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.