Navigating Broken Relationships Supernaturally
Chances are you can pinpoint some difficulty in your relational life.
Maybe it’s a hurt from the past you can’t quite shake, the haunting memory of someone who never forgave you or whom you yourself have struggled to for- give. Maybe you have a friend or family member who routinely takes advantage of you, and you struggle with the courage to confront them and ask them to repent. Maybe your marriage is broken or your children are prodigals or your best friend is a jerk.
Whoever you are and wherever you are, you’re probably not living much of a relational life if you are not touched in some way by relational conflict.
Ever since the fall, our relationships have been a complex web of hurts, fears, worries, and slights.
Would it surprise you to know that the Holy Spirit was sent by God to help with all these kinds of brokenness?
When the Holy Spirit takes up residence in a sinner’s heart, He immediately begins renovating the place. It doesn’t matter where you placed the furniture before; He’s going to rearrange it into a home more suitable for Himself. And He’s going to start populating the place with new qualities and sharpened attributes. The Holy Spirit does not bear love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23) in us to focus those fruits on us. Each of these important character qualities from God’s Spirit reach their fullness and most glorify God when they are exemplified in loving service to others. It is great, for instance, if you are generally peaceful. That is a gift from God. But it is better when being peaceful means you are able to forgo vengeance when someone wrongs you. Self-control is great for personal growth and devotion, but self-control hits its apex when it results in margin or abundance with which to share with others in need.
The fruit of the Spirit are the evidences of God’s grace fusing into our hearts and minds, conforming our affections and behavioral patterns to the movements of the Spirit and the rhythms of the kingdom. This is something we need gospel power for; we cannot achieve this kind of supernatural outlook on life in and of ourselves. Only the Holy Spirit can establish it in us.
I grew up a very timid, neurotic person. I was easily discouraged and hurt. Consequently it was easy for some people to take advantage of me, to boss me around and manipulate me. Before I had experienced a profound awakening to the gospel of Jesus Christ, I was quite susceptible to passive aggression and bullying. I thought my worth and my identity were always up for grabs, defined by my performance, or at least by others’ perception of it.
But something happened to me after I hit rock bottom. I woke up. Or rather, the Holy Spirit woke me up. In one moment, on one night according to God’s providential design, the Spirit stirred my heart while I was in the midst of some prayerful groanings, burnt up by the bitterness of my sin and broken up by the heavy burden of depression, and he imparted the message of the gospel to my heart in a fresh and exhilarating way. I’ve never been the same.
I didn’t become perfect. No, far from it. But I have a greater and more pronounced sense of Christ’s perfection given to me by God’s grace. The Holy Spirit had revived me and reminded me of my position with the King and my access to the very throne room itself. I cannot deny this changed the way I responded to all kinds of relational wounds and slights.
As a pastor, I’ve been subjected to all kinds of passive aggressive manipulation. I’ve had the biggest donor in my church gently suggest he’d stop giving if I didn’t make certain decisions he liked. I’ve had people try to sabotage me. I’ve been falsely accused, maliciously maligned, and callously gossiped about. It all hurt, let me tell you. But by God’s grace, I was never undone by any of it.
Once you realize the Spirit has hidden you with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3), you realize you don’t have anything left to hide.
And when you’re intentional about awareness of your new identity in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), you stop feeling like you have something to prove. The Spirit gives you the power to be your true self with both humility and confidence. I call this “gospeling” yourself.
What God graciously does for us is connect us to the eternal reality of His kingdom, which operates on a higher level than the idolatrous kingdoms of this world. Believing in the gospel of the Kingdom tunes our hearts to Heaven and its frequency. This may sound weird, but when we walk in step with the Spirit, it is like inhabiting another dimension even while participating in the regular world.
When Bill sets his heart on grace and prepares to “gospel” his heart out of any hurts or confusion he may be tempted to wallow in at Thanksgiving, he is in a very real sense operating in a completely different dimension than his parents and siblings. The digs and barbs come, but he’s like Neo in The Matrix, dodging all those bullets as if in slow motion. The Spirit has bent reality for him, helping him to see that whatever hurtful or discouraging things are said to or about him aren’t the final and true words — not about him, not about his life, and not even about reality.
This may sound like pretending, but it’s really the other way around.
Whenever we hurt someone, whether intentionally or by neglect, we are operating according to the perversion of God’s created order.
His original design for men and women was to know Him fully and joyfully and, consequently, through Him to know each other. Husbands and wives, by the Spirit, are meant to experience unashamed nakedness with one another. Every human being, by the Spirit, is meant to love his neighbor as himself.
But the cosmic treason of sin has divorced us from God and consequently has divorced us from one another. And yet, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s Spirit is still on the scene, still wooing people back into fellowship with others, still reconstructing what we’ve broken and mending what we’ve torn. Look at how Paul connected relational health to moving in accordance with the Spirit:
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. — Ephesians 4:25-32
What did Paul mean in verse 30 when he referred to the grieving of the Spirit? In context, he was making an inextricable connection between walking by the Spirit and interpersonal wholeness. When we lie about others, give in to anger and unforgiveness, adopt a posture of stinginess, curse others, grow bitter, cultivate wrath, and engage in slander, we grieve the Spirit because we’ve stopped walking in His footsteps. We grieve the Spirit by resisting His impact on the way we live our lives, even if simply going on spiritual “autopilot,” because that means we are susceptible to the shaping values of the world and the temptations of the Devil.
On the other hand, when we put all those things away and instead treat others with kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness, we commend the Spirit’s work in our lives. And the wonderful thing is,
when we consciously and conscientiously submit ourselves to the Spirit’s work, He seeds and grows more and more kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness within us.
Christians have the power to “do relationships” in an entirely unworldly way. If we will set our minds on things above and remember that we are not our own, we will become fertile ground for relational transformation. The Spirit does this because His aim is to glorify the Son and proclaim the gospel, and these aims cannot be accomplished if we aren’t loving others, including — especially — the people who hurt us.
Excerpted with permission from Supernatural Power for Everyday People by Jared Wilson, copyright Jared C. Wilson.
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Relationship messes are bound to happen. People are going to hurt us and we, unintentionally or not, are going to hurt people. With the help of the Holy Spirit, with His heart-renovation work within us, though, we can grow to love people better and live increasingly supernaturally. What relationship are you praying for? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily