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Relief vs. Relationship

17 Feb

The fall of 1977 was a hard time for me. I was recovering from a broken heart and really struggling to believe and receive God’s love, goodness, wisdom – you name it. The enemy was up to his old tricks of tempting me with doubt about the character of God and about my own salvation.

RelationshipI called a dear friend whose walk with the Lord I trusted and who had seen me in similar upheaval before. I asked her what she thought the Lord might be trying to teach me through these recurring circumstances. To be honest, I wanted relief. But my wise friend told me that though God does teach us through the difficulties of life, He’s wants something more – relationship. If I were to stay in the mindset that He’s trying to teach me something, then my view of God is that He’s out to “get me.” But if I will draw near to Him in that rough time, He will draw near to me.

I’m grateful that the Lord gave me grace and sense to receive that as welcomed news that day. It was like hearing something for the first time and being excited about the prospects. After I got off the phone with her, I told the Lord I was willing to let Him draw me more into relationship with Him, not even knowing what that would look like.

The next day I was reading in my regular Bible plan in Ephesians 2. The first verse jumped right off the page! “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” God was assuring me in His Word that I belonged to Him.

The rest of the chapter confirmed that assurance even more. The verses compare those who are lost with those who are in Christ. The verb tenses of those showing life before Christ are in past tense – “were dead,” “formerly walked,” “formerly lived,” “formerly were far off,” etc. The tenses for life in Him are in the present – “made us alive,” “have been saved,” “seated … with Him,” “have been brought near,” “are of God’s household,” etc. The whole of the chapter is a before and after contrast – one of desperate need for a Savior, and one that proclaims the preciousness of His grace.

When I finished reading the chapter and looking at all there was in that before and after picture, I wrote in the margin “Assurance!” along with the date. I rejoiced in my relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ.

I’m often reminded of that time whenever I come into a difficult season. To be honest, I need to be reminded because I get into the “give me relief” mindset quickly and forget that it’s a time to deepen my relationship with the very One who created me.

In the past couple of days Ephesians 2 has come up in devotional reading with my husband and in part of the prep for a Bible study I’m in. It’s been sweet to remember what God did for me then and to be assured He’ll do it again. It’s been good, too, to remember my friend who shared this truth with me. She’s in heaven now enjoying her relationship with the Father face-to-face. I’ll get to tell her thank you again one day, but my greatest thanks will be to the One who calls each of us into relationship with Him and made it possible through His Son Jesus Christ.

Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12-13)

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