Faith and difficult social or relational situations

30 08 2007

>Are there relationships in your life that are, at best, difficult to maintain? But because of circumstances they are necessary for you to maintain nonetheless? I am thinking about acquaintances, co-workers, or even relatives. Or, do you have times that you have to interact with others but just do not feel up to it? Either I am odd, or this is something that we all deal with from time to time.

But what do you do about it? Do you suck it up and try to put a smile on your face, make small talk and get through it? Do you think…what would Jesus do? And then forge ahead once you’ve decided that Jesus would be cordial? How has that worked out? If you are like me, I bet not very well. I can think of times that I have not been up for social events, business-development events or even gatherings with extended family. The worst result comes from not giving thought to changing my attitude and heading into the situation. When I do that, I am miserable and the people I interact with know it. If I resolve to do what Jesus would do, I may be able to put on a better face (at least in the beginning), and others may not realize that I am none to psyched to be there — but I usually don’t feel much better.

What to do?

The trouble here is what’s inside of me. The trouble is in my heart, which in the biblical sense means my heart, my soul, my consciousness. The trouble is the hardness of my heart.

Proverbs 28:14 sheds some light on this:

Happy is the one who is always reverent,
but one who hardens his heart falls into trouble. (HCSB) 

Wouldn’t you like to be happy in those times when your flesh is trying to convince you that you are not? The concept of reverence used in the HCSB translation is translated as “fear the Lord” in other translations. The “fear” is not really what we would think of as fear, though. Matthew Henry, in his commentary, puts it this way:

Happy is the man who always keeps up in his mind a holy awe and reverence of God, his glory, goodness, and government, who is always afraid of offending God and incurring His displeasure, who keeps conscience tender and has a dread of the appearance of evil, who is always jealous of himself, distrustful of his own sufficiency, and lives in expectation of troubles and changes, so that, whenever they come, they are no surprise to him. He who keeps up such a fear as this will live a life of faith and watchfulness, and therefore happy is he, blessed and holy. 

That’s a fairly long-winded way of saying, live in faith and do not for a minute rest on your own abilities. God can, and wants to, change your heart. But you have to turn to Him to do it for you. So instead of using your own faculties to determine what Jesus would do and then setting your mind to doing it, ask God to change you from the inside out.

Here is a prayer from Psalm 51 that gets to this point. Note that the mention of “teach the rebellious” certainly extends to our actions and not just our words. When you’re in a difficult social situation, let God’s light shine through you and stand back and watch the impact on those around you.

God, create a clean heart for me
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not banish me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore the joy of Your salvation to me,
and give me a willing spirit.
Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways,
and sinners will return to You. (Psalm 51:10-14 — HCSB)