Relationships grow through healthy conflict, but growing through conflict has become a lost art. We need to learn to view and engage in necessary conflict as Jesus did, “full of grace and truth.” How do we do it?
He’d never say it exactly, but his heart is broken. Life-giving dreams that once energized him aren’t materializing like he expected they would.
- Michael sees his peers succeed and he struggles with bitterness and envy. “Why not me? I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be at this point in life. Things could have been so different if…”
- Phillip is forced to let go of his “impractical” dreams and take a job that pays the bills. He harbors a growing resentment, “Is any part of my life even mine? All I do is meet needs for other people.”
- Jonathan emotionally disengages from his marriage because his wife seems to reject him with her preoccupation with the kids, “Our marriage has become nothing more than a convenient partnership.”
Peel back the layers and you’ll find a sick heart.
Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” When life-giving hopes die, the question becomes, “What now? What takes their place?” Often, his answer is either a passive resignation or an active rebellion. Far too often, a man grows passive in the face of life’s stresses and hurts until there’s a breaking point and he starts to sabotage himself and those around him, almost as a matter of protest, “Fine then! Watch this!”
In a thousand creative ways, his will becomes detached from his being. He starts to give his time, energy, and attention to something other than his true identity and calling. And no amount of sex, drugs, toys, or achievements can mask the inevitable despair that will result.
Let’s rewind for a moment. Before that happens, you have a great opportunity.
Watching from the outside, you may hear his dreams and think, “It’s just his immaturity. Those dreams need to die. He needs to suck it up and do his job.” Some of that may be true, but it may also be that buried deep in his heart is a man waiting for permission to come alive and he needs your help peeling back some fears and insecurities.
Here’s where you can help him.
From Checked-Out to Checked-In
Champion his dreams!
Your belief in him means the world. In ways you’ll probably never know, your belief or lack thereof, is either a rocket booster or a prison chain. When he becomes passive or expresses hopes or fears in a moment of vulnerability, don’t miss your moment. Counter his self-doubt with faith. Encourage him to risk. It’s an adrenaline shot of confidence that will awaken him in every area of life.
Even if you feel like you’re speaking something into existence rather than affirming what’s already present, when you build up his character rather than question it and take the role of cheerleader rather than critic, you will see a new man come to life.
He needs to dream. They won’t all come true, but some of them might and they give him life. When he shares it with you, know that he’s opening his heart. Don’t kill it. Even if you think, “No way could this happen,” let it play out and encourage him in the process. The part of his heart that manufactures dreams needs to stay alive and if he’s sharing them with you, he’s given you one of the keys.
Champion his dreams!
Help him stay focused.
Join him in the dreaming. Help him sort out the potential from its distractions. Name his greatest strengths and how he can best use them. Remind him of what’s most important when he loses sight of it. Call him back to his first love and primary calling. In order to champion his dreams, you need to emotionally invest yourself in his dreaming.
I meet with so many middle-aged men who are simply disillusioned. They’re going through the rhythms of life largely checked-out. Some never rebel, but many do. Many more stop dreaming.
So, here’s a toast to the brilliant, world-changing ideas that exist just underneath a couple crazy one’s and more importantly, to you, who holds the key to the heart of the dreamer!
When we walk through dark or difficult places, there are always lessons to be learned. By the time we get to the other side of a trial, we have keen insights. Occasionally, we’ll be pulling from those insights, asking the question: What would you have done differently if given the chance? Today, we’re looking at how to do deal with your “family secret.” Steve and Amy’s teenage daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, Tourette’s, clinical depression, and suicidal tendencies. She attended an “alternative school” before dropping out and spent many nights and most weekends trying to find pain pills or something else to numb her reality. Life was a struggle for her and many days she felt like it wasn’t worth it. Her constant struggles impacted every aspect of the family. And while their situation may be unique, the challenges and lessons to be learned are not. I asked how they responded to the downward spiral their daughter was caught in. Here are some of the struggles that stood out:
Consumed with fear-
Would she kill herself?
Would she get pregnant?
What did they do wrong?
How could they help her and limit her damage on the rest of the family?
What was going on that they didn’t know?
Why couldn’t they help her?
What were legitimate fears and which one’s were completely irrational? Such questions and a constant barrage of “what if” scenarios plagued them.
They felt like people would judge them and their misguided attempts at help would only produce more pain. And the only real way to keep people from knowing what was going on was to withdraw from real relationships.
Grasping for Control-
When you feel like you’re losing control, your immediate reaction is to grasp for control, over whatever you can. They tried to control her, each other, and every aspect of their lives that would offer some much needed stability.
Failure and Despair-
They struggled with a deep sense of despair and personal failure. How could this not be their fault? They felt extremely helpless and couldn’t find a way out of the tailspin. Their struggles spiraled into every area of their lives.
Normally, when one spouse is struggling, the other is able to compensate. But they were both languishing and were taking out their frustration on each other. Every small crack in their marriage was stressed almost to the breaking point.
Looking back, here’s what they say they’d do differently:
Humble themselves and reach out quicker for help-
Their main regret was their isolation from others. Amy said repeatedly, “It would have been worth the risk.”
Allow God to truly be Savior, Lord, and Healer-
They needed God’s healing but they were too caught up in their own pain and problem solving efforts to open their hearts to His love.
Simplify their life-
“Between everything going on with our daughter, and our individual jobs and evening activities that kept us apart 3 or 4 nights a week, our lives were on separate tracks and we weren’t deliberate about being a family.”
Release outcomes to God-
Guilt doesn’t change the past and worry doesn’t change the future.
Steve said, “I wish I had learned how to release outcomes after doing all I could do. We needed to trust her to God and remember that ultimately, God was sovereign.”
Go on a marriage retreat when they hit the wall of despair-
“We both expected our marriage to end in divorce and kept sliding further and further in a downward spiral. Neither of us knew how to get out of it yet we didn’t stop life to address it. It’s crazy to say this, but I’m not sure it felt worth it at the time. Fortunately, we pressed through, but we would have saved ourselves a lot of heartache by setting everything aside and focusing on healing our marriage.”
The plans of the enemy are not new. Isolation is the ultimate tactic. Just like the “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” spoken of in Scripture, we become so much more vulnerable when we are broken off from the herd, so to speak. Reaching out to God and to others is vital during crisis.
Have you been through a similar situation? Have you found healing in your marriage or family? What did you learn? What would do differently?
“Help, they’re stealing my peace!” How often have we said this? The day starts out right. Coffee by the pool… A little worship music and a reflective read through a morning devotional…
…but then it quickly spirals into what feels like an all-out assault on our peace.
The phone call.
The words with your spouse.
The kids’ third argument of the day.
The inconsiderate tone, again.
Relationships that are already strained can quickly chip away at the peace you’re “supposed to be able to enjoy in your home.”
When Peace Seems Elusive
That’s good news —especially when we are feeling robbed. There is a higher place than the one we are seeing at the moment.
I have found, after overcoming some great hurdles in my own family, that we can run right to Jesus’ teaching when family difficulties and a clear lack of peace arise.
Pray for Those Stealing Your Peace
Don’t go to other people to talk, vent or validate. Go to God. Search His Word. Pray for them. Pray that God helps you see them as He sees them. Ask God to search your heart, flood you with His love, and renew your mind. Ask God for wisdom:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. —James 1:5
It’s incredible how often our struggles with people will stop right here. We don’t have to go any further. God softens our heart, changes our perspective, and we’re good.
When that’s not the case and it’s clear that a resolution is needed, it’s time to convene a peace conference.
Convene a Peace Conference
A peace conference is simply going to the person and facing the conflict, in the pursuit of peace.
Despite what people say, time doesn’t heal everything. Time can bury things, but buried things can still yield influence. It’s like a field with buried land mines in it, you just hope you know where not to step. It’s there, it’s damaging, and so we avoid it. It’s much better to clear out the land mines and the only way to really resolve conflict is to face it. Hold a peace conference.
Peace Conference 101
In the pursuit of peace, we need to be willing to take the first step. It’s not about blame. It’s not about our rights or who was at fault. Only the end goal of resolution should be in mind. It’s about sowing peace. If it’s not, go back to step one (prayer).
This is such a big deal to Jesus that in his first teaching he prioritized it over worship.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. — Matthew 5:23-24
“But leave your offering.” I love that! Reconciliation takes priority over worship. Don’t put it off, don’t wait for them to come around, don’t wait until it’s 6 feet under ground, go, do it today.
When you get there, don’t forget to remain vulnerable. It’s so easy for good intentions to turn into a venting session. Certainly, both grace and truth are necessary. If we’re all grace and no truth, it’s not real. If we’re all truth, no grace, it’s really bitter. We need both, together, interlocked at all times. It’s not instinctive, but when we can have the humility, love, and courage to face the truth, face the person, and possibly hear some painful truth as well, growth is a certain result.
For further reading, The Peacemaker by Ken Sande is a practical and insightful book on how to live in this world and walk in the peace we are intended. Another wonderful book is The Healing Presence by LeAnne Payne. Click on the image below for your opportunity to win your copy.
Sometimes, we just need to get alone and meditate on healing Scriptures and encouraging words.
Anywhere you are during the day can become a type of sanctuary. The Spirit of God is within you, so your SUV, your shower, your walk-in closet, or the laundry room can instantly become a place of worship and meditation. Really, anywhere you are can be a holy sanctuary. All you have to do is recognize that God is with you and take a minute to turn aside to Him.
Below, I’ve compiled some encouraging words and healing Scriptures for marriage and relationships. One of my favorite quotes from Oswald Chambers is, “The most important aspect of Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain. This is all God asks us to give our attention to and it is the one thing that is continually under attack.”
Read these healing Scriptures, meditate on them, commit them to memory. Write them out, share them, tweet them.
“The Words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” —John 6:63
Healing Scriptures for Marriage and Relationships
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. —Galatians 5:22-23
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. —Ephesians 4:31-32
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. —Colossians 3:12-14
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. —Ephesians 4:29
Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails. —1 Corinthians 13:4-8