I have a close friend who is a great guy. Funny, talented, a hard worker, but for some reason he just gets on my nerves from time to time. He just doesn’t really have a filter, if you know what I mean. Let me give you a couple of examples. I was driving him and my family around downtown and we came to a stop next to a homeless person holding a sign. As we stopped he said, “So Jack, aren’t you going to give him your change?” Normally when I notice a person like that, I ask them if they want any food, swing through a drive through and come back and deliver a meal. I don’t typically give money because I don’t want it to turn into alcohol. Since I had a guest in the car I didn’t think it was appropriate to stop and find a Subway. I told him my policy but he wouldn’t let up. With my family in the car he continued to lecture me about giving change to the homeless. So I finally gave in and gave the guy the $.75 I had and moved on. But it was awkward; I mean the guy called me out in front of my family.
Another time I was with this friend and one of my staff people and he asked my staff person, “What do you do at the church?” The staff guy responded and my friend didn’t miss a beat before he asked, “How much do you make?” Okay, it gets worse. He followed that up with “You’re way underpaid. Jack, you should give him a raise.” Who does that?
We all have difficult people in our lives. People who are hard for us to get along with. People who make our lives more complicated. They have knack for making the awkward and uncomfortable statement. Think about that for a moment. Who is that person in your life? We all have a difficult person in our life. Someone socially awkward. Some people have labeled these folks as EGR’s or extra grace required people. If you can’t think of someone like that in your life, I’ve got some bad news for you. It’s probably you
Here’s what I know about difficult people:
- We all have difficult people in our lives. There isn’t anyone here that doesn’t have someone in their life like my buddy.
- You are someone’s difficult person.
We don’t like to think about that but it’s true. I don’t like to think that I’m someone’s difficult person, but I know I am. Just ask my staff and they’ll tell you.
[bctt tweet=”We all have difficult people in our lives. If you can’t think of one, chances are, it’s you. ” username=”canyon_springs”]
Let me give you one last fact about difficult people that you probably haven’t thought about. Ready? Here goes: You cannot become your fullest, most complete self without these difficult people. Let me read you a verse that most of you have probably heard:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
The Hard Questions
Who’s heard those verses before? They are pretty important verses in scripture because they give an answer to a difficult question in life. Why do we go through hard times? Why do we face trials? God allows us to go through these difficult times because they produce in us perseverance and maturity. These trials complete us. They make us better people. If you’ve been around long enough you’ve come to realize that it is the difficult times that have grown you. Would you agree with that? Next question: Where do those difficult times come from? 90% of the time, difficult times come from difficult people.
We cannot become the people we were intended to be without difficult people. Difficult people grow us in our faith. They teach us perseverance. They bring us to the place of maturity and completeness. We need difficult people in our lives to help us reach our full potential. If you don’t have enough difficult people in your life to help you with this task, I am more than willing to let you have some of mine. I’ve got a list in my office and you are welcome to them; they’re all yours.
We’ve been working through the book of Ephesians and as you may remember in the first 3 chapters the author of this book goes on and on about how much God loves us. God loves us so much that he loved us when we were at our worst. When we made our biggest mistake. When we were at our lowest point. That’s when God was willing to give us grace and mercy we didn’t deserve. In other words, God loved us when we were difficult people. When we were at our most difficult, God loved us. He wants us to do the same. He wants us to learn to love the difficult people in our lives the same way he loved us when we were difficult people. But that’s hard isn’t it? Loving the difficult people is perhaps the greatest test of our ability to love.
Before we get into the meat of this topic, I’ve got a few more questions to ask and these I’d like to direct to God:
Why would God allow difficult people in my life? Have you ever had that thought? If we asked that of God, here’s what I think He’d say: “What other kind of people are there?”
The second question I’d ask God is this: Why did you put the difficult people in my life so close to me? In fact, let me take that a step further. My guess is that for many of you the difficult person isn’t just close to you; I bet you live with them. Some of you married your difficult person. Others of you gave birth to them; the difficult person in your life is your own spawn! That’s when dealing with difficult people is the hardest. When they are living under your roof. So today those are the relationships we are going to look at. Marriage relationships and parent/child relationships. Let’s check out Ephesians 5 to see what Paul has to say about wives:
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:21-24
Wives, if you want the best chance to have a good relationship with your husband, learn to submit to him. That’s not a very popular word so let me help you understand what it means. It’s a military word. It refers to the way the military ranks officials. In other words, when it comes to how you deal with your husband you need to think of him as outranking you. You need to put him and his needs first. I know this is not a very popular verse with some women and maybe that seems offensive to you. So why would you do such a thing? Because, according to God that’s what love looks like.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3,4
Value others above yourself, that’s what it means to love someone else. That’s what Jesus modeled for us. If you keep reading in Philippians 2:5 you would read this:
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Philippians 2:5-7
Put others above yourself; it’s what Jesus did and it’s what we are supposed to do. If your husband is your difficult person, this is the best way to deal with him: love him. Put his needs above yours. Maybe the problem in your marriage isn’t the husband, it’s the wife. In that case, here are some words for husbands:
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church. Ephesians 5: 25-29
Husbands, how are you to love your wife? Like Christ loved the church. Anyone here remember what Christ did for the church? He died for it. Wives if your husband ever says to you “Submit woman” here’s your response: “Sure I’ll submit to you, as soon as you die.” Just kidding, of course.
If the difficult person in your life is your wife, here’s the instruction book for you: Love her. Put her needs above your own, just like Jesus did for you. Go out of your way to help her remember that you care. I know you can do it. You used to be all kinds of creative. Remember dating? Notes on her car, flowers, teddy bears. Some of you wrote poetry; Bad poetry, but it’s the thought that counts.
Maybe it’s not your marriage that is the problem. Maybe it’s your relationship with your kid. Don’t worry, Paul’s got that covered too in the next chapter of Ephesians:
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4
If the difficult person is your child, here’s Gods word for you: Don’t exasperate your child. Exasperate simply means to anger or annoy or irritate, by the way. What makes this so hard is that often your kid is coming to you and they are already angry. They are already annoyed and irritated and worse yet, they are angry, annoyed and irritated with you and you didn’t even do anything. Do you know what I’m talking about parents? Anyone reading this have a teenager? I have notice a couple of problems in my behavior when my kid is angry with me
- When my kid comes to me angry and irritated I respond angry and irritated.
- When my kid comes to me angry and irritated over and over I tend to pull away. “I don’t need to be treated like that. Don’t ever ask me for anything, you ungrateful punk.”
Do you know when we prove how much we love our kids? It’s not when they are polite and well behaved. It’s not when they come home with a perfect report card or when they score a goal. We prove how much we love our kids when we hang in there when they are angry and irritated and unreasonable. When they are our difficult person.
Jesus put it like this:
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? Matthew 5:46
Sometimes it’s not the parent that is the problem though, It’s the kid. If you’re a kid with difficult parents what are you supposed to do? Well, you’re not going to like this. This will sound simplistic, but here goes: Obey your parents. Honor them. Do what they say. Go one step further and ask their advice about your life. I know you don’t want to, but do it anyway.
How we read these verses has everything to say about how we will handle the difficult relationships in our life. Often, we don’t tend to read them the we should. Here’s is how people tend to read these verses:
- Husbands read these verses and say to their wives “submit”
- Wives read these verses and say to their husbands, “love me better.”
- Parents read these verses and say to their kids, “Obey me.”
- Kid’s read these verses and say to their parents, “Don’t exasperate me.”
My dad became a Christian later in life and when he stumbled across these verses and he loved them, so he read them to my mom but they didn’t have the effect that he wanted. So one day this book happened to show up on my mom’s night stand. Here’s a picture of the cover:
How do you think that went over? Husbands, I wouldn’t recommend this tactic.
This is the way we read these verses. We read them with a pointed finger. Submit to me. Love me. Obey me. Don’t exasperate me. Look at all the things you need to do for me. Folks, we need a reading lesson. We are reading these verses totally wrong.
Husbands, let me tell you something about the verse that says, “Wives, submit to your husbands.” It wasn’t written for you! This verse does not say, “Husbands, make your wives submit to you.” This verse is not written to husbands.
Wives, this verse that says Husbands love your wives was not written to you. It wasn’t written for you to hold it over your husband’s head. “You’re not loving me right.” “You’re not meeting my needs.” “You don’t bring me flowers anymore.” This verse is written to husbands.
I bet you can guess what I’m going to say next: parent’s the verse that says, “Children obey your parents,” isn’t written to you. Kids, that verse that says, “Parents don’t exasperate your children,” also isn’t written to you.
So here’s today’s reading lesson: Wives submit to your husband. Put his needs above your own. Serve him. Love him. Support him when he comes home after a bad day. Be in his corner. Fight for him. Believe in him even in the hard times. If you want your relationship to make it, here’s your best shot. Submit to him. Put his needs above your own.
Husbands, this is how your marriage will work best. Love your wife. Love her in the way she needs to be loved. That goes beyond physical touch. It means listening. It means taking an interest in what she cares about. It means calling to say I love you and leaving romantic texts on her phone. Just make sure they are appropriate because trust me, your kids will find them.
Kids, you want to know a simple way for your life to be better and for you to make fewer mistakes and lower the stress level in your life? Obey your parents. Listen to them. Don’t fight them on everything. Know that they are looking your for your best interests. Yes, they grew up in the dark ages. They had mullets and walkmans and wore leg warmers, but life has not changed as much as you think it has. Their wisdom will streamline your life. Listen to your parents. Consider their words.
Parents, you want your house to be a place of peace? Don’t exasperate your kids. Don’t let your tension level rise in conversations. Try not to raise your voice to make a point. Yes, I know your kid gets all snappy and whiny when they talk. They do that because they are pretty new at this whole communication deal. You’ve been around. You need to be the adult. Don’t get caught up in your kid’s sarcasm and harsh words and emotional outbursts. You bring the calm. If you learn that your house will have more peace than it did before.
I’d like to end this post there but the fact is…it doesn’t always work that way.
Here’s the way it works most of the time:
- A wife that submits to her husband is loved. Her husband sees that she isn’t just spending money and looking out for her own needs. She is supportive to a fault. She fiercely defends her husband. She doesn’t wait for the planets to align to be intimate.
- A husband that loves is submitted to. His wife trusts him. She knows she’s loved so she doesn’t mind serving him. Since she’s loved and treated with kindness and gentleness she realizes that her man is concerned with her needs. So she sacrifices her needs for him.
- Children that obey their parents have parents that are not exasperated. They aren’t continually frustrated because their kids are fighting them on everything. They know their kids listen to them so they don’t have to raise their voice. Children that obey have more freedom because they’ve earned their parents trust.
- Parent’s that aren’t always frustrated and angry have children that obey them. Because the kids have learned that they can mess up and their parents still love them. They don’t have to be perfect. They don’t have to walk on egg shells or mom will explode. Those kids listen because their parents respond to even difficult situations with calm.
There are times when that’s the way life is, but there are other times when you submit and love and honor and don’t exasperate and it still doesn’t work
My daughter turned 17 on Friday. She is a wonderfully talented, beautiful kid. She sings at our church and every time she does, I cry. We have a pretty good relationship. I’m not perfect, but I’m there and I try real hard. But that may not be the kind of relationship you have with your parent. For my daughter’s birthday we took her and her friends to dinner and while we were there, we noticed a teenage girl in the booth behind us with a shirt that said this (this is the edited for church version): “Parents bleep with you. they don’t mean it but they do it anyways.” I had a couple of thoughts in that moment. First, I was glad for my kid. Second, my heart hurt for that girl. I went home and googled that phrase and guess what? There are no shirts anywhere on the Internet that say that. Do you know what that means? It means she had to have that shirt custom made. How much pain must that girl have gone through to have that written on a shirt? What would that girl say to me if I told her to honor her parents? To listen to her parents? Honestly, I think she’d make another shirt for me using some more words I can’t write in this blog.
Sometimes honoring and submitting and loving doesn’t work. That’s not really the point. The point I’m trying to make is simple. There is only one difficult person in my life that I can actually change: That’s me. My goal is to grow me. To mature me. To deepen and strengthen me. To notice my flaws and work on them. To notice my anger issues and deal with them. To notice how I get defensive in conversations and learn to listen more. All these difficult relationships are there for one reason. To point out what you and I need to work on. To help us see how we can grow.
You know, I have to be honest with you. When I focus on growing me and working on my stuff rather than focusing on everyone else, it doesn’t always change the people around me. It’s not a guarantee for perfect relationships; people will still treat you poorly and still talk about you and hurt you. Living this way is not a guarantee, but here is one thing I can guarantee: You will change. You will mature. You will get better.