I used to think that having secure and loving relationships meant putting those relationships squarely in the center of my life.
Like many women, I poured myself into caring for my people and managing our busy lives. I set out to be kind enough and patient enough, wise enough and funny enough, smart enough and whatever other “enough” seemed necessary to keep everyone happy and our relationships healthy and strong.
I believed that if I tried hard enough to be good enough, my relationships would bring me the “happily-ever-after” life I longed for.
When I became a Christian, I doubled down on this “try hard” way of thinking.
When I started reading the Bible, I believed I’d stumbled upon something that would make my “try hard” life even better. Here it seemed, was an instruction book for how to be truly good enough for love. Not only to win the hearts of others but how to be good enough for God Himself. And it came with a bonus: it was filled with Scripture that taught me how to apply God’s way of doing things in my relationships.
I tucked those instructions into my relationship tool kit and did my best to follow them to the letter. Here it was at last – my guarantee of happiness.
If you’re beginning to wonder how far my starry-eyed optimism (albeit grounded in God’s word) took me, I won’t keep you in suspense. After 25 years of “try-hard” living, my marriage began to crumble, and no amount of trying harder could save it.
It was a long hard stretch to untangle myself from believing I could be good enough to keep my relationships whole and unbroken. But as God helped me put the pieces of my life back together, here is what I learned:
Making our relationships the central focus of our lives doesn’t make love grow. God does.
Our capacity to give and receive the kind of love it takes to keep our relationships healthy and whole comes from God. Not from us, no matter how good we are. And not from the people we love, no matter how hard we all work at it. When we try to make it on our own, things fall apart.
“We love because he first loved us.”1 John 4:19 NIV
Our relationships matter to God. They absolutely do. He values loving relationships and created us with hearts that long for connection. And yes, God’s Word instructs us on how to live and love His way.
But God is never, ever interested in us simply following his rules – even if we could follow every one of them perfectly (spoiler alert: we can’t!) Scripture isn’t a prescription that comes with a guarantee for success and happiness.
So before we run off with biblical instructions and our best-laid plans, we’ve got to invest in a whole-hearted relationship with God first. Because it’s out of our relationship with Him that true and lasting love grows.
Here are 3 ways loving God first transforms all our relationships for the better.
1. When we love God first, our performing days are over.
God knows you intimately and loves you deeply. He sees you and knows the deepest desires of your heart. When we seek Him first, His love for us and true understanding of who we are is the bedrock of our identity. Our genuine, unedited, raw and real selves are who God sees and loves.
In his popular devotional Who I Am in Christ, Neil T. Anderson shares this truth: “The most important belief we possess is a true knowledge of who God is. The second most important belief is who we are as children of God because we cannot consistently behave in a way that is inconsistent with how we perceive ourselves.”
God’s love changes our perception of who we are. It gives us the courage and confidence we need to live and love as our most authentic selves. Knowing we are loved so profoundly saves us from our exhausting efforts to win hearts and gain ground in our relationships.
“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.”Romans 12:9 MSG
No more hiding behind being good enough or making everyone else happy while often denying our own needs. When we operate from the reality that God loves us as we truly are, we discover it’s possible to be ourselves with those we love. Making it infinitely easier for them to know how best to love us back. As we let the people in our lives get close enough to really see us, our bonds grow deeper and our relationships stronger.
2. When we love God first, we love others more generously.
The more we live in the light of God’s love, the more we know that loving others isn’t dependent upon our own trying, personality type, or upbringing. Love flows not from a sense of duty, responsibility, or obligation but from our relationship with the One who makes all love possible. It spills generously from the abundance of love and acceptance we receive from Him.
“God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”Romans 5:5 NIV
When we keep God first, we’re guided by the relationship-building fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control move in us to guide our conversations and empower us to make healthy choices.
- When times get hard and conversations get tricky, we turn first to God through prayer and wise counsel before choosing our words.
- When others disappoint or hurt us – or when we do the same to them – we trust God to help us forgive and ask for forgiveness.
- Reconciliation becomes our top priority, and we’re able to stop trying to prove our point or demand our own way.
- We learn the art of cooperation and find solutions that benefit both sides when conflict arises.
3. When we love God first, joy drives out fear.
When we receive God’s unconditional love, it becomes possible to genuinely love God and others without fear or striving.
Many of us may not realize we’re holding our relationships in a white-knuckled grip as we try to manage, control, or wrestle them into stronger connections or a greater sense of shared belonging. If we find the courage to look honestly at why we do this, the answer is often fear. Fear of not getting what we want or losing what we’ve worked so hard to build can make us do crazy things.
While relationships do indeed take work, healthy, lasting bonds grow best when grounded in joy.
Joy comes from trusting God to care for us and the people we love. Nothing compares to the joy that springs from spending time in God’s presence, allowing Him to love us with everlasting love. To hear Him singing over us, knowing that His perfect love drives out fear.
His desire for us is to experience His goodness and grace in every area of our lives – especially in our relationships. So we don’t have to be afraid to put our relationship with Him before all others.
It’s the one relationship that powers all the rest.
Our relationships work best when we put God first. Not perfectly – sometimes, things will still break down with the people we love. We’ll feel disappointment, sadness, and even loss. But when we feel empty and stretched to capacity, running on fumes or working so hard to be something we think we need to be to love and be loved, we can always return to this truth:
With the force of God’s love at the center of our lives, He keeps our relationships moving steadily toward wholeness and joy.
We can’t try hard enough or be good enough to summon the power and knowledge we need to have the joy-filled, secure relationships we want. But when we love God first, our relationship with Him takes us far beyond our best efforts and makes all of our relationships better.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase through one of my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.