Because our relationships are always lived out in the middle of some kind of difficulty, good relationships demand character. Remember, your relationships have not been designed by God as vehicles for human happiness, but as instruments of redemption. It isn’t enough to ask for the character you need to survive the difficulties of life and the weaknesses of the other person. We have been called to minister to the people that God, in his wisdom, has placed in our lives. He wants to use us as instruments of grace in their lives. To live this way takes character.
It takes humility to live with a sinner in a world of difficulty. It takes gentleness to be part of what God is doing in someone’s life and not get in the way. It takes patience to deal with the sin and weaknesses of those around you. It takes perseverance to be part of change in a relationship because that change is often a process and rarely an event. It takes forgiveness to move beyond the times you have been mistreated by another. It takes forbearance to continue to love a person, even when you are being provoked. It is hard to respond in kindness when you are treated unkindly. It takes remarkable love to serve the good of the other person and not be distracted by daily needs. (Notice that these character qualities are mentioned throughout the New Testament: Galatians 5:22-26; Ephesians 4:1-3; Philippians 2:1-11; Colossians 3:12-14.)
These are the qualities that characterise a healthy relationship, but we all must admit that these often are not the things that rule our hearts. Our hearts are more often ruled by anger, fear, hurt, self-righteousness, bitterness, and a desire for some form of vengeance.
... The hardship of relationships is not just that they can be difficult. The hardship includes what God calls us to be and do in the middle of the difficulty. God calls each of us to be humble, patient, kind, persevering, and forgiving. God calls us to speak with grace and to act with love, even when the relationship lacks grace and we have not been treated with love.
Because of this, your relationships will take you beyond the boundaries of your normal strength. They will take you beyond the range of your natural abilities and beyond the borders of your natural and acquired wisdom. Relationships will push you beyond the limits of your ability to love, serve, and forgive. They will push you beyond you. At times they will beat at the borders of your faith. At times they will exhaust you. In certain situations, your relationships will leave you disappointed and discouraged. They will require what you do not seem to have, but that is exactly as God intended it. That is precisely why he placed these demanding relationships in the middle of the process of sanctification, where God progressively molds us into the likeness of Jesus. When you give up on yourself, you begin to rely on him. When you are willing to abandon your own little dreams, you begin to get excited about his plan. When your way has blown up in your face again, you are ready to see the wisdom of God’s way.
... At some point, every relationship brings you to the end of yourself, and with God there is no healthier place to be.