They’re at the supermarket, at work, at school. They’re in our families and in our churches. They’re even in the Bible. David had Saul. Nehemiah had Sanballat. Elijah had Jezebel.
Difficult people are everywhere.
If difficult people are a very real part of everyone’s life, how do we deal with them? How do we handle a person who annoys us, criticizes us, and drives us a little bit crazy?
Jesus probably dealt with more difficult people than any of us. The Jewish religious leaders were constantly angry with him. Judas betrayed him. Peter denied ever knowing him. Jesus had it so bad that after his very first sermon, people were so furious they wanted to throw him off a cliff (see Luke 4:28-30).
Here are three tips for dealing with difficult people in our lives the way Jesus dealt with the difficult people in his life:
- Know who you are. Jesus knew who he was. In Matthew 3:17, God spoke these words about Jesus, “This is the Son I love, and my greatest delight is in him.” Friend, we are a child of God. We are his beloved and favored. Let’s walk in that identity. What others may say or think about us isn’t important when we know who we are.
- Know what God called you to do. From childhood, Jesus knew he had a purpose given to him by God. Matthew 20:28 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come expecting to be served by everyone, but to serve everyone, and to give his life in exchange for the salvation of many.” Negative, angry people didn’t flummox Jesus because he was focused on his calling and his purpose. We also have a God-given calling and purpose. We’re here to bring glory to God. Negative, angry, difficult people become less difficult when we keep our focus on our calling.
- Look at difficult people through God’s eyes. People who frustrate us look different when we look at them through God’s eyes. In Matthew 9:36, Jesus looked at a crowd with compassionate eyes: “When he saw the vast crowds of people, Jesus’s heart was deeply moved with compassion, because they seemed weary and helpless, like wandering sheep without a shepherd.” When Jesus looked at these people, he saw how tired they were, how powerless and weak they were, and how lost they were. Sometimes, the people who hurt us, who make us angry, and who seem determined to judge and criticize us are actually weary, weak, and lost. When we see them through God’s eyes, we become less annoyed and more compassionate.
The bottom line is to treat people, even the difficult ones, the way Jesus did—with love and compassion, with a steadfast determination to fulfill our purpose, and with a heart of prayer for those we find difficult. Isn’t that how we would want others to treat us?
Dear God, draw me closer to you. Give me such intense joy in the work you have for me to do that I’m not easily distracted. Bless those people in my life who frustrate me. Give me a heart of compassion and wisdom in dealing with difficult people. In Jesus’s name, amen.