Girlfriends in God - June 26, 2009

June 26, 2009 
The Strength of Weakness 
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth 
“He gives strength to those who are tired and more power to those who are weak” (Isaiah 40: 29 NCV).

Friend To Friend 
Sandpaper people make me tired – literally.  Dealing with difficult people drains emotional energy and dulls mental consistency.  Exhaustion hovers over every interaction we have with a sandpaper person while the spiritual questions that arise from that interaction drive us to our knees.  It is a good thing.  Anything or anyone who keeps us broken before God can be counted as a blessing.  He uses those difficult relationships to refine and define the very best in us, calling us to a higher standard in every relationship.  Without the right kind of strength and enough of that strength, we are doomed to failure in getting along with the people who rub us the wrong way. 

Strength is in great demand.  Everywhere we look gyms, fitness centers and health clubs are popping up, all offering “the one and only” fitness program that will enable us to live the good life, all the way to our hundredth birthday and with the looks of Katherine Zeta Jones or Danzelle Washington while doing so.  Billboards and infomercials tell us to lift those weights, run that mile, stretch those muscles and drink that shake.  Kickboxing videos are flying off the shelves and trainers are being hired to be personal “Directors of Pain and Suffering”.  It seems as if we are determined to be healthy and strong.  Honestly, I must admit that the human body is an amazing creation. 

Every 24 hours:

Our heart beats 103,689 times.

Our blood travels 168,000,000 miles.

We breathe 23,040 times.

We eat 3 1/2 pounds of food.

We drink 2.9 quarts of liquid.

We speak 4,800 words.

We move 750 muscles.

We exercise 7,000,000 brain cells.

No wonder we are tired! And when it comes to diet, we are told to eat bean sprouts instead of chocolate.  I don’t think so.  I prefer Garfield’s five-step diet:

1.      No seconds, get it all the first time.

2.      Never start a diet cold turkey, better lasagna or roast beef.

3.      Since vegetables are a must -- try carrot cake, zucchini bread or pumpkin pie.

4.      Try to cut back, leave the cherries off your hot fudge sundaes.

5.      If that doesn't work, hang around people bigger than you.

Diet and exercise are good and right, but physical strength is not what I am after.  I long for an inner strength that plays out in every relationship and makes it possible to deal with and even embrace those people who constantly rub us the wrong way.  Sandpaper people seem to sense weakness and then use it to their advantage. Our slightest emotional waver in stability is their signal for action. 

I want to be strong, but I am interested in the kind of strength far beyond what any weight machine or diet plan can produce.  I am seeking the inner strength only God can give; the lasting strength that is necessary to get along with sandpaper people.  Relationships with sandpaper people are depleting relationships, consuming “emotional black holes” that are capable of draining every ounce of energy we possess. If we are not careful, the difficult relationships will craft our emotional bankruptcy. 

Queen Esther was a strong young woman whose life models the kind of strength we need in dealing with difficult people.  Esther was a very unlikely candidate to be Queen of Persia.  However, God always seems to use the most unlikely servants to do His greatest work.  Esther was an orphan, an ordinary Jewish teenage girl who seemed to be in over her head as the Queen.  I can attest to the fact that sandpaper people are notorious for digging the hole, shoving us in while burying us under a mound of futility.  However, the crisis in Esther’s life, brought on by her sandpaper person, strengthened Esther for the calling of God on her life. 

Haman, the King’s right-hand man, was a heavy-duty sandpaper person in Esther’s life.  He hated all Jews and Esther in particular.  Out of his hatred came a plan that would persuade King Ahasueras to pass a law demanding that all people bow to the king or die.  Knowing the strong faith of the Jewish people, Haman was certain they would refuse to bend a knee to anyone but God.  When Esther heard of the plot, she was terrified because she was a Jew, a fact she had neglected to tell her husband, the King.  Haman’s law would mean her death. 

Sensing impending doom, Esther and her people fasted and prayed for God’s direction and protection.  Then she did what many women do when faced with a crisis.  She prepared a huge meal.  Esther threw a dinner party – in honor of her husband and for Haman - a very smart move on her part.  It was during this celebration that Esther revealed Haman’s villainous plot along with the juicy little tidbit that she was indeed a Jew.  King Ahasueras was not angry with Esther but he was furious at Haman’s plot and condemned him to die.  The Jewish nation was saved through the faith and strength of Esther.

After examining the life of Esther, we see the strength and confidence with which she handled the biggest crisis of her life and the grittiest sandpaper person she had ever encountered.  At first glance, she seems to be a woman of great strength when, in reality, she was terrified and weak, her heart laced and flawed with human frailty – just like us.  Her weakness was the perfect setting for a miracle because, as Paul writes, God’s best work is transforming weakness into strength.  “My power works best in your weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).  When it comes to dealing with people who rub us the wrong way, we need to embrace the truth that while our strength is inadequate, God’s strength is more than enough. 

Let’s Pray 
Father, I am so weak and so desperate for You.  I cannot love the sandpaper people in my life without Your strength and power.  Please help me choose to love these people and to view them as divine opportunities, not just interruptions.  Give me the patience to respond in the right way when they irritate me.  Help me look beyond their sandpaper mask and see the hurt that causes them to act like they do.  Right now, I lay down my human responses to abrasive people and choose against them.  I trust You, Lord, to love these difficult people through me. 

In Jesus’ name, 

Now It’s Your Turn 

  • Read and memorize 2 Corinthians 12:9.  
  • Identify the emotional buttons most often “pushed” by the sandpaper people in your life.  
  • What steps can you take to diffuse those buttons and respond to difficult people like Jesus would?  
  • Is there anyone in your life who needs your forgiveness today?  
  • Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive?

More From The Girls 
I know it is hard to control emotional responses when dealing with difficult people.  Just about the time I think I have this sandpaper people thing down pat, a new sandpaper person pops up in my life and I feel like a beginner when it comes to difficult relationships.  The important decision is never to give up.  Aren’t you glad that God never gave up on us?

Mary’s book, Sandpaper People, offers 12 practical steps for dealing with the difficult people in your life. A study guide is included and will help you succeed in establishing a habit of bible study and prayer that will equip you to build healthy relationships.  

Would you like a weekly online bible study?  Check out Mary’s weekly online bible study, Light for the Journey.

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Matthews, NC 28106

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Originally published Friday, 26 June 2009.