by Paul Tripp

Have you ever wondered if the people around you deal with the things you do in your relationships? Have you ever wondered if other marriages deal with petty differences, or with the collision of differing agendas? Have you ever wondered if other parents struggle with resistant children and the impatience that greets you when it happens? Have you ever wondered if other people get in trouble with their neighbors or fall out of favor with a friend?

Have you ever wondered if other people experience harmless conversations suddenly turning angry, or misunderstanding getting in the way of an otherwise productive friendship? Have you ever wondered if other people get as exhausted as you do with the mess of relationships? Have you ever wondered if other people say to themselves, "Christians, you can't live with them and you can't live without them?"

Well, you should find comfort as you read Scripture because the mess of relationships that we deal with everyday is on almost every page of the Bible. From Adam blaming Eve for his sin, to Cain murdering his brother out of jealousy. From Abram and Sarai colluding together for Abram to have sexual relations with the servant girl, to Rebekkah plotting with Jacob to deceive his father and get the blessing that his brother rightly deserved. From Saul's murderous jealousy of David, to David's murderous adultery with Bathsheba. From Delilah's seduction of Samson, to Eli's struggle with his wayward sons. From the inability of Solomon's sons to get along, to the grief of Hezekiah over his evil son Manasseh.

From the competitiveness of the disciples for a place of honor in the kingdom, to tension between Mary and Martha as to how to best serve Jesus. From the rejection of Christ on the cross by his own Father, to the divisions that wracked the New Testament churches. The Bible puts before you account after account of people just like you dealing with the same things you do as you live as a sinner, with sinners, in this fallen world.

Why do we have these gritty stories in the Bible? Because God wants you to know that you are not alone in what you experience. And not only are you not alone, God wants you to know that you are not left to your own wisdom and your own strength. The One who is your wisdom and strength subjected himself to the harsh realities of relationships in a broken world so that he would be a sympathetic and understanding Helper in your time of relational need.

But there is more. He was willing to face the ultimate in relational suffering, the rejection of his Father, so that you would not only have the hope of acceptance with God, but also the hope of real reconciled relationship with your neighbor. He purchased our peace with God and in so doing made peace between us possible as well.

What does all of this mean? It means you do not have to give way to discouragement, panic, or hopelessness. No matter how frequent or complicated the mess is, there is hope. Not because some day you will discover the key to perfect relationships or meet the perfect person. But because Jesus did what we could not do so that we would be able to experience what we could never experience if left to our own strength and wisdom.

So, don't passively accept the mess and don't run away when it comes. Determine to be an agent of hope, change, peace, and reconciliation. There is probably not a relationship in your life that could not be better in some way. Jesus makes that change and growth possible.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. What relational conflict are you going through right now?
  2. Do you tend to give way to discouragement, panic, or hopelessness in the midst of conflict? If not, what is your source of hope?
  3. What does the Bible have to say about your conflict? Search the Scriptures for verses and/or stories with similar themes, or ask a friend for help.
  4. How can you help others find help in the Word of God for their conflict?