We’re currently in the midst of Dissatisfied, our series looking at areas of our life in which we commonly find dissatisfaction and how we can go about being truly satisfied. This week, we talked about why we so often experience relational dissatisfaction. Many times, the quality of our lives can be determined by the quality of our relationships. Because of this, relational dissatisfaction can have a huge toll on our lives when we experience it.

Question: How has relational dissatisfaction affected your life, and even your relationship with God?

Read 1 John 4.7–11, 19.

Relational dissatisfaction can appear anywhere and at anytime. We can experience it with friends, family members, at work, with neighbors, or in any number of places. Even though it can manifest itself in so many ways in so many areas, there are four main sources of relational dissatisfaction.

1. A relational void in our hearts.

Sometimes, we can experience profound dissatisfaction when we’re missing a relationship we want to have. Maybe it’s someone who’s single really wanting to be married, or someone who’s lonely looking for one or two really close friends. When we don’t have the relationships that we want, we experience relational dissatisfaction.

2. When someone fails to meet our relational criteria.

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we often enter into relationships with a list of boxes that we hope the other person will check. Whether we communicate that list or whether it’s an unspoken hope that we have, we want our friends, significant others, spouses, and children to meet our expectations. When they don’t, we experience frustration, disappointment, and relational dissatisfaction.

3. Relational hurt.

This is the most painful source of relational dissatisfaction. When we’re in the midst of a good, life-giving relationship, experiencing hurt, betrayal, or abandonment can be incredibly painful. When we’re hurt and wounded, broken trust can fill our hearts with relational dissatisfaction.

4. Unfulfilled relational hopes.

This happens when our relationships do check all of the boxes and meet all of our criteria…and yet we’re still longing for something more and feeling unfulfilled by the relationship. Even though a relationship is everything we hoped it would be, we still feel incredibly dissatisfied.

Question: Which of these sources of relational dissatisfaction have you experienced in your life? Which seems to be the most common source for you?

These sources of relational dissatisfaction affect every single one of us. But God loves us so much that He doesn’t want us to be trapped in a life of relational dissatisfaction. One thing that we learn about God in the 1 John passage is that He is a pursuer—He sought out and initiated a relationship with us, even when we were still living in complete sin. He made Himself vulnerable and sent His Son to die for us so that we could be in a relationship with Him that will never disappoint us! And, on top of that, He gives us strategies so that we can fight against relational dissatisfaction in our own lives. Here are four of those strategies.

1. Intentionally initiate the relationship.

If we’re going to fill our relational voids and step into the fullness of relationship that God created us for, then we need to intentionally step into relationships. This can be difficult and it will take a lot of courage and faith, but it’s the only way to step into the relationships God intends for us. Even more than just initiating, we also have to find the courage to go deeper into the relationship and experience authenticity and vulnerability. This can be even scarier, but it will allow us to experience the freedom that Jesus gave to us!

Read Romans 15.7.

2. Accept others for who they are.

When a person doesn’t meet all the criteria we have for our relationships, it’s easy to wish that they would be different so we could experience relational satisfaction. But as long as we’re focusing on criteria that the other person may or may not meet, we’ll always be dissatisfied with them. Accepting someone—and all their flaws—isn’t easy, but we can remember that this is exactly what God has done for us through Christ. His acceptance of us doesn’t mean that He doesn’t want us to change, it means that His love for us doesn’t change based on whether or not we grow in the ways He hopes we will. When we experience and reflect on this kind of acceptance, it helps us accept others in the same way.

Read Ephesians 1.7–8.

3. Choose to forgive.

This can be extremely difficult, but there’s no easy path to overcoming relational hurt. When it feels like we simply can’t forgive someone because the hurt is too big and too deep, it’s important to spend some time reflecting on how Jesus forgave us. When we sin, we hurt and betray God. But He chooses to respond to our betrayal by extending forgiveness and drawing us even closer to Him. No one knows betrayal like God—we choose to go our own way, we choose not to follow Him, we choose to live our lives apart from Him—yet no one forgives more than He does. When His grace and forgiveness become real to us, we have the power to extend forgiveness to others.

Question: Is there anyone in your life that you need to extend forgiveness to? What is holding you back from doing that? Spend some time reflecting on how Jesus has forgiven us and ask Him to work in your heart and help you forgive.

Read John 15.9–11.

4. Make Jesus our primary source of satisfaction.

One of the most important truths in Scripture is that our hearts will never be fully satisfied until they’re satisfied in Christ. We are created to experience divine joy and supernatural satisfaction, but we’ll never find that satisfaction unless we’re walking closely with Jesus. If we look to another person to find it, we’ll always end up disappointed. Instead, when we find God as our first and primary delight, we find that we have a brother that will always support us, a friend that will never betray us, a Father that won’t abandon us, and a Savior that will rescue us. When we experience this kind of satisfaction in Jesus, we can experience new freedom and satisfaction in our earthly relationships.

Question: Where are you looking to others for satisfaction instead of Jesus? Which of these strategies is the hardest for you to practice in your own life? This week, spend some time in prayer asking God to help you live them out and bring new satisfaction to your relationships.