You may not feel great or as if you have hero-like qualities of your own; even the apostle Paul lamented, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”1 Yet God can make more of us than we are, if we avail ourselves of the help of His Son, Jesus. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”2
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.—2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT
One of the challenging aspects of Christian life is the fact that becoming a follower of Jesus does not make us immune to life’s trials and tribulations. We know that God is love,1 yet even those who have faith in Him still suffer disease, injury, financial hardships, worry, fear, and death just like everyone else. Jesus didn’t sugarcoat the truth, but He did offer hope when He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”2
The Bible is a rich storehouse of spiritual and practical advice, and examples of strong relationships are one of the recurrent themes. In fact, Martin Luther commented that the entire Christian life consists of relating to people around us.1
So what can we learn from the Bible about how to succeed with people?
It was the hot, dry season. With no rain in almost a month, crops were dying, cows had stopped giving milk, streams had long dried up, and we, like other farmers in the area, faced bankcruptcy if we didn’t see some rain soon.
I was in the kitchen making lunch when I saw my six-year-old son, Billy, walking purposefully and carefully toward the woods. I could only see his back. Minutes after he disappeared, he came running back.
Two thousand one hundred! Not a date but a number. Bono, the lead singer of rock band U2, known for his anti-poverty campaigns, notes that this is how many mentions of poverty there are in the Scriptures: “That’s a lot of airtime.”1 In the introduction to the Poverty and Justice Bible,2 the Bible Society adds, “A concern for the poor and an emphasis on just and fair behaviour flows through the Bible like a river. It underpins the laws of the Old Testament and resounds through the words of the prophets; it forms a core part of all that Jesus said and did and shapes the activities of those who followed him.”
Giving up some of the things we enjoy or desire can seem like a sacrifice, but when we get to heaven and see things in proper perspective, we’ll be ashamed that we didn’t make those little sacrifices more cheerfully.
In a series of experiments conducted a few years back, dogs were given the command “shake,” and they were normally happy to do so whether they got a reward or not. However, researchers found that if the dogs saw that another dog was being rewarded and they weren’t, they began hesitating to obey the command and eventually stopped cooperating altogether. The dogs knew when they were being treated unfairly, and they didn’t like it.1 If even dogs can understand when something isn’t fair, how much more will people know when they’re being treated unfairly!
About a year ago, I sprained my ankle quite badly coming out of the movie theater and needed to go to the hospital for an x-ray and to have it properly bandaged. Thankfully, nothing was broken, but the swelling lasted a few days, and it was some time before I could walk normally.
Later, when I was reflecting on this unexpected mishap, the main thing that struck me from all that had happened was the kindness of strangers. Here is what I mean:
My neighbor Martha passed away this week after a long battle with emphysema. I will miss Martha and have found myself thinking about her a lot these past few days.
When my husband Dan and I moved into the neighborhood, Martha invited us over for tea and cookies. We sat in her immaculate living room and talked about our family and the volunteer work we had been doing in Mexico. It felt like home, and I was thankful to have a neighbor like Martha who was concerned that we’d feel welcome.