Do you have difficult people in your life? Also known as “Sandpaper People” because they rub you the wrong way or “EGRs” because “Extra Grace is Required” in order to deal with them. This could be a family member, an ex-spouse, or a boss.
You know you’re dealing with a difficult person when they call you on the phone and you don’t want to answer it. And when you’re in a conversation with them, you feel artificial, awkward, and uncomfortable. Then, after you’ve been with them, you feel like all the energy in your whole body just got sucked right out of you.
Perhaps you’ve often wondered why God would even allow such people in your life. Many of us, in our heart of hearts, would rather God just “relocate” some of them.
But what if the person we most want God to remove from our lives is actually the very person we need the most?
Some of you are now saying, “Wait a minute! Chip, are you actually saying that God has allowed this difficult person to come into my life?”
I’d like to suggest from Scripture that not only did God allow this difficult person in your life, but in some cases, He has actually placed them there purposefully in order to do some things in you and through you that couldn’t happen otherwise.
Here are three reasons why God would allow “Sandpaper People” in our lives:
- How we treat difficult people reveals the true condition of our heart.
- Difficult people cause us to grow in ways we couldn’t on our own.
- Lastly, and most importantly, the most distinguishing mark of Jesus’ followers is their love for those they would not – and could not – love on their own.
Throughout the gospels, Jesus does an uncanny thing. He loves Gentiles even though the Jews didn’t like Gentiles. He loves Samaritans, even though Jews hated Samaritans. He treated women with respect, He loved lepers, and He reached into the life of a Roman centurion.
Jesus loved the unlovable of His day: the sinners, the tax collectors, and the prostitutes, and no one could understand why.
Jesus commands us as His followers to do the same:
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.” (Luke 6:27-28, 32-33)
Basically what Jesus is saying is: “When you’re in the mafia, you’re in the family, so they love one another! So what! Drug dealers love other drug dealers – big deal! The real issue is when you love someone who is outside of your circle.”
We need to do the hard thing – to love those who are difficult, different, and who aren’t always kind. We’re to tolerate and look beyond the idiosyncrasies, the personalities, the weaknesses, the mannerisms, the differences, and the styles of others that bother us.
Ephesians 4:1-2 says that we are to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Does this mean that we let difficult people run our life? No. Does this mean that we allow them to destroy our small groups? Absolutely not! That’s not being loving. That’s nuts!
Loving difficult people means that we set appropriate boundaries and then we hang in there and be patient with them in the same way that God is patient with us.
To explore this topic more in depth, take a look at Chip’s series “True Spirituality,” “Love One Another,” “Authentic,” or “Spiritual Simplicity.”
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip