Think about the people in your life. Anyone you regularly see, know, and interact with.
Now I’m going to ask you something crazy – which of those people gets on your (last) nerve? Who drives you completely crazy without really trying? Who makes your life more difficult or unpleasant with very little effort?
Get comfortable having this person in your life, for he/she has been placed there by God. On purpose. For many good reasons.
I think this is the “thorn” Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 12:7. The person or problem put in Paul’s life to draw him continually back to God. To remind him perpetually of his need for a Savior. To keep him humble as God exalted him publicly. To keep him rooted and grounded in the right places as he preached.
And that difficult person you are thinking about is in your life for the same reasons. This person who I lovingly refer to as your sandpaper person.
Because God strategically placed him/her in your life to help smooth out the rough edges of your attitudes. Because God is sanding off the hard places in your heart. Because God is refining your character by making you deal with the pressure and friction. Because God is polishing your unhealthy reactions so the grace and glory of God shines through you.
Because you won’t develop godly character in calm waters – you know and grow your faith in the turbulent relationships and windy places. You learn to lean on God when the storm overtakes and overwhelms you.
And that’s the “gift” of your sandpaper person. He/she is the mirror to the rocky, unsettled, and hard placed in your heart. He/she is the light shining on your dark and dreary attitudes. He/she is the beacon directing you to a closer and better relationship with God in specific areas.
Because it is easy to love the lovable person and to be nice to the nice person. But Jesus says in Matthew 5:46 that even unsaved people do this. He calls us as His followers to love people at all times. When they are angry or happy, aggressive or pleasant, wrong or right, difficult or easy going. He says we are to make the effort to see beyond the aggravation to the creation of His love. He says we are to stand still and allow Him to work in us and flow through us to love them – in spite of their behavior, attitude, and reasoning. We are to go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41) and love them despite themselves (Matthew 5:39).
But it is hard!
Because your sandpaper person brings truth to your life. Your flaws become obvious. Your weaknesses start to glow. Your hurts become unburied. As He shines His love through us to heal us and grow us.
Because He wants to work on us so He can work through us. It is part of our journey as Christ followers. It is God’s way of teaching us – to pray, to react differently, to keep calm, to be quiet, to trust Him, to be patient, and to love.
So with your sandpaper person, can you do some simple things? Can you say a kind word and compliment? Can you smile and mean it? Can you laugh and be friendly?
It is hard, but you are clay in His artist’s hands (Jeremiah 18:6). God is molding you. God is shaping you. God is defining you.
And you need to flow with His plans and purposes instead of against them. And if you trust Him completely, He will change you. He will grow you. He will refine you.
And as you flow in His grace, you will find yourself loving more readily. Reacting more graciously. Forgiving more readily.
And one day you will wake up and realize you don’t need as much sanding anymore. Because you have let righteousness work on your behalf (Matthew 5:6 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled). Because you have let God produce compassion and understanding in you (James 1:3-5 – 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him). Because you have learned to be self-controlled and God guided (James 1:19-20 – 19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God). Because you have learned there is a different way to hear, think, act, and react (1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it).
So allow God to sand you and mold you. It’s painful, but the reward is eternal!
Prayer: Loving Father, help me to love the toxic people and live peaceably with the unhappy people in my life. Help me to shine Your glory instead of radiating back their misery. Help me to be better at loving them at all times. Help me to be a beacon of Your love, radiating grace and shining Your life to them. Help me to stay my tongue from causing destruction and pain, and help me to speak out of Your love instead of my will and my flesh. Help me to not hold onto any hurt, any offense, any shame, and any pain. Help me choose instead to forgive and be free to love them fully. Help my heart, the holding pen for my life, be free and open instead of closed off because I choose to harbor bad feelings and hold onto negative emotions. Create in me a clean heart and open spirit seeks Your ways and Your purposes above all else. AMEN!
Marie Fremin, 3/13-3/15/16