Our relationships, like money and time, are gifts from the Lord. I’ve never tried to dye the clothing I’ve been given as gifts. I’ve never tried to reconstruct a present of jewelry. I’ve never edited a gifted book. But I’ve tried to change the people God has given to me as gifts many, many times.
I could blame it on my profession, I suppose. But more likely my desire to change people has to do with my pride (my way is better) and lack of understanding (he is purposely trying to make me miserable!). Only recently did it occur to me that all of our upsets with spouses, kids, friends, neighbors, bosses and more are symptoms of our discontent.
The Apostle Paul was someone who dealt with a lot of difficult people. Acts 16 details Paul’s encounter with a demon-possessed girl who annoys him. He drove the demon out of her, but was then beaten and thrown in jail –into stocks, no less! Yet what does he do? Praises the Lord in song.
If I were Paul, I would have:
- complained about the demon-possessed girl and demanded that God get her to stop annoying me so I could get on with life. When we are discontent with our relationships, we want the person who’s annoying us to chage.
- begged God to save me from beatings and incarceration. When we are discontent with our relationships, we don’t want people to change us.
- had the world’s biggest pity party in jail. When we are discontent with our relationships, we don’t want to serve the Lord.
I’m so glad that Paul had contentment with his relationships. As a result, a young girl was delivered of a demon and a jailer’s family was saved.
Who’s annoying you lately? Let’s practice the contentment of Paul and:
- pray in the name of Jesus Christ for our annoying person. Let’s be more concerned with them than we are with ourselves.
- understand that God is using the difficult person for our good. Although painful, the changes challenging people can make in us are more valuable than gold.
- give God thanks for how He will use a tough relationship for His glory. When Paul was annoyed with the slave girl, He had no idea that God was setting in motion a sequence of events that would have glorious consequences. I believe the Lord is still working in our relationships this way.
Has the Lord ever used a difficult relationship in your life for your good and His glory?
The Secret to Learning Contentment
I’m going to get real with you and admit that I have been really disappointed in people lately. Really. So I went to the Lord with the problem, assuming He would sympathize. Instead, He said, “I know. Imagine how I feel.”
I have tried convincing myself that the people I’m disappointed in haven’t done anything wrong. That isn’t working. They clearly have done wrong, even by God’s definition. I have tried telling myself that everyone sins. That doesn’t help either. I’m still really disappointed that especially professing Christians are so comfortable with sin. I’m not really sure what I expected God to do to make me feel better–give people a supernatural spanking? Turns out, God gave me one instead. Here it is (ouch!).
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Discipline, while painful at the time, always teaches us something. Here is what I’ve learned. I will be disappointed in people if I compare them to my inflated opinion of myself and yes, even if I compare them to God’s perfect law. To gain victory over disappointment in others, I must keep my eyes focused on the Lord and how *I* look in comparison. Turns out I look like a really bad “before” picture.
There is no question that I am someone else’s disappointment. There is also no question that sometimes we are called to lovingly and honestly talk to others who have hurt us or who are going astray. But remaining stuck in disappointment with others means we need our vision corrected. Thank you, Lord, for helping me see myself more clearly and as a result, loving you more dearly.