How many of us have thought our lives would be wonderful (and we would be so much nicer) if only we could remove a certain person from our midst. We think they cause us to be things like fearful, jealous, irritated, angry, or insecure.
What if I told you they don’t.
Difficult people only bring out the things that are often deeply hidden within us.
I remember dealing with someone for an extended period of time that drove me crazy. I hated it. I felt so helpless to overcome how I felt. I taught about the victorious Christian life and I couldn’t overcome my anger and resentment. I told the people I was teaching that I was failing miserably. They laid hands on me and prayed. I did not get better. I wish the Christian life was as easy as the laying on of hands and poof, we are fixed. If we want something painful prayed away, it can (not always) be a sure sign that we need it in our lives.
We would never choose God’s path to sanctification.
This call has nothing to do with personal sanctification, but with being made broken bread and poured-out wine. Yet God can never make us into wine if we object to the fingers He chooses to use to crush us. We say, “If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way, then I wouldn’t object!” But when He uses someone we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, to crush us, then we object.
God wouldn’t crush us if it wasn’t good for us. It’s not in Him to hurt us without reason. It’s so much easier to say that than it is to live it.
Our struggles are our crushers.
If you belong to God, He is going to work in you until you are no longer on the planet.
He is perfect in the way He deals with us. I talk to many people and suffering is a huge part of most everyone’s life. How we react to suffering tells us more than we can imagine. Here are several reactions I see.
- God is unfair.
- God is mean.
- God is uncaring.
- God is mad.
- I must not have enough faith.
- I did something wrong and I’m being punished.
I rarely hear, “God is so good to allow this in my life so He can make me like Jesus through and through.” If God were to take all the heat out of our lives, we would be fine…until more suffering came along and then we would think the same horrible things about Him all over again. He wants to get the root of wrong beliefs out of us. He wants us to turn to Him at every moment and let Him fight for us, strengthen us, and show us His glory day in and day out.
If we never struggled, we would never need God. He intends for our lives to be so beyond our ability to handle that we allow Him to handle it for us.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
God uses the trials of life to make us mature in Him. The word mature actually means “perfect.”
The Greek definition of perfect (mature) says this: “It is like the unfolding of a pirate’s telescope a little at a time to function at full strength.”
God uses difficult people to take us deeper and deeper into Him so we can be totally one with Him and function at His full strength. This is progressive and it will never end. As far as I can tell, Paul followed God as perfectly as any human other than Jesus Christ Himself. What did that equal for Paul?
- Worked much harder than others.
- Had been in prison more frequently.
- Had been flogged more severely.
- Had been exposed to death again and again.
- Five times received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.
- Three times beaten with rods.
- Three times shipwrecked.
- Spent a night and a day in the open sea.
That’s a short list. Paul was beloved by God, performed miracles, and actually got to see heaven. Did that stop him from suffering in ways most of us can never imagine at the hands of difficult people? No, it did not. What if Paul had come to the conclusion that God was mean, didn’t love him, and all the other stupid stuff we tend to think? We would have never heard of him. His life would have been a waste.
Not only were people difficult in Paul’s life, many wanted him dead and tried to kill him.
What did all that produce in his life? It got rid of Paul and left Jesus to live in a human being in such a way that the entire continent of Asia was evangelized by him. Jesus would take this world by storm if His people would welcome all our trials and let them perfect us and give us His full strength.
God brought all that trouble into my life years ago because He wanted to perfect me. I resisted and I truly believe He gave me relief or I might have given up. I missed an opportunity to grow because I wanted relief more than I wanted maturity (perfection). God let me have it. All the junk that was inside of me didn’t magically disappear. It went dormant. It felt great and the relief was wonderful.
However, the root issues weren’t dealt with.
God has had to put me in situations where those same feelings have come up again. I’m so thankful. Now I know what He is doing and I want it done. I want to be made like Jesus in His death. He was crushed to pieces and love gushed out.
Broken bread and poured out wine.
Can we imagine Jesus saying, “I’ve had it. I can’t take these rotten people anymore, Father. I quit. They are making me mean and hateful!”
Never. It wasn’t in Him and it is not to be in us. No one can make me be anything. I am what I am and people and circumstances will reveal who I am. I am wise to look at the truth and ask God to fix me because I cannot. We are to be known by one thing…love. If I cannot love in every circumstance, it is a problem between me and God. God even loved the people who killed His Son. Can He really do that in us? I can’t answer that from experience but I have read about a few people who seemed to love on a level close to how God loves.
- The Apostle Paul said he would go to hell for his people if he could.
- Betsie ten Boom was in a concentration camp and thanked God for every single thing and loved the people who tormented her.
- Madame Jeanne Guyon got to the place in her walk with God where she said, “The stones of my prison looked in my eyes like rubies; I esteemed them more than all the gaudy billiancies of a vain world. My heart was full of that joy which Thou givest to them who love Thee, in the midst of their great crosses.”
All these people had something in common. They were wrongly imprisoned for doing the right thing.
They were surrounded by difficult people. As they submitted to the suffering, God did a miracle. They loved people with the love of God. That’s what happens when we let God crucify us (we cannot crucify ourselves). The faster we recognize what’s happening, we can get on that cross and let it do it’s deadly work.
If we don’t recognize it, we will have to face it all over again, and again, and again. If we are not living in love, make no mistake, we are not dead. Our flesh is still alive and well. If we are living in excuses for why we can’t love, our flesh is still alive and well. Paul came to this place and it’s where I want to live and I want every single person reading to live. It is our place of bliss.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.