When relationships falter

A realization: Satan’s lies always target relationships and communication.

He targets our relationship with God, first of all. Satan would like nothing more than for us to stop speaking to God, to stop listening to God, to stop inviting God into our lives. Honestly, being actively mad at God and telling him so is better than shutting him out. As long as we’re mad at him we believe he exists and we believe he has some sort of role in our lives. Can’t be mad at someone you don’t believe exists or matters.

It strikes me how much worse apathy is than strong emotion one way or another. It’s scarily easy to go through a day and not give God a single thought. Without getting legalistic about quiet times and prayer and church-going, deep down it can be inconvenient or bothersome to invite God into our mundane activities.

By extension, Satan also targets our relationships with the people around us. If we are insecure in our relationship with God, we’re naturally going to be insecure about our relationships with everything else. Without a firm foundation on which to stand, everything we reach for is shaky. Comparison becomes the greatest thief of joy, truly. And with comparison comes doubt: doubt of our own self worth and doubt over other people’s intentions.

I won’t speak for everyone, but I have a tendency to isolate, to withdraw from people who love me and whom I love, and it’s usually out of fear: fear of being a burden, of hurting them, of being hurt. But the most true and real relationships are when two souls, secure in their identity as sons or daughters of God, take that risk to trust their experiences, thoughts, emotions, and wrestlings in another person’s keeping. Real relationship, or what my mom calls “soul-to-soul connection,” happens when each member trusts their whole person (including and especially their not-so-photogenic parts — their sins, flaws, weird quirks, struggles, battles, wars) with the other. There’s no “I’m suffering more” or “he’s more talented” or “she’s more spiritual” here.

The hardest and most painful misunderstandings or conflicts have happened when one or both parties were not speaking to each other. Or, if they were speaking about happy things and pretending everything was okay, they were dancing around a lot of unspoken hurt and uncertainty. We assume things about each other or misinterpret words, and suddenly the relationship begins to struggle because there isn’t open communication happening. Sometimes there’s reconciliation. Sometimes there isn’t.

How often do you stop to pay attention to what the voices in your head say to you when you’re doubting another person’s intentions (whether they’re family, a friend, a stranger, a love interest, a mentor, etc.)?

They’re better than you. They’re more faithful. They’re more intelligent. They couldn’t possibly want to spend time talking to someone as little, as doubting, as dumb as you.

They actually hate you. They don’t really care about you. They’re mad. They think you’re loud. They think you’re ugly. They think you’re incompetent. They’re annoyed that you text them so often. They don’t want to talk to you.

You’re a burden. You’re not a good friend. Why would they ever want to be friends with someone like you?

What I find increasingly scary is that Satan will whisper these lies into BOTH peoples’ ears, which results in this ugly pulling away on both ends unless someone speaks up and does something to call out the lies in the name of Jesus. Satan is smart. He’s been using the same tricks since the Garden of Eden, and they still work. We fall for them every time.

We’re convinced we’re missing out. There’s always something better than what we have here in front of us. This mode of thinking lends itself to discontentment and the inability to commit or focus or really work at something, including relationships of all kinds. It’s easier to let things go into disarray because, “By golly everything we touch is broken so we may as well not waste time on our search for perfection. Because we deserve perfection.”

When the Holy Spirit gently reveals I’m caught in this cycle again it’s like a little slap upside the face. We’re here to cultivate, and that means work. That means finding God’s rest in work, that quiet soul-peace that enables us to work and try at all. That soul-peace gives us hope. There’s hope for relationship, so ask Jesus into those spaces. The best part is he’s already there.

I’m still learning what that looks like. It seems the path to healing always involves identifying and grappling with what’s been broken.

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