We were designed to seek out and have a connectedness to others for companionship, growth, and love. Ultimately, we find all of these and more in God, but in His wisdom, God knows we need the gift of relationships with people—to belong and to be known. Furthermore, when we follow God’s will for our relationships, not only can we find joy and fulfillment in those connections, but they will draw us closer to our Creator so that we can see, know, and experience God as we ought.
In Genesis, we see that the first human relationship God gave man was that of a spouse. Additionally, God has given all kinds of interpersonal relationships to His children. He gives us friends, parents, family, mentors, and many more. All of these relationships are precious gifts in the life of the believer. Our relationships have the power to shape us and change us into what God would have us to be. We were not meant to do life alone. We need each other to learn, to be encouraged, and to grow in maturity and wisdom. Relationships, especially Godly ones, gift us with two very important things that we need as we press toward knowing God and becoming more like Christ.
1. Relationships Expose Our Weaknesses
At first glance, this may not seem like a benefit but rather a reason to avoid relationships altogether. However, this is arguably one of the greatest things that our relationships with others can do for us.
We all have weaknesses. We have blind spots and defects. Some of these we are aware of and many more we are not. Outside of the lens of Scripture, the only other way we will take a good, hard look at who we are and how we need to change is by seeing ourselves through the eyes of others.
In my relationship with my husband and even my daughter, I have constantly been confronted with my sin and shortcomings—my selfishness, my pride, and my desire to always be right. This learning process hasn't always come from personal confrontations but often as the result of seeing the consequences of my words and actions as I live day in and day out with them. I cannot escape or ignore the effects my behavior has on my family. I’m grateful that they love me regardless, especially my husband who patiently gives me grace as I wrestle with truly seeing myself and also encourages me as I deal with my sin.
Honestly, it is a terrifying thing to be truly known—the good, the bad, and the ugly. But when we are, especially in God-honoring relationships, we open the door for two wonderful possibilities.
He knows both our best and our worst. But here is the most glorious truth—regardless of our faults, our flaws, and our defects, He still loves us. Yes, to be known, warts and all is a fearful thing. But to be known and yet still loved, especially the way God loves and pursues us is a beautiful, precious, and humbling thing.
In our relationships with others, our failings will always rise to the surface. And while that may frighten us initially, it is a good thing. We need to see ourselves as we are, and people are often God’s messengers in our lives to help us do just that. We ought to welcome confrontation, especially from a loving brother or sister in Christ, because God is using them to refine us. We should be grateful to God for the people He gives us that love us even when we are not lovely and will exhort us to live according to our high calling as His children, cheering us on as we pursue Christlikeness.
2. Relationships Bring Conflict
Just like our sins and weaknesses are bound to be exposed in our relationships, the conflict will also likely make an appearance as well. We often consider conflict to be negative but it’s not simply the existence of conflict that is so bad but rather the way we respond to it.
Conflict is inevitable. That doesn’t absolve us from trying to avoid it unnecessarily. We shouldn’t go looking for it or act in such a haphazard and careless way that we create it wherever we go. Nevertheless, whether our conflicts arise from differing preferences or sins committed against one another, we ought to embrace them as opportunities to grow and to show the love of Christ with the ultimate goal of resolution.
Scripture is clear that a believer is not to let conflict linger. Christ makes this clear in Matthew 5 in His Sermon on the Mount:
“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24
The author of Hebrews likewise exhorted believers to strive for peace.
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:14-15
Left unresolved, conflict can have lasting and painful consequences. But when humility, love, and peace are pursued, conflict can lead to maturity, understanding, and greater unity.
When my husband and I were going through our premarital counseling, conflict resolution was the area we struggled with the most. We came from two very different family cultures on the subject. My family talked through everything with every disagreement, whereas his family would sweep strife under the rug and continue as if nothing had happened.
Our differing educations in conflict resolution led to many disputes and quarrels of our own. We were blessed to have wise and patient counselors who helped us not only to recognize our failings in this area but also showed how to biblically deal with our disagreements to bring about true and lasting peace.
Here are some key truths we learned:
We were not meant to do life alone. God wants us to have genuine and deeply connected relationships with each other. We need each other for more than just combating loneliness and finding companionship. We need each other to learn and grow. We need each other to be challenged and find accountability. We need the community of our relationships to help us fully see and savor our Creator, expose our sins, and goad us to Godly living.
Be purposeful in seeking out friendships and relationships with others who will push you toward Christ. Lean into and embrace the difficult parts of being real with others—seeing your sin and shortcomings and the conflict that comes from being close to people. This is how God grows us. Like a seed that sprouts and must push through the soil to find air and light, we too are changed and strengthened by friction. It may be hard at times, but isn’t that usually the case for the things that are the most worthwhile? The struggle makes the gift all the more joyful. Let us embrace this precious gift from God—that He saw us alone in this world and said it is not good.
What other unexpected gifts of relationship have you discovered?
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