This is all much easier for me to write than it is for you to read—but know that my heart hurts for those who have a “Longing like Starvation.” I “rejoice with those who rejoice”, but I also “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). Counseling someone to “let go” feels like calling him or her back to the lonely desert.
But “better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife” (Prov. 17:1). “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife[/husband]” (Prov. 21:9). And, “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife[/husband]” (Prov. 21:19).
You may be in the midst of a relationship that is just “okay.” You may think, “Am I supposed to kick a good man/woman to the curb and wait for perfection?” No! There are good men and women who deserve a chance to show who they really are. There are good people who deserve a little more time to mature, and none of us is without sin so that we should be in the business of throwing stones.
If you are in a relationship that is something good but not great, there is every reason to continue exploring. This is not only fine, but perhaps also the norm, since we all have wounds that do not heal overnight. You may be nurse to some wounded soul. This is a great blessing, may be very rewarding. The one who “has been forgiven much loves much” (Lk. 7:47).
But our purpose is not to be nursemaids to sick souls, not in relationships, not in marriage. We may play this role on occasion, but dare not take it on for life. We are meant for more, and relationships are meant for more. We will in some sense always be healing one another, but we are not spiritual doctors. Relationships are for mutual benefit. God is the doctor, and while He may use us in the healing of a soul, we are never to confuse our role.
When a relationship becomes counseling or therapy it is unhealthy.
When a relationship becomes spiritual discipleship it is unhealthy.
Both of these may be present in a relationship, but should not define the relationship.
We are to be equally yoked, and this also means within the body. If you find yourself in need of spiritual coaching, get outside help and then pursue the relationship. Or get some help during the relationship. One person becoming the spiritual coach or therapist will drain the life out of a relationship.
Instead, each of us should be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind[s] …” (Rom. 12:2). In other words, think differently! Think differently, and keep the relationship in its place.
I know! Easy to say; hard to do! These may be hard words, but take them and chew on them until the bitterness has past and the sweetness arrives. Truth is not always sweet, not always pleasant—but truth heals and should comfort.
Paul’s words suggest a path towards decision-making that is as obvious as it is perplexing. We are to offer our bodies as “living sacrifices” to the Lord and “then” we will be able to “test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2). We all want to know God’s will. Paul is suggesting, crazy as it may seem, that it is in the “sacrifice” that our minds become open to God’s will. He seems to suggest that because of “God’s mercy” we should offer ourselves wholly to God’s service—even to the point of death. Then we will see, hear, and understand God’s will.
Now, this could not be more difficult. We are to give up all things and our rights to all things. We are to follow the example of Isaac on the road to Mount Moriah. He walked faithfully, patiently, carrying the wood for the sacrifice, faith-to-faith with his father Abraham who was intent on sacrifice (Gen. 22:7).
We might ask of the Lord, “Why must I give this up?” We might ask, “Where is the lamb?” God is not threatened by such questions. Weak hearts do not scare Him. He does not get frustrated when His children struggle with what they do not know. He is patient and gracious and will “provide the Lamb” (Gen. 22:8). He has indeed “provided The Lamb.”
“Behold the Lamb of God” on whom your pain is placed (Jn. 1:36). Never imagine that God is simply toying with your heart. Never imagine that God does not care, or that you are being asked to give up more than your share. He is simply asking you to trust Him for this small thing as you trusted Him for life itself.
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things” (Rom. 8:32)? No one can promise you that “all things” includes a mate, but we can definitively say He is a generous God who lavishes blessings on His children. Therefore, we can also say that the delay does not indicate a lack of love.
“For this is how we know God loved the world,” this is how we know God loves us, “He sent His only-begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16).
God is not capricious; He does not hide his intentions from us in order to keep us guessing. More often than not the path we must take is clear. Usually, the real issue is that though the spirit is willing the flesh is weak. Loneliness makes fighters of us all, and when it comes to giving up what we want, we are like dogs when our food is threatened. We growl though our master seeks to save us from harm.
To the lonely heart it hardly matters if the relationship is worth fighting for. It hardly matters the pain and strife it brings. To the lonely heart it matters only that there IS a relationship to fight for and that on the other side is the gaping abyss of loneliness. Loneliness makes fighters of us all.
While it may be impossible to completely “know” the will of God, there is some connection between our openness to “sacrifice” and the clarity we feel. In other words, if we are not open to hearing the truth we will hear only discordant sounds. We will hesitate not because we believe this or that relationship to be good, but because loneliness is worse and we don’t want to give it up. What we really doubt is that God is good and that He is the giver of good gifts—not just good enough gifts.
For me loyalty was often an issue. I always felt disloyal to a person in ending the relationship. I felt that by entering the relationship I made a promise, and that ending the relationship was breaking that promise. I needed to be “transformed by the renewing of my mind.”
Only in marriage is ending the relationship the breaking of a promise. Only in that is there disloyalty. Until then going back may be great wisdom.
If this is true of you then “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Think no more like a beleaguered soul. Think like a Child of God. Yours is eternity, and this is a moment in time. Yours is the best He has to offer. If He is hindering you—be hindered.
This article was first published on Crosswalk.com Wednesday, April 07, 2010.