by Margaret D. Mitchell
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me." -John 15:4
Recently, I had lunch with a dear friend who had been forbearing with a few troubled family members for years. Thankfully, she has come even closer to The Lord within the past year since she lost her husband; and now she’s beginning to see her family circumstances differently.
God is shining His light of revelation and clarity on them as He transforms her heart and renews her mind. My friend has come to realize that God desires that she love them without becoming entangled in their web of bitterness.
Abiding in His empowering love.
Overcome with joy, my friend has gotten a taste of Christianity’s great adventure. She sees how The Lord is opening new doors for her. And she is beginning to experience His freedom of holy living, coming to know that He can be fully trusted with her difficult family members…as she releases them to Him and as He progresses her forward.
So often, difficult relationships prove to be catalysts that either forge us closer to God or harden our hearts away from Him. And once we get a genuine taste of God’s love for us and His righteous path, we don’t want to turn back.
God simply desires that we abide in Him through our difficulties. And we do this sacrificially as we lay down our ways of battling others and fully submit to His truth and directives. It’s simple, but it doesn’t feel easy because our pride is being broken.
But what other choice do we have?
None that are righteous in God’s eyes.
John 15:9 instructs us: "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love."
What a wonderful invitation of holiness and co-labor with Jesus to love like God loves Him and to love like Jesus loves us. This scripture is so revealing of Our Heavenly Father’s heart to love without condition.
And as we see in Jesus’ life, this agape love means to love sacrificially, which of course we cannot do without a close relationship with Our Heavenly Father through Jesus, since He is our source for love.
But what is this supposed to look like in our daily relationships?
It looks like keeping our peace in the face of an attack. It looks like responding from The Holy Spirit, not reacting emotionally to provoking gestures. It means praising God sacrificially often, experiencing His empowering presence, so we are not weak with a deficit. It means being confidently assured that God is faithful to His Word and that He loves us and our difficult relatives enough to get everyone where He desires they be—walking closer with Him.
1 John 4:16 tells us: "We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."
This wheel within a wheel dynamic is empowering and enables us to effectively handle difficult relationships God’s way—by expressing His kindness in the face of bitterness while continuing to rely on God’s presence and Word for comfort and truth.
God makes it possible for us to love others without getting entangled in enemy snares if we steadfastly remain in Jesus, the vine. When we actively know Him as our refuge, our provider, our source of love, He empowers us with His grace to navigate difficult relationships and not only stay out of strife by His mercy but to also consistently demonstrate God’s heart of love in the process through His grace.
How are your relationships?
Do you choose to love in the face of bitterness and false accusations? Have you taken the issue to God’s throne? Do you walk closely enough with Him to feel His empowering, peaceful presence? Do you trust Him to fight your battles through His strategies?
And if you’ve never walked this closely with God, then simply ask The Holy Spirit to help you. He will.
Margaret D. Mitchell is the Founder of God's Love at Work, a marketplace outreach purposed to share God's greatest power source - the love of Christ. This devotional was adapted from Margaret's forthcoming book, Enduring Grace. All rights reserved.