As a pastor in the Nashville area—a place where churches are plentiful and Christianity is profitable—I’ve come across a lot of stories of relational pain caused by professing Christians. This reality is especially unfortunate, since most of the people I have pastored understand far more about what to do with their physical pain than they do with relational pain. They know how to deal with diverse levels of physical discomfort, but usually they just have one of two responses to relational discomfort—fight or flight.
Perhaps there is a better way? How great would it be if we could find a way that leads to less relational pain and more relational peace? I think the Bible shows us this way. I think the Bible would have us choose the following 5 responses to relational pain, resulting in reduced relational pain and increased relational peace.
- Use Your Relational Pain To Grow Your Prayer life – Most Christians struggle with prayer. They know they should pray, but they don’t. One of best ways to grow your prayer life is by praying your problems, praying your pain. When prayerless people learn to talk to God about their pain, they experience deeper levels of healing and peace. That’s what we see the Psalmists doing all of the time. Like the Psalmist, ask God to “consider your sighing” on those days you can’t seem to find the words for your pain (Ps. 5:1). Pour out your heart to God when it wasn’t an enemy that caused you great pain, but, like king David, it was your “companion and good friend!” (Ps. 55:13). Ask God to bring healing to your heart and your relationships. God allows relational pain in our lives to grow our prayer lives.
- Use Your Relational Pain To Grow Your Love For God – When people let you down, or cause pain in your life, it usually helps you appreciate those who haven’t. Of course, there is no one in your life who has avoided sinning against someone relationally, including you and me. Only God is perfectly dependable, loving, gracious, and present. Only Jesus has never been in the wrong relationally and yet always working for your good. Let your relational pain increase your love for the one being who is “a helper who is always found in times of trouble” (Ps. 46:1). Like the Apostle Paul, let the weakness of others lead you to experiences of God’s strength and faithfulness—“but the Lord stood with me and strengthened me…” (2 Tim. 4:17).
- Use Your Relational Pain To Grow Your Trust In God – Relational pain is painful, not only because of what has happened in the past, but because of what we think we are losing in the future. Our pain is exasperated because we think that our painful situation is causing us to lose a great future we had counted on. In my conversations with Christians, this “best future plan loss” thought is one of the hardest to get over. We naturally think we know what’s best for us right now, this week, next month, and beyond. But we don’t. God knows what’s best for us because he’s all-wise. He can ensure we experience what’s best for us because he’s all-powerful. And he is willing to do what’s best for us because he’s all-loving. The less we feel in control the more we can either worry about the future or trust God with the future. As we trust him more deeply, we rest more deeply. While the future implications of your relational pain don’t make sense to you, rest assured that they do to God.
- Use Your Relational Pain To Grow Your Peacemaking – Relational peace doesn’t just happen, it’s made. Jesus said blessed are the peace…makers (Matt. 5:9). The Apostle Paul says, “if possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). Peace and unity aren’t on the side streets of the Christian life, they are on main street (Jn. 17:21). Thankfully, with the gospel, Jesus has provided us everything that we need to be at peace with God and humanity. He’s given us an infinite amount of grace so that we can extend nickels and dimes of grace to those around us. Because you have been forgiven when you didn’t deserve it, you can forgive those who you believe are undeserving. Because Jesus works for your good, while you don’t deserve it, you can do the same for others as well. Those who have received grace can extend grace. Even when your “Alexander” is warring against you—when people are acting like your enemies—remember that Christians “don’t wrestle with flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12). Anyone can show kindness to people who are kind to them. Jesus wants to show the world something different. Use your relational pain to become more of a peacemaker. Make peace, by God’s grace, when you want to make war.
- Use Your Relational Pain To Grow Your Compassion – God uses our painful times to enable us to help others going through painful times. There is a unique comfort that God extends to people through the lives of people who have gone through something similar. Until you’ve been scarred by an “Alexander,” a “Demas,” or a “no-show,” you’ll have a hard time “getting” the pain of those who have. The Apostle Paul said that God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:4). Let God use your relational pain to make you more useful to others who are going through, have gone through, or are about to go through relational pain. Nobody makes it out of this broken world without a limp. The question is, will your limp help others or hurt others.
No one makes it out of this broken world unscarred. While it’s true that you’ll face relational pain, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have relational peace. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be prepared, like so many Christians before us, to face it with courage and humility. The way of Christ is a way that includes relational pain. But God is present, using even the worst things for your good (Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:18; 8:28).
This post originally appeared on Jed’s personal blog. You can check that out here.
If you missed it, be sure to check out part one: “3 Types of Relational Pain Christians Should be Prepared to Face“