s weaknesses. “You deserve better than that,” the culture would say. “Your husband’s a jerk. Look at him. All he cares about is himself. He doesn’t love you. If he did, he’d make a little more effort to communicate.”

Biblical viewpoint

The Bible, on the other hand, focuses on giving up one’s rights to love others well – even when they don’t deserve it. Jesus would say, “It’s easy to love those who are nice to you, but I want you to love even those who aren’t nice to you. I know it’s hard (after all, I went through the same thing), but you need to accept Mark’s weaknesses. Love Him and give Him grace, just like I do for you.” **

Step Two: Accept God’s view of the world.

Let me ask you something. Do you think it would be easy to accept God’s view of the world in this situation? I’d say that’s a big no. Wouldn’t everything in you be screaming, but this isn’t fair! I shouldn’t have to be the one to compromise. He should be the one to change.

Accepting God’s view of the world is often the hardest step in the transformation process. We’re so saturated with cultural thoughts that it almost seems crazy to live life biblically in some situations. But it’s not. God’s way is always good, even when it doesn’t seem good (more on that in the next post).

Step Three: Change your attitude and behavior.

In this situation it would be almost impossible to change your behavior without first changing your attitude. And it would be impossible to change your attitude without first renewing your mind.

That’s why it’s so important to renew our minds when we’re in the middle of the trial. Because if we don’t, more than likely, we’ll respond in a way that’s contrary to Scripture. Or we’ll respond the right way with our behavior, but leave our hearts back in I-can’t-believe-I-have-to-put-up-with-this land.

We’ll talk about step four in the next post, but before we go, let’s just review Romans 12:2, so we end with some hope for Joan:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

If Joan renews her mind so she can be transformed from the inside out (accepting her husband’s weaknesses and giving him grace), she should expect God’s will to be good, not bad. We’ll talk about that good will in my next post when we cover the last step to transformation.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What will happen if Joan chooses not to accept her husband’s poor communication habits? Does that mean he’ll automatically (and cheerfully) change?
  2. Since Joan can’t change her husband, would her life be better or worse if she decides to give him grace?
  3. Is grace a beautiful thing or a degrading thing?
  4. What would grace look like in this situation?

**Step One Scripture references: Matthew 5:43-46, Philippians 2:4-8, Romans 15:1-7

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