History is important but when you retire, your old way of life changes. What you used to be doesn’t matter anymore. You can’t go back and live it again – even if you want to. So what have you retired to?
Like it or not – You have retired into relationships.
The first thing most people notice is they spend a whole lot more time with their spouse. That means you must pay more attention to the relationships you have with those closest to you. You really have little choice about whether that will happen unless you find ways of spending your time at the men’s shed or somewhere else but when you do it well, it can change your whole life for the better.
It seems to me that the greatest thrills, the greatest joys that have come into my life have come through relationships. So is it possible to achieve more highs than lows in your old age? Yes it is!
But there’s also the other side as well. There’s also those incredible lows that are encountered in every relationship. Sometimes that caused by arguments over spending money, or spending time or whatever. I think it’s guaranteed there will be difficulties from time to time but it is well worth doing whatever you can to improve this area of your life because it will pay the greatest dividends.
Relationships would be easy if we were perfect, or if we married someone who was! But our lives are filled with struggles when it comes to relationships. So what do you do when things aren’t going great? What do you do when you’re faced with frustration and you just don’t know where to turn next? What do you do when you’re filled with apathy? You just don’t care any more. What do you do when you’re confronted by confusion or you’re struggling with selfishness?
The Best Advice.
Fortunately, the bible gives us some advice for real world relationships, the kind that we live with and struggle with everyday. Anybody can make a relationship work in a novel or some TV story. But the bible addresses the kind of relationships that you and I live out every day. The real struggles, the real life of relationships. Here’s some practical ideas today from the bible on how to get through the tough days in a relationship and some advice about how to fall back in love after you’ve fallen out of love.
1. Be thankful for our differences.
Some of the greatest frustration that we face in relationships and one of the greatest ways we can begin to think in a clearer way, is to recognise that we are made different from each other. In my experience, parents and teenagers always think differently, but so do men and women. We work differently. We shop differently. We even watch television differently. This difference is sometimes the cause of great delight but, at other times it’s the cause of incredible agony.
In spite of all the evidence that we’re so different, we still get frustrated by the differences. We get into an argument and we say to ourselves, “Why can’t she see it my way?” The usual answer is because she is simply different from you. Someone said “if two people agree on everything one of them isn’t necessary.”
We are different and God made us that way not to frustrate us but to complete us. If I sit down and think about it, there are often times when my wife, gives me ideas that I would never have. So in truth, she helps me grow in a way that I would otherwise never grow. It takes two not only to tango, but also to make your relationship work. It takes both of you to come up with the whole truth. One of the greatest moral choices you’ll ever make, is to thank God for your differences. That’s one of the things that makes relationships work.
2. Work Through the Issues.
Sometimes we just need to accept the fact that we’re different but there are other times when we need to work through the differences. So what do you do then?
Often loving others means making allowances for somebody else’s faults. That’s not the same as making excuses for somebody else’s faults. Making allowance for somebody else’s faults doesn’t mean you say it’s ok for you to stay with that problem. But it means you say, it’s ok for it to take time to grow through it.
I’ve found if I talk to God about my disappointments, it helps me work out what I should do next. Sometimes those disappointments are over the fact that none of us are perfect. Usually though, the fault is nobody else’s – it’s the world we live in that disappoints us. We’re disappointed about how we think things should be.
Often in relationships we have a perfect image of how a relationship should work. We think we’re going to have a perfect wedding, a perfect honeymoon, come back to a perfect house, a perfect yard and a perfect kitchen, and we’re going to raise perfect kids and they’re going to go off to their perfect lives and we’re going to sail off to a perfect retirement.
Like me you probably didn’t even get to the perfect wedding! I know nobody had a perfect honeymoon. There’s no such thing. Life is not perfect. Yet we grow up sometimes with this idealized image of this perfect romance. In fact, we’re inundated by images of what a perfect relationship is like. It may be good entertainment but it’s not real. That’s not how life works.
One of the reasons we are disappointed in a relationship is we expect people to meet needs in our life that only God can meet. So of course, we’re disappointed. We’re expecting people to do things they can never do.
There was a story on TV recently of someone slipping into Alzheimer’s disease. The thing that gripped me about this story was the love of a wife for a husband even during a time of incredible disappointment. Can you imagine the disappointment of expecting to grow old together, and then you discover you no longer know the person you’re growing older with?
1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance.” That’s real life advice. You face real disappointments. Where are you going to find the strength to not give up? Where are you going to find the power to endure through every circumstance? You go to God with your disappointments and let Him meet needs that only He can meet in your life. And you let Him give you the strength and the power to love in a way you’ve never loved before.
Maybe life did not turn out at all like you expected. You’re facing it right now. Go to God with those disappointments. See Him give you the strength that only He can give, It’s a strength that you don’t have in yourself right now to not give up. Watch Him do something with that relationship that you would never have dreamed even in the midst of the disappointments.
What about those times when you don’t feel disappointment, you don’t feel hurt, you don’t feel anger. The truth is, you just don’t feel anything any more. It’s just apathy. What about those times when you just lost all feeling for one of your kids? What about those times when a husband no longer loves a wife or a wife no longer loves a husband? What do you do then?
3. Trust God With Your Feelings
Recognise that when we don’t feel anything we have a God who can be trusted to restore those feelings. Psalm 62:8, “Trust God all the time. Tell Him all your problems because God is our protection.”
The word “love” – is it a feeling or an action? It’s both. Love is a feeling, the way I feel in a relationship. But it’s also a way that I act. There are times when the feeling is gone and all you have left is the action. The only way then for the feeling to be restored is you need to act in love. If you continue to act in love eventually the feelings will come back.
You may be thinking, “Isn’t that being hypocritical?” No, it’s being human! The truth is, the feelings in our life go up and down for all of us. Have any of you felt in love every minute of your marriage? I haven’t. It doesn’t work that way. Because the feelings go up and down there are times we act in love counting on God to restore the feeling moment by moment.
There are lots of ways and reasons why feelings die in a relationship. But one of the reasons is we start to live with a lie. There comes a point in our relationship as husband and wife or with my kids or in a friendship where we see a problem, it’s right there in front of us but instead of dealing with it, we start to pretend it’s not there. Everyone knows that it’s there but everyone’s pretending that it’s not there. The longer you pretend that problem isn’t there, the more you’re going to struggle with loss of feelings in a relationship.
Some of you took a vow of silence a long time ago in a relationship. A long time ago you decided, “We’re not going to talk about that any more.” And the longer you don’t talk about it the more the feelings are going to drain out of your life. You don’t have to suffer in silence. One of the reasons that feelings die is pretending it’s not there. The longer you pretend the more the feelings are going to die. You would be shocked at how many people get divorced just because no one in the relationship has the courage to say, “We have a problem here.” You’d be shocked how many people get divorced to avoid an argument, as crazy as that sounds. Are you going to be the one who stands up and says, “I’m going to break this vow of silence. We do have a problem. Let’s start to work on it. Let’s get some help.” So maybe you’re thinking, “There’s going to be an argument if I say that.” Of course there is. But you’ve suffered in silence long enough and when you stop the silence and begin to deal with the problem, then the feelings can begin to return.
So break the silence today and ask God to bring back the joys you used to have in your relationship. No one is better than God at turning things around.
4. Ask God For Direction.
He’s the one who invented relationships – marriage, families, friendships – yet sometimes we fail to ask the world’s expert for advice when we most need it. He’s willing to give it. James 1:6, “If you need wisdom, if you want to know what God wants you to do, ask Him and He will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that you really expect Him to answer.”
So when you ask Him for advice, how does He let you know what to do next?
The two top ways – How do you hear what God has to say?
1. You hear it through this book, the Bible. He wrote it to us to give us advice. As we looked at it today, there’s incredible advice about relationships. The bible is filled with advice. Some of it is not easy to take but it’s good advice.
Is God really interested in stuff like this? Is he interested in stuff about relationships and marriage? Of course He’s interested. So the first place you look is in His word.
2. The next place you look is advice from other believers, other people who are trying to follow His word. Have you noticed when it comes to relationships there are lots of people willing to give you advice about your relationship? Lots of people! I’d look for people who have some good relationships – a good track record, people who are trying to live out what God says they should do.
As you listen to that advice from either source, understand this verse for us. “Accept whatever situation God has put you into.” When you married the person you’re married to now, the moment you married, they became God’s person for you. You don’t have to worry about whether you married the right person any more. Build on the relationship you have now and get some of the good advice God gives us in the bible.
5. A Good Example.
You may not believe this but inside each of us is a selfish person. We each have a tendency to be self seeking. Instead of us today saying here’s a formula for you becoming entirely unselfish by tomorrow – because that’s not going to happen – instead let’s look at an example that can help us make one unselfish choice this week. And that can create an incredible change in our lives.
If unselfishness is one of the keys to better relationships, how do I become more unselfish? One way gets us started but you need the second to really be unselfish.
1) One of the ways you become unselfish is by giving yourself a selfish reason for being unselfish. That works very well. You say to yourself, “If I don’t wash up tonight, she’s not going to talk to me for a day or two.” Give yourself a reason. There is always a positive benefits from making the right choices. But there will always be times in our lives when we can’t figure out a selfish reason to make the right choice or we can’t find the strength to make it. Where do you turn then?
2) You need a better example. The example of Jesus Christ, the only true unselfish person to ever walk this world. He came into this world not for His own sake but for our sake. He was the only one ever who didn’t say, “What’s in it for me?” He’s God, He’s perfect. But Jesus came to live in this world so that I could have a relationship with Him here and now, so that I could look at His example and have the power and strength to make at least one unselfish choice I might not have made this next week.
So how in the world are you going to find the power to forgive somebody who hurt you? You can’t figure out a selfish reason to do that. There is probably no reason – except for the fact that you need to forgive others for your own sake. But when I see how much Jesus has forgiven me, it gives me the strength to forgive somebody else.
We’re not talking about being perfect. We’re all going to struggle with selfishness the rest of our lives. But we are talking about the power of one unselfish act this week. Do you realize, that just doing one thing unselfishly this next week can change everything in your family? Just one unselfish act. One unselfish word. It can change everything. Sometimes everything hinges on that one moment of unselfishness.
Where are you going to find the power to do that? Not in yourself. You find the power in your relationship with Him. In that relationship with Him you find the satisfaction and the joy that enables you to be unselfish in your relationship with others. When you look at how much He has forgiven you for, you have the strength to forgive others. When I see how patient He is with me to grow, I have the strength to be patient to wait for somebody else as they grow. When you see how Jesus Christ is honest about our faults in a gentle way, you find the strength and the skill to be honest with somebody else in a gentle way. When you see the fact that Jesus Christ went to a cross and willingly sacrificed His life just because He loves us, you find the strength to sacrifice some of your time for somebody else.
Lets Do Something.
What are you going to do? If this is just inspiration without any action it doesn’t really mean anything. What are you going to do about your relationships? Who are you going to talk to this next week? What silence are you going to break this next week? Who are you going to pick up the phone and give a call to this next week? What are you going to do this next week? What one unselfish act or word is going to happen this next week?
Adapted from a Free Sermon by Rick Warren