• Write Your Life With Grace

    How To Trust God In A Painful Relationship

    My natural inclination is to sing God’s praises on a sunny, non-eventful day but the minute life starts to happen I’m suddenly the praying maniac, “Oh, please, God, don’t let this happen. Make it stop.” Fear has set in. What I know to be true in the daylight I’m now questioning in the darkness.

    That is weakness in my character, not God’s.

    Many years ago, there were several people who were hurting me emotionally. To protect privacies and situations, I’m going to lump them together into “this person” because in all honesty, I allowed the same story repeatedly with different players.

    This person is a fellow Christian so I appealed to God in my prayers to “fix them so they’ll stop hurting me.” This relationship had boundary issues, control issues, and passive-aggressive behavior. I prayed for years for the behavior to end but it didn’t seem as if God was listening. Anger took residence in my soul and came out on innocent family and friends. I began to chastise God rather than pray in humility. “Why are you letting this happen, God? Why won’t you do something?”

    The voice in my head started speaking to me. “You need to stand up for yourself.” I immediately pushed that thought away because I knew what the outcome would be: anger from the person hurting me. Experience told me this person would not take responsibility for their actions but would instead humiliate me for having a negative reaction to their emotional onslaught of pain. There was no way I was doing that again, putting myself in the position of their retaliation.

    The voice continued and pestered me like a gnat buzzing around my ear. I questioned that voice. Was it me? No. I certainly did not want to put myself in front of a person berating me, giving me the guilt trip. Was it the devil? It didn’t seem like it. Satan would have told me to walk away entirely, that I didn’t need to put up with this behavior. Was it God telling me to stand up for myself? Why would he put me in this scary position?

    For several days, I said no. I’m not doing it. The voice kept pestering me.

    “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

    Finally, I was so miserable that I cried uncle. I was in so much emotional pain, that the pain of standing up for myself suddenly seemed more appealing than the pain of allowing the boundary and control issues to continue. I told God that if this was really him telling me to do this, that he better know what he’s doing. “You better have my back!”

    Of course, he has my back. God would never put me in harm’s way. This wasn’t just a lesson in standing up for myself; it was a lesson in learning how to trust. Obedience to Him equals freedom through healing, not bondage through oppression.

    Shaking like a leaf, I went and explained to this person how their behavior was hurting me and that I was done with it. I was setting a boundary line. I said, ‘no more’ to the passive aggressive behavior. I get to choose what I participate in and I can no longer participate in this hurtful pattern. It’s disrespectful, it’s killing my soul, and I will tolerate it no longer.

    This person’s response was surprisingly positive. Why? Because it was God’s voice directing me towards a healthier path. He was teaching me character development. And, this person had also been praying and reading God’s word, which allowed God to work through both of us and therefore bring us to a positive resolution. Did the situation turn on a dime? No.

    Character takes a long time to develop because it is attached to our self-worth, our identity, our neediness. I might know the right thing to do, but if I am at all feeling insecure or lonely or rejected, I will make a bee-line to put any kind of salve over that neediness to stop the pain.

    This is how it has played out: This person exhibits the controlling, fearful behavior. I shrink but quickly remember I have a choice to make. I need to remind this person of the boundary line by saying, “No. It’s not okay to treat me that way anymore.” The responsibility is back on their plate. They may squirm and lash out because boundary lines are painful, but they slowly back off. It happens again and this time I am stronger and firmer as I reiterate the boundary line. They remember and back away more quickly. When it happens again, I am stronger still. They are quick to back away. Eventually, I have taught them to steer clear of that boundary altogether.

    This process takes weeks, months, and even years. At each juncture, each person must choose between health and dysfunction. It’s exhausting but the blessings are endless when we understand how God works in us and through us and for us. He honors our request for healing but only when we participate.

    Each time I choose a healthy response to a negative comment or traumatic situation, it’s akin to lifting an emotional weight. I get stronger and stronger. Which breaks that endless spin-cycle of dysfunction and allows for grace, which brings peace and kindness.

    Therefore, when a person pushes a boundary line or says something derogatory or questions me in a way that feels uncomfortable—these are all opportunities to heal, to mature, to develop my character, to get stronger, to choose wisely the kind of person I want to be. Do I want to remain a victim, blaming everyone and everything in my path? Why is this happening to me? Why is God picking on me? Life dealt me a bad deck? Or do I want to grow up and take responsibility for my half, thus changing the situation entirely?

    Don’t miss these golden opportunities, my friend. They come every day. Emotional challenges are not there to beat us down. They come to build a foundation of stability and well-being.

    So, the minute life starts to happen, there’s no need to lament in fear. I can sing God’s praises because He’s got my back. He will pave the way towards hope and healing by developing my character.

    “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

    –Tara Schiro is the author of two books: Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal, and No Arms, No Legs, No Problem, When life happens you can wish to die or choose to live. Both are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and TaraSchiro.com