Relationships Are Easy

Conflict

Relationships are easy.

I understand that people have experienced real struggles in their relationships. I am not trying to discredit those experiences or say they weren’t real. I too have experienced struggles in my relationships.

What I am saying here is that none of it is necessary.

In a previous Facebook post I wrote, “You can interpret disagreements and misunderstandings as conflict, or you can interpret them as opportunities to explore the other person.”

Couples here in Japan often talk about how they regularly argue. They seem to believe that arguing is an unavoidable reality and take comfort in the fact that other couples around them are experiencing the same quality of relationship.

But does it really have to be that way? Does true intimacy necessitate conflict?

I had a friend recommend and lend to me a book on marriage that started with the premise that marriage will be hard work, no matter how good your relationship is. That was in the introduction. I didn’t read any further.

I know people who have married believing that “marriage is hard work.” In their experience, it indeed has been hard work. I also know people who have married believing that “marriage is easy.” In their experience, it indeed has been easy.

What you expect is what you get.

The same is true for all other kinds of relationships – family, friends, co-workers, those you live with, etc.

You may be wondering how, on a practical level, I can believe this. It all hinges on the concept within the post that I quoted above.

Arguments are based on the assumption that differences are bad. Under this assumption, when a difference in opinion or action is encountered, the default reaction is to get defensive (when they don’t like what you do) or offensive (when you don’t like what they do).

When we choose to feel threatened by people who say or do something differently than we would, we will want to control them. We will try to get them to think or act like us or suppress their feelings concerning what we say or do.

On the other hand, when we choose to appreciate them for who they are, we will seek to understand why they are different than us. It will launch you into an adventure of understanding who they are and what makes them think and act the way they do. You will gain a new perspective on them and adjust how you approach them.

If agreement is the goal in your relationships, you will live in a state of perpetual conflict because no one fully agrees with anyone. There’s something about cultivating an ability to be okay with disagreement that enables you to enjoy other people for who they are, no matter where they are at in life.

I’m not saying there will never be incompatible interests. I’m saying that those occasions needn’t give rise to conflict and instead are an opportunity for love.

Selfishness is rooted in thinking that your desire and another’s, what is best for you and best for them, are at odds, that it must be one or the other. This is simply not true.

Humans are interconnected, and the satisfaction of one cannot be separated from that of another. Your happiness makes me happy, and your sadness makes me sad. Further, the greatest pleasure is found in loving others. As Jesus explained it, giving is happier than receiving.

I also recognize that people can do stupid stuff, but confronting them when their behavior persists doesn’t have to be a big deal. It feels like a big deal for some of us because we grew up in cultures and environments in which such feelings and thoughts are suppressed (unless they build up to the point of explosion). But, really, it can be dealt with easily by telling them how what they do makes you feel. If they care about you, they will change their behavior accordingly.

This is usually not practiced because of fear. People may give other reasons, but I think it boils down to this. Confronting someone means revealing that you think differently than they do, thus creating a situation in which conflict is a possible outcome.

As I explained earlier, however, it never has to head in that direction. What it comes down to is trust. Can they trust that your confrontation is not a personal affront but rather an act of vulnerability in which you open your heart up to them? Conversely, can you trust that, when you open yourself up to them, they will not judge or take offense at you?

Take the risk.

Love deeply.

And discover that it is the most fun yet least difficult way of life.

The Harmony of Enjoying and Glorifying God

Another story of Jesus revealing his goodness to me.

When I was a Sophomore in college, I encountered and struggled with this question: “Am I doing everything for God’s glory? Am I living this life purely out of a motivation to serve him with none of myself in the equation?”

The more I thought about this question the more I realized that the answer was no. There was some kind of motivation to please myself behind everything that I did “for God,” whether that was getting personal satisfaction or a promised future reward.

I can’t tell you how guilty this made me feel. I saw myself as selfish and inclined to evil, desiring what was contrary to God’s heart. I tried to suppress and ignore my thoughts and emotions and focused on obeying God simply because that was the right thing to do. I wanted to live out of a devotion unadulterated by my own desires, but it seemed impossible. How could I get rid of motivation rooted in myself?

Unfortunately, I never stopped to ask some simple questions.

What brings God glory? What pleases him? 

One day I was browsing through my college’s library when I stumbled upon a book called “Desiring God” by John Piper. Piper recounted how he had gone through the same struggle I myself was going through at that time – and it was during college for him too! I read with wide-eyed excitement as I sought his answer to our dilemma.

Piper writes, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever…God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

Oh my God! Oh my God!…Oh my God! I had no other words. This was simply too good to be true.

desirelessAt that moment I realized that God designed me to be a pleasure seeker and that God himself was the ultimate satisfaction of my desires. It was okay for me to want God for the joy to be found in him.

God wasn’t looking for me to clean up my motives or work hard at self-denial. He was looking to be glorified precisely by my enjoying him.

I was mind blown. I was heart melted. I was utterly blissed.

The happy message of the Gospel is that the glory of God and the joy of mankind are not in opposition but rather are in harmony. 

I had tried to suppress my God-given nature as a pleasure seeker but failed. “To the extent we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people,” writes Piper.

All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. … The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves. – Blaise Pascal

What I really needed was to make sure I was drinking from the most pleasurable source: Christ. Only he satisfies. And he indeed does satisfy, completely. “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:14).

This is why it’s important to happily repent (i.e. change our minds). It’s not about striving to quit seeking pleasure; it’s about reconsidering what is and isn’t pleasurable, ultimately realizing that God himself is the greatest delight.

crowder

“The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful,” writes Piper. “We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction. The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God.”

God wants a people addicted to His pleasure – a people who serve him for no other reason than the delight they take in Him. This is the very heart of true worship. It is not self-centered. It is putting God at the very center of self, so that self cannot possibly be satisfied without Him. – John Crowder

“Eden” literally means “pleasure.” God gave Adam the job of tending the garden of pleasure. This is what we were created for.

God is that good.

*****

(If you want to see a fuller scriptural basis for this idea, check out The Ecstasy of Loving God  by John Crowder.)

“I Need You Lord” – Our Perpetually Satisfied Need

Imagine this.

You’re about to eat a meal on the table in front of you that your mom made for you. Before you take your first bite you turn to your mom and say, “Mom, I’m really hungry.” Puzzled, your mom responds, “Well, then eat the food I made for you. It’s right in front of you. What are you waiting for?”

I believe that’s what God feels like sometimes when we say to him, “God, I need you.”

“I know buddy. But you already have me. So let’s talk, hang out, live life together. What are you waiting for?”

Yes, humans need God, and it’s important that everybody acknowledge that in their daily living.

As believers, however, we shouldn’t be telling God that we need him. Why? Because he already knows that, and he’s provided for that need.

We are never without God. We have been filled with the fullness of the Godhead (Colossians 2:9-10), and he ain’t goin nowhere (John 14:16).

“But I tell him to remind myself that I need him.”

The fact that you regularly tell God that you need him, though, shows that you don’t really need reminding.

This language is especially important for people who don’t know that they have God. If everyone around a new believer is saying “I need God” they will start to think that they do too (which is okay), but they will also start to think that they don’t have God yet (which is not okay).

In human relationships when we need something from another person we express that need by saying “I need ____” (and talking like this implies that the person saying it doesn’t yet have what they are claiming they need). It would be totally weird if someone expressed a need for something they already have – like talking about how hungry they are when there’s a meal right in front of them.

When we say we need something, we acknowledge a lack. When we say we need God, we acknowledge a nonexistent lack.

Technically, “I need God” is a true statement, but it’s silly because it’s unnatural in normal speech to say you need something you already have, and it’s unhelpful because it gets us focusing on the wrong thing.

God’s provision for you is greater than your nonexistent lack.

UnionSo. What are you waiting for?

God is fully available. Always.

He’s always with you. He never leaves. You may have forgotten about him, but he was, is, and will be always with you.

I don’t talk about needing God. I’m not desperate for him. I don’t cry out for him. I’m not looking for him. I’m not seeking him.

I’m enjoying him.

I’m experiencing life with him.

I’m not saying we are self-sufficient. Rather, we are Christ-sufficient.

“Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God…” (2 Corinthians 3:4-5).

Let’s confess the truth.

“God, I have you!”

Let’s be thankful for what he’s provided.

“God, thank you for you!”

You are one with Christ. Enjoy your union with him.

p.s. I wonder how many “worship songs” this invalidates?

*****

Also check out this article I found after writing this post:

http://saintsnotsinners.org/think-you-need-jesus-think-again-pt-1/