Navigating Difficult Relationships

10:09 AMHeather

There is a bit of a recurring theme these days in my life.  My own study of the Word, along with the Beth Moore study of James are capped off with the topic of my pastor's current sermon series...all on relationships!  Relationships.  They should be the core of our lives.  And, I don't mean the electronic relationships via Facebook or Twitter or such.  I mean, face to face, real life relationships.  I have found in my life that relationships are hard for one fact alone.  They involve people.  People with biases, sensitivities, opinions, and personalities.

Joseph undoubtedly had some difficult relationships.  My son would say--"Ya think?  Just look at his brothers for instance!"  Here in the story of Joseph I've mined out a nugget of truth that has been emphasized by my James study AND my pastor's sermons.  God is in the business of resurrecting dead relationships, particularly when we humble ourselves to serve others.  You may have some dead relationships that you'd just as soon leave that way.  To do otherwise might be too scary.  Or maybe your pride keeps you from humbling yourself to serve in that relationship--maybe you were even wounded greatly by that person.  Serve them?  I don't think so.

Joseph is an ancient example of a wounded and wronged person whose walk with the Lord humbled him to service.  He was not, as I said the other day in my blog post, a superhero.  He was flesh and blood.  On his own power, I'm sure he wanted to exact revenge on his brothers, and maybe somewhere in his years to mull it over, he realized that his father's favoritism helped fuel the hatred his jealous brothers had for him.  How did he overcome this to the point of fellowship with this family, as we see in Genesis?  It's as I've said--he was changed by his surrender to the Lord and his intimacy with him.

In Genesis 47, we see that Joseph's father is about to die.  He makes a deathbed plea with his son, "If I have found favor in your eyes...show me kindness and faithfulness...and bury me in my own land" (Genesis 47:29).  I am struck here by the thought that the Dad who showed such divisive favoritism--the spark that ignited Joseph's trials--humbly asks Joseph for favor now.  Here's the thing.  Despite the rocky roads of our mistakes, we can still press on to fellowship.  We can still humbly seek favor.  We can boldly ask for other's kindness.  Not pleading or whining or begging--just humbly asking, "can you do this?"  If you are the offender in a now dead relationship, it's not too late.  It's not too late to spend some time in prayer, chewing on the relationship matters with the Lord.  And, then humbly approaching the other person to ask for favor.  Jacob was rather specific about his request.  I'd encourage you to be specific too.  Prayerfully consider a first step, a starting point.  How about, "Hey, if I have found favor with you, can we go to lunch?"  Swallow that lump of pride, and take a baby step in obedience, believing that God is in the resurrection business.  He loves to bring the dead to life--especially when it comes to relationships.  

And, just what if you are the OFFENDED?  What if you have been wronged?  What if the wounds are too deep, too painful, and you'd just rather have a dead relationship than a difficult one?  I feel ya on that one.  And, this side of the matter isn't easy to navigate either.  Somehow, Joseph managed to do it.  Which tells me that we can, too.  I think the key on Joseph's end of the matter was choosing to acknowledge two things about his trials and pains.  

1.  God was with him all along--even in the pit, even in slavery, even in prison.

2.  God was big enough to bring purpose and good through the pains.

I think Joseph must have been able to see that his trials weren't wasted.  He chose to look past the wounds and the difficulties to see a big God still working on his behalf.  And, he chose to press in ever closer to his God.  He chose to surrender and say, "it's all yours!  I'm all yours!"  He quit looking for an out.  He quit looking for revenge.  He embraced the position and place where God had him.  He found a contentment in the journey by trusting the One who led him.  He even found the courage to trust the Lord for one of the scariest steps of all--re-entering a painful relationship, trusting the Restorer and Resurrector to do whatever He wanted.  Because Joseph chose obediently to go where he didn't want to go with the One he knew would never lead him astray.

Glimpse of grace:  Joseph and Jacob's story is one we can all glean from because certainly, we all have difficult relationships to navigate.  With ex-husbands or unfaithful husbands or abusive family members or just unpleasant people.  Or, maybe you're the one who made things difficult somewhere back there.  We can do the human thing and go with our instincts.  Or, we can stretch uncomfortably to go with God's call.  We can be changed by the favor God shows us so that we can seek the favor of others...and pour favor on others.  It's an endless well to draw from--God's favor.  He will pour Himself out to take you wherever He calls you to go, no matter how painful or scary it is.  The key is to press in to him so closely that you don't miss a whisper of instruction.  Give us ears to hear...and help our unbelief!

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