Now that I have your attention from the title, let me give you the sentence: relationships are not meant for your happiness; they are meant for your redemption. This statement comes from Paul Tripp and Tim Lane in their brilliant and biblical book, Relationships: A Mess Worth Making.
The fact of the matter is that your life is filled with relationships. You have family, friends, work associates, church members, neighbors, doctors, lawyers, accountants, contractors, postal workers, school associates, homeowner’s associations, political representatives, and hundreds of Facebook friends. Your life is filled with relationships, even during COVID-19. And since your life is filled with relationships, how you view those relationships will have a major impact on your life.
Fundamentally, because of our sin nature, you and I are disposed to view relationship based on what we can get out of them. If you boil it down to its essence, what you and I try to get out of relationships is happiness. No one wants to maintain a relationship that does not provide some measure of happiness. No one would want to maintain a relationship that provides constant misery and hardship. While it is not wrong to experience happiness in relationships, this is not what relationships are fundamentally for.
What are relationships for?
Relationships are for our redemption. I know this because the Bible is a book about relationships. And specifically, the Bible uses a key phrase that shapes our relationships: the “one anothers.” The “one anothers” all orient toward our redemption: love one another (John 13:34); forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32); consider one another (Hebrews 10:25); and so on.
You see, if relationships are for happiness, then when happiness is not received, we can do all sorts of things to the relationship: end it, damage it, postpone it, or abuse it, only to name a few. But if we see that relationships are meant for redemption, then this will change how we “do” relationships. Relationships will not be sought and kept for what you can get out of them, but for what God is doing in you through them. God is working His saving, redeeming grace in your heart through the relationships you have. For instance, do your kids ever provoke you to anger? If you see your kids as fundamentally providing you with happiness, when they provoke you to anger, your happiness will be taken away and you will be upset, irritated, and might lash out. But if you view your kids through the lens of Scripture, as providing for your redemption, you will embrace that the anger you feel is meant to drive you to your knees in repentance and faith so that you are “redeemed” (or sanctified) again and again.
View your relationships as fundamentally instruments of redemption not happiness. Because relationships are a huge part of life, having this mindset could literally change your life. Relationships are not meant for your happiness; they are meant for your redemption.
For more on the “one anothers,” see the recent sermon on Ephesians 4:1-3 here.