Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain. –Psalms 127:1a
A home in so many ways represents the relationships within its structure. Therefore, building a house is an apt analogy for building a relationship. God’s blueprints have remained the same for centuries. Yes, times and customs have changed, but God and His ways have not. We make a mistake when we listen to the voices of the world regarding our relationships more than we listen to our Father’s voice. Countless relationship “experts,” self-help books” and gurus have done nothing to stem the tide of broken relationships. All the while God sits back and sighs waiting for people to truly go to His Word and look to Him for help.
I don’t know about you, but I want God to build my relationships.
Note: This blog post can be generalized to all kinds of relationships, not only ones with a significant other. Why? Because all relationships involve a building process, including our relationship with God.
By wisdom a house is built
and by understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
with every precious and beautiful treasure.
God wears many hats in the house-building business. He’s not only the Master Architect, but the Building Contractor who supervises everything having to do with the building process.
One doesn’t acquire wisdom, understanding and knowledge overnight. Wisdom can’t happen to you by reading a few Christian relationship books, even those written by anointed people. These divine qualities can only come by going deep in God and His Word! Wisdom, understanding and knowledge encompass all of life, requiring lifelong study and the daily practice of godly principles. Let’s face it, having wisdom and applying it are two very different things. For example, Solomon left his house broken, desolate and divided, when he didn’t follow the wisdom God had given him. We don’t only refer to God’s wise blueprints, but we must build wisely also.
Waiting can be so hard, especially when waiting for a relationship to start, develop or be established.
Why does God, sometimes, take so long with our relationships? Why does God ask us to wait? How come he allows delays? Why does he want things to unfold over what can seem like an eternity? When love arrives, why wait any longer?
For there is a proper time and procedure for every delight… –Ecclesiastes 8:6
I talked to a friend of mine at a gathering a few months back. Since I hadn’t seen him for a while, we had a lot of ground to cover. He finally got to the part where he told me had a girlfriend. I like hearing about other people’s relationships, so I asked him to tell me the story. Brimming with excitement, he shared how they met, how well they clicked and all the confirmations they received as to their relationship. He smiled a lot, certain this girl would be his future wife.
God can reveal things quickly when He chooses to. But, knowing the who and the what doesn’t automatically mean you know the how and the when of how things will unfold in a relationship. After all, there is a proper time and procedure for every delight.
I never noticed the last part of that verse until now… for every delight. The word “delight” aptly describes the giddy excitement of a new relationship and/or being in love. Maybe, that’s why God put the two concepts together in this verse: to keep us from rushing headlong into a relationship, even when it is of Him.
I finally asked a question that seem to change everything, “How long have you known this person?”
He stopped smiling to look at me with narrowed eyes,
“Why do you need to know?”
“Just curious. When did you start talking to one another?”
To make a long story short, he didn’t tell me how long he had known this girl. Judging from his response, however, they probably hadn’t known each other for very long before deciding to marry one another.
I thought to myself: Whoa! What’s the rush? If you’re going to marry this person, then take the time to get to know her. Take the time to build this relationship slowly.
I’ve had similar conversations with other people. I’ve seen the aftermath of some, not all, of these stories, which only reinforces the reason why love has to be patient. When driven by impatience, we tend to rush through the steps and build in a hurry. Consequently, buildings can fail later, when not built properly in the beginning.
BUILDING BRICK BY BRICK, NOT WALL BY WALL
I don’t know where I first heard or read this saying, but whenever I think about building relationships, I always remind myself, “Build brick by brick and not wall by wall.”
Quick walls may appear durable and strong, until something comes to test them.
Walls built in a hurry can take many forms:
- A string of four-hour long conversations after first meeting someone
- Spending all your time together without respect to your former lives, friends and schedules
- An unrestrained fantasy life regarding the other person and your future life together
- Premature emotional, verbal and physical intimacy
- Getting engaged after only knowing a person for a short time
- Short engagements
These examples illustrate a sense of impatience regarding the process of building a relationship.
For every relationship, God has a divine timetable to make everything beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) God uses process to fulfill His purposes. We may have to endure waiting, delays, trials and setbacks so God can prepare us for the relationship! Therefore, it will be to our loss, whenever we rush through His process. God knows our hearts and understands how love can motivate us like few things can. For this reason, relationships become the catalyst to work on our hearts and lives in a deeper way.
As we exercise patience in our relationships, God may use trials and time to burn away dross, increase dependence and faith and teach both people how to love better. Therefore, we get blessed when we submit to the process and let God have His way in our relationships.
Isn’t it interesting how God uses a building metaphor to reveal hearts? Rather than repair and reinforce the wall, fallen humanity tends to plaster whitewash over the weak parts of the wall to make it appear stronger.
The Bible tells us God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. John stood gaping and trembling before a glorified Jesus with fiery eyes. (1 John 1:5; Revelation 1:14) In other words, we can’t hide from the God who sees and knows everything. God’s very nature will expose things to the light. Keep this in mind as you build.
Unfortunately, people can and do “cut corners” in the building process when they rush towards intimacy. Walls go up weak and compromised. Later on, when the relationship starts crumbling here and there, this same “shortcut” mentality will tempt them to smear whitewash over the weak places, instead of doing the real work to make their relationship better and stronger.
Across the land, we don’t build houses to last the earthquakes and the storms of life. Testings will come, however, to reveal the true story of many relationships. In the wake of every collapsed building, there’s a tell-all book in the making?
As a result, we can’t escape the fact that before God heals, He first has to deal. As He dealt with the Israelites in the past, He must also deal with us by searching out all of our hiding places and exposing those things that bring us false security.
And when anyone builds a wall, behold, they plaster it over with whitewash; 11 so tell those who plaster it over with whitewash, that it will fall. A flooding rain will come, and you, O hailstones, will fall; and a violent wind will break out. 12 Behold, when the wall has fallen, will you not be asked, ‘Where is the plaster with which you plastered it?’” 13 Therefore, thus says the Lord God, “I will make a violent wind break out in My wrath. There will also be in My anger a flooding rain and hailstones to consume it in wrath. 14 So I will tear down the wall which you plastered over with whitewash and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation is laid bare… –Ezekiel 13:10b-14
WISE AND FOOLISH BUILDERS
Jesus, however, taught us how to build a house that will outlast the storms of life.
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” –Luke 6:46-49
To simplify, obedience, time, effort and honest search and struggle made the difference between the two types of builders.
It takes time and effort in digging to find the biblical foundations for life. Are we really building our lives on the Word of God or on the sand of worldly models, “expert advice,” and watered-down or distorted teaching? Irrespective of our stated beliefs, we must search and struggle to dig into our true beliefs regarding relationships. It also takes painful obedience to confront and change our beliefs and broken relational patterns, as we align everything with the Word of God.
As always, God helps us in our need, whenever we cry out for wisdom and understanding. Paul shared how God’s grace helped him to become a wise master builder. Paul relied upon God as he sought to understand both God’s ways and his own heart better. We must, too, if we also want to be wise master builders.
According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. –1 Corinthians 3:10
Paul goes on to write about the materials needed for an enduring home. Though this passage pertains to our walk and ministry with God throughout our lives, it’s also in the context of building a building.
If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, his workmanship will be evident, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will prove the quality of each man’s work. –1 Corinthians 3:12-14
For every building, there will be a time of testing to see how the person built it. Testing buildings to reveal the true story seems to be a common theme with God.
Gold, silver and precious stones take time and effort to dig out of the Earth and process, whereas wood, hay and straw can be easily found and used. Patience helps to ensure we take the time necessary to find and test the qualities God wants us to look for in a relationship.
For example, in our past, we may have mistaken “fool’s gold” for a true “heart of gold.” Though fool’s gold can also glitter and flash and look like the real thing, it lacks any real value. Moreover, it takes time, testing and careful examination to distinguish one from the other.
Another consideration: true gold still needs to be refined to remove impurities, which is another thing that takes time, process and trial.
Since emotions can drive us forward in relationships, it may be wise to intentionally slow down the pace of a relationship in order to build with wisdom and patience, using the right materials.
WHEN “OLD SCHOOL” IS REALLY GOD’S SCHOOL
If you’ve followed these blog posts for any length of time, you may have noticed I tend to use older examples and illustrations. I can’t help it. The older examples tend to best illustrate the points I feel led to make.
To find the truth of God’s ways, we must go back into the past, because we may not find it in our current culture or as we look to the future. God spoke through Jeremiah, telling us to walk in the “ancient paths” in order to find rest for our souls, In contrast to God’s “old-fashioned” ways, the “progressive” movement today in America has done all it can to tear down godly foundations. The prevailing culture calls “progress” that which takes us further away from God and His standards for life.
This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. –Jeremiah 6:16
For an example of drawing on ancient wisdom, one of the best books I’ve read about self-sacrifice and patience in relationships is Elisabeth Elliot’s Quest for Love.
The book includes stories of love purified through trials and waiting. She responds to letters from people asking for relational help with a clear-eyed, sanctified common sense approach. We desperately need her staunchly biblical perspective in today’s world. Her classic book, Passion and Purity, chronicles her developing relationship and eventual marriage to the late missionary, Jim Elliot. Putting God first, dying to self, and having to be patient are themes in both of these books. See what I mean by “old school.”
LIVING ILLUSTRATIONS AS OPEN INVITATIONS
More than anything else, God wanted all of life, including relationships, to help us to understand Him more and to feel the things He feels.
God provided a living illustration when He built within the engagement and marriage phase of a Jewish relationship a time of waiting and preparation. Parallels abound between this aspect of Jewish culture and Jesus’ relationship to us as the Heavenly Bridegroom. For more information on how Jesus’ relationship to us parallels the phases of a Jewish relationship, read the article in the link: https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/revelation/related-topics/the-jewish-wedding-analogy.html. (It’s fascinating!)
God uses common everyday examples to teach us more about Himself as we walk out our lives. As new roles in life open up different aspects of God to us, it’s possible to come into a deeper intimacy and understanding of Who He is. For example, becoming a parent can reveal the Father heart of God. Likewise, being in a relationship can reveal Jesus’ Bridegroom heart or more of what it means to be His bride, who waits for Him.
OUR HEAVENLY BRIDEGROOM LONGS AND WAITS FOR US
If God asks you to go through a painful time of waiting and separation and to endure trials for the sake of your relationship, always remember how Jesus suffered for His bride and waits to come back for her. He knows what it means to wait for a long time and to suffer in that waiting.
We may have to wait for a loved one to be saved, for a parent-child relationship to be reconciled, or for a friend to be willing to forgive us. We may have to wait to reconnect with someone after a long separation. We may have to wait to join our lives in commitment to someone we love. Yes, waiting in love involves a measure of longing and pain.
Jesus understands how we feel, as we die to self, struggle and mourn for God to finish the work of patience in our lives and relationships.
Or, better yet, we can begin to understand how Jesus feels. Sometimes, our relationships are not just for us, for the sake of making us happy, but serve as a portal for us to enter into the deeper things of God.
Therefore, let us not build our relationships hurriedly and haphazardly, because we’ll end up living in the homes we build, for good or for ill.
Let us not cut short what He wants to do in us and for us in relationship.
Let us not cut short the supreme revelation of understanding more of Who God is in the context of our relationships.
But, let us let patience have its perfect work, that we may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:4)
REFLECTION AND APPLICATION QUESTIONS
- Have you ever known of or been in a relationship that moved forward in a hurry? What ended up happening in that relationship?
- Why is it important to guard your heart and be patient in relationships? Why it it important to control your imagination, thought patterns and emotions in relationships? What can you do to develop new habits more in line with being patient in love?
- We talked about how God needed to build the house. How can you submit to God in a deeper way in your relationships? What things can you do to ensure He will be the One in control of your relationship: timing, pace, circumstances, decisions, etc.?
- We build a house through wisdom, understanding and knowledge. Do your own personal study of Bible verses and passages having to do with any aspect of building relationships? Don’t just find and read the passages, study, meditate and apply them to your life.
- What boundaries and patterns of relating can you set in your life to make sure you build relationships “brick by brick, instead of wall by wall?”
- Whitewashed walls speak of a shortcut mentality and taking the easy way out. How can you resist using whitewash to cover over issues that may need to be addressed? Are you willing to deal with recurring patterns in your life? Relationships have a way of bringing things out in people, both good and bad. What plan will you put into place to really deal with issues as they come up in your relationship?
- What can you do to dig deep, find the rock and build the foundation for your house on the rock. Reread that subsection and reflect on how much time, effort and heart struggle this takes. Make a plan for doing the hard work necessary to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:1-2)
- What are your thoughts about the section called “Building Materials?” Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not? What materials have you/do you normally use to build your life and relationships? Are they quick and easy or take digging, patience and process?
- Read a copy of Quest for Love and/or Passion and Purity or any other “old school” Christian book on relationships. You’ll know “old school” by the way it calls you to die to self.
- Perhaps nothing cries out impatience and a fleshly nature more than issues having to do with sexual purity. May I tell you directly, if a person can’t die to self, exercise patience and control their lust before marriage, what makes you think they’ll do it after they get married? No, it’s not easy. Yes, people have made mistakes and will stumble forward at times. But, a person’s attitude towards this subject will speak volumes about their ability to be patient in love. What boundaries can you put into place in this area of your relationship to keep your relationship pure?
- When faced with difficulties, delays, separations, etc. in our relationships, we have the opportunity to enter into the “sufferings of Christ” and receive greater, deeper revelations of Who He is. Does this encourage you to stay the course and patiently wait for God to act on your behalf? What prayers can you pray and verses can you study and meditate on to fortify your ability to patiently walk through these things?
- While in relationship, pray for deeper revelation of Who God is! Pray for patience to walk out God’s process to perfect you in this relationship! Pray for the other person to be able to wait on God and walk out the process also.
- If we follow God’s “ancient paths,” we’ll find rest for our souls. What can you do to look back to God’s original ways and purpose for relationships instead of being influenced by modern views and ways of relating? How will you learn to honor and follow the wisdom and examples of the past?
- Were there any points or verses in the blog post that stood out to you? What do you think God is trying to tell you? Pray into those areas.