The Grace Muscle

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How many of you have a difficult person in your life?  Perhaps some of you have more than one difficult person that you encounter daily.

Maybe some of you ARE the difficult person in a relationship … have you ever thought about that?!

Difficult people are just so … so … so … well they are just so difficult!

Wouldn’t it be nice if every friend or family member in your life could be compared to Mary Poppins?  Or Pollyanna?  Or Mother Theresa?

Instead … I often feel like I am stuck in a relationship with Cruella deVille … Scrooge … or the Grinch!

I have often asked the Father, “God, is it Your will for me to stay in a relationship with a difficult person?!”

And then He reminds me that He is in a relationship with me … and I know that I tend to be rather difficult at times.

Actually – the Holy Spirit has just recently reminded me that Jesus chose Judas to be one of His disciples even though He knew that Judas would betray Him.

Judas was definitely difficult.

The Holy Spirit has also tenderly pointed out to me that Jesus chose Peter to be one of His disciples even though He knew that Peter would rebuke Him, cut off a soldier’s ear and deny Christ three times.

Peter was undeniably difficult.

God never shies away from using a difficult person for His purposes and for His plans.  Should I give you a list of difficult people that He has used over the course of history?

Abraham … Isaac … Jacob … Jonah … Samson … David … Moses … Paul … you … me …

If God doesn’t shun difficult people then neither should we.  However, we must employ the strategy, the wisdom and the heart of God when navigating the stormy relationship waters that difficult people tend to stir up.

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God always confronts difficult people, including me, with love, with righteousness and with truth. When I confront difficult people in my life, I often give opinion rather than truth, frustration rather than righteousness and judgment rather than love.

I need to be more like the Father.

“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” – Ephesians 4:14 & 15

When God allows my life to collide with that of a difficult person it is not so that we will beat each other up until someone bleeds but it is so that one of us – perhaps both of us - will begin to act more like Jesus.

Every difficult person that you encounter is an opportunity for you to reveal the character of Christ in your less than perfect body.

Difficult people are not meant to bring out the worst in us but they are meant to bring out the Jesus in us.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:31 & 32

What if God has allowed a difficult person or two into your life to develop your grace muscle?

What?!  You didn’t know that you had a “grace muscle”?!  That’s too bad … because your lack of awareness of it simply means that you haven’t used it nearly often enough!

And … it also means that the next time you employ your grace muscle … you might just be sore for days.

It often hurts to give grace to difficult people but it is part of the calling of a believer in Jesus Christ.

Ouch!

Grace often hurts the giver but it heals the one who receives it.  And, in the long run of life, it strengthens the one who has given the grace.

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“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29

Another strategy that Christ often utilized when dealing with a difficult person is that He put that fractious person to work in His Kingdom!

He gave Moses a million or more people to lead out of slavery … He gave Paul some books to write … and He gave Peter a church to build.

Service can miraculously mutate a cynic into a believer!

Ministry often morphs a skeptic into a partner and transforms a whiner into a witness.

So, now, when you think about your difficult person doesn’t this change your perspective? Rather than getting all bent out of shape at the prospect of spending another day with Cruella, determine that you are going to be like your Father!

You will speak the truth in love rather than vomiting your opinion in frustration.

You will reveal the character of Jesus every time you hang out with Mr. Grinch.

You will give grace upon grace whenever Scrooge knocks upon your door.

And … you will challenge that difficult person to invest their life in something bigger than himself or herself. 

And perhaps … just perhaps … you will roll up your sleeves and join in the work with your new friend!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!