David C Cook COVID-19 Response

High School

Real Relationships

Lesson 4 

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Fall 2021

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By: RLD Editorial Team 

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September 26, 2021

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Lesson Focus:

God created all people for relationships.

Bible Basis:

Genesis 1:26-28; Acts 17:24-27

Materials Needed:

Step 1:

  • None

Summary & Links:

Your teens will look at a landmark study by Harvard University to uncover the keys to a happy life as they explore how God created people for relationship.

Memory Verse:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
—Jeremiah 31:3b

Step 1:

Your teens will look at a landmark study by Harvard University to uncover the keys to a happy life as they explore how God created people for relationship.

Materials Needed:

  • None

Begin today’s lesson by discussing with your class what they believe to be the keys to living a happy life.

  • If you were going to invest now in your future best self, what sort of things would your put your time and energy into? (Give your students a chance to answer and discuss this question together. Common themes that may arise are: Finding a career they’re passionate about, frequent traveling, securing financial freedom, etc.)

This is a really tricky question to answer. After all, if the key to living a happy life were simple, surely we would all be aware of it. However, there is one group of researchers who is attempting to answer this very question.

This year, one of the longest-running and most complete studies on adult life and happiness will turn 80 years old. Initially started in 1938 at Harvard University, the now named Good Life project has tracked the lives of 724 men with the goal of revealing “clues to leading healthy and happy lives.”

And almost a century later, the researchers at Harvard have compiled their results to determine three keys to living a good life. Let’s take a look.

Read the following information to your teens:
Nearly 80-year Harvard study shows how to live a healthy and happy life

“Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes. That finding proved true across the board among both the Harvard men and the inner-city participants…

Researchers who have pored through data, including vast medical records and hundreds of in-person interviews and questionnaires, found a strong correlation between men’s flourishing lives and their relationships with family, friends, and community. Several studies found that people’s level of satisfaction with their relationships at age 50 was a better predictor of physical health than their cholesterol levels were.

‘When we gathered together everything we knew about them about at age 50, it wasn’t their middle-age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old,’ said Waldinger in a popular TED Talk. ‘It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.’”

  • According to the results of the study, what elements can go a long way to securing lifelong happiness? (Answers include close relationships and quality (not quantity) of relationships.)
  • Were you surprised by the results of the study? If so, what was most surprising? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

The study also found that while healthy relationships can be hugely beneficial for our happiness and well-being, unhealthy relationships (those with high levels of conflict) can “be very bad for our health, perhaps worse than getting divorced.”

This creates a tricky catch-22. If relationships hold the key to living a happy, fulfilled life, yet an unhappy relationship can lead to the very opposite, how can we guarantee that our relationships will be successful?

In today’s lesson, we’ll find out God’s solution to finding the meaning and fulfillment we want and need.

Looking for Steps 2, 3 & 4?

You can find Steps 2 and 3 in your teacher’s guide. To purchase a teacher’s guide, please visit: Bible-in-Life or Echoes.

Step 4:

Materials Needed:

  • None

So far, we’ve looked at God’s plan for us to have relationships with others and—most importantly—with Him.

For many Christians, creating a relationship with God is incorrectly thought to be a one-step process. We may accept Him as Lord and Savior but fail to connect further. We don’t lean into this relationship enough to receive all the best that God has in store for us.

  • So, how do we go about “leaning into” our relationship with God? (While the possibilities are practically endless, allow your students to share some of their own ideas.)

To dig into this idea further, let’s start by assessing our current relationships with other people.

  • Think about your most successful relationships. What makes them successful? Now, think about your least successful relationship. What makes it difficult? Do any common themes about your relationships jump out? (Answers will vary; encourage your teens to really evaluate rather than give a blanket “they get me” type of response. Be prepared to share from your own personal experience.)

If you Google “keys to a successful relationship” you’ll receive 81,900,000 results from different bloggers, psychologists, and therapists all claiming to know the secrets to relationship success. The answer, however, really isn’t as mysterious as it’s made out to be. Across the board, nearly all of these relationship tips can be boiled down to one word: effort.

And intuitively, we know this solution to be true. Those relationships where we put the most effort (and where that effort is reciprocated) are the most successful ones. It’s those we ignore that tend to fail. Happily, God will always reciprocate the effort we put in—plus way more! He always has time for us; it’s up to us to make time for Him. 

With that in mind, your challenge this week is to put in effort toward your relationship with God. This can (and should!) look a little different for each of you, so we’re not going to prescribe a particular activity, but set aside some time to try some type of relationship builder that you’ve never tried before. Be prepared to share your observations about that encounter next week. The specifics don’t matter, what’s important is that you’re actively trying to draw closer to the God who has sacrificed so much to have a relationship with you.

Close in prayer, thanking God for loving us with an everlasting love.

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