Many people asked me whether real, life-giving, everlasting relationships do exist? To be honest, that is a really hard question to answer! Even though I do have my doubts, substantial relationships do exist. However, they do take a lot of efforts in order to maintain, nourish, and be treasured. They are hard to find because not many people are really seeking long-term, life-giving ones. Many think that they want a relationship, but they often only want certain types of “relationship” that are very shallow, social media motivated, hyped up, short-lived, or checklist-oriented. Many only want to feel good when they can find, attain, and achieve #relationshipgoals so they can share about them with others, or to find something that is easily exchanged, immediately gratifying, and attractive at first. Too many people are hurt because they think they want a relationship but end up looking for only the “look at me (and what I can do)” types. They want to attain what they were taught by Hollywood or social media oriented markups that look good on pictures, movies, and profiles but have no real substance.
Many are too scared to be honest, vulnerable, and committed “behind the scene” to truly give and make the relationship works because that requires many self-sacrifices, inner-depth and long-term commitment. It is easy to achieve what is picture or movie perfect for a short time but it is only real when both sides are willing to sacrifice and be genuine with one another in the everyday struggles of what it really means to love. Without a doubt, in order for a relationship to truly work and be life-giving, it has to be grounded on our own relationship with Christ. In order for a relationship to truly be selfless and caring, it has to be a reflection and imitation of the love that He has for us. Simply put, real relationships do exist, but only when they are based and founded on the everlasting relationship with the One who truly loves us.
One of my favorite chapters from The Imitation of Christ is from Book 2: Chapter 8 on “The Familiar Friendship with Jesus.” I return to this chapter a lot, personally and providentially, because it grounds me in what is truly important on my walk of faith. When doubts cloud my judgment and when questions arise in my heart, the Lord always brings me back to this chapter to reaffirm what is truly important in my daily walk with Him. Even though this chapter has a lot of rich and beautiful passages, there are three that really touch my heart. I would like to share them with you now, and hopefully, you will also find some time to read the full text as a way to meditate and reflect on the immensible and everlasting friendship with the Lord Jesus.
He is both the Bridge that connects us together and the Rock that grounds our love for one another in the midst of life’s trials and its ups and downs. Without Christ, we remain strangers or reserved at length in order to protect ourselves from getting hurt, because we are too scared of being real, honest, and vulnerable with one another. Without Him, we lose our grounds because we are easily drifted away by the storms and challenges of our everyday life. Only in and through our intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ can our every other relationship makes sense, life-giving, and genuine.
“When Jesus is present all things go well, and nothing seems difficult; but when Jesus is absent everything is hard. When Jesus speaks not within, our comfort is worthless; but if Jesus speak but one word, we feel great consolation.”
I know not many will agree with what I have to say when I say that our personal and intimate relationship with the Lord is the only true and effective criterion for other relationships. However, I want you to really think about it! If we do not how to love truthfully, honestly, and genuinely with the One who truly loves us, we will never know how to love others as He does. Often times, our human relationships are too easily controlled by merit-based, quick satisfaction, and manipulative desires. I know that no one wants to be taken advantage of nor does one wants to take advantage of others in their right mind. However, in a self-centered society, not many people know how to love someone beyond themselves and their needs unless they are being given the greatest example of love from Love Himself.
Our deepest sense of peace and consolation come from the Lord. Even though life might be hard and has its challenges, we can bear them because He is with us. Honestly speaking, to expect life to be perfect is insane and unrealistic. However, we can learn to bear all things in and through love. Only love makes all things bearable because love grounds and keeps us focused on what is important as it reminds of the real reason why. Furthermore, love is able to bear all things because we know that the One who loves us is always with us every step of the way, knowing deep from within that He will never abandon us. It is His loving grace that gives us the power, tenacity, and perseverance to bear all things for the greater goods of others and the ultimate good of all — eternity with Him!
When are we stressed out or filled anxiety the most? It is often when we are too focused or worried about what is in front of us, becoming too narrow-visioned and myopically-focused on the valleys or hills in front of us instead of seeing the beautiful adventure and journey that has led us there and where it will continue to lead us. We lose peace when we try to handle things all by ourselves as if the whole world is coming down on us. Things seem to come crashing at once when we are too focused on them. That is why we should give some time to seek the Lord in the storm as we make efforts to do what seems to be unnatural in the crises. It is important to take the time to listen to what our soul is calling out and yearning for by seeking the supernatural comfort and transcendental peace in the Lord! This is not the peace that will “make everything alright” but the real peace knowing that He is with us; and if He permits things to happen, He will lead us through them. It is important, therefore, to take some time afterward to relook, pray, and reflect on what the Lord is really trying to invite us to see in the midst of our life and faith journey.
“It is a great art to know how to converse with Jesus, and to know how to keep Jesus is great wisdom. Be humble and peaceable, and Jesus will be with you. Be devout and quiet, and Jesus will stay with you.”
Prayer is then important because this is our direct line with God. In this personal and intimate conversation, we learn to both listen and talk from the heart. In prayer, we can reflect on what is truly going on as to have the courage to change our course if it is leading us to nowhere or away from Him. In prayer, we learn to use our spiritual senses to recognize His presence in the midst of everything. In prayer, we learn to align and prioritize all things as to attain and treasure this most wonderful relationship with our Creator and Lover.
Prayer is important because true prayer teaches us to be humble and at peace with God as it reminds us that His divine knowledge and providence are infinite and beyond what we can understand. It reminds us, even in our trials and failures, that we are meant for something more and these life trials are not everything. Everything in our life and faith journey are just part of the adventure to perhaps help us shake off what is not important as to hold on to what is everlasting, never-changing, and life-giving. The greatest peace on earth is to know that He is in control and that He has already won this world! This wonderful and loving God will not abandon us as He is able to use all things for our ultimate good, which is eternal life with Him.
When the Scriptures speak about love, this is also understood and used interchangeably with the acts of belief and trust. Think about it: to love God is to believe and trust in His faithfulness and goodness! This life of faith takes a lot of devotion because it requires much perseverance to be faithful and abide with Him in the midst of our trials — the world with its ups and downs, people with their blessings and failures. Trust requires the necessary effort and time to quiet our souls in order to connect and be in tune with our Love. It expects personal and intimate time with the One who loves beyond the hurts and failures around us. It grounds us in the everlasting and never-changing promise and love of Christ that won over death and the powers of this world. Prayer brings us to the realization that He is always with us, and that is our peace as it keeps us humble and devout as it quiets our souls to seek, listen, and speak to Him in our everyday journey.
“We ought rather choose to have the whole world against us than to offend Jesus. Of all, therefore, that are dear to you, let Jesus always be your special beloved. Let all things be loved for Jesus’ sake, but Jesus for His own sake.”
Hence, this life of faith will ultimately bring us to the most important understanding in this world, that no greater friendship and relationship is more important than the one with Christ Jesus. We judge, understand, and prioritize everything in light of this everlasting love because if this one fails, everything else will fail, become hurtful, and destructive. If you and I understand how wonderful of a friendship we have with Jesus, we will desire and help one another, to love one another as He has loved us. Relationships become meaningful and life-giving when we challenge one another, especially ourselves to reflect and imitate this everlasting, personal, and intimate love to others. All of us will change for the better when we truly allow the love of Christ to be enlivened in our everyday exchanges and challenges instead of only expecting others to give us what we want. It is more important to love everyone through Jesus, else we risk idolizing them or becoming too obsessive or possessive of those who are around us. True love exists when we judge and allow them to reflect the life-giving, sacrificial, and intimate love of Christ for us and we for Him.
Through Him, we are able to forgive, challenge and help one another to grow in truth and charity. Even though we all meant well, we will always fall short on loving others because of our brokenness. That is why only through Christ can we learn to truly forgive when someone failed, humble to ask for forgiveness when we failed, speak the truth in charity as to help one another grow in the fullness of life. This is hard and always challenging, but we can do it when we discern, respect, and care for each other with the love of and for Him. We fail in love when we demand too much, what they have to be or should be for us, instead of truly appreciating and understanding where they are at the moment. Without this foundational and Christocentric care and respect for others, we can never discern to know what is proper and right because we are too worried about how things need to be for us. Therefore, as we sense the temptations and dangers of division, unrealistic expectations, obsessions or possessions, we learn to love one another through Him and respect each other by His grace. When we are able to recognize the intimate and divine love of Christ, we will recognize that we will be able to love one another genuinely and wholeheartedly, knowing that true relationships are possible when they are grounded in the everlasting friendship with the Lord.