It’s like living with a shadow of something that should be, but never was. You feel like in just the right light, at just the right moments, you catch a glimpse of what should have been. It seems so simple- other people have these relationships- these people that are supposed to love unconditionally, claim us as their own, and be our people. But much like those shadows that hide, they simply disappear and make us wonder what it was that turned them into a puff of smoke. So many times we see them connecting with others in seemingly meaningful ways, which make us feel all the more like we must be the problem.

If you are in this situation, it is one of the most baffling and painful relationships that we can find ourselves in. We become rejected because another person is not whole and healthy and yet we bear all the pain and rejection of explanations that never come. We are told two opposing things: 1) our needs matter and deserve to be met and 2) our needs don’t matter all that much because the people that should meet our needs have denied they exist. This intersection of conflicting facts, unmet expectations and broken people have left us bewildered, confused and make us question our self worth. Is it possible that the fault lies in the broken people that don’t meet our needs that matter and our continuous looking to them to meet them? I want to give you some real truths to begin to set you free.

1) Some parents, grandparents, siblings, children, and other family members are not healthy enough to be who they should be in your life and to you. That is not a reflection on who you are; it is a reflection of their inability to be who you really wish and need them to be. If you have not done so, try to talk to them or write them an actual letter. It may help start something, it may not, but you will not know if you do not try.

2) Stop being used. Many times our “shadow people” don’t want to have relationships, but when they need something we are the people they call and then they disappear again. Choose boundaries. You can show kindness and honor without giving your heart away to be trampled on.

3) There comes a time when you have to release them into the Lord’s hands and pray that the relationship can be something it has never been. Ask the Lord to help you forgive them and realize that being wounded over and over does not offer a path to healing. Prayer for them and you does. Romans 12:17 (NLT) reminds us, “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.

4) Grieve what has never been. It is a real loss that cuts to the bottom of your soul when those that should love you do not. It is a real loss that deserves to be felt and observed. Talk to someone you trust or a Biblical counselor about your pain.

5) Know that God is the great restorer. He may not restore the relationship with those that have hurt you, but He can bring people into your life to meet the needs of those that have not been there for you. There is no substitute for family members that are gone, but God can work to heal your heart through others.

I am always reminded in relationships of all kinds what the Lord teaches us in Romans 12:18; we will not always have relationships that work on this side of heaven. We are to do what we can do, but we are one side of the equation. We cannot control what others do. Romans states, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” It’s not always possible and there comes a time to find peace in Christ and simply trust His will. – Courtnay Aycock

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