One of the women in my Bible study had a disagreement with her daughter-in-law. This led to a full-on argument. Her son sided with his wife and my friend felt betrayed. The disagreement escalated into lots of ugly accusations and angry words. Within days, the son called to let my friend know that her visit with the grandkids that weekend was canceled and that she was no longer welcome in their home.

As my friend shared her story, the tissues in her hands grew limp from wiping the stream of tears leaking from her eyes. She hung her head after courageously sharing her part in the meltdown. I can’t believe that I said such awful things to her. My son won’t answer my calls. I want to apologize. What if I never see my grandchildren again?

If you’re reading today’s devotional and this story triggers grief or sadness because this is your reality, I’m so sorry. If we were sitting next to each other, I’d give you a big hug right now. Perhaps you know a friend or a family member who has been devastated by a broken relationship. It’s so hard because you can’t fix it for them.

At the time I’m writing this devotional, I’m in Maryland teaching at the Women Digging Deeper Retreat weekend. Before I share what God has put on my heart for today’s devotional, I want to start by showing you this picture of a sign that sits right at the main entrance to the lodging. “Jesus Never Fails.” Say that to yourself over whatever situation you’re facing right now whether it’s an estranged relationship, an unanswered prayer, a fear, or anything.

For today, let’s check out helpful guidance from God’s Word. In Romans 12:18, the Apostle Paul also gives relational instruction to believers. I’ve included his teaching in two different translations:

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. -Romans 12:18 NLT

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. -Romans 12:18 ESV

Which translation resonates most with you? I appreciate both versions, but for different reasons. 

In the New Living Translation (NLT), the phrase “Do all that you can” is a call to God-honoring action and it gives a wise boundary. Some of us grew up in homes or families where “keeping the peace” meant staying silent, accepting, or not reporting toxic, abusive, immoral, or illegal behavior. That is not what Paul teaches. 

“Do all that you can” references Jesus’s teachings on confronting those who’ve harmed or offended you (Matthew 18: 15-17) and offering forgiveness (Matthew 18: 21-35). Jesus’s teachings not only set us up to glorify God, but his teachings are the basis of good, healthy, and wise boundaries, too.

The ESV version (similar to NKJV) starts with the phrase, “If possible, as far as it depends on you.” Those are such important words! We are only in control of ourselves, not others. We’re also responsible for living out Jesus’ teachings whether others do or not. 

“As far as it depends on you” often requires surrender because you can’t make people fix the relationship. Everyone handles hurt at different speeds. You may be ready to move on from how someone hurt you, but they may not be over how you hurt them – even if you think that what you did wasn’t that bad. In other instances, perhaps you are willing to forgive an offender, but they aren’t willing to acknowledge or see their part in the problem. You may need to surrender your attempts to convince people of what which they aren’t willing to hear. Jesus said don’t cast your pearls before swine. 

I’ve been there. I was married, there were seasons when my former spouse had left our family and no matter how much I’d call or beg to work things out, he was not ready nor was he interested. Every unanswered text and phone call heaped more rejection on me. The more that I pushed, the more pain it created for peace. Surrender was my only path to peace.

Surrendering doesn’t mean that you’re giving up on the relationship, it means that you’re creating space for God to work. Not only does surrender create a path for you to experience God’s peace instead of suffering but while you’re waiting, you can be assured that God is working. In the meantime, here are some ways to live in peace instead of stalking or stirring the pot:

  1. Take the words that you would say to them and turn those words into prayer to God. Pour your heart out to the Father who sees and cares about YOU.
  2. You can give the other person/people space and let them know that the door is open when they are ready. 
  3. You can prayerfully discern whether to write a letter. I’ve seen this done with positive results and I’ve also seen those letters ignored or fueled to ignite a new argument. I suggest having a trusted friend look the letter over and also help you discern why your expectations or motivations.

As I wrote this week’s devotional, I couldn’t address every situation and nuance that led to conflict or estrangement. What I pray is that you will focus on Paul’s teaching in Romans 12:18 and ask God’s Holy Spirit to speak directly to you about your specific situation. 

By the way, after a long period of estrangement, my friend received a call from her son. He asked if they could meet for coffee. After several months, he let the grandkids come over. Their relationship still has ups and downs but my friend smiles because she saw how God worked in her life when she finally stepped back and surrendered the situation to His control and timing. 

TAKEAWAY TIME! What did you take away from today’s devotional that you needed to hear? Where is God calling you to surrender and trust Him? What’s been hard for you?

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