Difficult Relationships: Part Two

Romans 12:1-2 tells us we should expect two things when we make the effort to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. First, it’s going to be a sacrifice. And second, it’s going to be good.

Expect it to be a sacrifice.

It’s hard to wrap our minds around the idea of sacrifice when we live in a culture that tells us life should be fun and easy. We’re encouraged to sacrifice for our goals and dreams, but that’s about it.

The idea of sacrificing to love others is foreign to us. Think of Joan from my last post. If we were her, would we automatically think, “Oh, I need to love and accept Mark even though he’s not meeting my needs”? Probably not.

Instead, we’d be sitting there thinking, “Well, if he’s not going to communicate, then I’m not going to  . . . whatever.” We’d fill in the blank with whatever it was Mark wanted us to do.

I don’t know of an easy way to put this: transformation requires sacrifice. We’re going to have to die to ourselves. In Joan’s situation, we’d have to be willing to live an unfair life, give up our dreams of the perfect marriage, and love Mark even when he’s not loving us.

Too often in situations like this we make the sacrifice with our behavior – act nice, for example – but fail to make the sacrifice with our hearts. We continue to hold a grudge, keeping a mental checklist of all the ways we’ve been wronged.

But God is all about the heart. He wants us to love with pure hearts. 1 Peter 1:22 tells us to purify our souls so we can love others from the heart. Joan would have to do this every day, maybe even a few times a day, if she wanted to love her husband well.

If Joan continued to renew her mind, God would bless her – maybe with a great marriage, maybe not – but He would certainly bless her in other ways.

Is there more than one way to have a great life?

Think of it this way. Have you ever watched a little kid throw a tantrum at a discount store? He cries and screams because he doesn’t get what he wants. There are two ways for that little kid to find happiness – he can either get his mom to buy him what he wants, or he can learn to be content without it.

Let’s say his mom buys him the toy. Will he suddenly become a joyful kid with a great life? Or will he only be happy until the next time he sees something he wants that he doesn’t have?

Wouldn’t the little kid be happier if he learned to be content no matter what – even when his mom refuses to buy him the toy?

Expect God’s will to be good.

Now think about Joan’s marriage. Just as the little kid in the store was dependent on his mom to buy the toy, Joan is dependent on her husband to do his part in building a good marriage. But if he’s not willing to communicate, there’s not a lot Joan can do to make him communicate.

Since she can’t control him anyway, she’ll be much happier if she learns to be content no matter what. Which, surprisingly, is just what God wants her to do. God asks Joan to give her husband grace, accept his weaknesses, and continue loving him even when he’s hard to love. *

Joan thinks this will make her miserable, but in reality, it’s her best chance for happiness.

If Joan makes the sacrifice (and yes, it will be a sacrifice), she’ll find God’s will to be good. Actually, she’ll find God’s will to be incredible.

Look forward to His blessings.

Think of all the things God could teach Joan through this experience (remember this is all about transformation): He could teach her how to love when it’s hard to love. This would help all of Joan’s relationships. He could teach her how to accept when it’s hard to accept. This would make Joan happier. He could teach her to be kind, humble, and gentle. This would help Joan become a more likeable person.

Maturity is a good thing, but God gives even more than that. If Joan were to submit herself to living the way God wanted her to live, both with her heart and her behavior, God would give her the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. This is exactly what Joan needs to live joyfully in her marriage.

God would also pour Himself into Joan’s life. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” If Joan were to seek God with all her heart, even when seeking Him required sacrifice, she would find Him to be worth the sacrifice. Nothing is better than an intimate walk with God.

Have faith.

The problem with sacrifice is that you don’t usually see the reward until you get to the other side of the sacrifice. When I first started renewing my mind, I thought I was going to be miserable. I barely mustered up the strength to keep going. It was only my (weak at the time) love for God that kept me going.

But then He surprised me. I found joy on the other side of the sacrifice. The more I walk with God the more I see the truth of the Bible. God is enough no matter what.

Even when we’re not getting what we want.

Question for Reflection

We’ve been told we need certain things to be happy. Do you think that’s true? Or have we been fed a lie just like the little kid watching all those toy commercials?

* Scripture References: Matthew 5:43-44, 46, Matthew 18:21-22, Romans 15:1, 7, 1 Corinthians 13

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