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By Darrick Young

No matter how much you are attracted to someone or love that person, relationships are really hard. And for something that’s as big a deal as relationships are in our lives, we don’t receive a lot of instruction on how to get them right. You probably got more instruction on how to drive a car or do your job than you ever got on how to get a relationship right. So you learned by observation; and depending on the examples you studied, that could be really helpful or really horrible.

Besides this lack of helpful input, another relationship challenge is that we typically don’t get a “do-over” with people. Many of us would love to have the chance to hit the relationship restart button. You may have had a relationship end in a messy breakup or divorce and thought, “If I could go back to the beginning and start over, I would have done things differently.” Or maybe you’ve been married for a while and things are good but you still think, “If we would have done _______ early on, our marriage would be so much better.” You want a restart.

Interestingly, the Bible has a ton of things to say about love and relationships. In fact, most of the Bible is written to communities of people. The Bible spends a lot of time talking not just about our relationship with God, but also about our relationships with the people around us. Jesus Himself said that people would know that we were His legitimate disciples by observing the way we treat each other (John 13:35).

In order for us to restart our relationships, we have to change our assumptions regarding relationships. We have to replace some of the assumptions our culture makes about relationships with biblical principles. Here are some of those assumptions worth addressing:

  1. My relationship should make me happy.
  2. That makes sense, right? No one goes out looking for someone who will make them unhappy (“swipe right for sadness…”). But is happiness supposed to be our highest pursuit? Happiness tends to be a moving target that puts our needs and wants at the center. But love often requires us to give more than we get. Love requires us to do things we don’t necessarily want to do – things that don’t make us happy. We do them because we love the one we do them for. The Apostle Paul wrote it this way: “Submit yourselves to one another” (Ephesians 5:21, GNT). In other words, put the other person first. Put love before happiness (and be willing to go first in doing that).

  3. If there’s a “right” person, there must be a “wrong” person, and I think that’s who I’m stuck with.
  4. We love the idea of meeting “the one.” In the movies the “right” person magically appears unexpectedly and “happily ever after” begins. But our real-life relationships don’t always look like that. The struggles are real. We can be tempted to think that our unhappiness is connected to the other person. If we move on from that person, our problems will go away. But we tend to carry our problems with us and thereby keep ending up with the “wrong” person while we look for the “right” one. What if the struggle is a gift? What if it causes me to grow as I learn to bring out the best in the other person?

  5. Sometimes it seems like our culture says, “You’re half a person if you’re not half of a couple.”
  6. There’s an idea that everyone should be married or in a relationship, and if you’re not in a relationship you should be trying to get into one. Why? Because that other person can “complete you.” He or she can fill in the empty spaces in your life, and that “thing” you are missing will be made complete. But two incomplete people don’t necessarily make a whole. We shouldn’t love others for what they can give us. We should love them so we can give to them. We should love FROM fulfillment, not FOR fulfillment.

  7. Marriage is just a piece of paper.
  8. People often quote the percentages of marriages that end in divorce or share stories of growing up in a home with parents who co-existed rather than loved each other. Many in our society view marriage as a social construct, simply a piece of paper. “It’s love that matters,” they say; “You don’t need to get married for that.” That perspective keeps things real simple and really easy – and really convenient. When the relationship works for you, you stay. When it doesn’t, you walk away. But the Bible doesn’t describe marriage that way. In the Bible, marriage is seen as a covenant, something sacred (which means “set apart”) that two people commit themselves to. And as pastor and author Andy Stanley says, “Exclusivity paves the way to intimacy.” In other words, there is a depth of love and relationship that you experience only when you commit yourself to someone else. Remarkable transformations follow unselfish decisions.

Relationships can be tough, but we don’t have to navigate them alone. And we have access to some incredible and practical wisdom about how we can experience the best relationships possible. Maybe we can hit the restart button on our current relationships or marriages and experience something new.

*This article is based on a sermon series shared at Journey Church in Urbandale, Iowa. That series was adapted from Church on the Move in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

About The Author

Darrick Young

Darrick Young serves as the lead pastor for Journey Church in Johnston, Iowa, and the church planting director for Open Bible’s Central Region. He and his wife, Ranada, have two children and reside in Grimes, Iowa.