Each of you will be in classrooms more than 1000 hours this year. But I believe the most important thing you learn this year could be right here in the next 15 minutes.
I was given a question to speak on tonight: “What are the barriers to having deeply connected relationships with others?”
Why is this a great topic?
We all have a dream that we believe can make us happy. But there are two kinds of dreams:
- A Dream that Money Can Buy.
- A Dream that Money Can Never Buy.
This second path is the way of ancient wisdom. The Bible’s ancient wisdom tells us that relationships are the key to happiness, true success, and a beautiful and meaningful life. But it takes deeply connected relationships–DCR.
That is really good news! It means happiness—true deep happiness—is actually within your grasp. And to achieve this dream you don’t need a high level degree, a top level job, a lot of money, or a big house. And you do not have to read tons of books or travel around the world. Why? Because true happiness lies in relationships and not in things or accomplishments.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development proved this truth. It’s the longest study ever done and has lasted over 80 years.
At graduation 268 Harvard men were interviewed, and every year they were interviewed again and given a health exam. The researchers gave them a score of happiness and predicted what chance each of them had for a happy life. They did the same to 438 men from a poor area in Boston.
They looked all the possible causes for happiness in these two groups: a great job, financial success, the chance to travel, social respect, etc. and they followed the lives of these men from the time of college graduation until today. A few are still alive today in their 90’s, but many have already died.
Think of it—their lives are over. Everything you are pursuing right now they already experienced…a Harvard degree, great jobs, marriage, kids, money and fame for some. And for others it was an average life and not much money and only a small house. And what did this study find? What do their finished lives want to say to us today?
One thing! There was only one thing across all of those lives that these researchers found that led to their happiness—far more than any other thing. They summarized it in one phrase: Happiness is Relationships. Joy in life is relationships.
This study concluded that, “Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.” Deep connected relationships were “better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.”
Those who had all the things we dream about—all the success—but did NOT have deeply connected relationships, were NOT happy. But those who failed to get all those things we dream of, but had deeply connected relationships, WERE truly happy.
Isn’t that amazing?
It took Harvard researchers 80 years to empirically verify beyond the shadow of doubt what the Bible has said for thousands of years. When people are close and they love each other they will be happy because God made us to be in relationships—deeply connected relationships—first, with Him, the maker of all people, and then with those around us.
So, true happiness is within your grasp—that is very good news. But in life there is always bad news too. And the bad news is that there are very real barriers to having deep connected relationships. This is very bad news indeed. One of the hardest truths to ever accept in life is that these relationship barriers are within you and that you may have actually caused some of them in others as well. We are all guilty. Once you finally accept that, you can begin to pursue the solutions offered by God.
- Pain. “Ouch!”
Relationships can hurt and when we are hurt we run away. All of us have felt it. We are often not close to our parents, or brothers or sisters, or classmates or host family members.
We long for it, but there is pain there inside us. If there is real bitterness (due to past conflict and unforgiveness) it is hard to open our hearts to those who hurt us. And yet, if we do not open our hearts to each other, we will not be close and we will not be happy-no matter how much of the material dream life you may have!
The Bible predicted our pain at the beginning of the human story in Genesis. Once we turned away from God, he said we would find pain in two areas: in our relationships and in the difficulties of our work life. Later, in 30 AD, Jesus predicted our pain. He said “in this world you will have suffering, but take courage because I have overcome the world.”
There is more sadness in our world over broken families than anything else on earth. Loneliness, depression, suicides, drug addictions, alcoholism, and eating disorders are mostly all due to broken relationships.
But on the other hand, more happiness is brought on earth by positive, deeply connected relationship than anything else on earth.
Pain is a very good thing, though, if it makes us ask questions. The answer to our relational pain is Jesus. He understands your pain. No one else in all the world understands you the way He understands you. When you are close to Him, and when you experience His total forgiveness, then you can empty your heart of pain and hurt and bitterness. Then you can begin to have deeply connected relationships with people.
- Fear “I’m afraid!”
We are afraid to love because we might get rejected. We might get hurt. Others might not accept us. Whereas “pain” is about the past, “fear” is about the future (often based on past experiences).
The solution to fear in relationships is knowing that you are absolutely loved-unconditionally. And when you have unconditional love you can face any relationship and move forward even when you are afraid.
Where in this world can you find unconditional, perfect love? The Bible says God has loved you with an everlasting love. And He loved you even before you knew anything about him–and even when you did not want him. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. In this way God’s love is demonstrated towards us.”
To experience this you must understand and accept what Jesus did for you. Once you begin to live in this total acceptance of your creator, you will move past fear and walk into deeply connected relationships in your life.
- Self-centeredness. “It’s Mine!”
We think it’s the other person’s fault. We think the other person should change and say sorry first. We think they owe us something.
This third cause of disconnected relationships is perhaps the hardest of all because it reveals our core selves. It shows that at our core. This self-centeredness shows the condition of SIN in our hearts more than anything else. Sin puts self first, not love.
Sin causes pain, fear, and self-centeredness. It’s a powerful force—unseen, like gravity —but real. And it pulls you down to do things you should not do. It is very real and it destroys close relationships. And there is no escaping it no matter how you feel. Consider this example. Is your body a slave to gravity right now? Of course it is. Does it matter if you say “I don’t feel that I’m a slave to gravity?”
No it does not. You are under its power. In the same way the Bible says that all of us are under the power of sin. That means your you and your family; that means your friends too. Sin separates. It pulls you away from God and people. It all started when Man said to God, “I won’t listen to you. I will do life my way.”
What’s the answer to human self-centeredness? What can change the core of who you are? Jesus is God’s solution to replacing your self-centeredness with God-centeredness. He will give you a new way of life and the power to love others.
Tonight I told you that the most important thing in life for your happiness is deeply connected relationships.
I have told you that the three main barriers are hurt, fear, and self centeredness; and that those are all in our world because of sin.
The last thing I told you is that the solution to these three powerful enemies of love is Jesus Christ.
So how do you start a relationship with Jesus? He is the key to everything. He has taken the first step. Now you need to talk to him and acknowledge that He is Lord, and be willing to turn from your old way of life. Honestly tell Him of your choice to believe he is the Lord, and ask him for forgiveness and turn toward a new life. He will come into your life–meaning He will be with you. He will give you power to overcome sin, pain, fear, and self-centeredness. This is His work. And He will ask you to work with him throughout your life as you learn to live daily with Him.
What you heard tonight is more important than all of the knowledge you will study in 1000 hours of class time in school. What you do with it is up to you. You can ignore it, deny it, or embrace it. And if you do embrace it this will be the start of God changing your life.
Personal Testimony: Happiness comes with reconciliation.
I have experienced my own pain, fear and self-centeredness in several relationships that are close to me. In my relationship with my mom all three of those were real barriers to a deeply connected relationship with her–and I was not happy.
I had bitterness toward my mother. I tried many times to love her but would get very frustrated and give up. I avoided the pain. I feared drawing close. I remained self centered. And then I met Jesus. He slowly began taking away my bitterness and He put love in me for her. He slowly replaced bitterness with true forgiveness. But I had to take action. One night when I was 20 years old I went to her and told her I had been wrong. I knew I had hurt her and I asked her to forgive me. That night I learned what a real Christian is–someone who is reconciled with God through Jesus and who then goes and seeks to be reconciled with others. Then they share the story of God’s love through Jesus Christ to the whole world because they have found true happiness.
There is a dream that money can never buy–it is life in Jesus.