by Jan Dravecky
We don’t normally expect to find treasures in the darkness of adversity or riches in the valley of suffering, but God gives us rich rewards even in these desolate places. One of the greatest riches God prepares for us in the valley is the treasure of relationships. I will never forget the day I first caught a glimpse of this magnificent treasure. It changed my life.
I had become desperately depressed and was seeing a counselor to help me climb out of the dark pit into which I had fallen. As we talked, the counselor casually asked me if I had any friends.
I immediately answered, “Of course. I have tons of friends.”
He then asked me how many of them needed me. “All of them,” I said.
Then he asked the questions that would rock my world, “How many of them do you need?”
My answer, “None of them,” was a shocking revelation to both of us.
My counselor gently explained that God never intended relationships to be the way I had described mine. God never intended relationships to be the way I had described mine. God never intended relationships to be a one-way street. God made us to love and to be loved. No wonder I was dying on the inside: I had not allowed myself to need anyone.
Afterward, our discussion troubled me. I wondered why my relationships had become the way they were. I began praying and asking God why I hadn’t allowed myself to need anyone, and the answer came to me unexpectedly in the shower. I realized that the one person I had needed the most had been my mother. When she died, my pain was so great I decided I would never need anyone the way I had needed her. From that point on, I lived to love others but never allowed myself to receive love from others.
No wonder I was lonely and depressed. My relationships were all out of whack! I wasn’t bonded to anyone. My relationships needed work.
The realization that I needed healthy relationships in my life was a treasure that prompted me to begin assessing each of my relationships. I determined which ones were healthy, which ones were unhealthy. I began making changes to improve the relationships that were unhealthy. I began to seek out healthy peer relationships in which people were interested in me and I in them.
It wasn’t easy. I had to learn to think in new ways and take actions I had never taken before. Because so many of my relationships were one-way, I needed to learn how to set priorities and boundaries. I needed to practice nurturing two-way relationships in which I gave to others and they gave to me. Through the process, I uncovered treasures that still bless and enrich my life today.
One treasure was learning not to expect perfection in relationships. No matter how much we long for perfection, we fail. I have warts, you have warts. I have strengths, you have strengths. I have weaknesses, you have weaknesses. So learning to accept people warts and all (all that includes learning to accept ourselves!) is very, very important. I had been guilty of thinking that if anything went wrong in a relationship it was over. I learned that relationships are a work in progress. I learned how to work through the challenges in order to experience the richness of the relationships God had given me.
Another treasure was discovering the power of grace. Grace is being able to love others despite their warts and ours. Grace changes everything. The acceptance and love of grace is what makes a relationship a treasure after a failure. What is more precious than the security of knowing that another person loves you even when he or she sees the ugly part of you? What could be more valuable than to give that acceptance and security to a person you love?
Ther’s no doubt that adversity experienced in the valley of suffering tests every one of our relationships. But adversity also has a way of eliminating the trivial, exposing what is false and focusing our attention on the true nature of our relationships. Some relationships will not endure the pressure of adversity, but others – even relationships that have been miserable for years – will emerge strengthened and restored.
For me, the process of uncovering the value of my relationships was scary and at time unpleasant. I made mistakes. Some people became angry with me. I lost some relationships I had valued, but I gained the far greater treasure of healthy relationships that become more precious to me than gold.
Sometimes it is awfully hard to see life as a gift,
when a loved one is taken
when a dream is broken
when a relationship is severed
when cherished possessions are lost
when children are rebellious
when security has vanished
when we are facing our own death.
Lord, only you know the gift hidden in the losses in life.
Only you see the treasures in the darkness,
the riches stored in secret places.
Until you are ready to reveal them to us,
Give us your grace for the waiting.