2016 was a busy year for news. There was the US election, which took up much of the oxygen, but there was also Brexit, refugees, disease, climate problems and a host of other concerns. So when the New York Times put together its list of the most read online articles for the year, it was surprising that the winner, by a long shot, was entitled, “Why you will marry the wrong person.” It seems like a lot of people want to know.
The problem, according to the author, is that we place too much emphasis on the romantic notion of marriage, the idea that “a perfect being exists who can meet all our needs and satisfy our every yearning.” Instead, we need an awareness “that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them.”
The author argues that we are all imperfect people and the key to marriage is becoming good at dealing with disagreement. The problem is that relationships are hard work and it takes skill to navigate them and do them well. Don’t reject your partner or the notion of love, but get realistic about the work a marriage takes.
This is true in almost any relationship we can think of: children, neighbors, co-workers and friends. We want to be known and understood, but sharing life together can be challenging. James 4:1 says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” We are usually the problem in the relationship despite wanting to blame the other side.
We are encouraged in the New Testament to work at our relationships:
- Be kind and compassionate to one another,forgiving each other (Ephesians 4:32)
- Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs (Ephesians 4:29)
- Love is patient,love is kind (1 Corinthians 13:4)
- Love does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking,it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5)
- Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2)
The only one who can meet all our needs is Jesus. When we let him into our life, he enables us to respond to others in a better way. Relationships – all sorts – are lots of work. There isn’t any magic or special secret around this. We are required to put in the effort of making it work with others. Thankfully, we have help and support from the one who knows us best.