September 14, 2010
Strong in the Broken Places
Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) "We are God's workmanship."
Friend to Friend
Sandpaper people, the people who rub us the wrong way, are not only a reality of life but a gift from God. How? God has used these difficult relationships as catalysts in my life through which He has lovingly upset my comfortable plans and purposefully redirected my self-ordered steps. The results have often been chaotic and unsettling, but always life changing.
Our son, Jered, played football all the way through college. Over the years, he endured several injuries, but as a junior in high school, Jered experienced his first surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot. The orthopedic doctor explained exactly what he would do during surgery. "First of all, I will remove the scar tissue that has formed around the break. I will then insert a metal screw to connect the broken bones." As he spoke, I was comforted by my mind's depiction of a shiny thin and smooth metal screw resting gently in my son's foot. There are times when ignorance is a blessing.
The surgery went well and after two weeks, I took Jered in for a follow-up visit during which his foot was once again x-rayed to make sure it was healing properly. The doctor walked in, smiling and waving an x-ray in his hand. "Your foot is healing beautifully," he announced with great pride. Curious, I asked the doctor if we could see the x-ray. When he slapped it up against the light board, I was horrified to see a thick, long metal bolt. In fact, on closer examination, I was certain the beginnings of rust could be seen on that barbaric screw jammed up into my son's precious bone.
Seeing the look on my face, the doctor assured me that everything was fine. I was far from convinced and had a few questions that needed answering - immediately. "Is that screw supposed to look like that or did you put the wrong screw in my son's foot? Will he be able to play football? Will his foot hurt when it rains? Will that enormous screw set off airport security detectors? Will Jered's foot ever be as strong as it was before the surgery?" I asked. The doctor listened patiently, smiled and said, "Well, now that you mention it, I need to be honest and tell you Jered's foot will not be as strong as it was before." The evil doctor then grinned and said, "It will actually be stronger."
I find it interesting that all through life, the greatest strength is forged in broken places. The same is true in dealing with difficult people. God is not committed to our comfort. God is committed to creating His character within us. One way He accomplishes that goal is through the abrasive and coarse work of sandpaper people as they grind off and sand away our rough edges, even to the point of breaking. Suffering comes in many ways, but always with the purpose of making us strong enough to endure pain and weak enough to rely upon God.
Many times, it is through difficult relationships that we experience the most pain. Peter writes that God will "make everything right" which indicates the promise that He will take our circumstances and relationships, adjust them and make the broken pieces fit together in order to equip us for service. "Making everything right" can also be translated in the original language as "mending nets." A fisherman's net was a vital part of his livelihood and a broken net meant no fish. Even one broken net affected the fisherman's ability to make a living and provide for his family. It was imperative for the fisherman to keep his nets in working condition, constantly mending the broken places.
Every time we are broken but allow God to do the mending, we become stronger and new life is provided. Paul was certainly no stranger to trials, pain and broken nets. "We know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope." (Romans 5:3-4 NCV) I must admit I have been known to insert the name of my current sandpaper person into that verse so that it reads, "I know that my sandpaper person produces patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope." What an amazing progression, from a difficult relationship to Godly character and then on to hope. Hope follows pain because pain forces us to trust God and rely upon His power to mend a broken life. It is in that abandonment to God that we find hope.
Difficult relationships and the brokenness they bring can make us either bitter or better. It is our choice. We can insist on comfort and forfeit character or we can embrace the brokenness, knowing that God will use it for our good. Sandpaper people are grindstones. Whether they grind us down or polish us up depends on what we are made of. Harry Truman said: "Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer today may curse tomorrow and only one thing endures - character."
I believe sandpaper people voice the silent prayer that someone will be strong enough to stop their vicious cycle of offensive behavior. God calls us to be that strong someone. I also believe God allows difficult relationships to form within the realm of our daily walk in order to strengthen us for the very task of life.
Lord, please fill my heart with Your love for the sandpaper people in my life. Please let me see them as You see them. Use them, Father; to refine me to the place that I am the woman You created me to be. I choose to thank You for the difficult relationships in my life, knowing that through these abrasive people, Your work is accomplished in me.
In Jesus' name,
Now It's Your Turn
More from the Girlfriends
Loving the unlovable is impossible - outside of God's power at work in us. Pray that God will give you His eyes to see the hurting and wounded He brings your way. And remember, hurt people … hurt people. Proceed with love.
Need help dealing with stress? Check out Mary's book, Escaping the Stress Trap, for steps that will help you manage stress.
Join women from across the world in Mary's Online Bible Study, Light for the Journey. Sandpaper People is the current series and will help you discover ten ways to deal with the "sandpaper people" in your life - you know - the ones that rub you the wrong way. When you enroll, you also have access to all of the 2010 studies. Check it out!
Click here to learn more about hosting a Girlfriends in God conference in your area or having one of the GiGs speak at your next women's event.
Originally published Tuesday, 14 September 2010.