How the enemy destroys relationships and what you can do about it
We desire to do great things for God and we crave a community to do it with. Unfortunately, when we work alongside others we soon discover that there are people who have mixed agendas, others who are unkind, others who are passive, others who got out the wrong side of the bed this morning. And those people are us!
There are relationships which God has called us to invest in for a season or longer. They may be our marriages, our children, fellow leaders, work colleagues, certain friendships. Wherever there is potential for kingdom growth through those relationships, the enemy will try and destroy them.
Take marriage for example: a united couple will pray and act and see things shift. A divided couple will spend so much energy on fighting one another that they won’t be effective in kingdom work. When Mark and I are united in our decisions about how we spend our day off, who is going to be in charge of what meal, in how we lead a meeting together then there is peace and our energies can go into proactively loving rather than in fighting one another.
A united leadership team can spend time praying and seeking God together and developing strategies for moving forward rather than constantly resolving conflicts.
Of course there are disagreements that need to be resolved, but when both sides are committed to unity and working it out together with God and praying together, unity can be obtained in most cases. One study, for example, showed that 99% of couples who prayed regularly together stayed together, whereas between 40-50% of relationships where prayer is not a regular feature end in divorce and disunity. I imagine the statistic is similar for church leadership and ministry teams too.
Here are 3 lies the enemy uses to destroy relationships and what you can do about it:
Lie 1: The other person is against you. They are your enemy.
Truth: you are both on the same team!
The enemy will look for many different ways to feed your mind with lies and false accusations. He will show you all the ways that the other person is doing something for wrong motives. He will point out all the ways that the other person has put themselves before you and tell you that they don’t value you and don’t care about you. Isn't that one of the greatest lies that the enemy tries in a marriage? Before I was conscious of the truth that Mark and I were on the same team we used to fight each other a lot! Of course Mark was being selfish at times - he is human! I have not been vaccinated against selfishness either! That doesn’t mean he doesn’t value me or that I am not valued. My value does not come from his perception of your value anyway, but from God!
Practical things you can do: When Mark and I feel a tension building in our conversations, we say something like 'the enemy is trying to get in here right now. We are on the same team and I love you but we're not agreeing right now. Can we stop and pray before we carry on this conversation?’ If you think the person may be resistant to praying or recognising the enemy in the situation, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and pray for peace and then return to the conversation! You would be amazed at how much the atmosphere will have shifted!
Lie 2: The situation is hopeless. It will never improve.
Truth: you may need to be patient and adjust your expectations but there is hope! The situation can be transformed. Prayer is powerful!
At times I have thought that it was pointless having a conversation with someone and that they will never listen to me or just accuse me. At times I have felt my marriage is hopeless and the days of bickering would never end. However, feelings of hopelessness are signposts to breakthrough if I just keep going! The lies of hopelessness, fear and negativity are snares the enemy tries to get us into. O wonderful Saviour! When I pray about the conversation and repent of my hopelessness and negativity and then go in love and humility to the person, in nearly every conversation the person is able to hear my heart and unity is able to be restored.
Practical things you can do: Repent of the negative and instead speak out thanksgiving. Start thanking God for everything you can about the other person and the situation. Choose to acknowledge the positive and what God is doing in the situation rather than focusing on the negative. We have a Redeemer! Let us trust Him to redeem broken relationships.
Lie 3: The other person is getting it all wrong. It is their fault this relationship (or thing) isn’t working.
Truth: We’re all getting it wrong all the time. We are all generally trying to do our best. We fail a lot. We all need God’s grace.
Judgments start as small criticisms of others. She didn’t lead that meeting well. He had an arrogant tone when he shared his opinion. She looked down her nose at me when my child made an inappropriate noise. These judgments grow when we start dishonoring them in our conversations with others and when we hear others opinions and judgements about them. They become worse when we get offended by something someone has done intentionally or unintentionally to us. What became a passing critical thought has now become a character assassination and a reason to move away from that person.
Practical things you can do: refuse to talk about those people who offended you with others. Go and talk to them directly if you need to. Talk to God about it and look for things you are thankful for about that person rather than focusing on judgments against them. Make a habit to stop and pray and thank God for them every time you feel yourself slipping into a negative judgement thought cycle. Forgive them quickly and extend grace to them. Don’t dishonor them in your conversations with others and refuse to carry on a conversation where others are beginning to dishonor others.
Relationships and unity are the building blocks for unlimitless possibilities in the Kingdom of God. No wonder the enemy desires to destroy them! Let us expose the lies and choose to step into truth and love one another and see God's kingdom come!
Lord, it is so often a battle to see unity. Help us not to grow weary of doing good, but to lean into relationships and choose truth and love. Help us to put aside our pride and selfishness, our offenses and our own agendas and choose You and choose unity. All for Your glory, Lord. All for you.