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Over the past four weeks, we’ve looked at some relational disorders in others that are difficult to endure. My hope is that you’ve seen how to better relate to the challenging people in your life. We all have them, and we probably always will.
But what if it’s you? What if you’re the one suffering from one or more of these negative relational problems? What do you do if you’re the critic, the control freak, the volcano or the sponge? Is there really any hope for you or are you locked into a personality and way of life that cannot truly change?
Many years ago, a man came to me after a service in our church. He was in his 50s, married, and he had two sons. With tears in his eyes, he told me the highlights (or better put—the lowlights) of his life. He was a recovering alcoholic. He’d been in prison. His sons despised him. His wife was afraid of him. You could say he was the poster-boy for three of the four things we’ve covered in this blog series. He had a terrible temper, was as negative and critical as anyone you’ve ever met, and he was the ultimate control freak.
That day he asked me one question: “Can God change me?” And without hesitation my answer was, “Yes, restoration is His specialty!” That man died about ten years ago, but God did radically change him and his relationships during the last years of his life.
I believe with all my heart that whatever we are does not have to be who we will become. Whatever character issues or problems you have right now can be healed and resolved by the transforming power of God in your life. You can change, and there is hope because nothing is too big for God.
That being said, we do have a responsibility to cooperate with God.
Let’s take a look at our part in the process:
1. Be honest.
It’s imperative that you take off whatever mask you tend to live behind. The first step toward genuine and lasting change begins with honesty. As long as you live in denial or pretending to be something that you’re not, you hinder the transforming power of God in your life.
It’s like tying a knot in a hose; there can be all sorts of “living water” available, but it can’t get beyond the obstruction you’ve created or allowed.
King David understood this better than most when he wrote, “When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.’
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” Psalm 32:3, 5
No one is perfect. So why pretend or hide? Wouldn’t it be better to get real and to take off the mask?
2. Get help.
It is important to admit that you’re broken, but it’s not enough. You could walk around the rest of your life saying, “Man, I’m messed up!” But acknowledgement is only the first step. Once you’ve owned your sin, you need to get the support and encouragement that comes from accountability. You can’t do it on your own.
This is hard for some of us (most of us) to admit. Our culture admires rugged independence. We are stubbornly autonomous, and we believe that strong people are self-sufficient and only weak and needy people require the help of others. What a bunch of hooey! What a lie. We all need help and it’s okay. We desperately need God’s, and we absolutely need the help of others.
The guy I mentioned earlier got into the Word of God. He learned to walk in the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit, and he developed significant relationships with two other brothers who loved him and helped him grow. He told me once that it was like being on a roller coaster, lots of twists and turns, slow at times and occasionally scary, but always moving, changing, and growing.
You are not alone, and you were designed to function best when you are properly related vertically with God, and horizontally with others.
3. Be patient.
I’m not a very patient man. Once I know something or see something, I then want something, and I want it now! However, on a regular basis the Lord reminds me: “You didn’t create this situation or mess overnight, and it might take more than a night to change it and you.”
Just because you now realize what you’ve been doing and how you must change doesn’t mean that change will come quickly or easily. Can God do an instant miracle? Of course, He can. But often with Him the process is as important as the end product.
I want it now; He wants it to last.
I want it my way; He wants to teach me His way.
I want it easy; He wants me to grow.
Patience is far more than a virtue; it’s a way of life that must be cultivated.
Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 7:8 (NIV), “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”
You also must be patient with your friends, family, and those who might have written you off as a lost cause. It’s vital that you give them time and opportunity to see what God has done and is doing in you. If they’ve been wounded or abused by you, then healing of your relationship will take time. Endure.
Above all, hold on to hope. God can and will change you and heal your broken relationships. But He needs you to yield to Him, to cooperate with Him, and to trust the work of His love and His power in your life. The God who saves us, transforms us from the inside-out. How cool is that?
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