“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold,” Job 23:10.
When Adam and Eve were created by God’s hands they were free, owners of a beautiful garden, ruled over the whole earth, had the company of God and angels, and knew only feelings of happiness, contentment, health, and peace (Gen. 1: 26-31). In paradise, there was a single restriction: “Thou shalt not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” (Gen. 2:17). Some time having passed, the couple ate of the forbidden fruit and this apparent ‘little’ act of disobedience brought to Earth all kinds of evils and finally death. Biblical history reports that when the couple was discovered and the sentences pronounced, one being an exile from the Garden, they “entreated to be permitted to remain, although they acknowledged that they had forfeited all right to blissful Eden. They promised that they would in the future yield to God implicit obedience.”1 The writings do not tell us how much they begged and what else they promised, but we can imagine how afraid they were of the reality they would face and how willing they were to do anything to avoid the dark future.
After so many millennia since the fall, when we look at the human being today, facing their struggles, difficulties, and sorrows, do we act very differently? Do you keep trying to dodge the consequences of your sins? Are you still afraid to walk unknown paths where you ended up when taking a shortcut? Do you still look at the consequences of your mistakes as something terrifying, bad, unprofitable, a source of distress and sadness? It is a fact that consequences of sin are sad and lead to eternal death (Romans 6:23). But is it possible that anything good can come in the midst of so much evil? Is it possible to reap some happiness in the midst of the suffering that we endure? Let’s think and find out together, focusing on one aspect that is a very interesting thing we deal with all our lives: interpersonal relationships.
We understand interpersonal relationships as bonds between one or more people, in different social contexts and with different levels of involvement. In short, relationships between you and other individuals.
When God created man and woman, there were no conflicts in interpersonal relationships. Adam and Eve understood each other, understood God, talked to angels and all enjoyed harmony and peace. But as soon as they sinned, there was a significant and deep change. First, man distanced himself from God, no longer being friends with his Creator, as says the prophet Isaiah, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God;” (Isaiah 59: 2). The proof of this is that Adam and Eve hid when they heard God’s voice calling out to them (Genesis 3:10). The bond between humanity and divinity was broken, the friendship over and they have become enemies in essence. Another relationship became extremely fragile and conflicting: that of Adam and Eve. When she offered the forbidden fruit to her husband, he reflected that “He must be separated from her whose society he had loved so well. How could he have it thus? His love for Eve was strong. And in utter discouragement, he resolved to share her fate. He reasoned that Eve was a part of himself, and if she must die, he would die with her, for he could not bear the thought of separation from her.”2 Adam loved Eve so much, he would rather die than leave her. However, when God asked if they had eaten of the forbidden fruit, he promptly replied, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it,” Genesis 3:12. Where did all of Adam’s love for his wife go when he pointed to her as the one guilty of transgression? The desire to escape and the fear of punishment made him self-centered and selfish, and love was forgotten. For millennia this behavior has been passed down from generation to generation, and all human beings become selfish in their nature, establishing conflict with God and his peers more and more.
However, God has found a very special way to ‘fix’ this problem by using conflicts to teach us and to lovingly transform us. Consider what the Apostle says in Romans 8: 28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” This thought should always come to mind when we come into conflict with the people around us, as long as we’re doing our part to walk the good walk, to deliver our lives in God’s hands and truly love Him each day, to reestablish our bond with Him. When we do so, we can be sure: God ALWAYS wants the best for us, whether in friendships, in dating, in marriage, with the brethren of the church and in any other situation in life. But that does not mean that He will save us from conflict or that we will never be frustrated, or that everyone around us will love us, and we will never be angry with our parents and those in leadership. Quite the contrary: it means that He will allow you to go through difficult situations and that you will experience conflict with the people around you so that you can be molded. Wait, what do you mean?
Take the work of a carpenter, for example. Are you familiar with how carpentry works? With a cutting tool, called ‘chisel’, the carpenter picks up the wood and chips and cuts, shaping the trunk,
until it becomes a beautiful piece of art. That is exactly what God does to us. Since sin has made us selfish, petty, and we do not know how to live harmoniously, Christ in His great love uses difficulties and conflicts to make us better people.
However, this work is often painful, time-consuming, and difficult because we are very attached to our selfish desires. Yet the beloved Father does not give up on us and often, to fulfill His purposes in our lives, He allows people with characteristics that bother us the most to cross our path and through them we develop the Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Galatians 5:22). God’s plan is that as we exercise these virtues, our defects are inhibited, lose strength, and we are molded to holiness. He “[…]does this to us. Sculpts the image of Christ in us. The Holy Spirit holds the hammer, the Word of God. The chisel represents everything God uses to polish and sand us. Sometimes the process hurts! But the suffering, pain, change, are all part of the process of conforming to the image of Christ. He exposes our hearts and leads us to dependence on Jesus. Every hammer strike, every chiseled sin that falls, frees more of the splendor of the glory of Christ in us.”3 Yes, God wants to use our relationships, complicated as they are, to shape us. And you know what’s the best news? That it is much easier for us to change for the sake of those we love than if it were otherwise. God chose to use love to soften our afflictions and sorrows and, with patience and kindness, take from us what separates us from Him and one another.
We invite you today to look differently at the interpersonal conflicts in your life. Try to see beyond what is obvious. If you have a relationship full of problems and feel like giving up, keep working on it, put it in God’s hands. If you have a disagreement with a friend or dislike someone, give these feelings to God and seek to look at the other individual without judgment, learning to be tolerant. When you are reprimanded by your parents or other elders, hold your breath and remember that God promised to give long life to those who honor parents and hear the words of the wise.
God has a dream of finding all His children in heaven, but not as we are today. He hopes to find us perfect, without spot or blemish, without any defect. And to fulfill His purpose, He is carving and polishing us. If we are willing to be molded by Him, believe me, it will be easier. And while it still seems difficult, remember that no suffering can compare with the joy of finding ourselves perfect in the presence of an Almighty God when He comes with power and great glory, and to hear it declared: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus,”(Revelation 14:12).
1 WHITE, E.G. History of Redemption, p. 40
2 WHITE, E.G. History of Redemption, p. 36
3 MENDES, A .; MERKH, D. O NAMORO E O NOIVADO QUE DEUS SEMPRE QUIS: Resgatando princípios bíblicos na construção de relacionamentos duradouros (Portuguese Edition), p. 99