by Candace Shakour, Wilson, North Carolina  (Featured in the March 2016 magazine)

LIFE IS BUSY. Husband, children, ministry responsibilities, and family situations can all get very complicated. So how can we make things easier for ourselves? If you are like me, you tend to overthink relationships and further complicate what could be simple.

Here are a few helps that I try to remind myself of often!

1)Stop comparing! I have to say this out loud to myself sometimes. This is much easier said than done. Facebook, Instagram, and other social media opportunities make it that much easier to compare our lives to the lives of others; however, all that does is put you in a circle of depression!

Galatians 1:10 says, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”

Galatians 6:4, “But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”

It seems everyone has a blog, a voiced opinion, and a debate on everything from childbirth to what your child should be reading at age three, to what you should be serving your family for dinner. Now, I like getting ideas from Pinterest as much as the next person! But the site can be used as a tool for ideas, or it can attack your mind with thoughts of inadequacy. It’s easy to sit back and point out others’ failures and successes and try to “measure up” that way, but it is much more difficult to look at our own lives and what God tells us in His Word and compare it there.

2) Realize that people are just people! Recently, I was playing a game of “Apples to Apples” with a group. We had a great time of fellowship and laughter, but one thing that struck me was that no matter how different we all were, we also had so much in common. Each one of us wanted to laugh, to have a good time, and to enjoy the company.

We are all sinners saved by grace, trying to become more like Christ. We all make mistakes and mess things up sometimes. Whether it is a child, our husband, a family member, a church member, or a friend….it will help just to cut them some slack and give a second (or third) chance. “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” (Luke 6:31)

3) Prayer changes things. I have a little sign in my bathroom that has that little saying. I have had it for years, but it’s a great truth and reminder for me throughout my day. No relationship can be perfect this side of Heaven. There will always be difficult situations to overcome. Even when another person is in the wrong, we can still have a Godly, right relationship with them. I know this because I have been hurt—as you have. I have been on the receiving end of a critical spirit, and I still have Christian fellowship with these very people. The answer? Prayer! Someone once told me, “It’s hard to be upset with someone for whom you are praying daily.” And it has proven true time and again. I found that when I add a person to my prayer list, the Holy Spirit shows me what to do next. Sometimes it has been a gift, or a note, or an invite for coffee or dessert, or even just a smile.

Prayer will always change something—even if it’s just my own attitude! Matthew 5:44, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

4) Be a good friend. Proverbs 18:24, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly….” A common denominator in the women with whom I talk is the need for friendship. Ask the Lord to send someone your way and then take action! By nature, I am not an outgoing person; however, someone has to take that first step. Start a conversation, ask someone to grab lunch or dessert after the kids are in bed, schedule a play date or a shopping trip.

All relationships take work, but they are worth it! God, in His perfect plan, wants us, as believers, to encourage one another, pray for each other, and love one another. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”