A gentleman came to see me who was extremely mad at his wife. “I hate to come home from work,” he said, “because I know that when I turn into the driveway, if my wife got there ahead of me, she will have her car parked smack in the middle of the carport. I have asked her time and time again to please either park her car to the left or the right of the carport, but no, she always parks in the middle! We have two cars, and there is room for both in that carport. But if she comes home ahead of me, her car is parked in the middle of the carport. She makes me so mad.”
Every night he has a decision to make. Either he will simply leave his car parked in the driveway, or he will back her car out of the carport, move it over, and drive his in. According to him, you see, his whole demeanor, peace of mind, and joy depends upon a choice that his wife initially makes.
Is this true?
This man believes he is at the mercy of his wife’s choices. He is unhappily aware of the fact that she knows what he wants, and won’t do it.
When you know that someone won’t do something that is important to you, you have some options. You can accept the person for who they are or you can resent that person, become bitter, and dwell on the fact that there is something this person isn’t doing that you want them to do, which can ruin your relationship.
A lady was telling me about her husband who knew how she expected him to dress. Time and again, when they went to a gathering where most of the men would wear ties, he would come prancing out of the house in a sport shirt. This upset her, but he always said, “Calm down honey, it’s alright.”
He was an extrovert, one of those hand-shaking, back-slapping, loud people. She was quiet and shy, and it always annoyed her when he acted that way. It got so she could hardly stand him. This man had many wonderful qualities, but he was loud, a back slapper, and insisted on wearing a sport shirt.
He realized that she was upset, and decided to do something nice for her. He said, “Honey, let’s go on a Caribbean cruise.”
A cruise ship out on the Caribbean Sea in the moonlight does sound great, doesn’t it? She liked the idea and figured the change in scenery would be good for their relationship. What kind of a situation could you possibly get into that would be more likely to bring the best out of you than being on a cruise ship in the Caribbean Sea in the moonlight?
The first night they were on board the cruise ship, he comes bursting out of the state room in a sport shirt! She thought he should have worn a tie, but he didn’t. They headed for the deck to socialize with some of the other passengers. Her husband was the same hand-shaking, back-slapping, loud, joking person he was at home.
She told me, “You, know, I discovered something about me that night. I was my same nasty self in the Caribbean as I was at home.” This was a startling discovery to her, that her inner life did not depend on her circumstances!
If you really want to be free, if you want to live a life of joy, you need to be aware of the other people in your life. Every person has an agreeable side. But everyone also has that other side, that part of their personality that is annoying. Often what divides us is that we are antagonistically aware of the annoyances of other people. And if we’re honest with ourselves, frequently the issues do not really amount to much.
Here is the key point: Your response to life is not determined by people and circumstances.
There is a key concept that can help us with this critical point. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:1, “I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal.” This word from the King James version of the Bible is a significant word to understand: carnal. Carnality, Paul says includes “envy, strife, and divisions” (verse 3 of the same chapter). In other words, if there is envy of any kind, you are annoyed, disgruntled, and/or jealous over someone else’s success, opportunity, or wealth. Carnality includes strife, wrangling, scrapping, fighting, disagreeing, and unresolved issues.
Which are you: carnal or spiritual? Carnal–a life characterized by envy, arguing, quarreling, striving, and unresolved conflicts; or spiritual–a person filled with the spirit of God and a life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control (as described in Galatians 5: 2-23)?
The people in the opening stories of this article are carnal. They may believe in Jesus Christ, but they have not allowed His Spirit to change them. They still want to have things their own way! In Ephesians 4:31-32, Paul tells us to “Let all bitterness, and wrath and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you.”
Isaiah 59:1-2 instructs us: “The Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.”
There are times when people cry out to God and He doesn’t seem to hear, and sometimes it is because they are not approaching Him on His terms. What is it that separates you from God? You might have tried to contact Him and it seems like you can’t get in touch with Him. It is important for us to realize that we do not get in touch with God by telling Him about somebody else, but by telling Him about ourselves!
Isaiah 53:6 begins with, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way.”
This was the difficulty with the people in the stories above. The man said, “Park your car to the side.” His wife said, “I will park it where I please.” The lady said, “Please wear a tie.” Her husband said, “I won’t.”
You see how true the Bible is! What is this dilemma? What is it that divides people? All of us, like sheep, have gone astray. All of us. We have gone, everyone, where? Unto our own way. Isn’t this the sweetest music to anyone’s ears, “Let’s do it my way!”? This is the predicament: when we put two or more people together, it becomes a contest. I want my way versus your way.
The rest of the verse in Isaiah says, “And the Lord hath laid on Him, the iniquity of us all.”
What is the iniquity of us all? It is this strong drive in every person to have things their own way!
So the first step in experiencing true freedom is to come to grips with the fact that you have a tendency to go your own way. There is actually a great deal of hope in this, because you can admit to your own desire to want things your own way.
This is why you need a Savior. You need to be saved from yourself, to be saved from having to have your own way. You need Jesus Christ in your life. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
Why do you need to invite Jesus Christ to come into your life? So He can correct the tendency in you to have it your own way. Until this is corrected, any little thing you do not like about someone else can ruin your relationship. The preparation for being a free individual, free from other people’s choices, decisions, and actions, is to come to grips with this tendency in your life. How do you do this? By admitting that you want things your own way, inviting Jesus Christ to come into your life, and then asking God to forgive you and give you the power to be able to live freely. Then, and only then, will you be able to begin the journey to getting along well with others.
When you invite Jesus into your life, He gives you the ability to accept the people in your life for who they are. This includes their positive qualities as well as their weaknesses. Contentment is a quality God will give you and His contentment does not depend upon the perfect behavior of one of your friends, your spouse, or your children. True contentment comes from God.