ASK KEVIN – Relationship advice for the Slightly Bewildered
I am hoping you can help me with a difficult issue in my relationship with God. You see, I’ve been a good Christian for almost 12 years and, while things were good at first, lately I’m sensing a separation in our relationship that has been ongoing for some time. It’s reached the point that, and I’m ashamed to admit this, I’m sometimes losing sight of the Cross.
I continue to attend church services regularly and will gladly do whatever is asked of me, yet my heart is not in it like it once was. And I miss that. Can you help me?
Losing My Way
Dear Losing My Way,
Certainly, relationship issues can be thorny at times, whether with our spouse, our kids and even with God. Of course, there is a big difference with our relationship with God, because the problem is never with Him. But, as fallible, fallen humans, we are less than ideal partners.
People who have reached the third stage of life (older than 65), who are the experts in living life, have much wisdom to impart about successful marriages. We can apply that wisdom to our relationship with the Lord.
Commit yourself to the relationship
When I married, it was “until death do us part,” certainly NOT “as long as love shall last,” or “as long as he/she makes me happy.” Similarly, when you enter a relationship with God, your Baptism is a sign of your commitment to honoring a life-long covenant with the Lord. And just as the marriage ceremony contains the admonition to “love, honor and obey”, we are also to love, honor and obey our Lord. He is not a silent partner but rather shares with us what we need to do:
“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’”(Acts 2:37-38).
You’re not going to change Him.
Some people marry thinking that they can “grow” their spouses into somebody more pleasing. This mindset doesn’t work in marriage and it certainly doesn’t work with God. If you think that by acting in a particularly “good” manner (attending church regularly, etc.) that this will “make” God love and bless you even more, then perhaps you have forgotten Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…”(Ephesians 2:8). We are saved by His incomparable grace, not by what we do or don’t do.
Talk to each other
I can’t stress enough how important it is for a married couple to TALK to each other. About EVERYTHING. There should be NO topic that is out of bounds for discussion. Bring it ALL to the table and SHARE with your spouse. If a subject cannot be talked about without one of you becoming upset and leaving, then try a change of venue.
Similarly, it’s no good talking with God and, with your many words, think that you will somehow deflect His attention away from that sin of which you are ashamed. Adopting the attitude, “Oh, it’s too shameful for me to talk about, even with God,” really demeans God, does it not? Do you think that He has stopped loving you because of your faulty nature? Do you think that He does not know the deep things about you? Remember what the Psalmist says, “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him; for God is our refuge”(Psalm 62:8).
Don’t keep score
Marriage is not a 50-50 proposition. Marriage is a 100-100 proposition. You both go into it giving 100% of yourselves. There is no place for keeping lists of “who did what.” Such lists can only lead to unhappiness, resentment and nagging.
Do you think that God is holding back in His relationship with you? Have you forgotten the great sacrifice that He made on your behalf? Do you really want to keep score? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). We were bought at a great price. Why? Because God does not hold back on His love for us, waiting for us to “even up the score.” “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God continually pours His attention into His relationship with us. He cares for us deeply. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29-30).
Look at the imagery in Hosea – does it not suggest a loving relationship with us? And do you see how easily we lose sight of His love? But does He then withhold His love? No. He is in this relationship 100%. Are we?
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more they were called, the more they went away from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them”(Hosea 11:1-4).
So, my advice to you, “Dear Losing,” is to open your heart in all fullness to the Lord. Tell Him all about your feelings of separation and the sadness that such separation is causing you. Express to Him fully the sins that you carry in your heart, repent of those sins and accept His forgiveness and His steadfast love.
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