Why do we struggle with offering mercy? We struggle because there are things we desire more than God and his glory. Our struggle reveals that our hearts are rules more by comfot, appreciation, respect, love, success, control, achievement, possessions, position, power, and acceptance than we have been willing to admit. Here is the painful spiritual reality: our struggle with mercy is not just a second great command struggle; it is a first great command struggle as well. We struggle to respond rightly to one another because we don't have God in the right place.
Entries in Relationships (3)
I have to admit that I haven't often considered my relationships as being a way to diagnose a problem. When we're in a relationship, we tend not to analyze it in such terms immediately. When we have a problem we just usually feel bad, and when things are going well, we're happy.
Paul Tripp and Tim Lane in their book Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, point out that relationships reveal heart issues:
God has designed our relationships to function as both a diagnosis and a cure. When we are frustrated and ready to give up, God is at work, revealing the places where we have been given in to a selfish agenda (the diagnosis). He then uses that new awareness to help us grow precisely where we have struggled (the cure).
Usually when I have trouble with a relationship, I am tempted to either blame the other person or think it's just a matter of bad communication. Looking at it as a way for God to reveal my sin is, in the long run, more productive, even if it is a little uncomfortable.
I'm reading a book called Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp. I bought this almost two years ago because of a struggle I was having with a friend, and I thought it would shed some light on things. I don't know what happened that I didn't read it, but the problem with the friend worked itself out, and I sort of forgot I had this. When I was looking for something new to read last week, I found this.
Of course we have relationships with all people, and of course we often do them badly. We often wonder what on earth is wrong with the other person. We tell our children that they can only control their own responses and not the other person, but as parents we sometimes don't follow our own advice and we don't ask ourselves how the sin in our lives is contributing to the struggles we're having.
The chapter I just finished reading is about the affect of sin on relationships. he authors talk about six different impacts sin has on them, and they all begin with "self:" self-centeredness, self-rule, self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, self-taught, and self-satisfaction.
We all likely are guilty of each one of these, but their point is that one or more of them may be a particular weakness for us. For example, I may not be prone to being self-sufficient, but I may be prone to being self-ruling, meaning that I want to be in control all of the time, and that my worst fear is being seen as being wrong or dependent. All of these struggles will cause our outward conduct to send a message to those around us. The authors have a chart detailing each one of these struggles, what they look like, what we're willing to do to get them, and how others are affected by it. It was one of those "ouch" moments when I scanned the chart, because I could easily see how I was guilty of each one of them at any given point. Perhaps I lean more toward one (and I do), but it was pretty sobering to see how I could tend to all of these sins.
Sin turns us inward and we become self-absorbed. Our love for God becomes eclipsed by love for self. This summarizing statement really struck me:
When love for God is replaced by love for self, people either become obstacles that hinder goals or vehicles that promote them.
Not a pretty picture; when we love self more than God, ultimately, we are at risk of using people to get what we want. If we have even a hint of that attitude living in us, is it any wonder we struggle with our relationships?
I was told by a friend that this book contained a lot of "ouch" moments. She was right; and I'm only a third of the way into it. But it's often good to evaluate these things. Sin is always there, lurking, and we must check it.