Have you ever been talking to someone and started wondering, “Are they really listening to me? They are being quiet, but I’m not sure if they are really hearing me!” We all want to be heard. Feeling heard is vital to feeling loved and connected. Today we are going to look at three principles that will help you listen and strengthen your relationships.
Everyone goes into marriage wanting happiness. Our quest for a happy marriage will not be without its obstacles. How we deal with the obstacles will determine the vitality of our marriage. Today’s post is the first in a series on ways to strengthen your marriage.
Can you think of a time when something grabbed your heart with such passion that it felt like you would explode with enthusiasm, only to have it later become familiar and routine? Maybe it’s your job, a relationship, a hobby, or even God. When things are new, there often is a sense of excitement. But when things become familiar, often our passions wane.
I look forward to Christmas every year. It is a time of celebration: music, parties, gifts, great food and time with family and friends. The anticipation of Christmas morning never grows old. Watching the excitement in my own kids as they open their presents brings great joy. Joy was the theme of the first Christmas. The angels told the shepherds to fear not, for they brought “good news of great joy for all people.”
But we live in a broken world. We look around us and we see wars, social unrest, and personal tragedy. How can we have joy when we are surrounded by so much pain?
A number of years ago I was talking to a ministry leader about serving. He was expressing his frustration about how some Christians do nothing with their faith. He stated, “They rust out. I don’t want to rust out, I want to burn out.” That sounded so noble at first. Going out in a blaze of glory while serving God and others. But then I thought, both these ways of living share something in common – they are both “out.” Is that what God wants for us?
Like many other ministry leaders, when I was first called to ministry, I had passion and zeal to change the world for Christ. After all, we get the privilege of introducing people to the creator of the world, to a God who can dramatically change the human heart for good. I couldn’t wait to see how God would use me in his epic story.
I quickly found out that ministry wasn’t as easy or as glamorous as I thought. That first summer, as an intern, a student drowned at one of our retreats. I can remember sitting in the hospital room with the brother of the student who just died. I thought, “Why did the youth pastor choose me to be here with the brother?” I felt so inadequate. Youth ministry is supposed to be about leading kids to Christ, discipling them and having fun. Yet here I was dealing with a tragedy. I learned that ministry was less about fun and more about walking with people through life, both the highs and lows.
One of my favorite movies is Les Miserables. It is a powerful story of mercy and renewal. The trajectory of one man’s life was changed by a single act of mercy.
You might remember the scene: Jean Valjean, a former prisoner, was running from the law when a kind priest brings him into his home and feeds him. Later that night Jean Valjean goes back to the home, knocks the priest out and steals his silver. The next day Jean is caught and claims the priest gave him the silver. The authorities bring him back to the priest; but instead of having him thrown into jail, the priest states that he did give him the silver and told the authorities that Jean forgot to take the candlesticks as well.
Conflicts are a natural part of life. Learning how to resolve them becomes paramount if we are going to experience the closeness we all desire. Through the years, I have taught classes, seminars and counseled people on conflict resolution. I got to a point where I thought I was pretty good at it. But much to my surprise, occasionally I would run into conflicts that seemed impossible to resolve. I would shake my head and think, How can this be? What did I do wrong? I would review my tone, words, and body language. I seemed to be doing everything right.
Mind you, I am not suggesting that I always apply good conflict-resolution skills. But during these encounters I seemed to be doing it right. My strong desire to resolve the conflict kept me persisting in the conversations. I would think, “If I can show him that I understand him or phrase things just the right way, he’ll get it and we will resolve this issue.” But the conversation would get worse. Why?