By Thom Mollohan
In some places in the world, good drinking water is taken for granted (I say as I clear my throat and nod subtly in the direction of the closest drinking fountain.) In many South American, African and Asian countries, drinkable water is a rare commodity—if water is available at all, mud and disease are tolerated along with it. Most of us would be would be appalled by the water some are forced to drink.
I have friends who have been called by God to serve in some of those places. In the midst of poverty and spiritual oppression, these friends dig wells for communities suffering from drought conditions, where agriculture is nearly impossible. As they help those in want of physical water, they often find that the Holy Spirit provides them opportunities to lead some to the ultimate wellspring of “spiritual water”—healthy, wholesome, and pure (see John 7:37-38). In places where water is not taken for granted, the analogy of Living Water captures the attention.
As water is vital to the human body, relationships are essential to the human soul. And just as the water quality has direct bearing on our overall physical health, so too the quality of our relationships influences the health of our soul.
There is no relationship as important as the one for which we were actually made: an ongoing loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If that relationship is not what it was intended to be, then none of our relationships will be fully satisfying. Jesus Christ needs to be first in our plans, our hopes and our dreams.
While this is true, we have also been designed to need one another: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). We need the company of others, and we crave their good opinion of us. We depend on one another in both social and physical endeavors. Nothing underscores the importance of our relationships more than the fact that nearly the entire Bible deals with it in some fashion. From the Ten Commandments to the work of Jesus, God delineates how we should relate to Him, as well as how we should relate to others. Through the atoning work on the cross, Jesus has given us a relationship with Him and fellowship with each another. As 1 John 1:3 tells us, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.”
Relationships are great sources of encouragement and empowerment to us. But like bad water, they can also leech our health and wholesomeness, and in some cases, they can completely destroy our lives. What was said of the little girl with the little curl can aptly be applied to relationships: “When they are good, they are very good. And when they are bad, they are horrid.”
Healthy relationships take time, trust, honesty and old-fashioned hard work. Neglect them, and they can deteriorate into acid pools of frustration which can ruin us and damage others. With the help of Christ, our relationships can truly bring honor to God. This can be said of friendships, courtships and family relationships. Even business associations should be avenues of grace for God’s love and power to flow through us and into the lives of others.
But what do we do when, in spite of all our efforts, a relationship breaks down and turns frustrating? What can be done when the yeast of discontentedness and miscommunication filter into the dough of the relationship from the broken world around us? Sometimes it seems relationships can become only capable of producing pain and sadness. Thousands of books still have not thoroughly addressed this topic, but here are a couple ways to approach relationships which have turned sour.
When we find ourselves in such uncomfortable social situations, it helps to keep in mind that we are not alone. The world around us has been reeling from the horror of such brokenness from its infancy. It all began with Adam and Eve’s broken fellowship with God, it continued through the first murder of Abel, and is rapid among us today. No matter who shares the majority of the fault, we shouldn’t feel like our situation is unique to us. We all hurt other people from time to time, and we all get hurt by someone else.
It’s also beneficial in these times to make sure that we humbly seek God and ask Him to help us reconcile to the other party, as much as it depends on us. This most likely will mean that we apologize for our part in the rift, and that we make right what we can. God is even more interested than we are in bridging our broken relationships.
Sometimes, however, others are not interested in fixing the relationship. Sometimes we can be a victim of unwarranted attacks by those who should love and support us. Again, we can be reassured that we are not the only ones to have experienced this kind of injustice. Psalm 55:13 captures this common occurrence: “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.”
As common as it may be, it still can hurt deeply. While it is true, that we have been designed for relationships, the one relationship that sustains us when all others have been drowned in the raging waters of disaster is our relationship with God. So, take heart. Jesus loves us too much to abandon us although those very dear to us may do so. He will remain faithful to us, even if our friends or family desert us. Fortunately, it is the one relationship that is not founded on our efforts, our successes, or even our own personal worth. It is based on the love and righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself. We can let the healing water of His love soothe our weary souls as we trust His promise to love us and keep His own forever. Even through the driest times in our lives, Jesus can keep our souls well hydrated.