A Prayer for Dealing With Difficult People
By Mary Southerland
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
When someone hurts one of our grandchildren, my first and wrong response is usually a very strong desire to flatten the person who did the hurting. Just keeping it real. I know that’s the wrong reaction, born out of anger and the wrath of a grandmother. Our grandson, Hudson, recently schooled me on the right way to respond when you’ve been hurt.
One little boy in Hudson’s class at school is a bully. His favorite target seems to be Hudson, the sweetest kid on the planet. One day the little boy punched Hudson in the face … and a teacher saw the whole thing. She called Danna and Sam, asking them to come in for a conference. Both Danna and Sam were stunned when the teacher explained what had happened.
Danna asked, “Is this the first time he’s done this, Hud?” Hudson responded, “No. He’s done it before.” Danna and Sam were shocked. “We had no idea!” they explained to the teacher. “Why haven’t you told anyone?” his father asked. Hudson’s response stunned everyone, “I can take it, Dad. He is really short. He’s the shortest kid in our class. Everyone but me makes fun of him. He doesn’t have any friends and I have a lot of friends. I knew if I told anyone he would get in trouble. So, I just take it because I’d like to be his friend. I think he really needs one.”
Needless to say, bullying is never right and certainly not to be tolerated in any situation. The adults were amazed by Hudson’s response but explained that he should never allow anyone to treat him that way. Yes, the little boy got in trouble, but he also received some much-needed help from the school counselor. Here’s the question. Did Hudson love this little boy like Jesus loves that little boy? I think so. And that is a vital truth in our walk with God – to love like Jesus loves.
Hudson put feet to Jesus' words when he said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
That phrase, “As I have loved you,” changes everything when it comes to dealing with someone who has hurt us. Think of all the ways Jesus loves us. He willingly surrendered to his Father’s plan, giving up a throne for a manger and heaven for earth. He died the most brutal death known to mankind, crucifixion. He was despised, rejected, and did not even have a place to lay his head at night. And yet, He loves us completely and eternally in the midst of our sins, just as we are.
And then … He calls us to love others the same way. Why? Because that kind of radical love can only be explained by God. So, the world will then know that we are His disciples and that his love is real. God empowers us with His love and then partners with us in loving others. This two-fold message is repeated again and again in the Bible. God loves us. God wants to love others through us.
God wants us to love each other in the same way that He loves – unconditionally. In fact, God wants us to love in such a way that the people around us will know we are fully devoted followers of Christ. I wonder what our relationships would look like if we did love the way Jesus loves us.
Nowhere in the Bible will you find the words, “When you feel like it, love others.” Nope! It is not in there. The Bible tells us to practice love. Love is an ongoing and very deliberate choice – not an emotion or a feeling. I challenge you to step out in faith today and choose to love that difficult person in your life the way Jesus loves you.
Lord, I so want to be like Hudson when I grow up. To have a heart for those in pain, to be willing to step out in faith and love the unlovable and touch the untouchable. Father, the more I work and interact with difficult people, the more I realize there is always a reason for their abrasive behavior. That sandpaper may be a well-chosen mask or a carefully applied bandage for some deeply hidden wound that has never fully healed. Hurt people … hurt people.
Lord, help me remember that everyone I meet is fighting some kind of battle I know nothing about. Teach me how to respond with love, not anger. Give me a heart for restoration, not retaliation. Father, help me love like you love.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Photo credit: Diana Simumpande/Unsplash Stock footage Soundstripe.com & Photo Canva.com
Mary Southerland is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry for women. Mary’s books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, 10-Day Trust Adventure, You Make Me So Angry, How to Study the Bible, Fit for Life, Joy for the Journey, and Life Is So Daily. Mary relishes her ministry as a wife, a mother to their two children, Jered and Danna, and Mimi to her six grandchildren – Jaydan, Lelia, Justus, Hudson, Mo, and Nori.
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Originally published Wednesday, 19 October 2022.