Loving those that are very close to us is sometimes the hardest love of all…maybe it’s that we know them so well….maybe it’s that they know us so well. Perhaps you’ve just lived with a loved one’s faults so long you now just grin and bear it. Perhaps you’ve been taken advantage of, you are forced to put up with anti-social oddities, maybe you’re on the receiving end of their harsh words, perhaps it’s a dominating manner, or a lack of dealing in reality.
Doing life with and genuinely loving family and close friends can sometimes be extremely hard…for some, it is impossible.
It can be our mothers, our cousins, sisters or brothers or it can be a business partner you’ve known for years or your best friend from college. It could be a co-worker you sit next each day at work. But, for some reason, family sometimes is the hardest.
I think God allows tough relationship issues to develop to force us to come to Him. At some point, we have to admit the truth – in our own power and capacity we simply cannot deal effectively with the person. If, at the end of the day it’s about loving God and loving those God has put in our path…especially our family…what do we do? Home is not only a place where our children test the limits….it’s also the place where our love is tested and hopefully refined.
It’s certainly true that we need healthy relationship boundaries and we’re not supposed to allow mean-spirited or disrespectful people run over us. But, what does God want us to do…..to love for sure…but how? What do we do when we face those that are really hard to love?
Do we duck and run? Do we avoid them? Well, as a friend recently reminded me….those that are the hardest to love deep down surely WANT love. Even though they make it hard to love them, they are desperate for love, like all of us.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself the next time you’re finding it hard to love those closest to you….
- God, what are you trying to teach me from this relationship that is so difficult?
- God, would you show me a way to express love to them, even in the midst of my distain or disgust? How can I love them in some small way today?
- God is my behavior or attitude somehow contributing to this situation? Am I making the situation worse?
- Is the thing I see in them that I don’t like actually a reflection of something in me that I don’t like about myself?
- God how can I pray for them? Will you please soften my heart for them?
- God how do you see this person – how much do you love them? What beauty do you see deep within them? Please help me see that too.
- What do healthy boundaries look like between me and this person?
Then, do the thing we seldom do…..STOP…..LISTEN…see what God says. Just stop after you pray these short prayers and wait to hear from God. Look for His answers in pictures, words, friends, books, the Bible, whatever……stop and listen for God to prompt you…be open to His word for you. If you have a trusted friend ask them to help you ponder these questions down in your heart.
The great news is that God and only God can and will make a way for you to love this hard-to-love person. He is the one who can build even a thin line of love between you and the person. Go to God and admit your dependence on Him. Submit your problems to Him.
Matthew 5:44 – 47 (new living translation)
‘But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”
Romans 5:6-8 (new living translation)
6 When we were utterly helpless (hard to love), Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (note added)