Relationships Require Effort
I don't do a lot of marriage counseling in my pastoral ministry--mostly by choice.
I'll happily work with couples on spiritual matters and offer what guidance I can when they're in need of help, but I will almost always refer them to a professional.
You see, even though I've got two advanced "divinity" degrees, twenty years of pastoral experience, countless hours of training, continuing education and personal reading and development in pastoral counseling... I am not ashamed to admit that I am not a trained counselor.
But, I have learned some things along the way--both in my life as a pastor and in my own nearly 27 years of wonderful marriage, and I will gladly share that with any couple I do counsel.
In fact, the one lesson that I unequivocally say was the most difficult yet helpful lesson I've learned is this: Relationships require effort.
If you aren't working at the keystone relationships in your life (marriage, kids, close friends, family, co-workers), then those relationships will suffer. If you aren't working hard to be a better spouse, friend, parent, child, colleague, etc., you will soon find that those relationships will grow harder and harder to maintain.
Even the relationships that try our patience and send us spinning into anger, frustration and self-doubt require work. We have to work hard in those relationships to maintain our spiritual center, to speak the truth in love, to avoid being poisoned by toxic people. It requires effort.
God not only means for us to be in a relationship with others but to also be in a relationship with God. And that relationship requires our effort as well.
Author William Paul Young once wrote:
Marriage would be so much easier if there wasn’t another person involved, but then it would be meaningless, too. Relationships are entwined, entrenched, elusive, messy, enabling, enrapturing, maddening, exhilarating, frustrating, exposing, and too beautiful for words.
May you embrace the messiness and beauty of the relationships in your life, and may you devote yourself to the good work that it takes to maintain them in life-giving ways.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.