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Difficult people are God’s grindstones in our lives

                  Here’s one of the best lessons I ever learned: God uses difficult people to help you grow. I was sitting across from a friend at a fast food restaurant several years ago. As he related the story o…
By Seth Barnes










Here’s one of the best lessons I ever learned:

God uses difficult people to help you grow.

I was sitting across from a friend at a fast food restaurant several years ago. As he related the story of how he had been slandered by a pastor at his church, I felt myself becoming more and more indignant on his behalf. “How is it that this person could get away
with such behavior?” I asked myself. “How can he call himself a Christian, much less serve as a church leader?”

But as my friend finished his story, the Lord brought a different perspective to mind. While on the surface my friend’s antagonist seemed to be a poor example of a Christian, and while my flesh cried out for justice, this pastor was actually God’s tool in my friend’s life.

“You know, as difficult as your pastor was,” I said, “as wrong as his actions were, consider the fact that God is using him to help you
grow. You have an opportunity to grow in grace by forgiving him and to sharpen your conflict resolution skills by going to him with your issue and letting him know how his actions made you feel. Viewed from this perspective, really he’s God’s grindstone, a tool to hone your character.”

How many times do we view difficult, contentious people from this perspective? Unfortunately, rather than seeing the positive way in which they may cause us to grow, we view them as a thorn in our flesh, a necessary evil in a fallen world. In so doing, we may be rejecting the very tool that God wants to use to help us grow.

You pray for patience and He puts you behind a grandma going 20 miles an hour in traffic. You pray for discernment and He gives you conflict situations that require you to rely on the Holy Spirit. You pray for sensitivity and He gives you a boss who fails to consider the pressures closing in around you.

In each instance, God is answering your prayers by putting a difficult person in your life. Such a person acts as His grindstone, knocking the imperfections off your character. As you choose to respond to sin not in kind, but with grace, your own capacity for righteousness increases. You look more like Him and you please Him more.

Viewed from this angle, each person in our lives who makes us want to cuss is really a present from God to us, a declaration of His love for us. Consider the possibility that the more difficult the person, the bigger the imperfection in our character that God wants to smooth out through the friction in the relationship. Were we to respond with patience, grace, and love to the problems the person poses, then we would have already passed the test that they represent.

Who are the difficult people in your life? What is it that God wants to teach you through them? Thank God for them. They are evidence that He loves you and wants to polish you on His grindstone. Then consider responding in grace. After all, you could be God’s tool in their life, put there to model the kind of response that He looks for from them. Through your grace, everybody wins.

You allow God to take the rough edges off your character, looking more like Jesus and, in the process, demonstrating yet again that His light can illuminate the dark places in our world.

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7

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