Way deep down in the recesses of my heart, I secretly suspect there are those who don’t struggle with relationships, who are just gifted emotionally with the ability to relate, serve, communicate, and empathize. Furthermore, this well-hidden tribe of super friends, spectacular parents, and awesome spouses naturally attracts fabulous acquaintances and loved ones to themselves like my attic attracts wasps. And these people live life in a fairy tale world that comes without any pain, suffering, or awkward confrontational exchanges. There might even be a mythical creature involved here or there.
This bizarre fantasy of mine isn’t real, I don’t think. After all, I see what people post on Facebook and Twitter in moments of frustration. I know the pain of those I’ve counseled and had tea with. My own heart wounds as often as it is wounded. As long as we’re talking about relationships and people, we’re talking about sin. Even those of us who love the Lord dearly, have believed on Jesus Christ, and have confessed our sins and repented… even we are being sanctified progressively. Little by little, we are being made holy–set apart for God’s own purposes.
Usually, my sanctification is painful and involves something I’ve done to harm someone I love, or something someone I love has done to harm me. Just sayin’…..
So, mythical worlds of relationship-issue-immune people aside, I’m going to assume that you–like me–could use a little help looking at your relationships in light of the gospel. God’s Word constantly admonishes us to love others. I know the Lord mentions it often because we are fickle souls, prone to loving only ourselves.
My Relationships in Light of the Gospel
Totally by divine providence, I recently picked up a book I received a year ago and began reading it. Everyday Grace: Infusing All Your Relationships With the Love of Jesus by Jessica Thompson (Bethany House, 2015) looked interesting to me, and it’s a subject that I’ve been really praying over. After reading (and conducting a book club on) Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids With the Love of Jesus that was written by Thompson and her mother Elyse Fitzpatrick, I thought I’d give Everyday Grace a try. After all, I like Thompson’s writing and I know I can always (always) grow in my understanding of how to love others better. Not only that, I can always grow in my understanding of God’s love for me. I have deeply internalized His sovereign rule over my life (and all things), but His love is harder for me to grasp.
The last few weeks have been a little rough relationally for me. It seemed like every time I read a section of Everyday Grace, it would speak directly to a relationship issue that was about to need some tender, loving care. I’m not always the best at tender, loving anything!
I read on the treadmill several times throughout the day, which means I don’t always finish a chapter or even a section before closing a book, as I’m on the clock. This does give me time to think through whatever section I end on. A few weeks ag0, I read about God as our Father and I finished a paragraph in the chapter about our relationships with our children before closing the book and hitting “stop” on my walk. The paragraph I ended on says:
When we see how little we deserve to be called “children of God” and how extravagant his grace is in calling us his beloved sons and daughters, we can extend that same grace to our children. They will sin against us, but the deeper we press into his love, the more their sin will be grievous because it is against him and the less it will be about how they disrespected us. (Everyday Grace, Jessica Thompson, page 65)
My children’s sins–while they may offend, hurt, or inconvenience me–are not about me. Their sins are against God, and my children need to be pointed to that fact. Moreover, my emotions can trend toward sorrow rather than anger or irritation because they have offended their Father. I don’t need to defend my own rights or righteousness.
Not more than an hour after reading that passage, I encountered a situation with my child that revealed a fairly major heart issue. I’m thankful the Lord reminded me beforehand that He is truly my child’s Father, and I am entrusted as a steward. I was heartbroken, but I was able to calmly deal with the situation.
The past few weeks have been filled (in my frail human estimation) with change and heartbreak in relationships on many fronts. Everyday Grace has been both healing and instructive to me as I’ve sought to navigate offenses and failures (mine and theirs).
Your Relationships in Light of the Gospel
Everyday Grace is really written to help you rightly view your relationships in light of the gospel. Each chapter (beginning in chapter 4) addresses a relationship arena by first introducing and exploring God’s role in that arena (God as our Father, Jesus as our friend, husband, and brother, the Holy Spirit as our comforter, etc.). Thompson then applies this new (or deepened) understanding of God’s grace for us in a particular aspect of our lives to the way we relate to others in a similar area or capacity.
This is not a book that will fix your relationships in ten easy steps. Thompson repeatedly points out that she herself struggles on a daily basis to love others as she has been loved. This is a book that will challenge the way you look at God’s love for you, and it will challenge you to look at the grace you give others, and the manner in which you love them.
Everyday Grace is grounded in Scripture. Thompson addresses God’s love in ways that I hadn’t really considered it, though I’ve read the very same Scriptures many times. I appreciated the quotes provided, and the challenge and instruction for the application of God’s grace to individual relationships. I plan to read Everyday Grace again, to further consider how I may gracefully love others better and to better understand how my Lord loves me. If you don’t happen to live in the imaginary rainbow-filled universe of perfect people with perfect relationships I sometimes imagine, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Everyday Grace and read through it.
Everyday Grace Chapters:
- The Problem with Us
- The Perfection of God
- How Do We Change?
- God Our Father and Our Relationships With Our Children
- Jesus Our Friend and Our Friendships
- God’s Mission and Our Relationships with Our Communities
- God Our Husband and Our Marriages
- Jesus Our Brother and Our Relationships With Our Families
- Jesus Our High Priest and Our Relationships With Church Members
- Jesus a Carpenter and Our Relationships With Our Co-Workers
- The Holy Spirit Our Comforter/Helper and Our Relationships With Difficult People
- The Gospel for Relationship Failure
Purchase Everyday Grace
I want to thank Bethany House for providing me with a copy of Everyday Grace in return for my honest opinion.
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- Organic Outreach for Families by Kevin G. and Sherry Harney
- Engaging Today’s Prodigal by Carol Barnier
- Intentional Parenting by Tad Thompson
- Your Child’s Profession of Faith by Dennis Gundersen
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~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.