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Transforming Relationships

Recommended Relationship to Study:
Hannah and that someone in 1 Samuel 1:1—2:10

 

You are not alone
Your crying out is heard
No matter who mocks or misunderstands you, the Lord’s purpose for your life will be accomplished, and so you worship Him.

Journal through your feelings, thoughts, and prayers. The ABCs Connection Journal (sample pages below) can be used as a helpful tool to record your thoughts and progress; its flexible structure is designed for you to learn to connect and be sensitive to the needs of those you know and to work through fight or flight reactions.

Disillusioned. Disappointed. Distracted. Disengaged. New relationships include new courting, marriage, business, friendship, or new child by birth or adoption relationships. The scenario below is about a new mom who is troubled by her lack of connection to her child; however, the principles offer hope to any new relationship. There is hope for you. Reaction: Fight She found it difficult to steady her thoughts before the baby arrived, never having been much of a planner. With a multitude of other relationships and responsibilities, she senses bitterness and resentment building up within her. The anger in her voice only makes her angrier. She wants to be open and available to her child but is fighting a losing battle. Her biting words drive away those whom she presumes don’t understand. She admits to herself, though, that she hasn’t been willing to give them a chance to hurt her or to help her. She can find a way of thinking, planning, and relating to others that would not only bring her peace, but would be an example to her child on how to live. There are others with whom she can belong. Her joys and burdens can be shared. She can find others on this same journey for wisdom, joy, and hope. Reaction: Flight She looks at her child and then back at her laptop. She’s confident she knows what to do with the laptop and is comfortable with the world it represents. As for her child, she’s stumped. The TV will only do for so long. She wants to engage with this little ‘other’, but time is limited and the laptop’s lure has been stronger. She can order her thoughts off the flight of least resistance. She can needle the thread that connects her to God and her family. Her thoughts and the company she keeps can strengthen or fray the fiber of that thread. She can become a student of God and her family though this is unfamiliar territory. It will take the same level of interest that it took for her to learn technology. She can find the motivation. She can find forgiveness when she fails. She can change from the inside out. Recommended Psalms to Sing: 34A, 42B, 90B Recommended Relationship to Study: Mary and King Jesus Luke 1:36 – 2:52 When God calls you to do something that has impact beyond yourself, He will provide one or more persons to help you accomplish it, or He will help you ride out the feeling that you are all alone in it. He will motivate you to live based on hope and not fear. If you do succumb to fear, you can call on Him to forgive you and give you fresh reserves of hope. He will supply you with internal (and eternal) treasures that outweigh the inconvenience of detoured plans. General Recommendation: Worship God. Jesus perfectly kept the law of God for us when we could not. As we look to Him and learn of Him, we find the thread that strengthens our hearts toward family, friends, neighbors, and even enemies. The Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms and Heidelberg Catechism summarize the Bible’s chief themes. Read through the whole Bible, some in the Old Testament and some in the New Testament, some in Psalms and some in Proverbs each day so that you can learn, over time, the created order of things. Do this on a revolving basis to continually meditate on the full counsel of God, learning how you were made, how you fell, and how you have been or can be redeemed. Sing Psalms as they can help you express your rich capacity for emotion. Journal through your feelings, thoughts, and prayers. The ABCs Connection Journal (sample pages below) can be used as a helpful tool to record your thoughts, a flexible structure for you to learn to connect and be sensitive to the needs of those you know.

New Relationship

Dissatisfied. Isolated. Despairing. Lonely. This can happen within an enduring and familiar parent-child, sibling, business, courting, or marriage relationship as well as within a friendship. The story below focuses on an elderly woman; however, the principles offer hope to any enduring, familiar relationship where thoughts can be reframed not to alienate but to welcome. There is hope for you. Reaction: Fight Her thoughts turn bitter as she finds herself alone, not able to do many things that she used to do. During visits, if all the vibes in the air aren’t perfect, she promptly makes her displeasure known. After they’ve gone, she regrets driving her family away and wonders why she continues to alienate those she loves. She can’t seem to stop herself, and the frustration and anger are too much to bear. She looked forward to the golden years that seem to have turned to rust as her expectations are dashed with every visit. She has received much in her life. She can use the time she has left to give in meaningful, compassionate ways to those around her. She can turn the focus from herself to consider the real needs of her family, needs of body and of soul. She can use her energy to be a blessing and can find and maintain a new and more satisfying perspective on life. Reaction: Flight If she even answers the phone, her voice is barely audible. She sounds far away. She used to sound this way in hopes of getting a visit, but now, having retreated into herself, she doesn’t even care if her family comes. She catches herself wanting them to feel guilty either for not visiting or for not visiting long enough. This has become habit, a game neither she nor her family can win. There seems to be no way out of herself. Because she is so dissatisfied, she is closer than she knows to finding the way out. She can move from the isolated doldrums to a life that eagerly includes others. There is one who can help her live until she dies, and then live ever after. He can offer her a new perspective on life that will make her a joy to be around. Recommended Psalms to Sing: 71C, 92, 148B Recommended Relationship to Study: Naomi and Ruth Ruth 1-4 In despair, remember hope, and engage those you know and love. The gifts of friendship and children point to the even greater gift of enjoying your Maker. You look to the One you can trust, serving as you follow in His steps, and you adore Him. General Recommendation: Be hospitable, opening your home to family, friends, and neighbors in keeping with the greatest commandment: to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus, the good Shepherd, came that His people would have life, and have it to the full. Refuse to hold grudges when others don’t agree with you. Refuse to build walls but bridges. Include others in your life by sharing gifts you have been given. Be self-forgetful as you do this. Your motive can be simply to glorify God with what He has given you to do. [The same applies to family members of the elderly. You are called to persevere in caring and helping whether or not you see changes in your loved one.] Read through the whole Bible, some in the Old Testament and some in the New Testament, some in Psalms and some in Proverbs, each day so that you can learn, over time, the created order of things. Do this on a revolving basis to continually meditate on the full counsel of God, learning how you were made, how you fell, and how you have been or can be redeemed. Sing Psalms as they can help you express your rich capacity for emotion. Journal through your feelings, thoughts, and prayers. The ABCs Connection Journal (sample pages below) can be used as a helpful tool to record your thoughts; its flexible structure is designed for you to learn to connect and be sensitive to the needs of those you know.

Old Relationship

Broken. Severed. Estranged. Disconnected. This can happen within the parent-child, sibling, business, courting, or marriage relationship as well as within a friendship that has gone awry. The story below is about brothers; however, the principles for reconciliation offer hope to any broken relationship. There is hope for you. Reaction: Fight He broke trust by saying something inappropriate in anger and now there is a rift between him and his brother. This isn’t the first angry word he has said to his brother. Numerous times he has offended him with poking, prodding, prying put downs aimed at ridiculing his brother’s views and practices. When his brother pleaded with him and asked him to stop, he responded in a fit of rage. He has frightened his brother into emotional paralysis. He now sees his errors and seeks forgiveness, wanting to make amends and treat his brother with respect and dignity. He can approach his brother, not with a demanding spirit but with humility. If he is rejected, he can accept it, and though it would be a loss, he can keep the matter in prayer. He can learn from this loss to give to others who will receive him. He can live confidently, hoping in Jesus alone, whether or not he is received well by others. There is one who directs his steps in relationships and can use even his character flaws for good. The Lord, alone, in His wisdom, can replace selfish ambition with meekness. What does “inheriting the earth” mean for the meek if not involving loving relationships? Reaction: Flight He was more concerned with how he would be impacted than about his brother’s well-being. His brother, sensing his heartlessness, went out on his own as soon as he could. They haven’t spoken or seen one another in years. The impasse is broken when he initiates, asks forgiveness, and offers to help. His brother can respond to this complete turnaround and mutual trust can be established. Their past history can be put behind them so that fears of repeat offenses won’t become a barrier to their willingness to care for one another. The author of friendship and of life itself sets a precedent of love. You can confidently follow it. Recommended Psalms to Sing: 88B, 121A, 131A Recommended Relationship to Study: Judah and Joseph Genesis 37-50 Getting what you think you want without first considering the cost and consequences is not actually getting what you want. Although you would like to and work toward having your relationship restored, entrust the timing to the Lord. Your relationship with the Lord is all you need. General Recommendation: Come to Him and pray to Him for repentance and reconciliation. Without a supernatural intervention, the dark distance between you will remain. A restored relationship is a gift from God, who loves to give good gifts to His children. Sermon on the Mount is a teaching series by Sinclair Ferguson helping you with a radically different perspective on life and relationships. The first of twelve is offered free. As you connect the dots between your thoughts and your actions and their consequences, you might wonder how you landed on a path that promised bliss but delivered sorrow. In your weakness, you can pursue real help. Read through the whole Bible, some in the Old Testament and some in the New Testament, some in Psalms and some in Proverbs, each day so that you can learn, over time, the created order of things. Do this on a revolving basis to continually meditate on the full counsel of God, learning how you were made, how you fell, and how you have been or can be redeemed. Sing Psalms as they can help you express your rich capacity for emotion. Journal through your feelings, thoughts, and prayers. The ABCs Connection Journal (sample pages below) can be used as a helpful tool to record your thoughts; its flexible structure is designed for you to learn to connect and be sensitive to the needs of those you know.

Broken Relationship

Misunderstood. Accused. Anxious. Unfulfilled. Getting worn down can happen within a parent-child, sibling, business, courting, or marriage relationship as well as within a friendship. The scenario below focuses on a husband and wife continually misunderstanding each other and wearing each other down; however, the principles offer hope to any bruised relationship. There is hope for you. Reaction: Fight Blindsided by bickering, one or the other becomes unreasonable and the accusations come as rapidly as bullets from an automatic weapon. They soon feel ashamed and want to learn how to anticipate the triggers, plan peace, and have joy. Their anxiety can be lifted. There is an answer for the emptiness that cries out for fulfillment. Reaction: Flight They live together for the children’s sake. They no longer do the things they had liked to do together. His life is his work. She keys off his moods, which at times are volatile. Anxiety, anger, and humiliating words mark their time together as each focuses on the faults of the other. They grow further apart in despair. They can find poise, balance and hope… …in the author of life and love. Recommended Psalms to Sing: 16C, 66B, 145B Recommended Relationship to Study: Job and his wife Job, esp. Chapters 1, 2, 19, 42 Pain points you to look up and ask. When you feel misunderstood, your spouse likely does too. Ask God to make you humble, compassionate, and willing to receive grace. Love covers over words spoken in haste and desperation. Hold on even when your spouse seems to have given up. Trust that goodness is working even in the evil. [For a compassionate take on Job’s wife, read The Most Misunderstood Woman in the Bible.] General Recommendation: Wait on Him, be humble, listen. As you read the Bible, note how often God sees it best to bring forth good out of evil rather than to eliminate evil. For this reason, those who trust Him can bear to suffer being misunderstood, belittled, and mocked without being crushed. You are learning that He works together good for those who love Him. You wait, eagerly expecting His good, and all the time you wait, you are telling Him you love Him. Read through the whole Bible, some in the Old Testament and some in the New Testament, some in Psalms and some in Proverbs, each day so that you can learn, over time, the created order of things. Do this on a revolving basis to continually meditate on the full counsel of God, learning how you were made, how you fell, and how you have been or can be redeemed. Sing Psalms as they can help you express your rich capacity for emotion. Journal through your feelings, thoughts, and prayers. The ABCs Connection Journal (sample pages below) can be used as a helpful tool to record your thoughts; its flexible structure is designed for you to learn to connect and be sensitive to the needs of those you know.

Bruised Relationship

General Recommendations

Read through the whole Bible, some in the Old Testament and some in the New Testament, some in Psalms and some in Proverbs each day so that you can learn over time the created order of things. Do this on a revolving basis to continually meditate on the full counsel of God, learning in layers of the Creation, the Fall of Man, and Man’s Redemption through the Cross of Jesus Christ. Sing psalms as they can help you express your rich capacity for emotion. The recommended psalms to sing in these six case studies are just a tiny sampling of the richness contained in the psalms. Articles on singing each psalm can be found here.

Appreciative. Expressive. Gentle. Vulnerable. Gratitude is desired for a parent-child, sibling, business, courting, or marriage relationship as well as for a friendship. The story below focuses on a woman; however, these principles offer hope to anyone who wants to keep gratitude steady in their relationships through life’s ups and downs. There is hope for you. Reaction: Fight In her thoughts, she fights her tendency to complain. She has been given the grace to have formed good habits of appreciating her husband and family when alone, both out loud and in writing; when with them, her appreciation manifests directly through her expressions toward them, what she says to them, her gentle touch, and in meeting their physical and emotional needs. She has been careful to train herself daily in her role of wife and mother. She can resist the temptation to run on her own strength… …by continually training herself to depend on the Lord. Her strength to give comes from him. When her love is not reciprocated, when she is not appreciated or when her sincerity comes into question, she can find gratitude through life’s storms. Reaction: Flight She is grateful for their marriage overall, but when he is forced to back out of plans they made, she finds herself annoyed. She wonders if she is genuinely grateful for her husband or only for the fun things they do together. A sobering thought that she could be so shallow and selfish on the inside. There is the temptation to remember her shame and forget her blessings. She can keep her gratitude from subtly turning to tolerance, a mere bearing with the other. She can keep from being blindsided by underlying resentments and meet the challenge to keep a grateful heart. She is intentional as she studies, values, and continually thanks God for every nuance about her husband. She can focus even when she feels set aside by his busy schedule and when his attention is directed towards meeting the needs of other family members. Recommended Psalms to Sing: 9A, 36B, 56B Recommended Relationship to Study: David and Abigail 1 Samuel 25 Enjoy what you have so that when you are called upon to share it, you will be ready. If you are in the habit of being grateful, you will be equipped when opportunities to help arise. Be faithful and honest, with joy, trusting that if major changes need to be made in your relationship, God will see to it. Meanwhile, thank Him for all you can as you remain where He has placed you. Thank God for the person He has put in your life to give to. Even when you feel that you are unimportant to your spouse, be grateful that you are important to God. General Recommendation: Persevere, even to your own hurt, to keep a spirit of gratitude knowing you will ultimately be helped. Remember that your identity comes not from what you do but from being or becoming a new creation. Read through the whole Bible, some in the Old Testament and some in the New Testament, some in Psalms and some in Proverbs, each day so that you can learn, over time, the created order of things. Do this on a revolving basis to continually meditate on the full counsel of God, learning how you were made, how you fell, and how you have been or can be redeemed. Sing Psalms as they can help you express your rich capacity for emotion. Journal through your feelings, thoughts, and prayers. The ABCs Connection Journal (sample pages below) can be used as a helpful tool to record your thoughts; its flexible structure is designed for you to learn to connect and be sensitive to the needs of those you know.

Grateful Relationship

Afraid. Unprepared. Frustrated. Ashamed.

Anticipated relationships can include potential courting, marriage, business, friendship, adoptive, or expecting-a-new-child-by-birth relationships. Although the scenario below focuses on an expectant mother who is afraid to being, not sure how to be a mother, the principles apply to any anticipated relationship.

There is hope for you.

Reaction: Fight

She’s angry that she was not taught and blames her mother and father, grandmothers and grandfathers, and great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers. Underneath the anger is anxiety that she will fail at this most important role of Mother. She does not want to be a failure.

What if we could point her to a sure way to win this fight?
What if there was someone she could turn to with her anger, who would not be taken aback, who would understand every nuance of what she is feeling and thinking (even more than she does), who would not get defensive, and who would ultimately train her to be a fine person and mother if that is his plan for her? Would she ask that someone for help? Would she praise that someone for the help given? The only sure way for her to win in this fight is to seek and find that someone. She must also stop looking for help from those who don’t know how to help, which only leaves her disappointed, frustrated and angry, and to learn to love them instead. By the way, that someone is perfect at helping her learn to love since that someone is love.

Reaction: Flight
She’s afraid and ashamed to tell anyone about her anger and anxiety, so she stays to herself. She does what she can to distract herself so that she doesn’t have to think about it. Deep down, she wonders about life. Why are we here? But then she brushes that thought aside. It’s easier to forget it.

Where can she catch a winning flight, one that doesn’t leave her feeling guilty?
What would she give to find the perfect hiding place where she could retreat and know that all her needs would be met, she would be fully sustained, and that no harm would ultimately come to her? The only way for her to catch a winning flight is to seek and find that perfect hiding place, and to stop hiding in places that leave her wanting and unfulfilled. And when she arrives there, she will find that someone who has the answers for life and even death since that someone is life.

Recommended Psalms to Sing:  94B, 100A, 139C

Afraid. Unprepared. Frustrated. Ashamed.

Anticipated relationships can include potential courting, marriage, business, friendship, adoptive, or expecting-a-new-child-by-birth relationships. Although the scenario below focuses on an expectant mother who is afraid to being, not sure how to be a mother, the principles apply to any anticipated relationship.


There is hope for you.

Reaction: Fight
She’s angry that she was not taught and blames her mother and father, grandmothers and grandfathers, and great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers. Underneath the anger is anxiety that she will fail at this most important role of Mother. She does not want to be a failure.

What if we could point her to a sure way to win this fight?
What if there was someone she could turn to with her anger, who would not be taken aback, who would understand every nuance of what she is feeling and thinking (even more than she does), who would not get defensive, and who would ultimately train her to be a fine person and mother if that is his plan for her? Would she ask that someone for help? Would she praise that someone for the help given? The only sure way for her to win in this fight is to seek and find that someone. She must also stop looking for help from those who don’t know how to help, which only leaves her disappointed, frustrated and angry, and to learn to love them instead. By the way, that someone is perfect at helping her learn to love since that someone is love.

Reaction: Flight
She’s afraid and ashamed to tell anyone about her anger and anxiety, so she stays to herself. She does what she can to distract herself so that she doesn’t have to think about it. Deep down, she wonders about life. Why are we here? But then she brushes that thought aside. It’s easier to forget it.

Where can she catch a winning flight, one that doesn’t leave her feeling guilty?
What would she give to find the perfect hiding place where she could retreat and know that all her needs would be met, she would be fully sustained, and that no harm would ultimately come to her? The only way for her to catch a winning flight is to seek and find that perfect hiding place, and to stop hiding in places that leave her wanting and unfulfilled. And when she arrives there, she will find that someone who has the answers for life and even death since that someone is life.

Recommended Psalms to Sing:  94B, 100A, 139C

Afraid. Unprepared. Frustrated. Ashamed.

Anticipated relationships can include potential courting, marriage, business, friendship, adoptive, or expecting-a-new-child-by-birth relationships. Although the scenario below focuses on an expectant mother who is afraid to being, not sure how to be a mother, the principles apply to any anticipated relationship.

There is hope for you.

Reaction: Fight

She’s angry that she was not taught and blames her mother and father, grandmothers and grandfathers, and great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers. Underneath the anger is anxiety that she will fail at this most important role of Mother. She does not want to be a failure.

What if we could point her to a sure way to win this fight?
What if there was someone she could turn to with her anger, who would not be taken aback, who would understand every nuance of what she is feeling and thinking (even more than she does), who would not get defensive, and who would ultimately train her to be a fine person and mother if that is his plan for her? Would she ask that someone for help? Would she praise that someone for the help given? The only sure way for her to win in this fight is to seek and find that someone. She must also stop looking for help from those who don’t know how to help, which only leaves her disappointed, frustrated and angry, and to learn to love them instead. By the way, that someone is perfect at helping her learn to love since that someone is love.

Reaction: Flight
She’s afraid and ashamed to tell anyone about her anger and anxiety, so she stays to herself. She does what she can to distract herself so that she doesn’t have to think about it. Deep down, she wonders about life. Why are we here? But then she brushes that thought aside. It’s easier to forget it.

Where can she catch a winning flight, one that doesn’t leave her feeling guilty?
What would she give to find the perfect hiding place where she could retreat and know that all her needs would be met, she would be fully sustained, and that no harm would ultimately come to her? The only way for her to catch a winning flight is to seek and find that perfect hiding place, and to stop hiding in places that leave her wanting and unfulfilled. And when she arrives there, she will find that someone who has the answers for life and even death since that someone is life.

Recommended Psalms to Sing:  94B, 100A, 139C

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