I don't understand the relationship between mass, acceleration, and force in Newton's second law. 

First off, force causes acceleration. The stronger that force, the more the acceleration. In fact, the two are exactly proportional to one another: double the force and you double the acceleration. Secondly, mass resists acceleration. The more mass an object has, the less it accelerates. The two are exactly inversely proportional to one another: double the mass and you halve the acceleration. These two ideas can be combined into one observation: the force you exert on an object is equal to the product of its mass times the acceleration it experiences. Look at that relationship: if you double the force you exert on an object, you double its acceleration, so that part checks out. If you double the object's mass and leave the force unchanged, then the acceleration must be halved, so that part checks out. Thus Newton's second law is simply a sensible relationship between the force you exert on an object, its mass, and its acceleration.