So, do you have any difficult people in your life—those who bring out the worst in you, who know how to “push your buttons,” who “get under your skin,” who seem to be a constant irritant to you, who just plain annoy you? I’ll bet you do, for it seems God puts them in our lives to help us deal with things in our lives that either need to be removed or added in order that we may be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Ro. 8:29). Sometimes it appears that we even have enemies who are out to destroy us. They criticize us, spread rumors about us, and try to undermine what we are doing or are trying to accomplish. Have any of those in your life? What do we do about these difficult people in our lives?
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, had some good advice. He said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Martin Luther King, Jr. made a very similar statement: “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” Jesus, in His “Sermon on the Mount,” said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome: “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so you will heap burning coals upon his head.’ Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good” (Ro. 12:17-21).
When I was working at Hyster Technical Center in Troutdale, Oregon, I had a secretary who was an agnostic. When she found out I was a Christian, she did all she could to razz me and make life as miserable as she possibly could. I knew she needed the Lord in her life, but I just plain didn’t like her and my attitude toward her was pretty bad. I had a burden for her soul but had trouble even wanting to share with her. It would have been like “shoving the Gospel down her throat while I was trying to choke her!” Well, one day God convicted me of my attitude toward this difficult person (He had placed in my life). I confessed my sin and told the Lord that He would have to be the one to love her through me because I didn’t even like her. It was amazing what happened. My attitude so changed that she noticed it and said one day, “Dave, why don’t the things I do seem to bug you any more?” I was able to tell her what had happened in me and that for the first time she was probably seeing “Christ in me.” She quit doing things to irritate me. To this day I don’t know if Maureen ever trusted Christ as her Savior (I left not long after our conversation), but I do know she got to experience firsthand the unconditional love that God had for her.
God places difficult people in our lives to help us to grow and to become more Christ-like. Don’t miss the opportunities He is giving you! Rather than allowing these people to make you an angry, bitter person, let God use them to mold and shape you. And who knows, you may be able to “destroy” some of your enemies by making them a friend, because. M. L. King, Jr., was right: “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” And by letting God love them through us, we are being obedient to Jesus’ command to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
One thing that has helped me a lot is to pray for these folks whenever they come to mind. Rather than thinking about what they have done to me or how they have annoyed me, if I pray for them instead, my attitude changes. I still have a ways to go, but I am making progress. Keep in mind what Paul wrote to the Romans: “If possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Ro. 12:17). Some may not reciprocate your love and kindness, but at least it gives them an opportunity and then you, having done your part, are free from bondage to them caused by unforgiveness or bitterness or holding a grudge.
Anybody in particular come to mind as you read this? Pray for them right now and ask God to show you tangible ways to demonstrate His love to them. You may just destroy an enemy!