People are flawed. And because people are people, and because ministry is to, for, with, and by people, you’re probably dealing with some people you consider to be flawed and difficult. And the truth is, there are likely other people who consider you to be part of their “difficult” people group.
The first thing we need to realize is that there’s not much you can do to change anyone. You aren’t able to make those “difficult” people act any less difficult. The only person you can change is you. We can’t control how people respond, but we can control how we respond to others.
Let’s call on scripture to help us know what we can do to work more effectively with the difficult people in our lives. Let’s see what James 1 says:
TAKE A DEEP BREATH (verse 2-4):
“Consider it a great joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”
What? Consider these difficult people GREAT JOY? Yep, that’s what it says. Maybe, just maybe, this difficult person has been placed in your life to mature and grow you. See the situation as an opportunity, not a punishment.
PRAY (verse 5):
“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God — who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly — and it will be given to him.”
Pray and ask for wisdom. Seek wisdom on how to deal with the difficult situation, person, and behavior. Pray for the person with whom you are struggling. Ask God to show you the way He sees them.
2 Corinthians 5:16 tells us, “From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way.”
So, when you look at difficult people around you, don’t see them in a human way; see them as Jesus would see them. Think of people how Jesus thinks of people. Learn to see what Jesus sees in people.
- Man saw a lunatic; God saw a righteous man — Noah.
- Man saw a possible attempted murderer; God saw a father of a nation in Abraham.
- His brothers saw an arrogant brat; In Joseph, God saw a way for His people to survive.
- Man may have seen a murdering bush-talker; God saw a leader for deliverance named Moses.
- Man saw a stuck-up elitist; God saw a missionary named Jonah.
- Man saw a lying, cheating, tax collector; Jesus saw a forgiven man named Zacchaeus.
- Man saw a homeless, radical troublemaker; God saw the Savior of the world — Jesus.
HANG IN THERE (verse 12):
“Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life He has promised to those who love him.”
If you’re angry, find a healthy way to diffuse your anger. Endure the trial. Know that there’s a reward coming!
CONSIDER THE SOURCE OF THE DIFFICULTY (verse 13-14):
“No one undergoing a trial should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’ … But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires.”
To be clear, God does not use sin to tempt you. Be careful not to look past the mirror to explain the difficult situation. You may be looking at the problem in the eyes.
TAKE A THREE-STEP APPROACH (verse 19)
“My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.”
#1 – Be quick to listen. #2 – Be slow to speak. #3 – Be slow to anger! Very good advice. We have two ears and one mouth. Perhaps that’s God’s way of instructing us to speak half as much as we listen. Be careful as you deal with difficult people. Anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.
TAKE ACTION (verse 22-25)
“But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works – this person will be blessed in what he does.”
Be a doer. Take action, not to react, but respond. And don’t forget to look in the mirror. We’re all sinners in need of forgiveness. Then, be blessed! Let it go. Give it to God and don’t take it back!
Dealing with difficult people can be difficult. I’m working hard at not being difficult as I deal with those I perceive to be difficult. I’m trying to see these people differently. Not as difficult, but as a blessing. That changes everything.
Bill Emeott serves as Lead Ministry Specialist for Lifeway Kids. He is a graduate of Mercer University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Bill has served in Kids Ministry for almost 30 years and currently teaches 3rd Grade Bible study at his home church in Nashville, TN.