Relationship is as vital to the human soul as is water to the human body. And just as the quality of water will have direct bearing on one’s overall physical health, so too will the quality of our relationships influence the health of our soul.
In some places in the world, good water is taken for granted (and the sound of me clearing my throat and nodding subtly in the direction of the closest drinking fountain will not be lost on you). On the other hand, in some places “drinking water” is unknown (at least to the extent that we would define it as such) and, if any water is to be had at all, then mud and disease must be tolerated by those who have no other option than to drink what we would be appalled by.
My wife and I have friends who have been called by God to serve in some of those places. In the midst of poverty and spiritual oppression, these friends dig wells for the use of communities that are suffering from drought or arid conditions that make agriculture nearly impossible and even leave inhabitants parched and thirsty. As they help those in physical want of water, they often find that the Holy Spirit provides opportunities to also share in leading some to the ultimate wellspring of “spiritual water” – water that is healthy, wholesome, pure and good (see John 7:37-38).
As far as relationships in general go, none is as important as the one for which we were actually made, that of abiding in an ongoing love relationship with God Himself through Jesus Christ. If that one is not what it ought to be (or at the very least is not on its way to becoming what it ought to be), then none of our relationships can be truly sustained or be fully satisfying. In other words, let us remember to keep Jesus Christ first in our hearts, our plans, our hopes and our dreams.
Having said these things, however, as human beings we have been designed by our Creator to “need” one another (i.e., “It is not good for the man to be alone,” from Genesis 2:18). We need one another’s company, we crave one another’s good opinion of ourselves, we depend on one another both in social and in physical endeavors, and nothing underscores the importance of relationship so much as the fact that nearly everything in the Bible either directly or indirectly deals with it, from God’s delineation of how to relate to Him and to others in the Ten Commandments to the very work of Jesus so that we could have relationship with Him through His atoning work on the cross and fellowship one with another.
“That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3 ESV).
Relationships have a way of being great sources of encouragement and empowerment for us. They also have a way of leeching from us health and wholesomeness, and in some cases of completely destroying lives. Like the little girl with the little curl, “when they are good they are very, very good. And when they are bad, they are horrid.”
Healthy relationships take time, trust, honesty, and good old fashioned hard work. Neglecting them lets them deteriorate into acid pools of frustration that can ruin us and damage others. We have the hope that with the help of Christ, our relationships can be made into beautiful vessels of honor for God whether we’re talking about friendship, courtship, spousal, or parenthood. Even business associations can (and should) be avenues of grace as God’s love and power flow through us into the lives of others because of our connectedness.
But what do you do when, in spite of all that you do and all that you pray, relationships break down and turn into ovens of frustration? When the yeast of discontentedness and miscommunication somehow filters into the dough of relationship from the broken world around us, relationships sometimes become seemingly capable of producing nothing but pain and sadness. So much can be (and needs to be) said to address this that this small article can do little more than touch upon it.
Yet, if you have found yourself suffering from the aftermath of a broken relationship, be reminded that you are not alone. The world around you has itself been reeling from the horror of such brokenness from its infancy, from Adam and Eve’s broken fellowship with God to Cain and Abel’s broken fellowship with God and one another resulting in the first murder.
Seek to humble yourself to God and allow Him to help you in being reconciled if possible: apologize for that which you ought and make right what you can. Then commit the matter to the Lord through prayer, trusting that God is at least as interested as you (and likely to be more so) in bridging broken relationships.
Sometimes, however, others are not interested in fixing broken relationships. Sometimes, you are a victim of unearned and unwarranted attacks by those who “should” love and support you. Again, you are not alone.
“It is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me – then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend” (Psalm 55:12-13 ESV).
Because we sometimes suffer broken fellowship no matter how hard we have tried to mend things or compensate, we must remember that we need not be ruined or bound by our hurt. While it is true, as has been said, that we have been created for relationship, the one relationship that sustains us when all others have been drowned in the raging waters of disaster is our relationship with God. Fortunately, it is the one relationship that is not founded on our efforts or our successes or even our own personal worth, but is based on the love and righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself.
Take heart. Jesus loves you, even if friends or family desert or betray you. Let the healing water of His love soothe your weary and scarred soul as you trust His promise to love you and make you His own forever.
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 21 years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.