Difficult people. We all have them. Those people that rub you the wrong way. They don’t just disagree with you, but insist their view of things is the only view. Those people who simply don’t like us, or refuse to give us the time of day. There are some I have struggled with for years. I have tried talking to them, tried being nice, tried everything I could think of. The situation doesn’t improve. You can’t force someone to be your friend, but just to be civil would be nice.
A close friend advised me to “make it a matter of prayer and see what God would have you do, if anything.” So I again started praying. “Why was this continuing to be a problem? Why couldn’t I just let it go? Lord, if this is something in my own life I need to change, please show me so I can make it right.”
The very next day I started reading through Philippians. After only a few lines I knew why I was in Philippians. Paul and Timothy were writing “to all the saints . . . in Philippi.” The first chapter is full of his prayers for them.
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer, with joy in my every prayer for you all,” (Phil. 1:3-4 NASB) Did you catch it? Notice the words “all, always, every, all.” I got to thinking. I know there is and never has been a perfect church. There are always some personality conflicts. Paul was no push over so why the “all, always, every, all?” Was he serious? He goes on to say in Verse 6 that he was confident that God would perfect the good work he had begun in them. (OK, so they weren’t perfect after all.) Later he says “I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (v. 8)
To be honest there are some people that if I never saw them again, I wouldn’t feel bad. You know who they are in your own life. Be honest. Here was Paul longing for them all? Really? All? Here’s the kicker. I think he was being honest.
Later in the chapter (vv. 15-18) he talks about some preaching Christ from envy and strife. Their motive: selfish ambition and wanting to cause Paul distress while he sat in prison. Nice friends! Ok, so Paul did have difficult people around. So how did he respond to those particular people? He rejoiced! Yes, that’s right, he rejoiced that Christ was being proclaimed. He didn’t care what their motives were. The bottom line was that it wasn’t about Paul it was about Christ. Even if their motives were less than honorable he was rejoicing that Christ was being preached. I don’t know if these people he mentions were in Philippi, but they might have been. The point is he prayed for all. He loved them all. He was confident that God was doing a work. His prayers centered not on taking the difficult people out of his life so things were easier for him. Rather the prayer was, “God, use these people for your glory and praise.”
What am I learning? I need to accept the difficult people just as they are. I am responsible to pray for them just as much as the people who are close friends. My motive is that God completes a work and that the glory and praise go to Him. It’s not about me and my comfort. It’s about God and his work.
Suddenly those difficult people don’t seem so difficult. I have plenty to do without worrying about how someone is treating me. Get over it and get on with God’s work. Pray that God would be glorified through their magnificent transformation. Pray that God would be glorified through my magnificent transformation.
Excuse me. I need to call a friend and thank her for telling me to pray.