We can rejoice when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us - they help us develop endurance.
Friend to Friend
My daughter and I are exactly alike, which means that we can really push each other’s buttons. Danna is now a grown woman and an amazing wife and mom, so the button-pushing phase is pretty much something we laugh about. We were recently on a shopping trip when we saw a mom and her teenage daughter arguing about an outfit. Danna and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. Ah, sweet memories.
I remembered a particularly rough day when Danna was in high school. Everything was a battle, none of which I seemed to win. My patience was wearing thin. Everything I asked her to do was met with opposition and multiple reasons why she did not want to comply with my wishes. I finally threw up my hands in total frustration and announced, “Fine, Danna! Just do whatever you want. Now let me see you disobey that!” As I realized the absurdity of my words, I burst out laughing. The look of surprise on Danna’s face was priceless as was the lesson I learned that day. Pick your battles and save your energy for the big ones.
The greatest patience is best refined in the midst of the greatest conflict. When those conflicts come, use them, learn from them and embrace them as tools for good in the hands of God.
Patience can be found at the heart of every problem. In fact, James encourages us to “consider it pure joy” when we “face trials of many kinds.” To “consider” is to lead our thinking, to rule our emotional reaction and guide our thoughts so that we can respond to problems with joy, knowing that God is in charge.
Joy is the inner attitude that comes from knowing that God has the trial under control. Patience simply acknowledges the presence of God in the midst of the trial.
We will have trials. Some trials will come as the result of dealing with difficult people. Sandpaper people are a certainty of life. How we respond to someone who rubs us the wrong way partly depends on how patient we are. Patience empowers us to embrace that difficult person with an attitude of joy. If you are like me, you tend to consider it pure joy when you escape, rather than embrace difficult people. But James emphasizes the truth that sandpaper people are not sent into our lives as punishment. Sandpaper people are opportunities for patience to work.
Like James, the apostle Paul was well acquainted with trials and problems caused by difficult people. In his letter to the church at Rome, a church filled with people who continually rubbed Paul the wrong way, he reveals the secret of facing problems and trials with joy.
“We can rejoice when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn to endure.” Romans 5:3 (NLT)
Endurance is a valuable lesson that can be learned at the feet of the most difficult relationship in your life. Problems produce patience. So do difficult relationships.
The more difficult the relationship is, the more valuable the lesson. Proverbs 27:17 reveals one of the greatest gifts that sandpaper people bring to our lives. “As iron sharpens iron, so people can improve each other.” When iron is rubbed against another piece of iron, it shapes and sharpens it. The same is true in difficult relationships.
One of the most frustrating parts of any difficult relationship is the fact that sandpaper people seem to operate according to some unseen timetable known only to them. Consequently, we often find ourselves seated in one of God’s waiting rooms – waiting for that exasperating person to become encouraging – hoping that the difficult relationship will become easier.
I hate to wait – for anything or anyone – which is the very reason I am in the waiting room to start with and the purpose behind the presence of sandpaper people in my life. They teach me to wait.
It is in those waiting rooms that the condition of the heart is exposed. Who and what we really are emerge as a result of the unique pressure only a difficult relationship can bring. When we are patient and willing to wait on God, we are inviting Him to work. And while we wait, He prepares us for that difficult relationship and fashions the difficult relationship to accomplish His plan in us.
Difficult people barge into our lives with God’s permission and by His design, invading forbidden territory and challenging closely guarded rules of our own making. When we become impatient, trying to run ahead of His work or escape those sandpaper people, we miss some of the blessings those difficult relationships offer. It is through faith and patience that we obtain God’s promises.
- The Children of Israel waited 40 years to be delivered.
- Jesus waited 30 years to minister.
- Jeremiah waited 35 years for people to respond to his teaching.
- Abraham waited 70 years for a son.
Patience is trust – waiting. God is the source of patience and dispenses it through His word, our circumstances and those “angels unaware” we call sandpaper people.
Father, I am so thankful that You love me – rough edges and all. Please help me love others in the same way.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Who are the difficult people in your life?
In what way(s) do they irritate you?
What can you do to avoid a difficult situation with the sandpaper people in your life?
Ask God to let you see those difficult people as He sees them – through eyes of love.
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Need help loving those difficult people in your life? Get Mary’s book, Sandpaper People.