I value my relationships a lot. But one of my downfalls is that I expect a lot out of the people in my life. It is really hard for me to accept that some people view their responsibility in a relationship differently than I do. In fact, my expectations have often been a road block for certain relationships to develop. Oftentimes, the person doesn’t even know they have done anything to upset me (which ends up making it all that much worse for me!). I have always had this problem – with both family and friends. As a result, I am probably hurt more easily than most because I expect as much from the people in my life as I give to them. Even as an adult, I struggle with this!
One time when I was in Junior High and struggling with my friendships (as a lot of Junior High girls do), my mom wisely “punished” me by making me read all of the passages in Proverbs about friendship and then presenting a devotion to her on what it means to be a true friend. I think that was probably one of the most productive punishments I have ever received because I can even now recall those verses when I am struggling with relationships or someone hurts me in some way. Those verses helped me through a dark time this year when someone in my own church family hurt me in such a deep way that it was hard for me to trust some of my relationships for awhile and almost caused me to leave the church!
I wonder if Jesus has ever felt frustrated with His relationships. After all, He has given way more of Himself than we could ever give to Him! I imagine there were many times when He was dealing with the disciples when He wanted just a small portion of the love He had displayed on them. In fact, He seems to be asking this of Peter in John 21:15-17:
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
When I feel like I am a better friend, I have to look to Jesus and see that my loyalty or honesty or dependability are still as “filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). I have to admit that sometimes I am proud of my loyalty in my relationships; but I realize that even on my best day, I am still a filthy, old, stinkin’ sinner, who can never be perfect in relationships unless I allow Christ to work on perfecting me. Some of the things that I value in a friend are worthless to someone else who may not need those qualities in a friend. And I am sure that I often fall short of being the kind of friend that the people in my life need!
I felt a lot of love and support this week for my son’s first birthday, so I guess I am just feeling a little emotional about the value of friendship. I am so thankful for the people who allow me to be a part of their lives – even though I sometimes expect way too much from them! In fact, I am sure that it must at times be rather trying to be friends with me! But I am so glad that God is never so fed up with me that He turns His back on me! I am most thankful for my very best friend of all, Who loves me with an everlasting, never-changing, always-forgiving, merciful love!
What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry Ev’rything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry Ev’rything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged-Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness -Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden, Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge -Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee-Thou wilt find a solace there.
-Joseph Scriven, written 1855